A Neuroscientist Trained Rats To Play Doom Using a Custom VR Setup

For science, of course.
Derya Ozdemir

A neuroscience engineer has taught rats to play a modified version of the shooter Doom. And he has also named them after three of the original game’s primary creators; John Romero, John Carmack, and Tom Hall.

"I built a VR setup for rodents from scratch and trained three rats in an automated fashion, without manual intervention, to traverse a corridor rendered in the DOOM II engine," wrote Viktor Tóth, in a blog post. "Although I did implement the mechanisms to further train rats to shoot monsters in-game, I lacked the time to actually reinforce the behavior."

Tóth created a unique "VR for rats" rig in which one of the three rats stood on a big makeshift trackball in front of a curved monitor. The rat would be allowed to "walk" across the ball, as their body was held in place by a mechanical arm. Sugar water coming through tubes incentivized the rats to move. Essentially, Tóth used a custom build of the game that offered straight corridors with simple turns before introducing more intricate paths with dead ends and random turns.

This eventually led to the rats navigating the whole Entryway map from Doom II. So if you're curious to see the rats in action, make sure you watch the video embedded above.

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