Rescue Missions to Benefit from Computer-Mounted Cyborg Roach Swarms

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Scientists introduce cyborg insects as a solution to the limitations of traditional robots in swarm navigation.

New research integrates living insects with miniature electronic controllers to enable programmable control that is similar to robots, a solution that is expected to address existing limitations and introduce a novel control algorithm tailored for swarming behavior. The research team claims this technology would enable multi-robot swarms to be used effectively in search and rescue missions.

According to Techxplore, researchers explain that cyborg insects have many advantages, like energy efficiency and adaptability to complex terrains. The living insects are mounted with miniature electronic controllers that have sophisticated sensory systems, which enable them to rapidly perceive and respond to their environment, detecting and avoiding obstacles effectively.

Furthermore, this research addresses the multi-cyborg navigation problem, leveraging the advantages of a multi-agent system that includes fault tolerance and distributed problem-solving.

To test this innovation, researchers mounted “backpacks” on Madagascar hissing cockroaches that enabled remote control through a central computer. The backpacks then relayed commands using electrodes that were placed beside the insects’ sensory organs, guiding them in specific directions.

Nevertheless, controlling cyborg insects is particularly difficult in situations where inter-swarm entanglements can happen. To solve this issue, the scientists created a unique tour group-inspired (TGI) control algorithm, which attempts to use the insects’ biological inclinations while guaranteeing efficient swarm navigation.

This innovation was tested in ten real-world trials, in which 20 insect cyborgs (one “leader” and 19 “followers”) were tasked with navigating a sandy field with hills and rocks. The proposed TGI control algorithm harnesses insects’ innate adaptability and optimizes their response to diverse environments while minimizing the need for frequent electric stimulations and prolonging system operation.

The researchers claim that the system’s decentralized nature ensures scalability to larger swarms since each cyborg can make decisions based on local information. The tests showed that these solutions offer centimeter-level accuracy and error correction, enhancing the practical viability of the control strategy.

The research team concluded that this innovation could potentially be used to assist with post-natural disaster search and rescue operations or to gather environmental readings across a wider area.