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Cockroach Robots? Not Nightmare Fantasy but Science Lab Reality

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Cockroach robots can gather information from places humans would not want to venture.

Researchers at Texas A&M University can remotely control a live cockroach through a computer fused onto its back.

Credit: Carlos Sanchez, Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University researchers have fused a computer onto the back of a live cockroach in order to control the insect. At the push of a button, wires connected to the cockroach's nervous system control which way it moves.

The researchers made tiny backpacks containing a computer chip that sends signals down a pair of wires into nerves that control legs on either side of the cockroach. The researchers demonstrated how they could remotely control the direction in which the cockroach walked by stimulating nerves on either side of its body.

Testing showed that when the robotic cockroaches were held on leashes, the insects could be controlled about 70 percent of the time. However, when the insects were allowed to roam free, the remote control worked only about 60 percent of the time.

The researchers now are studying how to make the cockroaches respond to directions more reliably. "Insects can do things a robot cannot. They can go into small places, sense the environment, and if there's movement, from a predator say, they can escape much better than a system designed by a human," says Hong Liang, who led the research. "We wanted to find ways to work with them."

From The Guardian
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