Friday, January 30, 2009

Creepy/Cool Technology

DARPA-funded scientists at UC Berkeley are hot-wiring live beetles so they can control their flight behavior by remote control (video here - big insect!). They mount a small package of electronics including a radio receiver on the back of a giant flower beetle. Six electrodes implanted into the insect's nervous system allow them to command it to take off, turn right or left, and land. Future applications might include search and rescue missions where the creatures would carry tiny cameras and thermal sensors.

Cyborg beetles? Weird, but it makes a lot of sense. The flying capabilities and energy efficiency of insects have evolved over millions of years, and robotic systems to match this are tough to develop. It's one of many R&D areas today that are combining the capabilities (or tissues) of animals with electronics. Creepy or cool? Both I think.

I do wonder how the remote control commands will interact with instinctive behavior - what happens if the beetle senses a predator? Will it ignore the electronic commands and take evasive action? And what about bug spray?

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