Cyborg Cockroaches to the Rescue!

leadIt’s a well known fact that cockroaches are some of the fittest creatures to roam the Earth – able to remain active for a month without food – and capable of withstanding as much as 15 times the amount of radiation than would kill a human.

With all these survival skills, it makes sense that roaches might also help with disaster relief.  In other words, there may actually be a time when the sight of a cockroach crawling toward you brings joy and relief, rather than disgust.  At least, this seems to be the thinking behind a group of U.S. researchers who have created cyborg cockroaches that can crawl through rubble to locate survivors. Yes, you heard that right! Robot Cockroaches have taken over the earth! But don’t worry, they are friendly… The new project from scientists at North Carolina State University has cockroaches equipped with electronic backpacks and microphones that control the insects’  movements and help locate humans in enclosed spaces. The remote-controlled cockroaches  or “biobots” are programmed to save people’s lives in case of disasters, such as the aftermath of an earthquake.

These tiny invertebrates are sent out with their tiny  electronic “backpacks” comprised of a microphone and wireless transmitter.  An invisible “fence” is then used to mark out a search area and the cockroaches are released, free to roam and locate trapped individuals.

“In a collapsed building, sound is the best way to find survivors,” says Dr. Alper Bozkurt, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University.

The goal of this cool innovation is to use the cockroaches with high resolution microphones to differentiate between sounds that matter, like people calling for help, versus sounds that don’t matter, like a leaking pipe. Once the sounds that matter are identified, the microphones attached to the the backs of the cockroaches are used to zero-in on where those sounds are coming from.  For even greater efficiency, when the batteries run out, the cockroaches are automatically trained to go into the sunlight to recharge their batteries (which are solar-powered). Pretty cool, huh?

While a cockroach wired for sound might not be as attractive as a rescue dog – the little insects could be infinitely more practical – reaching into tight spots that no other animals (or robots) could.  So, folks – believe it or not – these tiny grotesque creatures may actually be the next saviors of mankind!

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