Scientists Wirelessly Control Movements of Live Cyborg Cockroaches
Last summer, researchers endeavored to create "biobots," or to remotely control live moths. Now, it looks like a team from Texas A&M may have beaten them to the punch, although using a much less appealing insect. As part of a new study of innovative types of robotics, the researchers have actually managed to control the movements of a live cockroach using a wireless receiver.
As they detail in their paper, they chose to use living creatures because biological organisms are more suited to movement in many ways: "Natural systems retain significant advantages over engineered systems in many aspects, including size and versatility. In this research, we develop a hybrid robotic system using... cockroaches that uses the natural locomotion and robustness of the insect."
In a terrifying bit of mind control, the researchers essentially "plugged into" the cockroaches' nervous systems. They attached the creatures with tiny "backpacks" that consisted of a microcontroller and a rechargeable battery. Using a wireless controller, the scientists sent electrical signals to the cockroaches' nervous systems, and were able to control their direction of movement as well as their speed.
Earlier studies had used a different method: inserting electrodes into the cockroaches' antennae sockets, which is probably as horrifying as it sounds. The researchers in this study attempted this method as well, but found that their backpacks were far more effective, citing a demonstrated "high level of control, about 65% for the duration of the trials."
The research team is confident that the success of these cyborg cockroaches could lead to new avenues of innovation in robotics. That's all very well and good, just as long as they never figure out how to replicate this "success" with humans.