RALEIGH, N.C. — Spotting a cockroach is typically a disgusting experience, but such a sighting could elicit feelings of hope in the near future.
Researchers are working to perfect “cyborg” cockroaches that can detect survivors stuck in rubble after a disaster. North Carolina State University announced new technology Thursday that controls cockroaches behavior with electronic backpacks, which include high-resolution microphones.
“The goal is to use the biobots with high-resolution microphones to differentiate between sounds that matter — like people calling for help — from sounds that don’t matter — like a leaking pipe,” senior study author Alper Bozkurt said in a statement. “Once we’ve identified sounds that matter, we can use the biobots equipped with microphone arrays to zero in on where those sounds are coming from.”
The so-called biobots can be contained in the disaster area with the use of an “invisible fence” designed by the research team, according to NC State. The electronic fence would keep biobots in range to send wireless information back to search teams.
“The little backpack that biobot carries can detect where the sound is coming from and autonomously steer the biobot towards the sound source,” a statement from the university reads.
This isn’t the first time Bozkurt has been in the news for his work with cockroaches. Previously, his team demonstrated the ability to take control of the pests using a joystick.
The research on the microphone sensor and invisible fence were presented at two conferences held by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.