NC State scientists have introduced cockroach biobots that can be remotely regulated and carry technology that may be employed to map disaster areas and identify survivors in the wake of calamity.
For such technology to become viable, the scientists require to answer fundamental questions about how and where the biobots move in unfamiliar territory. Two forthcoming papers address such questions. The first paper answers questions about whether biobot technology can precisely determine how and whether biobots are moving.
The scientists followed biobot movements visually and compared their actual movement to the motion being reported by the biobot’s inertial measurement units. The research found that the biobot technology was a reliable indicator of how the biobots were moving.
The second paper addresses much bigger questions – How far will the biobots travel? How fast? Are biobots more efficient at exploring space when enabled to move without guidance? Or can reomote-control commands expedite the procedure? Such questions are vital because the answers could help scientists determine how many biobots they may require to introduce to an area in order to explore it efficiently in a given period of time.
For this study, the scientists introduced biobots into a circular structure. Some biobots were enabled to move at will, while others given random commands to move forward, right or left. The scientists found that unguided biobots preferred to hug the wall of the circle. But by sending the biobots random commands, the biobots spent more time moving, moved more swiftly and were at least five times more likely to move away from the wall and into open space.
“Our primary studies had shown that we can use neural stimulation to regulate the direction of a roach and make it go from one point to another,” says Alper Bozkurt, an associate lecturer of computer and electrical engineering at NC State and co-author of the two papers. “The second study shows that by randomly stimulating the roaches we can advantage from their natural walking and instincts to search an unknown area. Their electrical backpacks can begin such pulses without us seeing where the roaches are and let them autonomously scan a region.”
“It is practical data we can use to get biobots to explore a space more swiftly,” says Edgar Lobaton, an assistant lecturer of computer and electrical engineering at NC State and co-author on two papers. “That is especially vital when you consider that time is of the essence when you are attempting to save lives after a disaster.”
Head author of both the papers confirm that both the papers will be presented at the 42nd IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing, being organized in March 5 – 9 in New Orleans.
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