With advanced communications, modern transportation and innovative healthcare, it may seem like we are living in the future, but the truth is, we are far from it.
Concepts like virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics that are still in the nascent stage today, may form the core technology in everyday life in the future.
New research in the University of Connecticut headed by Indian origin Assistant Professor Abhishek Dutta, is based on the concept of biorobotics, where the team has made a robot-cockroach hybrid which falls along the lines of cybernetic beings or Cyborgs.
Abhishek Dutta teaches electrical and computer engineering, and specialises in control system optimisation and cyber-physical systems; in simpler terms, it deals with physical movement controlled by computers. Along with an undergraduate, Evan Faulkner, he is soon to publish the paper in Proceedings of the Conference on Cognitive Computational Neuroscience, Philadelphia 2018, which will detail a cyborg cockroach capable of being controlled via Bluetooth!
In this research, the scientists took a Madagascar hissing cockroach and mounted on it, a ‘backpack’ which consists of a specialised microcircuit, which was designed to control the insect via its antennae lobes.
The microcircuit incorporates a 9-axis inertial measurement unit that can detect the roach’s six degrees of free motion, its linear and rotational acceleration, and its compass heading. They also included an ambient temperature sensor and a tiny Bluetooth transmitter and receiver.
The way that it works is, once connected to the Bluetooth, the user can send directional signals. This is then converted to electrical impulses which are fed to the antennae lobes. Here, if the impulses are sent to the left antennae lobe, the roach will steer right and vice versa.
Though there is already technology present to control the cockroaches, the microcircuit developed here offers a greater degree of freedom in movement than in conventionally designed ones.
The microcircuit was designed by the research team in a trial-and-error method. The researchers had to find the optimum voltage, frequency and cycle needed for the stimuli to respond.
Speaking to the UConn Today, the university paper, Dutta says, “The use of insects as platforms for small robots has an incredible number of useful applications, from search and rescue to national defence.”
Upon development, the cyborgs can be used for search-and-rescue operations, where the cyborg roaches can map out places of catastrophe and indicate if any person is in danger. Since it can even be mounted with a camera, the potential is truly limitless.
The microcircuit developed is a small but a certain step towards bio-robots which are not only insect-driven, but falls under the broad umbrella of human cybernetic integration.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)