Tiny Robot Piloted by a Fruit Fly

Swiss researchers have designed a tiny robot that can be piloted by a pilot as small as your average fruit fly.

According to sources, the robot, dubbed the Cyborg Fly, was developed by a team of researchers at ETH Zurich’s Institution of Robotics and Intelligent Systems while experimenting with robots that can be controlled by brain neurons.

The robot consists of the insect, tethered inside, and surrounded by a visual display system roughly the equivalent of a miniature IMAX movie theatre using LED screen technology. The insect is surrounded by sound and picture that mimic the maze they placed the robot inside.

The visual patterns adapt themselves accordingly as the insect flaps its wings to steer itself left or right, which in turn translate into motion commands for the robot to navigate through the maze.

All the while, the fruit fly believes itself to be airborn, when in reality it is tethered securely in the cockpit of its own mini virtual-reality simulation akin to something right out of the movie Avatar. Though, as you can see by the video, it isn’t an exact science just yet.

This experiment builds itself off of a previous one that involved similar technology using lab rats as test subjects.

What’s really interesting is that if scientists can do something like this for flies and rodents, it seems likely that sooner or later they will be able to design a much larger prototype available for humans. It would be pretty neat to see how far the technology goes over the next couple of years. Though, on the whole, how’s that for science fiction becoming a reality?

If robots are your thing, be sure to check out Bakebot: The Cookie Baking Robot and Lego Robot Cuts Cake.