Insects — particularly cockroaches — can be pretty darn creepy-looking as-is, but if you can imagine them sporting chips and wires, and being driven remotely, well... that's a whole over level of disturbing. While it may sound like a bad dream, researchers at North Carolina State University are turning it into a potentially life-saving reality.
For their experiments, the researchers affixed wireless receivers to the backs of Madagascar hissing cockroaches and wired the electronics to the roaches' antennae and abdomens. By sending small electrical signals to either antennae, the team was able to make the roaches think they were running into obstructions, causing them to turn. Alternating these tiny shocks can be used to accurately steer the roaches, and sending voltage to their cerci — abdominal organs that spur roaches to flee danger — they were able to make them run on command.
The researchers think they could eventually mount small sensors and cameras on the roaches, making it possible to use them for exploring extremely tight spaces, such as those in collapsed buildings where survivors might otherwise be impossible to find. Another proposal involves harnessing the sugar the bugs produce from their food to power the electronics, thus reducing their overall weight.
We've previously seen roaches wired in a similar way, but for different results. Last year, high school students were able to make roaches dance to music by Lady Gaga by sending them electrical impulses in an experiment to see if such a system might be able to help restore lost brain function in humans.
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