Imagine if you could grow your own brain cells in a dish and teach them how to play video games. Sounds like science fiction, right? Well, not for a team of Aussie researchers who are doing just that and more.

The team, led by Associate Professor Adeel Razi from Monash University and Cortical Labs, has received a whopping$600,000 grant from the Australian Department of Defense and the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) to take their brainy project to the next level. Their project is called DishBrain, and it involves using about 800,000 live, lab-grown brain cells to perform tasks that require learning, such as playing the classic video game Pong.

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“We’re essentially creating a mini-brain that can play Pong,” Razi said. “This is a major breakthrough, as it shows that we can use brain cells to create machines that can learn and adapt in real time.”

The team is working to create a new type of machine intelligence that can learn throughout its lifetime by merging human brain cells with artificial intelligence (AI). You see, brains are amazing at learning new things without forgetting old ones, adapting to changes, and applying what they know to different situations. This is called continual lifelong learning, and it’s something that we humans take for granted. However, today’s AI systems tend to forget what they have learned before when they start learning something new. This is called “catastrophic forgetting”, and is a major problem for AI development.

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The team believes that by copying the way biological neural networks learn, they can create better AI machines that can outsmart current ones that rely on silicon chips. This would have enormous benefits for many fields, including planning, robotics, advanced automation, brain-machine interfaces, and drug discovery.

“This research has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about machine intelligence,” said Razi. “By combining the strengths of brains and AI, we can create machines that are truly intelligent and adaptive”

The research project is among 10 winners of the National Intelligence and Security Discovery Research Grants Program, which supports cutting-edge research to address national security challenges.

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DishBrain is being developed to perform more complex tasks, such as recognizing objects or navigating a maze. The team believes their research has the potential to create a new generation of AI machines that are smarter, more adaptable, and more secure than anything that has come before.

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