Remote-controlled cyborg cockroaches
Tue, 11 Sep 2012 2:16p.m.
Scientists in the US have created microchip backpacks which when attached to cockroaches, allow the scientists to control their movements.
The team from North Carolina State University used off-the-shelf electronics and flightless Madagascar hissing cockroaches, one of the largest species out there, reports The Register.
"Our aim was to determine whether we could create a wireless biological interface with cockroaches, which are robust and able to infiltrate small spaces," says Alper Bozkurt, assistant professor of engineering.
"Ultimately, we think this will allow us to create a mobile web of smart sensors that uses cockroaches to collect and transmit information, such as finding survivors in a building that's been destroyed by an earthquake."
The team considered creating tiny robots, but found it was incredibly complex and difficult.
"We decided to use 'biobotic' cockroaches in place of robots, as designing robots at that scale is very challenging and cockroaches are experts at performing in such a hostile environment," says Prof Bozkurt.
The chip, strapped to the cockroach's back, weighs just 0.7 grams.
It works by sending electrical charges through the bug's antennae and abdomen-based sensing organs called cerci. The cockroach is fooled into thinking a predator is approaching and that an obstacle blocks one path – so it scurries forward in the opposite direction.
The cyborg cockroaches can be steered quite accurately, says Prof Bozkurt.
"Ultimately, we think this will allow us to create a mobile web of smart sensors that uses cockroaches to collect and transmit information, such as finding survivors in a building that's been destroyed by an earthquake," he told Wired.
The team in the past has created an interface which allowed them to control moths.
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