back to article DARPA in Tom'n'Jerry robo-brain quest

Pentagon boffinry chiefs are on the verge of inking a deal which could see US forces equipped with "neuromorphic" imitation brain modules, each potentially as intelligent as a cat. Wired magazine reports that HRL Labs of Malibu initially announced a firm deal on the feline-grade artibrain contract, referred to by the US …


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  1. petebog

    And I for one..

    ..welcome our new cat-brained overlords.

  2. Garth
    Black Helicopters

    Presumably by 'mouse' you don't mean...

    The pan-dimensional variety.

    Replicating the capacity of a cat brain is quite a tall order. They're on the upper end of the Brain to body size ratio and are the only animal to successfully domesticate large potions of humanity. (As opposed to dogs which are domesticated by humanity)

  3. Nick Palmer

    My cat's abilities...

    ...appear to extend to chasing his own tail, clawing the sofa, "friendly scratch" incidents and occasionally bringing in live rodents, which he promptly loses and then spends the next week looking for disconsolately (cf. operations around Tora Bora - where in the world IS Osama Bin Laden...?). While that'd dovetail nicely with the Great War On Terror so far, surely they want to aim for something a LITTLE better...?

    Mine's zer mad scientist in der veelchair mit zer uncontrollable hand....

  4. E


    That acronym - synapse - must have spent time in Abu Graib.

  5. ian

    I call RoTM!

    Surely there is some mistake! This is most definitely the beginning of the end (or is it the end of the beginning?).

    Are we to be pounced upon by monstrous feline battle-bots, tossed in the air like playthings before expiring in pain and horror? Do DARPA not understand that cats are not controllable and learn other than what they are taught?

    Visualize 50-tonne tanks with cat-like treads.

  6. Stephen


    They've got the dog, now they are going to put a cat's brain in it. Go go DARPA.

  7. Robajob

    Great work DARPA...

    How long must it have taken to come up with a name that produced the acronym SyNAPSE?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    All mammals...?

    'They are also looking for "a means to scale the complexity of these tasks over the entire range of mammalian intelligence".'

    Well, the humpback whale model will certainly have space for a long-life battery....

  9. Marvin the Martian

    cat-mouse intelligence scale?

    Are there any neuroscientists actually connected to this process?

    I doubt it, for the very simple reason that there is no such thing as cat-level-intelligence in opposition to mouse-level: yes, brute number of brain cells differs, but encephalisation quotient is roughly the same. So built one and you basically have the other. Now, fruitfly-level or parasitoid-wasp-level (those that were the model for Alien --- a nightmare if you're a fruitfly) that would make sense.

    I think if I built a cat-based platform, I'd just put a big frikkin' laser on it --- no point jumping over fences, or hunting mice: just fry 'em; a pursuing dog? Not for long!

    Bullmoose-size-laser-equipped also has its attractions, but you know it's gonna go haywire at some point (probably because it's WEP-controlled). Next step: MetalGearRex.

  10. Chris G

    Processor Using Synaptic SYstem Combat Able Technology

    If it is the size of a bull moose it wont need to be able to jump over a fence it can just walk through it and nobody will argue.

  11. Wayne

    Feline qualities?

    Are we sure we want robots with feline qualities? Mine scratch stuff up, pretend to ignore me and lick themselves.

    Mine's the spotted coat...

  12. Bez

    Catz meanz lolz

    First Lolcats, next Lolmarines?

    "I can has frendly fire accident oops"

  13. Solomon Grundy

    Job Opening for Me

    I'm afraid of the implications of using cats as the model for anything - much less something that is "as intelligent as a cat".

    The moggy that lives in my house is completely insane - he constantly sees things that aren't there, is prone to attack at any time, for no apparent reason, and if he's angry he pisses and shits on my pillow.

    Does this mean that false-positive enemy identification and friendly-fire incidents will increase? Will GI Joe will shit on the pillows if his old lady won't give him the attention he desires? Will he starve because he doesn't like the new food the commissary is serving?

    Does this mean that GI Jane will be incredibly promiscuous and cause distention in the ranks?

    I can't see anything good coming from this.

  14. Charles Manning

    Right way around?

    Is a mouse really that much more daft than a cat? At least trying to develop a cat gives them a lot more space to work with.

    Perhaps they should set their sights a bit lower to begin with. Start with trying to emulate a fly or bee. They're able to to fly, land, evade attack, seek out food and navigate.

  15. Solomon Grundy

    Marvin the Martian

    Don't encephalisation too often or you'll go blind - or grow hair on your palms.

  16. Herby

    An impossible task

    Herding cats. Many have tried, none succeeded!

    Last night on our Late Night talk show (The Tonight Show), the host mentioned that there was a cat with 4 ears born. Then mentioned that it doesn't make any difference, no cat obeys any commands a human gives them, and with four ears, they can ignore you at twice the rate.

    On the other hand, they make great lap warmers while pecking at the keyboard.

  17. Dave Bell

    Blame the Japanese

    The DARPA ubergeeks have just been bit-torrenting a little too much Japanese cat-girl Hentai anime.

    Just don't go near whoever gets the contract for the biomorphic cargo manipulators` Those tentacles look painful.

  18. Tim
    Dead Vulture


    ...spend the whole day thinking about ways to murder you and your family!

    And this bleeding, corpse of a vulture.

  19. Tom

    Perhaps they should set their sights a bit lower to begin with.

    Like a senator maybe?

  20. EL Vark

    Thin end of the wedge

    Has Artie Spiegelman heard about this?

  21. Lukin Brewer

    A fresh angle on the militarisation of cats.

    They already tried to turn a housecat into a spy. It was implanted with bugs and brain control circuitry at a cost of about 4 million dollars. When it had been fully healed up and trained, they let it out onto the street, pointed it at the Russian Embassy, and gave it a burst on the pleasure centre probe. The Four Million Dollar Cat bounded off towards its objective, straight under the wheels of a mail van. Another partial success!

    A similar idea is presented in the webcomic "Girl Genius". Krosp, engineered to be the King of Cats, has all the leadership abilities necessary to organise a fifth column of cats. Unfortunately, the dumb cats don't have the intelligence or disposition to join or be organised into a fifth column.

  22. fajensen

    We are so doomed!

    The difference between man & cat is very small on the scale of potential "IQ's".

    If this thing works it can recursively self improve: you get a cat-brain in a box with an IQ in the low thousands within a few hundred iterations - i,e, some miliseconds after switching the bugger on.

  23. Tom
    Thumb Up


    "Hence the quest for the artificial neuromorphic self-programming cat-bonce box. "

    LOL. Funniest thing i've read all week, congratulations sir =)

  24. Chris Leeson

    Shades of "All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku"...

    The Japanese got there first - - although the (not at all hentai) NK-1124 is probably not exactly what DARPA have in mind...

  25. Liam Johnson

    Old joke

    >>there was a cat with 4 ears born

    Q. how does it smell.

    A. Terrible!

    Or something like that, I am sure.

  26. james marley
    Paris Hilton

    Cat intelligence. Really.

    I can leave my backdoor wide open and my cat will happily walk outside round to the front of the house and jump onto the living room window and proceed to miaow until someone lets him in the front door.

    **Please insert own PH and pussy joke here**

  27. alan
    Gates Horns

    Anti-Trust, anyone?

    Wasn't SyNAPSE the bad-guy's ultimate tool for world-domination?

    open source FTW :)

    oh and one other thing - my cat is totally convinced that it already OWNS the world, and everyone in it, to the extent that he doesn't even need to convince anyone else.

    Is it really a good idea to use that as a basis for evil army AI cat-brained killing thingies?

  28. Matthew
    Thumb Up



    "I can has a grenade launcher"

    "Firing on the enemy - URdoing it rong!"

  29. TeeCee Gold badge

    A cat with four ears?

    Finally a use for Quadrophonic sound.

    Better late than never, I say.

  30. Schultz
    Thumb Up

    Logical next step...

    after they got the 1:20'000 equivalent of a blackfly flying with their stealth bomber project. Just as invisible and nasty, but scaled up like hell to get the equivalent intelligence in there. Can't wait to see what the 1:20'000 model of a cat will look like!

  31. Cameron Colley

    Rat things?

    They ought to use real dog brains inside nuclear-powered armoured pit-bulls...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    as intelligent as a cat?

    Is it the chip or the US forces that would become as intelligent as a cat? Whatever the case, it's got to be an improvement right?

    Paris, obviously!

  33. Fluffykins Silver badge

    @ Ian

    "Visualize 50-tonne tanks with cat-like treads.".........

    ....shitting in your flower bed

  34. ShaggyDoggy


    OK then PERSIAN cats

  35. Colin Millar
    Black Helicopters


    Hasbro beat them to it

  36. Steven Raith
    Thumb Up

    I'm waiting to see...

    ...a marine, in the middle east, sitting outside an APC with a tin of Whiskas going

    "Heeeere kitty kitty kitty"

    And a tank oversteering round the corner and nuzzling up to him with it's turret.

    Because that's about the only way any of my cats have ever succumber to orders - otherwise they were a law unto themselves all the time...

    Steven R

  37. Andrew


    Ok, so the military isn't always the brightest, but do cats really come that much higher up the evolutionary ladder than Marines? I'm guessing the cat is calling the shots, anyway...

  38. Walking Turtle

    Bio-Boolean Boffinry (bah)

    @ Herby: "Herding cats. Many have tried, none succeeded!"

    Not so - I do it whenever I find it necessary to amass a veritable Feline Battalion to force my point upon the world by Resolute Means(tm). The means of leading large numbers of cats at will is as follows:

    1) Lead from 'Way Out Front instead of (as is most common in Whiteman-Land) from the rear.

    2) Soft Cat Food. Anything from Mixed Grill on through Seafood Surprise will likely do. The battle cry, of course, is a hearty "Heeeere, Kittykittykitty! M'YOW! M'YOU!".

    But there is a caveat to being a Top Cat Monkey-General of the Feline Planetary Occupation Forces: Best have enuf Soft Cat Food to go around, or you are next. Case in point's that fine black-coated cat o' mine who's just now back on the dinner table for the nineteenth time: Natural Law. (There goes the butter dish!) Even the big-hearted and well-beloved Reverend General Butt-Naked of Moggadishu knows about that sort of thing.

    "Even"? Hmph. <ACK!> (Pfff-ff-ttt!)

    Anywho, the Darker Regions just might have won out from the get-go on this one. The Republic of Haiti, for example, has (by rumour) allegedly possessed this manner of bio-Boolean weaponry for /quite/ some time now. Ole Miz Lucy's spied out the recipe and logic hookup for the basic carbon-based mobile /cadavre/ unit back in '04, so who knows how long the melanin-impoverished nations of this world have been Blissfully Unaware(tm) of this shadow-lurking Terrorwar Bio-Boolean Threatdown banging about in uttter illlegalized Freedom(tm) off our very shores?

    It's documented in plain English right here, for those who ain't yet in on it:

    The Boffin, 'cause these Hidden Truths have always stood in utter natural harmony with the very thing that all manner of Gummint-Gone-Awry always has pitted itself futilely tho' fiercely against, time after time, caring nothing for the Repeating History Factor of it all. (Let a well-motivated full division of Badgers living and undead alike be loosed on 'em all from an Undisclosed Location should our long-standing negotiations toward full genuine Liberty ever be traitiorously thwarted!) You'll know when it's on by the battle cry: "Mushroom Mushroom!"

    As for cats: I say no more.

    The right mini-sized fuel cell and a wee high-pressure canister of Hydrogen's just the ticket for those Long Waddle-Marches Toward Total Victory, btw. The whole rig mounts up in the belly cavity just fine. (Use carpet thread in the sewing-up for best results.)

    The lab coat, of course. Thank'ee.

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