Now science has given rats the ability to ‘touch’ light. Seriously.

labratNot content with building a robot with the sole intent of depressing lab rats, it turns out science has even more in store for its favorite test rodents. This time, a team has gone and created brain implants that’ll allow rats to “touch” infrared light, because… Well, alright, admittedly that seems like such an abstract concept that it’s hard to imagine a practical application, but at least it’d make those heistn movie scenes where people break into a room protected by infrared beams a lot more dramatic.

Of course, the scientists behind the implants have a more serious (not to mention, useful) reason behind the test. Miguel Nicolelis, a professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina and one of three authors of a study titled Perceiving Invisible Light Through A Somatosensory Cortical Prosthesis, believes that the creation of this type of interface between technology and the human brain could essentially allow the blind to see again… after a fashion.

In the test at the core of the study, rats were taught to “choose” an active light source from a range of three possibilities, with the rats receiving water as a reward when they chose correctly. After their brains had been implanted with electrodes attached to infrared sensors – with the electrodes alerting the touch cortex when infrared signals were present, as opposed to the visual cortex – the active light source was switched to an infrared signal, which the rats were eventually able to track and choose with perfect scores.

What this successfully demonstrated was a way in which sensory input could be delivered to the brain, via technological interface, in ways that bypass traditional delivery systems – which could be impared or damaged in some way. Essentially, Nicolelis explains, it creates the possibility to “hi-jack” portions of the brain and use them as receivers – turning visual input that wouldn’t be accepted by a damaged visual cortex into something else that would be recognized by the portions of the brain that receives sensory.

“We could create devices sensitive to any physical energy,” Professor Nicolelis explained. “It could be magnetic fields, radio waves, or ultrasound. We chose infrared initially because it didn’t interfere with our electrophysiological recordings.”

Nicolelis’ colleague, Professor Eric Thomson, puts the test and its positive results in context, telling the BBC “The philosophy of the field of brain-machine interfaces has until now been to attempt to restore a motor function lost to lesion or damage of the central nervous system, [but] this is the first paper in which a neuroprosthetic device was used to augment function – literally enabling a normal animal to acquire a sixth sense.”

Of course, if we give new senses to rats, eventually they’re going to start using them to rise up against us, Planet of The Apes-style. We all know it’s going to happen eventually.

Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.

Microsoft to separate Cortana from search with the next version of Windows 10

Changes are on the way for two key features in Windows 10. A separation of Windows 10 search and Cortana will allow Microsoft to more often innovate on each of the features independently.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.