Cockroaches may very well be the pets of the future, considering the interest some scientists have developed for them. Read on to see how cyborg roaches can run along a set path by connecting them to Kinect.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the RoboRoach smartphone app, a Kickstarter project that involves performing surgical operations on cockroaches to install modules that enable people to control them remotely. Scientists at North Carolina State University seem to have a different approach. They created a module that is connected to a Kinect sensor, instead of a smartphone. The cyborg cockroaches are meant to follow a certain route, and whenever they make a detour, the Kinect sensor notices that and a signal is sent so they get back on track.
If RoboRoach represented an exercise in neural engineering, neural control of behavior and neuroscience, in general, these Kinect roaches serve a different purpose. More precisely, they are meant to… hold it… hold it… help save lives! On a scale from 1 to 10, just how ridiculous is that?
Dr. Alper Bozkurt, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University, stated: “Our goal is to be able to guide these roaches as efficiently as possible, and our work with Kinect is helping us do that. We want to build on this program, incorporating mapping and radio frequency techniques that will allow us to use a small group of cockroaches to explore and map disaster sites. The autopilot program would control the roaches, sending them on the most efficient routes to provide rescuers with a comprehensive view of the situation.”
Equipping these little creatures with miniature microphones and speakers is the next stage of the project, under the pretext that these could help rescue workers to communicate with unreachable disaster victims. What happened to rescue robots? Given the size of these things, one could assume that they would be used for espionage too, at some point.
Now, if you know someone who suffers from katsaridaphobia (oh, beautiful Greek words!) aka fear of cockroaches, you might use such insects as weapons. However, these don’t react well to insecticides and can be squashed as easily as their non-cyborg counterparts. The Kinect variety of cyborg cockroaches may not mass marketed any time soon, but the RoboRoach smartphone app has great chances of becoming real, so… Prepare that list of yours of enemies!