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Scientists Use Kinect to Put Cyborg Roaches on Autopilot

This headline sounds like some random Geekosystem headline generator created it, but I assure you this is real.

Cyborg Cockroach

Scientists at North Carolina State University have used an Xbox Kinect to automatically guide cockroaches along a set path. This isn’t the first time someone’s wired up a cockroach to get it to do their bidding, but as far as we know it’s the first time someone’s done it using an Xbox Kinect to get the roaches on autopilot. This sounds ridiculous, but Xbox-controlled cyborg cockroaches could actually help save lives.

As you can see in the video below, the roaches are given a signal about which direction to turn if they wander off the intended path. This has previously been done with manual remote controls, but the Kinect allows the roaches to be guided along the path without human control. For better or worse, we’re one step closer to autonomous cyborg roaches.

Dr. Alper Bozkurt is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University and the co-author of a paper on the Kinect-roaches. Although autonomous robots and insects both make a lot of people uncomfortable, this is actually something we should be pretty happy about. Bozkurt said:

Our goal is to be able to guide these roaches as efficiently as possible, and our work with Kinect is helping us do that. We want to build on this program, incorporating mapping and radio frequency techniques that will allow us to use a small group of cockroaches to explore and map disaster sites. The autopilot program would control the roaches, sending them on the most efficient routes to provide rescuers with a comprehensive view of the situation.

There’s even talk of equipping roaches with tiny microphones and speakers allowing rescue workers to communicate with victims of a disaster they may not be able to reach. See? The autopiloting cyborg roaches are here to help us. At least until they become self-aware. Then who knows what our news cybernetic insect overlords will demand from us.

(via North Carolina State University, image via Dr. Alper Bozkurt)

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Glen is a comedian, writer, husband, and father. He won his third-grade science fair and is a former preschool science teacher, which is a real job.