Wednesday 14 November 2007

Scientists Have Built A Robot Controlled By A Moth Brain.

Mothbot is a small robotic vehicle controlled by the brain of a moth. Charles Higgins, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Arizona has created it along with graduate student Timothy Melano. The brain of the machine is provided by a living hawk moth, the adult version of the horned tobacco caterpillar. It is a relatively large and rugged moth, with a wingspan of about 3 1/2 inches. It lives for several weeks.

The moth is immobilized in a plastic tube; it is connected to the robotic electrophysiology instrument with tiny wires implanted in its rice grain-sized brain. The wires are implanted after the moth reaches maturity (scientists are also at work on placing control hardware in an insect when it is still a pupa - see Hybrid Insects Sought For Bug Army). When the moth moves its eyes to the right, the robot vehicle turns in that direction.

One long-term goal of these experiments is to utilize the incredibly sensitive receptors in the moth; a hawk moth costs about $4, whereas state-of-the-art artificial sensors cost orders of magnitude more and are far less sensitive.

The image above depicts a 6-inch-tall wheeled robot moves when the insect’s eyes look around, but only left and right.

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