Robotics Science
Beetleborg, certified Creep City

beetleBorg1.jpg

Cyborg insects, hybrids of insects and machines, have been under development in military R&D for a few years now (no, seriously). Now, electrical engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed an implantable radio-controlled neural stimulating device that allows them to control, with a fair degree of accuracy, the flight of an insect, in this case, a beetle. Says the article on the Neurophilosophy blog:

Electrically-controllable insects have obvious military applications. They could be used as micro air vehicles for reconnaissance missions, or as couriers which deliver small packages to locations that are not easily accessible to humans or terrestrial robots. The beetles used here (Mecynorrhina torquata) are among the largest of all insect species, and are capable of carrying additional loads of up to 30% of their 8g body weight. But they could also be very useful to researchers who study insect mating behavior, the foraging behavior of insect predators, and flight dynamics and energetics.

I don’t know about you, but I find this extraordinarily creepy.

Flight of the remote-controlled cyborg beetle

4 thoughts on “Beetleborg, certified Creep City

  1. I’m standing in the building where this research is being done, and they’ve got presentations running on a big LCD monitor in the hallway.

    It was just one of those weird moments for me to go downstairs, log on to the network and see the same thing here on the make blog.

    If it weren’t for the electrode placement, I’d expect to see a fleet of ArduinoBeetles taking to the skies any minute now.

    Once you’ve read up on it, it’s not all that creepy. A DIY version might use LED’s or other stimulation that doesn’t require entomological surgical skill.

    As long as you keep the weight down and feed them, they’re pretty happy about the arrangement.

    From the beetle’s perspective, they get great care and feeding due to their prized status and investment. And they don’t exactly write sonnets or anything about captivity. (I know why the caged beetle clicks?)

    Now if they were kittens, *THAT* would be creepy.

    1. ‘creepy’ is a euphemism for this! you just can’t control animals. you don’t do that! no, they don’t write sonnets. (do you?) but they do behave on their own. and nobody has the right to take that from any being.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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