A pet dog sits on command, but nobody expects an insect to follow human instructions. So it may come as a surprise to learn that researchers recently succeeded in controlling cockroaches with tiny mobile robots. The results hint at a future where we can interact and communicate with many different kinds of animal.
Little larger than a thumbnail, the cubic insect-like robots or ‘insbots’ are technological marvels. Developed under the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) initiative of the IST programme as the project Leurre, the insbots are fitted with two motors, wheels, a rechargeable battery, several computer processors, a light-sensing camera and an array of infrared proximity sensors.
When dropped into a small experimental area with a maze of curved walls, the robots move, turn and stop. They can navigate their way safely by avoiding the walls, obstacles or each other, follow the walls, congregate around a lamp beam or even line up. When placed in the same area with cockroaches, the robots quickly adapt their behaviour by mimicking the animals’ movements. Coated with pheromones taken from roaches, the infiltrator robots even fool the insects into thinking they are real creatures.
Tara Morris | alfa
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