Roboroach Slalom Steering Video

Take a look at how well a cockroach can follow a curving racecourse in the video below. The research was done at North Carolina State University's iBionics Laboratory.


(Roboroach Slalom Steering Video)

In this interview excerpt, assistant professor of engineering Alper Bozkurt, who led the roach biobot project, talks with National Geographic:

What exactly is a biobot? Is it like a cyborg, a combination of a living organism and a robot?
"Biobot" is short for "biological robot." It is the first stage of creating what we would call an insect cyborg.
Currently, we can steer these roaches remotely and make them stop, go, and turn. If we can have them interact independently with the technologies we've surgically implanted in them, then they will become true cyborgs.

Can you explain exactly how you are able to steer the biobots?
We use electric pulses to stimulate their antenna sensor cells, making them think there is an obstacle to navigate around.
Cockroaches use their antennae as touch sensors, similar to the way a blind person might use their hands to recognize the environment. So when we stimulate the antennal sensor on the roach's right side, it makes a left turn, and vice versa. We also stimulate their cerci to make them go forward. Cerci are the sensors at the very back of the insect that sense any predator behind.

Do the electrical pulses hurt the roaches?
No, there are a lot of scientific papers and evidence that show that invertebrates don't have the sense of pain as we, humans, perceive it. So it was not like we were zapping them and they were reacting to pain. Their reflexes were simply navigating them around perceived obstacles.

Your paper mentions that these biobots could help rescue earthquake survivors. How, exactly?
Their backpacks can carry a locator beacon and a tiny microphone to pick up cries for help. Of course, a human operator or computer still has to be listening and steering them... I don't think it will be very long before we can deploy them to actually help rescue people.

Science fiction fans know that the idea for steerable insects derives from Sparrowhawk, a 1990 science fiction novel by Dr. Thomas A. Easton.

"There's the brain, the spinal chord, the motor centers. A cable, here, from the controller to the interface plug... wires from that to the brain." She explained how the controller, a computer, translated movements of the tiller or control yoke and the throttle and brake pedals into electrical signals and routed them as appropriate to the jets or the genimal's motor centers, triggering the genimal's own nervous system into commanding its muscles to serve the driver. All the necessary programming was built into the hardware...
(Read more about the Roachster)

Philip K. Dick also played around with this idea in the mid-1960's. See the references for the housefly monitor (from Lies, Inc. [1964]) and the commercial fly (from The Simulacra [1964]).

See also the first successful HI-MEMS (Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) program at the University of Michigan. Via National Geographic and IBionics at North Carolina State.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/3/2012)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Mushroom Eats Plastic, Saves Planet
Fungus Amongus, SaveUs!

Is There Extraterrestrial Life Here In The Solar System
'How fast is it moving? ...one meter per minute.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1982.

Chinese Fern Helps Remediate Arsenic Soil
'Bioengeering had put out a spec report on the long crawly things five months back.' - Gregory Benford, 1983.

New Lifelike Material Powered By Artificial Metabolism
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

China Deploys Robot Traffic Police
'The robot came up smooth and fast as a rocket...'

Better Than Dune Chromoplastic? This Guy Might Have Done It
'But when Old Father Sun departs, the chromoplastic reverts to transparency in the dark.'

Gather, An AI Warehouse Inventory Drone Startup
'It extended three of its tiny arms sideways to lock onto the registration pins...'

China's Artificial Intelligence-Enhanced Education
'The grey gas not only cut off his vision, but also his other senses...'

Orbital Manufacturer 'Made in Space' Gets $73 Million NASA Contract
'Mass-produced in the orbiting factories...'

Soli Gesture Tech Will Be In Google Pixel 4
'I enjoy watching this way, but - He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.'

Uber Eats Pairs Cars With Drones
Fresh grub? Let's hope they aren't delivering grubs.

Space-Based Solar Power Roundup
SF writers popularized and elaborated on this idea a generation before the first patents were filed.

Lost Language Meanings Found By Machine Learning
'The autopilot would need data before it could begin a translation...'

'Aerogel' Sheets For Martian Gardens
'Sealed to the ground along all the sides, Honey, he growled...'

France's 'Red Team' Of Science Fiction Authors
'They're the only experts we have.'

Dim The Sun With Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment
'Those twin volcanoes; d'ye see them, Mr. Renner?'

Mashambas Skyscraper Farm Design Wins
'...a towering eighty-story structure like the office In-and Out baskets stacked up to the sky.'

Self-Driving Tractors From China Plan Ahead
'Machines that seemingly with full consciousness walked out into the fields to do their daily work.'

Jet-Powered Hoverboard Works!
L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!

Nobe 3-Wheel Electric Vehicle Parking Like I, Robot
Spidercar, Spidercar, does whatever a spidercar does.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.