The work builds upon previous insect-control experiments at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and could one day result in cyborg insects that can enter hazardous areas much more efficiently than robots.
“The batteries inside small robots run out quickly, so the time for exploration becomes shorter,” Fukuda said. “A key benefit (of a cyborg insect) is that when it comes to an insect’s movements, the insect is causing itself to move, so the electricity required is nowhere near as much.”
Fukuda and his team chose Madagascar hissing cockroaches for the experiments because they are big enough to carry the equipment and have no wings that would get in the way. Even when the backpack and film are glued to their backs, the bugs can traverse small obstacles or right themselves when flipped over.
The research still has a long way to go. In a recent demonstration, Riken researcher Yujiro Kakei used a specialised computer and wireless Bluetooth signal to tell the cyborg roach to turn left, causing it to scramble in that general direction. But when given the “right” signal, the bug turned in circles.
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