Biorobotic Roaches Can Use Microphones To Search Rubble For Survivors

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Another day, another insectobot connected to a small, audio-sensing cyborg harness. Two researchers at the North Carolina State University, Dr. Alper Bozkurt and Matt Shipman, have mounted a small circuit board to a live cockroach and connected leads to the bug’s brain. By playing special tones, the board can trick the cockroach into moving left or right, essentially turning the bug into a remote-control biobot.

There are two types of bugs in this creepy army: the drones and the sensors. Drones move left or right based on signals received remotely and the sensors tell the drones where the sound is coming from. This way you can set a bunch of bugs loose in rubble, for example, and have the sensors listen for noise. Once they’ve homed in on the sound, the drones will all come together and signal rescuers. Presumably you can also eat the bugs.

“In a collapsed building, sound is the best way to find survivors,” says Dr.AlperBozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and senior author of two papers on the work.The biobots are equipped with electronic backpacks that control the cockroach’s movements. Bozkurt’s research team has created two types of customized backpacks using microphones. One type of biobot has a single microphone that can capture relatively high-resolution sound from any direction to be wirelessly transmitted to first responders.

The researchers have also created a sort of invisible fence that keeps bugs within a rescue area by controlling their motions. They are also adding solar power cells so the wee beasties can work autonomously for days at a time.