A team of engineers in Texas led by Hong Liang have designed and built one of the most revolting things in science – A robotic cockroach. The scientists have created a device with which cockroaches can be controlled by the simple push of a button. The team of researchers at A&M University claim that the robotic insect has the ability to carry minuscule video cameras as well as microphones and other sensors.
With the help of all these tools, the cockroach will be able to collect information from areas where humans would like to stay away from. Some examples of such places are dilapidated buildings, broken sewers and the kitchens in student house shares.
Insects are capable of moving into small places and they can also escape more quickly than humans when they sense danger. The same can be said for the robotic cockroach as well. The researches created tiny backpacks which were stuck on to the backs of the cockroaches. The team says that normal glue was not very effective.
The backpack consisted of a computer chip which sends signals down a pair of fine wires into the nerves. These nerves controlled the legs on either side of the cockroach. A rechargeable lithium battery is used to power the device. With all its contents, the backpack weighed no more than 3g.
These robotic cockroaches are just a prototype, and the researchers are still working on making the device more effective. The usefulness of these insects will largely depend on the gadgets the cockroaches can carry. According to Liang, cockroaches are capable of carrying up to 5 times their weight however; the researchers noticed that the heavier the weight on the insect’s back, the slower it performed.
The team is researching on ways in which they can make the cockroaches respond to directions in a more reliable way. There are people who are concerned about the righteousness of the research as we delve into disturbing the biological system. When it comes to this research, we may have to figure whether the means justifies the ends.