Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Pentagon's Cyborg Insects

For years, now, Pentagon-backed researchers have been trying to create cyborg insects that could serve as living, remote-controlled spies. The problem is, those modified bugs never survived long enough to be useful. Now, Georgia Tech professor Robert Michelson says he's managed to get the bug 'borgs to live into adulthood.

DARPA's Hi-MEMS program aims to implant place micro-mechanical systems [MEMS] "inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis," the agency explains. That way, as the bugs get older, tissues grow around -- and fuse together with -- the tiny machines.

Flight International reports that, in his latest work, Michelson truncated a Manduca moth's thorax "to reduce its mass." Then he put in "a MEMS component... where abdominal segments would have been, during the larval stage."

Ultimately, DARPA wants these MEMS to remote-operately the insects, either through "direct electrical muscle excitation, electrical stimulation of neurons, projection of ultrasonic pulses simulating bats, [or] projection of pheromones," the agency says. The ultimate goal would be to have the cyborgs "carry one or more sensors, such as a microphone or a gas sensor, [and] relay back information."
In a couple years the term "getting bugged" is going to be a literal one.

via Danger Room

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