Resistance may soon be futile. With machine implants worthy of a Star Trek villain, a new breed of beetle takes walking instructions from its human overlords.
Hirotaka Sato and his colleagues at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore inserted electrodes into flower beetles (Mecynorrhina torquata) to stimulate specific leg muscle groups. By altering the order of electrical zap sequences, the team was able to control a beetle’s gait. Changing the duration of the electrical signals also altered the insects’ speed and step length, Sato and colleagues report March 30 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
Scientists have already made cyborg insects that can fly, scuttle, and crawl, but controlling things like speed could allow biobots to do more complex tasks. Cyborg beetles and other insects provide a more energy efficient and easier-to-assemble alternative to plain old robots and double as a means to study insect locomotion, the researchers argue.