Pied Piper for roaches
Zed and I were talking about this last night. What's with the obsession with robot cockroaches? He says some other researchers were putting wires into the brains of real "kissing cockroaches" (is that really what he said?) to turn them into borgs.
Tiny Robots Control Cockroaches
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Scientists have created miniature, insect-like robots that can change the behavior of cockroaches.
The devices work by at first fooling the bugs into believing the devices are fellow roaches and then leading the insects away from darkness into light, according to a recent announcement made by the European Union Information Society Technologies Program.
The thumbnail-sized devices, called "insbots," are among the first to manipulate insect and animal behavior.
"Robots have already been used to interact with some animals (and insects) such as bees, but they cannot react to the animals’ response," said the study’s coordinator.
[The roaches were fooled by] not only the deceptive size and shape of the robots, but also by information-conveying smelly chemicals called pheromones, which were slathered on the insbots.
The insbots are also outfitted with two motors, wheels, a rechargeable battery, several computer processors, a light-sensing camera and an array of infrared proximity sensors. All allow the miniature devices to navigate safely and freely while adapting their own behavior to match that of the roaches.
Through behavioral mimicry and interactions, the insbots managed to lead several roaches out of darkness and towards bright beams of light, according to the researchers. The process took a few hours, but it holds promise for future pesticide-free methods of pest control.
The scientists suggest that with some additional tinkering, the robots could also manipulate ants and other common insects.
Heydon said the insbots could assist researchers in analyzing mating behaviors, since the devices might help scientists to better match movements, such as dances and wing beating, to their precise meanings in mating rituals.
Like secret agents in disguise, the robots might also infiltrate animal groups to obtain information, Heydon indicated.
He said, "In the future, similar robots may be accepted as members of fish schools or as birds in a migrating flock."