This cockroach is actually a tiny search and rescue camera


A team of robotics researchers have created the one cockroach you don’t want to step on. Scientists from Germany, China, Singapore and the UK have teamed up to create a cross between a live cockroach and a mini camera. This cyborg insect would be used for search and rescue missions as it can exceed the limits of other existing miniature robots.

The idea of ​​a remote-controlled cockroach isn’t entirely new. It was first introduced almost ten years ago, and there have been other attempts to develop a small camera that could fit on the back of a beetle. But apparently, this new concept overcomes some of the obstacles that scientists have struggled with before.

According to the team behind this cyborg cockroach, its primary use would be in search and rescue missions in disaster affected areas. However, there is still a long way to go before mini-bots like this can be used in such missions. There are significant obstacles to these solutions, such as power consumption, the obstacle avoidance system, and “locomotion computational load,” according to the research. However, this “insect-computer hybrid system” solves them all.

This little camera looks a lot like a cockroach because it is. A little creepy, right? It consists of a living Madagascar hissing cockroach and a wireless backpack with a camera and microcontroller. The insect has a natural and intrinsic navigation ability which is also used in its cyborg form. It successfully manages unfamiliar environments and can overcome various obstacles which is another advantage in search and rescue missions.

Autonomous navigation is made possible by the electrical stimulation of the insect’s sensory system. At the same time, it is the only thing that requires power, so the cockroach camera requires very low power consumption. Therefore, it can work much longer than any other miniature robot camera, and it is essential for its potential use in real missions.

As for the camera, the insect carries an infrared camera that allows human detection on the device through machine learning. “By controlling the stimulation […], the algorithm successfully steered the insect through obstacles to reach predetermined targets, ”the scientists write.

This solution for search and rescue missions seems useful for humans but inhumane for cockroaches. Not that I’m a huge fan of them (except for Gregor Samsa), but stay. Also, I can’t help but think about the potential misuse of this type of technology. Anyone could actually become the proverbial “fly on the wall…” Or a cockroach in the tub, in this case.

[via PetaPixel, arXiv:2105.10869]

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