Our new cyborg insect overlords

Tom James @ 14-07-2009

livesilkmothContinuing the robotic insect theme: researchers in Japan are developing the means to recreate the brains of insects in electronic circuits and thus modify existing insect brains to perform useful tasks, like finding narcotics, and earthquake victims:

In an example of ‘rewriting’ insect brain circuits, Kanzaki’s team has succeeded in genetically modifying a male silkmoth so that it reacts to light instead of odour, or to the odour of a different kind of moth.

Such modifications could pave the way to creating a robo-bug which could in future sense illegal drugs several kilometres away, as well as landmines, people buried under rubble, or toxic gas, the professor said.

Kanzaki also observes how remarkably adaptable biological organisms are:

“Humans walk only at some five kilometres per hour but can drive a car that travels at 100 kilometres per hour. It’s amazing that we can accelerate, brake and avoid obstacles in what originally seem like impossible conditions,” he said.

Our brain turns the car into an extension of our body,” he said, adding that “an insect brain may be able to drive a car like we can. I think they have the potential.

It certainly raises interesting questions about how to achieve intelligent machinery: why reinvent the wheel creating strong AI? We can reverse engineer animals that fly or hunt then adapt them to our purposes.

[from Physorg][image from Physorg]


Biomimetics for universal radio

Tom James @ 05-06-2009

snailishResearchers at MIT have developed a software radio chip based on the operations of the cochlea (the seashell bit of the human ear):

The RF cochlea, embedded on a silicon chip measuring 1.5 mm by 3 mm, works as an analog spectrum analyzer, detecting the composition of any electromagnetic waves within its perception range. Electromagnetic waves travel through electronic inductors and capacitors (analogous to the biological cochlea’s fluid and membrane). Electronic transistors play the role of the cochlea’s hair cells.

Software radios are all kinds of awesome, and it’s interesting how biomimetics is being used in more and more contexts – no need to reinvent the wheel.

[via Technovelgy][image from POSITiv on flickr]


Biomimetic robot carp scare the bejeezus out of me

Tom James @ 20-03-2009

copy-of-robot-fishI saw these robotic carp on the cover of today’s FT. Aside from looking scarily like the “Terror Fish” transport vessals of the Stingray villains the Aquaphibians this functional model looks splendid. Fortunately these fish will be using their powers for good, not evil:

Modelled on carp and costing about £20,000 ($29,000) each to make, the fish are to be lifelike in appearance and swimming behaviour so they will not alarm their fellow marine inhabitants.

The robots, the first of their kind, are equipped with tiny chemical sensors capable of detecting pollutants in the water. These let the fish home in on the sources of hazardous pollutants, such as leaks from vessels or undersea pipelines.

“Using shoals of robotic fish for pollution detection in harbours might appear like something straight out of science fiction [but] there are very practical reasons for choosing this form,” said Rory Doyle, senior research scientist at BMT Group. “In using robotic fish we are building on a design created by hundreds of millions of years’ worth of evolution which is incredibly energy efficient.

Each robotic fish is about 1.5 metres long and can swim at a maximum speed of about one metre per second. Whenever they find traces of pollutants, the fish can relay the information to the shore.

Absolutely fantastic.

[from the FT][image from here]


Water power 2.0

Tom James @ 05-12-2008

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a new method for generating energy from water flows:

The new device, which has been inspired by the way fish swim, consists of a system of cylinders positioned horizontal to the water flow and attached to springs.

As water flows past, the cylinder creates vortices, which push and pull the cylinder up and down. The mechanical energy in the vibrations is then converted into electricity.

Cylinders arranged over a cubic metre of the sea or river bed in a flow of three knots can produce 51 watts. This is more efficient than similar-sized turbines or wave generators, and the amount of power produced can increase sharply if the flow is faster or if more cylinders are added.

More about this VIVACE (Vortex Induced Vibrations Aquatic Clean Energy) technology can be found here.

[via Jon Taplin’s blog][image from Jon Taplin’s blog]


Professor Calculus’ submarine…

Tom James @ 04-09-2008

tintin_red_rackham\'s_treasureFans of Hergé‘s superlative graphic novels  The Adventures of Tintin will appreciate this creation of a dolphin speedboat that bears a strong resemblance to Professor Calculusshark (rather than dolphin) submersible in Red Rackham’s Treasure, from Ananova News:

The two-man £30,000 craft has been designed to mimic the shape of a dolphin and self-rights whenever it splashes down.

The mini-submarine has a top speed of 45mph over the surface of the water and half that when it dives under.

The 15ft fibre-glass machine can stay under for long periods as it has a snorkel that supplies air to its 1,500cc, 215hp marine engine.

Awesome!

[story via Slashdot][cover from Wikipedia]


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