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 ")

'Cortical Modem' Latest On DARPA's Wishlist
'...inside his skull... is a little cylinder, that neuronic receptor-transmitter.'- Raymond Z. Gallun, 1938.

Sea Slug Feeds On Sunlight With Genes From Its Food
'You've surely noticed the green skin tone of your new body.'- John Scalzi, 2005.

Forget Longevity, How About Super-Intelligence?
'It was clearly domelike and oddly fragile-looking...'- Philip K. Dick, 1964.

The Bioengineered Uterus
For women unable to conceive and carry a fetus to term, is this an answer?

 

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

Automated Treadmill Adjusts To Your Pace
'The auto-treadmill's bumps and gullies matched...'

Mr. Anderton, Beware This Long-Range Iris Scanner
Try keeping your eyes shut, Mr. Anderton.

Mini Statues Of You From 3D Images
'...A three-dimensional simulacrum of himself six inches high took form.'

'Forever' Camera Powered By Its Own Images
'What I have in this camera is not a record of what you did just now but what will go on here in the next half hour...'

Robot Chef Makes Thousands Of Dinners
'I got one of those new electronic cameras... and I could construct this one to do it exactly right down to the thousandth of a second.'

Revault Wearable Private Cloud Is Too Vaporous
'A man or woman could carry AIs or complete planetary dataspheres...'

Spacex Sticks Landing! But Neglects Lateral Forces
So close!

Lumo Projector Turns Kids Rooms Into Bradbury's Veldt
'The walls began to purr and recede... and presently an African veldt appeared...'

Ground Control Space Beer
Ninkasi Brewing Co. has its own space program.

Google Wants To Give Orders To Robot Armies
Or maybe they aren't bent on world domination.

Gestures Control Spider Robot Army
'What do you think - four spiders, one per floor?'

Hologram Protest World's First
'Their bodies were in their dwelling cells, but their telucid images filled the hall.'

SoSITE: US Pilots To Command DARPA Drone Army
'With a click of his pinky he brought up a pop-up menu, then selected *Kill Everyone*'

Asterank Database Identifies Profitable Asteroids
'Now it was a huge, charted, floating ore deposit for the entire Solar System.'

Pepper Spray Drones Do Crowd Control For Indian Police
'Basketball-sized, twelve feet up... they were there to enforce the law...'

Man-Made Earthquakes Now A Reality
Fracking yields unexpected increase in energy.

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.