Forever downtrodden, lab rats are the unsung heroes of human progress, as psychologists and biologists put the little critters through all manner of hell in the name of science. But this latest battery of tests plunge the animals into the realm of sci-fi horror by introducing a group of rats to a robotic rat designed to test their responses to stressful situations.
Conducted at Japan's Waseda University in the Takanishi Lab, the experiment, called the Mental Modeling of Creature, puts rats in various stressful situations with the WR-4 robot rat in order to gain some insight into how humans might one day react in stressful situations with humanoid robots once they become an everyday part of society. In one experiment a rat is gradually forced to rely on calling the robot to get its food, in another the rat learned to push the robot's levers for food, and in yet another experiment captured on video the rat appears to hide from the robot as it whirls around making odd motions.
The researchers also put one rat in a situation in which it was regularly attacked by the robot (not violently, only with aggressive movements), an experiment designed to see how the rat would respond after repeated attacks over time.
Although the experiment can hardly be expected to offer deep insights into the reactions humans might have in similar, hellish situations with robots, it nevertheless offers an interesting look at how some living things interact with robots in pressure situations. You can see video of the experiment here.