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Artificial human brain cells learn the computer game pong

Pong was the first real global computer game hit. The gameplay was, however, comparatively simple. So the player controlled a vertical line. This always had to be placed in such a way that a moving white point does not touch the wall behind it. The game is also known as teletennis. It played an important role in the television program Telespiele, moderated by Thomas Gottschalk, between 1977 and 1981. In the meantime, however, the world of computer games has developed massively. Pong is actually just a nostalgic memory of times gone by. But now employees of the biotech company Cortical Labs have taken the game out of the moth box again. The background: The researchers cultivated artificial human brain cells and connected them to one another. So if you will, they created tiny cyborg brains. These in turn were stimulated by electrical impulses and were thus taught pong.

The cultured brain cells learned faster than classic AI

In order to enable the control of the play bar, the replicated brain cells were in a nutrient solution directly above microelectrodes. In this way, the electrical signals exchanged between the cells could be measured. The commands for the computer were then derived from this. The performance of the cyborg brain was then compared with that of conventional artificial intelligence and that of a human player. First of all, however, the researchers were impressed by how quickly the interconnected nerve cells learned the game. This process only took a few minutes. This made the new approach significantly faster than classic AI on this point. In the long run, however, this advantage will be lost again. After all, after a certain time, the AI ​​will play significantly better than the artificial human brain. It should be noted here, however, that the approach is still at the very beginning of development.

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The human brain is still at its best

It is therefore quite possible that enormous improvements can be achieved in the future. Real human players, on the other hand, not only learn pong much faster, but also play better afterwards. However, that is not surprising either. Because for the experiment carried out, only a few hundred thousand artificial brain cells were connected together. The real human brain, however, works with around 100 billion nerve cells. However, it wasn’t even the researchers’ goal to be better than human gamers. Instead, the basic functionality of the approach should first be demonstrated. This has definitely succeeded. Now the researchers want to push the topic further. Further experiments could show, for example, where the strengths and weaknesses of these cyborg brains lie. From this, in turn, it could then be deduced whether there are meaningful possible uses in practice.

Via: New Scientist

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