Scientists from North Carolina State University are studying how cockroaches react to being controlled remotely by Kinect and an electronic interface designed in-house. By creating a digital route for the roach, the researchers can track its movement and learn more about how it reacts to the electrical signals it receives.
Dr. Alper Bozkurt co-authored this study with graduate student Tahmid Latif:
Our goal is to be able to guide these roaches as efficiently as possible, and our work with Kinect is helping us do that. 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.
This means that roaches like the ones in this project could be sent into rubble and use detection equipment to discover survivors. There's even the possibility of adding speakers to these intrepid insects so that rescue teams can talk to someone stuck in a collapsed building. A roach-phone, if you will. Lovely.
Bozkurt and Latif's paper, “Kinect-based System for Automated Control of Terrestrial Insect Biobots,” will be presented on July 4 in Osaka, Japan at the Remote Controlled Insect Biobots Minisymposium. (They have those.)