You’ve heard the concept of the “rat race,” but how about a literal rat racing through the corridors of Doom? A researcher named Viktor Toth ran an experiment for almost six months to see if he could train a rat to walk down a straight corridor in Doom using a VR rig he built.
As Toth further explained Mindsoft, It took him about four months to build the VR rig for the rats using a 3D printer, iron, drill, and a set of screwdrivers. The main part of the rig is a large, round ball that sits on a base that allows the ball to spin in place. There are also motion sensors on computer mice that track the movement of the ball. The rat is then strapped into a harness on top of the ball and stands in front of a large, curved PC monitor that displays the game. When the rat moves the ball in a certain direction, the game responds by moving the player in the same direction.
It’s like a large hamster ball that you put your pet in to run around the room, only in this case the animal rests on the ball instead of the ball and the movement is incorporated into a video game. Toth also set up a sugary water release system for positive reinforcement to help the rat move around the hall on the ball.
The hallway itself was a straight hallway taken from the opening map of Doom 2. By the time the rat reached the end of the hallway, it was programmed to recycle back to the beginning so the rat could move on.
Toth used three rats for this experiment: Romero, Carmack, and Tom. The researcher says Romero, who loved to eat grapes, ended up having the most success walking down the hallway. Eventually, after six weeks of training on the VR rig, Romero learned to walk the hallway fairly consistently. He was confused at first by the ball he was moving on, but later he started walking alone. You can check out the full video of Romero running down the hallway Youtube – It’s pretty cool to see.
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