Remote-controlled cyborg roaches are the future
Using jumbo roaches outfitted with tiny computerized backpacks, researchers at Texas A&M are hoping to create a bug that can be remote-controlled to be more useful than annoying.
Cockroaches have a bad rap. They’re sneaky, creepy, and have an alarming habit of streaking across your bathroom wall at 2 AM when you’re just trying to get some reading done.
But they’re also small, tough, and fast. They can go places people can’t go and do the dirty work they won’t do. The scientists are hoping that with the right technological guidance they could be all sorts of useful to the human species.
Vinson is an entomologist — an insect expert. Liang is a mechanical engineer. The point of their work is to build the perfect cockroach cyborg: an animal that can crawl into tiny holes and around jagged edges with recording equipment, for surveillance, for example. Or, if there’s an earthquake and a building crashes, Liang says, deploy them to the second floor for search and rescue, “so when they reach there, they can work as a vehicle. If they can carry any sensors, cameras, they can collect information for us.”
In the past, attempts to remote-control roaches by using shocks from antennae-mounted electrodes to steer them saw diminishing returns as the roaches adapted to the effect and then ignored it. The new method involves wiring the steering electrodes to the neurons that control the roach’s legs, using small shocks to unbalance the insect and make it turn left or right.
If the technology can be perfected robot-insect hybrids sound both awesome and highly useful. It seems a bit cruel but let he who has never crush-stomped a kitchen roach cast the first stone.
[Source: NPR | Photo: Carlos Sanchez Ph.D ]