Researchers Will Soon Develop A Robot That Can Think Like An Insect

Researchers Will Soon Develop A Robot That Can Think Like An Insect

For several decades researchers have concerned themselves with creating robots that are as small as flies. This has been a research goal for quite some time as tiny robots could prove useful in a variety of different ways. For instance, robotic insects could successfully locate victims of a building collapse by flying between fallen debris. Obviously, humans are too large for these particular search and rescue missions. Tiny robotic insects that are built with surveillance capabilities could infiltrate areas where people are held captive by hostage takers. This would allow for authorities to know how hostage-takers will respond to rescue efforts. Or such robots could be used as instruments of espionage. But forget about remote controlled robots that are as small as flies. Now, researchers are about to successfully build tiny robots that can think like insects. These robots would be able to control their own movements in order to avoid obstructions and to act appropriately to environmental conditions.

Until recently, building a robot that could alter its movements in accordance with wind direction would have required an amount of processing power that could only be possible with a device as large as a desktop computer. Obviously, this would not work, as the goal is to create a tiny bug-sized robot. However, the newly developed “neuromorphic computer chip” will make these insect robots a reality. This computer chip functions much like a tiny insect brain. Researchers are using the already developed “robobee” as a starting point for the eventual development of a self-guiding robotic insect. The current robobee is tethered to a remote control operator, but researchers are creating algorithms and sensors that will allow the robobee to avoid crashing. The new and improved robobee will also be able to sense wind gusts with hair-like sensors located on the outer surface of its body. The researchers responsible for the development of the insect robot are being funded with a one million dollar grant from the Office of Naval Research.

Do you think that the eventual completion of the self-guiding robotic insect will resemble a fly, or another small flying insect?



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