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Remotely Controlled Roaches Could Search For Survivors

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A roach wearing an electronic backpack.

An electronic backpack implanted on a cockroach, to guide the insect's movements. Researchers hope such roaches can be guides through collapsed buildings to search for survivors.

Credit: North Carolina Status University

North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers are working to guide cockroaches as efficiently as possible, with hopes of steering them in collapsed buildings to search for survivors.

The team had already developed technology for remote steering, but it is now using Microsoft's motion-sensing Kinect system to develop an autopilot program and track the precise response of cockroaches to electrical impulses.

The researchers have integrated the Kinect system into an interface that can control cockroaches. Wires attached to a cockroach's cerci, sensory organs on the abdomen, are used to spur it into motion. Wires attached to the antenna are used to send small charges that trick it into thinking the antenna are in contact with a barrier and steer them in the opposite direction.

"We want to build on this program, incorporating mapping and radio-frequency techniques that will allow us to use a small group of cockroaches to explore and map disaster sites," says NCSU professor Alper Bozkurt.

From The Engineer (United Kingdom)
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