7 Bizarre Advances in Animal Cyborg Technology

If there are two things the Internet loves, it's cute, fuzzy animals and deadly cyborgs. As awesome as those two things are on their own, though, combining them gives us something that's often more disturbing and insane than either of those could bring us on their own.

Ah, science. Apparently, we won't learn until Terminator badgers and RoboCop narwhals take over the world.

#7. Leech Brain Computers

Here's a question for you: If the human brain is way faster and more efficient than a computer many times its size, why aren't we devoting our time to trying to design artificial, organic brains instead of computers? If your answer is that the result would be a superintelligent, unpredictable monstrosity that would quickly take over the Earth, well, that's probably the reason.

Science: bringing nightmares to life.

But science, oh glorious science, couldn't resist the temptation forever and is already taking steps toward creating an organic thinking machine. In 1999, scientists at Georgia Tech created a computer able to do basic computations, and they made it out of a leech's brain.

Via BBC News
Yes, a leech. It will be a blood-drinking robot.

What Were They Thinking?

Since this is fairly uncharted territory, the eggheads figured they'd better start small. The robo-leech is only able to do simple calculations, but it's still a solid first step into bio-organic computer components. In the decade since, scientists have continued research into making living things into computer parts. Take, for example, the gold-plated microbes that scientists built to act as humidity sensors in moisture-sensitive equipment. They're four times more accurate at detecting moisture than solely electronic sensors.

Via BBC News

We're not even to the creepy (or is it creepiest?) part of this whole scheme. They built this thing specifically so it could think for itself and, if it didn't know the answer to a question, to figure it out for its damn self. According to one of its creators, "Ordinary computers need absolutely correct information every time to come to the right answer. We hope a biological computer will come to the correct answer based on partial information, by filling in the gaps itself."

Yeah, that makes sense.

We won't have to worry about rogue A.I.s becoming sentient one day if they're already living, thinking things. Then it's just a certainty.

#6. Chemical Detectors Made From Living Animal Parts

As humans, we don't have very good senses of smell. For example, you can slowly get used to the funk of your unwashed body and then you can honestly say, "I don't know why everyone's complaining, I can't smell a thing." It works. Possibly even in a court of law. Trust us.

"Does anyone smell that? You don't?"

This is why we need animals to do our really important smelling tasks for us, like with bomb-sniffing dogs. They're great at it, and they get those bulletproof vests that make them just look adorable.

Aw, who's a good justice-loving doggie? Yes you are!

But you think science is going to stop there? Shit, no! That's why it's time for supersmelling machines made out of bees. Or frog guts. Obviously.

What Were They Thinking?

See, the problem with dogs is you have to train each dog individually, and most dogs are only trained to sniff out just a few scents at a time. So what if you need, say, 30 some-odd chemicals sniffed out at once? The answer is bees. Bees have noses that are just as good as a dog's, but they're much easier and faster to train. They can only be trained to respond to one scent at a time, but they're small enough that you can keep a bunch of them in a small space. Enter the VASOR136.

Via inscentinel.com
It's like the bastard child of a hand vac and a Ghostbusters containment device.

It's a device that holds tiny cartridges filled with bees. Bee cartridges. Each bee is attuned to a specific scent like meth or TNT and, when they smell it, they respond by extending their proboscis, just like bees normally do when they smell nectar. The device detects that and, voila, the scent has been detected. (Also, the bees are let go afterward. You don't just leave them in there or anything.)

Via mj.barczyk.se
That's interesting, because AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

But if you're looking for the next level shit, some Japanese scientists have got what you need. They took the scent receptor cells from an African clawed frog, genetically modified them to work like an insect's, and put them in a portable device. They say the frog cells worked better because they were big enough to individually manipulate, but we think that they probably just had too many frogs laying around or something.

Craziest of all, though, is that they actually mounted the thing to a robot and their report gives instructions on just how they did it. That's great for all of you who thought you could hide from a robot uprising, or cover yourself in mud to hide from their infrared sensors. Don't worry, their super sense of smell will find you just fine.

#5. Cyborg Rats Will Save Your Life

Not that these projects all have to be harbingers of the apocalypse. Some of them could actually be helpful in said apocalypse.

We're envisioning some sort of robotic Saint Bernard with a keg in its chest and the ability to vomit hand grenades.

Say you're trapped under rubble. Aliens have just attacked, and with half the continent still smoking from UFO-related fire, you find yourself deep under a large pile of collapsed debris. Your situation seems pretty hopeless. Unless, of course, there was some kind of computerized rat with, we don't know, a proton pack on its back that could sniff you out and send your location to rescue teams.

Good news! We have the prototypes right now.

Via New Scientist
We're not far from the day when rats will be able to track you based on your phone's GPS signal.

What Were They Thinking?

Dogs and bees and horrific frog cyborgs aren't the only ones good at sniffing. Rats are, too, it turns out. Also, if you haven't heard, there are tons of rats, especially if you live in a big city. Some cities have gone to extreme lengths to deal with their rat problems, and the things just won't leave. They're going to end up regretting that if they go through a natural disaster, though, because it turns out that rats are totally amazing at finding trapped people.

Since rats are tiny, love to explore small nooks and crannies, and have great senses of smell, DARPA and the University of Florida have devised a system that uses rats for disaster relief. The rats are trained to sniff out humans, find them, and then report it to the scientists monitoring them. How do they do that last part? Simple -- the rats have a tiny backpack that transmits all its thoughts using radio waves. It's like rat brain Twitter.

The device reads the olfactory and motor control portions of the rat's brain and sends it straight to the scientists monitoring the little guy. On top of that, they're tapped into the rat's pleasure center, so they can give the rat a little happy juice for a job well done.

But how long until the rats cause their own disasters just for a few hits off the joy button?

#4. Downloadable Cat Memories

Ever stepped out of the shower and found your cat staring at your junk and silently judging you? Well, in the future, Mr. Kitty McMeowcat may not be the only one getting an eyeful of your shame.

"Oh that is ... wow. Just, wow."

In short, science has in essence made a literal "seeing eye cat" (not that there's any version of a seeing eye cat in reality, but go with it for a sec) in that they can hook up a brain machine and, from a monitor, see what the cat sees. It can tell us how cats receive and process images, not to mention how they respond to being fused with a brain machine. And some day, they may be able to do it with you.

"Man, delivering pizzas would be way more fulfilling if I was a cyborg."

What Were They Thinking?

Back in the storied year of 1999, while we watched The Matrix (and wondered how awesome the sequels would be) and partied as Prince had advised us, scientists at the University of California at Berkeley were conducting a little experiment. Prof. Yang Dan tapped into the cat's thalamus, the part of the brain that receives images from the eyes. After hooking the cat into a really uncomfortable-looking device and forcing it to watch video clips of things such as Indiana Jones, they began decoding the cat's vision and examining it.

Via BBC News
Surprise! You look just like a big cat to them!

The idea behind the project is to slowly learn how the mammalian brain actually processes images. They did discover one really cool thing: What comes into the thalamus from the eyes is a very raw image, and the brain's higher functions actually kind of Photoshop it into something clearer. They intend to eventually test it on humans to try and come up with new ways to get around blindness and other disabilities, too.

An especially chilling note is in the speculation over future uses of the technology, though: "It is also conceivable that, given time, it will be possible to record what one person sees and 'play it back' to someone else either as it is happening or at a later date."

That's right: James Cameron is a goddamn prophet.

Someday, cats might be able to make adorable cat videos of themselves. No humans sitting around with cameras and laughing like goobers required. All they'd need for worldwide domination is the ability to have them automatically upload to YouTube.

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