Cyborg cockroaches can help find survivors through their voices

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Mariella Moon
November 8th, 2014
In this article: cockroach, NcStateUniversity
Cyborg cockroaches can help find survivors through their voices

Someday, those vile, slimy cockroaches that make you shriek like a five-year-old girl might look more like little superheroes in some people's eyes. Researchers from the North Carolina State University have developed a way for roaches to detect and locate sources of sounds (say, a person's voice), so they can be used in search-and-rescue missions. In addition, they've developed an "invisible fence" technology to keep the bugs within an enclosed area. Just like the robo-roaches in a number of previous studies, NC State's bugs also have backpacks strapped to their bodies, allowing the scientists to control the direction they go to.

Some of these backpacks are equipped with a single microphone that can capture sounds sent to first responders. Others are equipped with an array of 3D microphones that can determine where those sounds come from, making them effective at finding people trapped inside collapsed buildings, for instance. These cockroaches work together as a team and need to be within each other's range, though, that's why the researchers also devised an invisible fence technology. This fence can not only prevent them from straying too far, but also lead them to light sources in order to charge their solar-powered backpacks. If you want to get a better grasp of how these cyborg cockroaches work, make sure watch the videos below to see them in action within a laboratory setting.

[Image credit: Eric Whitmire/NC State University]

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