Robotic Insects Could Be the Heroes of Tomorrow

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roachbotMore often than not, thinking of insects will cause people to recoil in disgust. This is even more true for certain insects such as cockroaches. Not only do they look unpleasant, but the gossip surrounding their ability to survive an atomic bomb — a questionable rumor — and living for a week without a head, eventually only dying from dehydration, can add some extra repulsion.

However, according to focusfen.net, cockroaches may have led to a new technology that could prove to be life-saving. Scientists from the Kaliningrad-based Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, developed a prototype of a miniature cockroach robot, meant to spy and find people who may be trapped in debris.

They were commissioned to create this machine by an unnamed company whose requirements were for the robot to look like, act like, and be built the same size as an actual cockroach, with a budget of $22,500.

“Probably that was the most difficult part — to find balance between those three requirements,” confesses the project’s head engineer, Aleksey Belousov. “For example Berkeley University has been working on their cockroach for the past four years, but they didn’t have to make it look like an insect, so it’s faster than ours. But it can’t turn at speed and it doesn’t look like a real cockroach at all. Whereas we were specifically told to create a cockroach robot on time and on budget,” continued Belousov.

Their first choice to use as a model was the large South American cockroach, the Blabbers Giganteus, but they could not acquire one. Instead, they used its smaller cousin the Blabbers Craniifer, or “death head” cockroach.

The official prototype was 10 centimeters long, can travel at a speed of 30 centimeters per second, which is about one-third the speed of real cockroaches, and is built with light sensors and contact probes to avoid objects. They soon plan to develop a camouflage version for the military that will be capable of carrying portable cameras.

While these robotic cockroaches may be able to save the lives of those in an accident, there are other types of artificial insects being designed that could prevent future dangers. Scroll.in reports that researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have been working for over seven years developing a miniature robotic bee.

The reasoning behind the RoboBee project was to battle the decreasing population of honeybees caused by excessive use of pesticides and neonicotinoids. A survey conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture and Bee Informed Partnership showed that the honeybee population dropped by a whopping 23.2% just in 2014.

Because honeybees pollinate plants that in total account for almost one-third of the food that humans consume. These robots are designed with the ability to swim, dive, and especially to pollinate plants.

“…One potential application of micro-robotic ‘insects’ might someday be to artificially pollinate crops,” wrote researchers Yufeng Chen, E. Farrell Helbling, Nick Gravish, Kevin Ma, and Robert J. Wood.

However, they estimate that these bee robots will not be in use for at least 20 years. So before calling your exterminator, weigh the checks and balances of using harmful pesticides.

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