A neuro-controller created by researchers at the University of Connecticut could provide more precise control of futuristic biobots. This initiative includes cockroaches outfitted with robotic components that are currently being tested for search and rescue missions. The primary challenge which this latest development looks to overcome involves overcoming the difficulties of building robotic systems at such a small scale.
This difficulty includes the hurdle of interfacing electronic hardware with the insect's biological nerve tissue to initiate movement. The neuro-controller microcircuit is part of an electronic backpack that can be attached to the insect with wires connecting to the insect's antennae lobes.
By sending slight electrical pulses to neural tissue in an insect's antenna, operators can make the insect think it has detected an obstacle, causing it to move in another direction. While similar systems already exist, this controller is unique because of the degree to which operators can stimulate an insect's antennae lobes with four-channel micro-circuitry. The new system also provides feedback on the insect's response to stimuli in real-time, making it easier to monitor and control.
The 9-axis inertial measurement unit inside the device also tracks an insect's linear and rotational acceleration, identifies its directional heading, and detects the ambient temperature surrounding the creature. The data that is gathered can be transmitted via a tiny Bluetooth antenna contained on the device. The signal can be detected by a traditional cell phone. As the insect's direction, speed, and other data come in, operators can establish the insect's trajectory and adjust the antennae stimuli accordingly.
Image Credit: Abhishek Dutta/UConn / https://today.uconn.edu/2018/09/cyborg-cockroach-someday-save-life/