Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Age Of Cockroach Robots

What is it about cockroaches and robots? Don't know what I'm talking about? Keep reading...

Case #1: The Remote Control Cockroach


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(Source: The AP)
A big brown cockroach crawls across the table in the laboratory of Japan's most prestigious university. The researcher eyes it nervously, but he doesn't go for the bug spray. He grabs the remote. This is no ordinary under-the-refrigerator type bug. This roach has been surgically implanted with a micro-robotic backpack that allows researchers to control its movements. This is Robo-roach.

...The team breeds its own supply of several hundred cockroaches in plastic bins. Not just any roach will do. Researchers use only the american cockroach (Perplaneta americana) because it is bigger and hardier than most other species. From that supply, they select roaches to equip with high-tech "backpacks" - tiny microprocessor and electrode sets.

Before surgery, researchers gas the roach with carbon dioxide. Wings and antennae are removed. Where the antennae used to be researchers fit pulse-emitting electrodes. With a remote, researchers send signals to the backpacks, which stimulate the electrodes. The pulsing electrodes make the roach turn left, turn right, scamper forward or spring backward.


Who would want remote control cockroaches? Japan does. The Japanese government is paying $5 million to further this project.


Case #2: The Roach Mobile

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(Source: conceptlab.com)
The creeping contraption isn't remote-controlled, nor does it move on its own, exactly. At its control center, on top of a pingpong ball, sits a giant Madagascan hissing cockroach. ...as the roach moves on the ball, she controls movement of the robot.

When the sensors detect an immobile object ahead, such as a wall, a bright light flashes at the cockroach. As she scuttles away from the light, the robot moves away from the wall.


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Giant cockroaches on wheels? This is supposed to be a good thing?

Case #3: The Roach-Bot

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(Source: PhysOrg)
A cockroach-like robot named RHex is the starting point for a major project to understand animals' most distinguishing trait - how they move without falling over.

Researchers...will focus on RHex, a short, six-legged robot that scampers like a cockroach, as a working model of the principles they're seeking to uncover. By tweaking the robot and using it as a physical model, they hope to tease apart the complex neural and muscular networks in insects.


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Case #4: The Undercover Roach

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(Source: news.com.au)
IT behaves like a cockroach. It smells like a cockroach. It is accepted by other cockroaches.

But it is not a cockroach. It is a robot and scientists say its invention is a breakthrough in mankind's struggle to control the animal kingdom.

The robot, InsBot, developed by researchers in France, Belgium and Switzerland, is capable of infiltrating a group of cockroaches, influencing them and altering their behaviour.

Within a decade, its inventors believe, it will be leading the unwanted pests out of dark kitchen corners, to where they can be eliminated.

They say they will soon be using robots to stop sheep jumping off cliffs and to encourage chickens to take exercise.


Okay, let's all take a break to laugh at that last part about encouraging chickens to take exercise.






Done? All right, back to the article...

The initial task, carried out by the Centre for Research on the Cognition of Animals in Toulouse, France, was to analyse cockroach behaviour. A student spent three years filming the insects and making a computer program that reproduced their movements. The study showed that cockroaches, like ants, are egalitarian creatures, without a group leader. They congregate as a result of a "collective intelligence" that depends upon interaction within the group.

..."It is plausible and realistic to imagine that in five or 10 years time, people with a cockroach infestation will be buying robots to get rid of them," Professor Deneubourg said.



More...

This is only the tip of the iceberg on the whole (kind of creepy) cockroach-robot thing. Want to read more on this topic? Check out these links:

Cockroach Robot Needs A Brain

'Lowly Roach Inspires High-Tech Robotics'

Cockroach Series Robots

LEURRE, homepage of the undercover roachbot.

Pictures of the undercover robot in action.

Boadicea

Swimming Cockroach Robot

A Kick Ass Robotics Kit From LEGO

Cockroach Facts. In case you didn't know enough about roaches.

Roboroach Q&A

Mr.Roach

A Build Your Own Robot Roach Kit

'Roach Legs Are The Future!'

A Virtual (Animated) RoachBot

Rocket Roach

Books:



Build And Program Your Own Robots:

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