A Neuroengineer managed to train rats to play Doom

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If it wasn't bad enough that the AI can beat humans at every game imaginable, now rats are nipping at our heels too. A neuroengineer experimenting with different brain interfaces has managed to teach a trio of rodents to play a basic maze level created in the Doom II engine, leveraging VR technology and reward mechanisms to encourage them to navigate the virtual mazes.

"I built a VR setup for rodents from scratch and trained three rats in an automated fashion, without manual intervention, to traverse a corridor rendered in the DOOM II engine," explained neuroengineer, Viktor Tóth. "Although I did implement the mechanisms to further train rats to shoot monsters in-game, I lacked the time to actually reinforce the behavior."

It's been something he's been actively working on for the past year, but he's made a real achievement by not only managing the feat, but automating the training, too. This isn't something he's had a definitive hand in, but something that a machine has managed to teach all by itself.

The idea does have some practical applications too, not just the wow or scarey factor. There is going to be a lot of research into using virtual reality with animals, potentially livestock, to improve quality of life and animal training practices. Being able to automate part of that process has the potential to save a lot of time and money along the way.

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