Researchers have long turned to insects
for a little inspiration when creating robots, but things have entered a terrifying new dimension this week, with two separate groups each finding new ways to meld bug and machine. The further along of the pair is a group of scientists from Tokyo University's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, who have not only used a live silkmoth to control a toy car, but severed the head of a moth and wired it into the vehicle pictured above (look closely). By directing stimuli to the moth's still-functioning antennae, the researchers were able to record the motor commands issued by the brain's nerve cells and, in turn, control the vehicle -- which, in addition to totally freaking people out, allows them to study and record data on how neurons respond to stimulus.
Slightly less far along on the road to bug armageddon is Pentagon contractor OpCoast, which is working on some full on "cyborg crickets" that behave like the real thing but have the added benefit of being able to form a mobile communications network in an emergency situation. That network, the company says, could eventually consist of hundreds or thousands of the crickets which, like real crickets, would communicate with each other through wing beats, and even be able to vary their "call tone" when they detect the presence of chemical or biological agents, or potentially even the scent of a person trapped in rubble.Read
- AFP, "Japanese scientists aim to create robot-insects"Read
- PhysOrg, "Cyborg Crickets Could Form Mobile Communications Network, Save Human Lives"