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Robotized Insects May Search Collapsed Buildings for Survivors

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A Madagascar hissing cockroach wearing a backpack containing a communications chip, a carbon-dioxide sensor, a motion sensor, an infrared camera, and a tiny battery.

Credit: Sato Hirotaka

Researchers at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University have developed robotized insects that could be used to search for survivors in collapsed buildings.

The researchers outfitted Madagascar hissing cockroaches with backpacks featuring a communications chip, a carbon dioxide sensor, a motion sensor, an infrared camera, and a small battery.

The cockroaches are controlled by algorithms that respond directly to the backpack sensors.

The researchers tested the so-called cyber-roaches in a simulated disaster zone spanning 25 square meters, which contained concrete blocks, people, and decoys like a microwave oven and a laptop.

Artificial intelligence programmed into the camera identified signs of life such as movement, body heat, and elevated carbon dioxide levels, sending alerts to rescuers if a survivor has been detected.

The researchers found the software correctly recognized humans 87% of the time.

From The Economist
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