What Do You Get When You Put A Worm's Brain Into a Robot?

When I wrote the title for this article, my mind immediately went to an image of a bizarre, snake-like metal machine that would slither across the floor in a quite disturbing manner.  Something giant and scary.  Like this:

Egad!  Compliments of D-WarEgad! Compliments of D-War

Of course reality is quite different from my what my Sci-Fi addled brain can come up with.

What we get in reality is this:

A tad less menacingA tad less menacing

A little less dramatic... and hopefully much less scary.  This little robot has the brain of a worm.  A tiny worm, actually, named Caenorhabditis elegans--also known as the roundworm.  Measuring only 1 mm in length, this tiny worm actually has a lot going for it.  Not only does it have many of the same organs as larger animals (it lacks respiratory and circulatory systems), but it is capable of movement by utilizing four bands of muscles connected to a complex of 302 neurons.

The Caenorhabditis elegansThe Caenorhabditis elegans

The name of the robotic project is OpenWorm.   It presents a unique platform of open source materials to create what is described as "the first digital life form."  The overall goal is to build a fully functional robotic version of the roundworm.  It was chosen due not only to its simplicity as a life form, but also because it can smell, taste, and sense light.  This makes it a perfect test subject to incorporate into a computerized device.

In this case, OpenWorm utlized an unconventional, yet cost effective, robot: The Lego EV3.  Yes.  That Lego.  Check out this video that shows how the OpenWorm robot utilizes thought processes to navigate; pay special attention to the monitor that shows when the neurons are firing during movement:


Quite fascinating, eh?  The programming code for this robot is open source and can be found on the OpenWorm site, along with much more detailed information on the project, current progress, and meeting schedules.  Other projects are also covered, making for quite an interesting site for those into robotics.

This device opens up a lot of potential for all sorts of uses, from deep sea exploration to space travel and the study of other planets.  So, it appears my imagination--while not coming full circle when concerning a giant, Sci-Fi robot worm monster--still has some hope for a worm brain powered robot that could lead to a large impact in exposing mankind to new, remote environments that would simply be too dangerous for a human to traverse.  Only time will tell if this technology will be adapted for any of these uses.  And I'll be watching closely to see the results.

SOURCES: Wikipedia, OpenWorm, Amazon, Gizmodo.

Some of the sites we link to are affiliates. We may earn a small commission if you use our links.