Remote-controlled cockroaches

They are small, lightweight and have many potential uses. Above all, wherever no one else will squeeze in. Remote-controlled insects could transform many aspects of our lives, and researchers at the University of Connecticut have just learned how to control their movements.

Working on the possibility of controlling the movement of small insectsow, such as cockroaches, have been going on for years. Glohe main problems are the integration of miniaturized computer hardware with the insect’s biological nerve tissue. It is also a challenge to build a systemoin robotic at such a small scale.

Remote-controlled insects are of interest to the US Department of Defense. They could also find employment in rescue teams searching, for example, an earthquake-stricken zone for living people. Although there are probably more applications.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut have developed a neurocontroller in the form of a tiny „backpack”, ktory can be attached to the back of an insect. Integrated circuits full of roA different kind of sensorow, have already been attached in other studies to cockroachow, but the actual control of insects is a completely different story, and against this backdrop the University of Connecticut research wyrochew.

Cockroaches navigate using their feelersow to determine if there is an obstacle in front of them. And the neurocontroller developed by the researchers is directly connected just by the insect’s feelers. By sending small electrical charges, operators can fool it. The insect will recognize that an electrical impulse signals an obstacle and change its direction of movement.

A charge sent to the right feeler will make the cockroach move to the left. And on the reverseot. A pulse sent to the left sensor will cause it to move to the right.

Similar insect control systemsow already exist, but what makes the controller from the University of Connecticut unique is the degree to which operators can stimulate the insect using a four-channel microchip. The system provides roAlso real-time feedback on the insect’s neuromuscular responseow to stimuli. This level of detailoof the sensitivity makes it easier to monitor and control movement.

– Use of the insectow as platforms for small robotsow has an incredible number of useful applications, from rescue operations to national defense – said Abhishek Dutta, ktory has developed a nerocontroller. – We believe our microcircuit provides a more sophisticated and reliable control system, ktory brings us closer to the actual implementation of this technology – added.

The controller tracks the speed at which the insect moves, the direction and the temperature of the environment. The latter is extremely important. Tests have shown that ambient temperature can affect how someore insects.

The information collected by the microchip is sent to the operator via a small Bluetooth antenna mounted on the „backpack” insect. The signal can be easily detected with an ordinary cell phoneorkowe. When data reaches the operator, it can extrapolate the trajectory of the insect’s movement and adjust electrical stimuli accordingly, steering it in the direction it desires.

„Backpacks” have been tested on Madagascar cockroaches. An interesting thing on whichorrohe researchers noted, was that the intensity of the movement of theoin the insectoin response to artificial stimulation decreased. Over time, the cockroaches have become less responsive to electrical stimuli. The controller’s authors plan to conduct further research to improve the system.

Sourcesobackground: University of Connecticut, pic. CC BY-SA 2.0/ Leslie Science & Nature Center/ Flickr