‘Our aim was to determine whether we could create a wireless biological interface with cockroaches, which are robust and able to infiltrate small spaces,’ says Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work. (via The next Bond? The remote control cockroach that could be the spy of the future | Mail Online)
- The new technique developed by Bozkurt’s team works by embedding a low-cost, light-weight, commercially-available chip with a wireless receiver and transmitter onto each Madagascar hissing cockroach.
- Weighing 0.7 grams, the cockroach backpack also contains a microcontroller that monitors the interface between the implanted electrodes and the tissue to avoid potential neural damage.
- The microcontroller is wired to the roach’s antennae and cerci.
- The cerci are sensory organs on the roach’s abdomen, which are normally used to detect movement in the air that could indicate a predator is approaching – causing the roach to scurry away.
- But the researchers use the wires attached to the cerci to spur the roach into motion. The roach thinks something is sneaking up behind it and moves forward.
- The wires attached to the antennae serve as electronic reins, injecting small charges into the roach’s neural tissue.
- The charges trick the roach into thinking that the antennae are in contact with a physical barrier, which effectively steers them in the opposite direction.
- In a recent experiment, the researchers were able to use the microcontroller to precisely steer the roaches along a line that curves in different directions.