It’s not very common to find an enthusiastic fan of motion-controlled gaming, but it’s rarer to find an enthusiastic fan of roaches. But for the unlikely fan of both, researchers have developed the best(?) of both worlds: Kinect-controlled cockroaches.
The process itself is pretty straight-forward. Researchers attached some hardware to the roaches’ antennae and administer a series of small shocks to trick them into thinking that they’re butting up against walls. Meanwhile, a Kinect camera watches from above and tracks the roaches movement along a specified path. With that stereoscopic eye-in-the-sky, researchers are able to go completely hands-off and let a computer drive the roaches around all by itself, learning more about the finer points of roach-steering all the while.
Eventually, the hope is that these kind of roaches can be used in search-and-rescue situations. Assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State, Alper Bozkurt, put it this way:
We want to build on this program, incorporating mapping and radio frequency techniques that will allow us to use a small group of cockroaches to explore and map disaster sites. The autopilot program would control the roaches, sending them on the most efficient routes to provide rescuers with a comprehensive view of the situation.
Theoretically, the roaches could even be outfitted with microphones or other sensors, to allow people trapped in rubble communicated with their rescuers. But the prospect of being saved by an army of roaches might be enough to convince folks to find a way out of just about any disaster on their own. [NC State University via Wired]