A team at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have done something clever but also a bit weird and bad; using embedded controls to manage the walking speed of a beetle and building something they call an insect-computer hybrid legged robot.
The team says they have assembled "...the first demonstration of living insect locomotion control with a user-adjustable walking gait, step length and walking speed," in an experiment that uses eight pairs of implanted electrodes to control the poor thing's legs. A microcontroller lets the user control the speed and gait of the insect too, meaning there's probably some sort of FAST/SLOW interface on a student's tablet somewhere.
They try to justify it all at the very end of the lengthy paper, suggesting it's of some use in working out the limits of muscle control, saying the work might "...benefit biological research in the field such as testing the physical limit of muscles, comparing the energy efficiency of different walking gaits and confirming the hypothetical functions of muscles."
Next week they'll be burning ants under a magnifying glass and putting cats in wheelie bins to learn about emotions. [TechCrunch]