Hybrid Insect MEMS Sought By DARPA For Bug Army

HI-MEM-based bug armies? Our friends at DARPA seem to have cyborgs on the brain. Hot on the heels of last week's presentation of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center's progress on shark cyborgs comes a solicitation notice for Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS).

In their solicitation notice BAA06-22, DARPA explicitly rejects research which merely results in "evolutionary improvement upon existing state-of-the-art." They are looking for more innovative proposals, suggesting that it should be possible to integrate microsystems within insects during the early stages of metamorphosis. Specifically, DARPA believes that "healing processes from one metamorphic stage to the next stage are expected to yield more reliable" implantation results. Hopefully, this will result in more sophisticated (and more reliable) bio-electromechanical interfaces, as opposed to those cheap "adhesively-bonded systems" sometimes used on adult insects.

The final demonstration goal of the HI-MEMS program is the controlled arrival of an insect within five meters of a specified target located one hundred meters from the insect's starting point. It must then remain stationary indefinitely, unless otherwise instructed. It must also be able to transmit data from DOD sensors providing information about the local environment.

Tired of working with flying insects? No problem; DARPA says that "hopping and swimming insects could also meet final demonstration goals."

Effort is required in the following areas:

  1. Demonstrate reliable bio-electromechanical interfaces to insects
  2. Demonstrate locomotion control using MEMS platforms
  3. Demonstrate technologies to scavenge power from insects.
DARPA has tried to make use of insects before. In their Detection of Biological and Chemical Warfare Agents by Honey Bees program, it was hoped that the natural foraging behavior of honeybees could be harnessed for military applications. However, after some initial success, it appears that "Instinctive behaviors for feeding and mating -- and also for responding to temperature changes -- prevented them from performing reliably."

It also appears that honey bees can be trained to recognize individuals; whether or not they can be trained to salute and obey orders is another matter.

Entomologists are skeptical. According to the BBC, Dr George McGavin of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History said it appeared impossible to connect the technology to the right places during the metamorphic phase, particularly with regard to flight.

Museum entomology expert Stuart Hine added, "I feel that the reality of such cyborg fusion between insect and machine lies squarely in the realms of fiction."

That may be true, but I can't find the reference. I can think of various examples of implants made after birth, like Jones the cyborg dolphin and implanted microprocessor monitors for executives. Anyone?

Update 27-Jan-2008: It turns out that this program was actually inspired by a specific science fiction novel: read more about it in HI-MEMS: Cyborg Beetle Microsystem and HI-MEMS: Control Circuits Embedded In Pupal Stage Successfully. End update.

Read more about it at the BBC site. Thanks to alert reader Masa Thavia for the story tip.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/15/2006)

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 ( 8 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

DNA May Contain Malware
'You were told to embed the logical pathogen.' - A. Reynolds and S. Baxter, 2016.

GMO Houseplant Cleans Your Air
Removes compounds too small to be captured by a HEPA filter.

Oil from Algae - Can It Be Done?
'We dump everything that's waste into the tanks, pump the oil off the top.' - Hal Clement, 1950.

Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.

 

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

Purdue Pharma Ready To Profit From OxyContin Use Or Addiction Recovery
'It may be organic damage. It may be permanent. Time'll tell, and only after you are off Substance D for a long while.'

BloxVox Mutes Cellphone Convos
It's the polite thing to do, and has been the polite thing to do for about four generations.

Superfast Replicator: Volumetric Additive Manufacturing
I can't wait. Bring it on.

DNA May Contain Malware
'You were told to embed the logical pathogen.'

I Can't Resist Worm Robots
'Seen close it was not completely flexible...'

Rplate Digital License Plates Now Legal In Michigan
'Gragg's digital ink license plates ...'

Can Musk Starship Astronauts Use Magnetic Boots?
'Walking awkwardly in the magnetic boots that held him to the black mass of meteoric iron...'

Giant Dolphin Spotted On Jupiter!
'Now at last he could appreciate its real size and complexity...'

Musk's Starship An SF Fan's Dream Come True
Perfect for testing, perfect for fans!

TinyMobileRobots Are Sewer Sentinels
Every movie monster gets its start someplace.

Fishy Facial Recognition Now Possible
'Palenkis can identify random line patterns better than any other species in the universe.'

Spicy Tomatoes Created With Genetic Engineering
How about mashed potatoes and brown gravy?

Driverless Hotel Rooms Predicted In 1828
'Did you never see a moving house before?'

Yandex Self-Driving Taxi Is Very Smooth
'The big car was slowing down, its computer brain sensing an exit ahead.'

Shrimp Actually Made Of Algae Is A New Wave Food
Bring in that crop algae.

Cosplay Style Wings Could Work On Moon
'They're lovely! - titanalloy struts as light and strong as bird-bones...'

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.