Scientist teaches his pet RAT how to play video games


While many people think of rats as pests, the rodents are actually highly intelligent animals. 

Now, one rat-owner has demonstarted just how ‘incredibly smart’ his pets are, having trained them to play video games. 

Viktor Toth, 30, conducted the experiment to prove that rats are great decision makers and can be just as smart as humans whilst playing the shooting game, Doom.

The rodents, Carmack, Romero, and Tom, who are named after the video game’s creators, were able to independently navigate themselves through a series of mazes, open doors and even shoot monsters.

A rat-owner has demonstarted just how ‘incredibly smart’ his pets are, having trained them to play video games

Viktor Toth, 30, conducted the experiment to prove that rats are great decision makers and can be just as smart as humans whilst playing the shooting game, Doom

Viktor Toth, 30, conducted the experiment to prove that rats are great decision makers and can be just as smart as humans whilst playing the shooting game, Doom

How do the rats play Doom? 

Mr Toth placed the rats on a moving ball in front of a computer screen, allowing them to play Doom in first-person character.

To train them, the rats were rewarded with sugary water when they turned in the right direction.

By rewarding the rodents, Toth eventually taught the rats how to navigate through the games levels and attack approaching monsters. 

Teaching the rats to shoot proved to be more complex. 

Mr Toth initially planned to teach the rats to bite a tube in front of their nose to control the game’s shotgun, but found this was ineffective. 

Instead, he opted for a rearing motion, which required greater intent on the rats’ part. 

The neuroscientist from Budapest, Hungary, claims that rats are just as smart as monkeys and built the virtual reality (VR) set-up to test his hypothesis.

He said: ‘I built a VR setup for rodents from scratch and trained three rats in an automated fashion.

‘On average, rats are incredibly smart and you can teach them complex tasks.

‘They have an exceptionally good memory and a special understanding when it comes to high level thinking and decision making.

‘Rats can be taught very complex tasks and I wanted to teach them to move in the right direction of the game without me interfering.’

‘To train them, the rats got rewarded with sugary water when they turned in the right direction.

‘I put them on a moving ball which allowed them to play the game in first-person character – it took a lot of effort to teach them how to run on this but we got there in the end.’

Initially, the rats only played games featuring straight corridors and simple turns. 

However, as they started to get the hang of it, Mr Toth introduced more complicated routes with dead ends and random turns.  

‘I would take them off the ball if they got stressed and play with them,’ he explained.

To train them, the rats were rewarded with sugary water when they turned in the right direction. By rewarding the rodents, Toth eventually taught the rats how to navigate through the games levels and attack approaching monsters

To train them, the rats were rewarded with sugary water when they turned in the right direction. By rewarding the rodents, Toth eventually taught the rats how to navigate through the games levels and attack approaching monsters

Mr Toth placed the rats on a moving ball, allowing them to play Doom in first-person character

Mr Toth placed the rats on a moving ball, allowing them to play Doom in first-person character

‘By the end of the experiment, they ended up being my pet rats and I would spend at least an hour with each a day.’

Teaching the rats to shoot proved to be more complex. 

Mr Toth initially planned to teach the rats to bite a tube in front of their nose to control the game’s shotgun, but found this was ineffective. 

Instead, he opted for a rearing motion, which required greater intent on the rats’ part. 

By rewarding the rodents with their favourite tasty treats such as grapes and bananas, Viktor eventually taught the rats how to navigate through the game’s levels and attack approaching monsters.

He said: ‘It works well when the rat has to be inside the character from a first person perspective.

'By the end of the experiment, they ended up being my pet rats and I would spent at least an hour with each a day,' Mr Toth said

‘By the end of the experiment, they ended up being my pet rats and I would spent at least an hour with each a day,’ Mr Toth said

'Rats can be taught very complex tasks and I wanted to teach them to move in the right direction of the game without me interfering,' Mr Toth explained

‘Rats can be taught very complex tasks and I wanted to teach them to move in the right direction of the game without me interfering,’ Mr Toth explained

‘They can do most actions in that game but it would be interesting to teach them to know how to change the weapons and why they would need to for different situations. 

‘At the moment, I’m not sure at what point they’d get overwhelmed or are enjoying just the rewards or doing the actions.

‘They know what they’re doing – if I change the environment randomly, the rat understands and will adapt to the new environment its in.

‘They are very curious beings and keen to discover what’s going on.

‘If the task is complicated enough, the rats starts to enjoy it – at least that’s my own hypothesis.’

Next step, swine-craft! Scientists teach pigs how to play VIDEO GAMES 

Last year, researchers from the US taught four pigs to manipulate a joystick with their snouts, moving a cursor on a screen around to reach one of up to four target walls.

Each of the four pigs displayed some conceptual understanding of both the game and the connection between the movement of the joystick control and the cursor.

This was despite the fact that pigs are far-sighted animals with no opposable thumbs — a feat which the animal behaviour experts called ‘remarkable’. 

‘It is no small feat for an animal to grasp the concept that the behaviour they are performing is having an effect elsewhere,’ said paper author and animal behaviour expert Candace Croney of Purdue University, in Indiana.

‘That pigs can do this to any degree should give us pause as to what else they are capable of learning and how such learning may impact them.’ 

Pigs are capable of learning how to play simple video games, scientists have demonstrated, showing the animals to be more intelligent than was thought. Pictured, one of the Yorkshire pigs in the study uses its snout to manipulate a joystick and move the on-screen cursor

Pigs are capable of learning how to play simple video games, scientists have demonstrated, showing the animals to be more intelligent than was thought. Pictured, one of the Yorkshire pigs in the study uses its snout to manipulate a joystick and move the on-screen cursor

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