The cyborg cockroaches, or roboroaches, are equipped with extra sensitive sound devices that can pick up sounds in mounds of debris. They are also small enough to crawl around almost anywhere in order to locate the sound.
However, one may think these cockroaches may run off at the first sound and never return. After all, these are real cockroaches. The researchers have done many studies with electro-shock management of the roaches to ensure they stay in the desired area. The Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are equipped with wireless receiver and transmitter on their antennae and cerci, sensory organs on the abdomen of the roach that trigger its “flight” response. This allows those utilizing the cyborgs to keep them in the designated area.
So, what happens when they reach a disaster zone?
Each bio-bot is equipped with one of two kinds of specialized back packs. One has a high resolution microphone that can pick up sound from any direction and send those sounds back to rescue workers during the crisis. The other has three microphones in order to decipher which direction the sound is coming from.
“The goal is to use the bio-bots…to differentiate between sounds that matter, like people calling for help and sounds that don’t matter, like a leaking pipe. Once we’ve identified sounds that matter, we can use the bio-bots equipped with microphone arrays to zero in on where those sounds are coming from,” explained Dr. Alper Bozkurt, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State and the author of two papers in the study stated.
Algorithms have been developed to better locate the sound based on the information the bio-bots send back for just that purpose. And while this all may sound a bit crazy, this project is well past the design phase. The bots have been used to map disaster areas where they have proven to be very effective. The hope is that this will quickly translate to locate survivors in the rubble.
There has yet to be a scheduled “live test” with the new invention, but if it works, there will be a lot of people who look a lot more fondly upon the lowly cockroach.