A team from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) has given a robot an artificial set of place and grid cells for it to build a mental map of its surroundings - demonstrating the robot's ability to navigate freely and instinctively like humans and animals. They let the robot freely roam around a 35 square-meter office space, and the results show that it ultimately functioned similarly to its biological counterparts. An area of improvement would be its ability to adapt to a constantly changing environment.
As roboticists find more ways to integrate artificial neural networks into robots' functionalities, this study highlights the potential of creating robots that can mimic the complexity and subtlety of the biological brain. Oren Etzioni of the Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence says that the research "seems like good work," and that the connection between neural networks are just as simple as those of synapses. Haizhou Li, the lead on the research, hopes that their work will help neuroscientists understand the functions of the brain's navigation system. Li says that "this will provide a solution to predict neural activities using mobile robots before conducting experiments on rats."