Alper Bozkurt, North Carolina State University
A new wave of first responders is being created at North Carolina State University's iBionics Laboratory: biobot cockroaches. These biological robots (hence the word "biobots") are live insects with high-tech upgrades: electrodes are inserted into their antennae, and magnets are glued to their backs to hold a pack containing a wireless control system in place.
The packs carry a locator beacon and tiny microphone to pick up, for example, cries for help in an emergency situation. The cockroaches can be steered remotely through electric pulses in the electrodes that stimulate the antennae, making the insect think there's an obstacle in the way that it has to maneuver around.
These cyborg cockroaches could be used as first responders in situations too dangerous for humans to enter. Their biological, autonomous survival instincts make them "really useful in uncertain, dynamic environments," according to assistant professor of engineering Alper Bozkurt, who led the project. He also hopes that this project will help people appreciate these hardy little insects.