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Scientists have created ‘living computer-bug hybrids’

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David Cornish
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Nope. It's not an April Fools' Day joke.

Researchers at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have successfully created an "insect–computer hybrid legged robot using a living beetle".

Eight pairs of electrodes were attached to the limbs of the Mecynorrhina torquata beetle, Coleoptera, allowing the team of researchers to control the movements of the bug's front legs with greater accuracy than ever before.

By varying the electric signals transmitted to the legs, the scientists ("men playing at gods") were able to change the speed at which the beetle moved - from walking to 'galloping'.

The rationale behind going full Frankenstein with the poor beetle? The researchers hope their work will one day lead to insects being deployed where vastly expensive drones can't reach. "Unlike man-made legged robots for which many tiny parts, sensors and actuators are manufactured, assembled and integrated, the insect–computer hybrid robots directly use living insects as Nature's ready-made robot platforms," explains the research paper.

"The only necessary ‘assembly’ or ‘operation’ to create an insect–computer hybrid robot is to mount a miniature radio device and implant thin wire electrodes into appropriate neuromuscular sites on the insect for electrical stimulation to induce the desired motor actions and behaviours."

While previous experiments have successfully controlled insects with electric signals before, this is the first time researchers have been able to demonstrate accurate control over the subject's movements.

In further experiments, the team are hoping to control more than two legs in one beetle, or even manipulate a flying insect such as a dragon fly.

Sure, it's all very interesting right now - but it could take a very different turn should our new buggy minions decide to turn on their masters. We've seen the films...

[Via: TechCrunch]

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David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

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