Tag Archives: insects

Our new cyborg insect overlords

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]

Traffic control learns lessons from leafcutter ants

leafcutter ants on the jobNature’s still got plenty to teach us, it seems. The latest target for researchers seeking to improve traffic congestion is the routing behaviour of leafcutter ants:

When opposing streams of leafcutter ants share a narrow path, they instinctively alternate flows in the most efficient way possible. Studying how ants manage this could provide the basis for a system of driverless cars running on ant traffic algorithms.

Driverless is probably the key word there… and there’s a short story just waiting to be written! One about an abandoned future-city with a tireless transit system of ant-AIs driving empty vehicles in ever-more efficient cycles. Sounds like a job for Paul Di Filippo, maybe. [image by MacAllenBrothers]

Robotic Dragonflies

Fans of one of Terry Pratchett’s early comic science-fiction novels The Dark Side of the Sun, will be familiar with the idea of robotic versions of insects being used as “bugs” to spy on people.

This is an idea that is being enthusiastically embraced by the US military, with many small UAVs in development for surveillance purposes.

And there is even more insect-themed biomimicry on it’s way from the labs: the dragonfly is of particular interest, according to researchers:

Dragonflies are one of few creatures that utilize four independently controlled wings to fly,dragonfly allowing them to hover, dart, glide, move backward, and change directions rapidly. Looking to understand such abilities, scientists at the Royal Veterinary College, in England, and the University of Ulm, in Germany, have developed a robotic dragonfly to measure the current flows over and under the wings at different flap cycles. While most of the dragonfly hovering scenarios were not efficient, the team found that if the lower wings are beating slightly ahead of the top wings, the double set of wings proves more efficient at generating lift, employing 22 percent less power to lift the same weight as a single pair.

Well good luck to them. Fortunately for privacy-lovers/paranoids it seems that practical fabrication of these insect spies is still some way in the future.

[story from Technology Review][image by Lori Greig]