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In early May, media inquiries started arriving at my office at the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (www.crasar.org). Because I'm CRASAR's director, I thought the press was calling to follow up on the recent humanitarian award given to the center's founder, John Blitch, for successfully using small, backpackable robots at the World Trade Center disaster. Instead, I found they were asking me to comment on the "roborats" study in the 2 May 2002 Nature. In this study, rats with medial force brain implants underwent operant conditioning to force them into a form of guided behavior, one aspect of which was thought useful for search and rescue. The article's closing comment suggested that a guided rat could serve as both a mobile robot and a biological sensor. Although a roboticist by training, I'm committed to any technology that will help save lives while reducing the risk to rescuers. But rats?.
Date of Publication: Sep/Oct 2002