Remote controlled bugs buzz off, followed by a picture that looked straight out of a cyberpunk novel, a beetle with a remarkable bit of tech strapped to its head.
Well, it turns out that the future (for those of us who’ve ever imagined a future in which people can control cyborg beetles by using a laptop) is here. At the University of California, Berkeley two developers, Michel Maharbiz and Hirotaka Sato have buffed up beetles with an “implantable radio-equipped miniature neural system” which allows them to take complete control of the insects, even in flight.
Advances in nanotechnology have made the process possible, and the initial circuitry is implanted during the beetles’ pupal stage (for the coleopterists among us, the beetles in the study are mecynorhina torquata and megasoma elephas). The developers explain:
“You are plugging electrical devices into its nervous system and then triggering its muscles so that when it is flying, if you put a little bit more zorch into the muscle on the left-hand side, that will flap a bit harder and that will control the direction it is going in.”
The applications for this project have myriad possibilities, and it’s not surprising that the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is involved. While surveillance is perhaps one of the most obvious uses for these cyborg bugs, the military has been working on other nano-fliers, including moths and dragonflies. The beetles, however, are already capable of carrying small loads, including cameras and GPS devices.
To get an idea of how these little cyborgs work, check out the video below: