Those crazy scientists over at MIT have managed to install “neural probes” in a moth the size of a fist that lets them actually control it during flight. It’s all part of DARPA’s mad scheme to turn insects into the next generation of spy drones.
Researchers have been trying to control insects for years – hell, we even plumbed-up cockroaches with electrodes when I was at university to get them to run around the bench, but it was nothing as sophisticated as this.
The breakthrough is apparently down to the neural probe itself. It’s made of a special type of polyimide polymer covered in gold and carbon nanotubes that mimics the electrical properties of the tobacco hawkmoth’s own nerves. The probe contains five separate electrodes that stimulate different parts of the moth’s nervous system, allowing them to wirelessly control the insect during flight – press left and it flies left, press right and it flies right – how awesome is that?
Apparently the same technique could be of use in humans; not for remote control obviously, but for stroke victims that struggle to move their limbs. Sounds great, but I can’t help but hope they make sure the chip that controls the patient’s limbs is hack-proof. Imagine if a hacker managed to gain control of a person’s limb or two -- you might end up punching yourself in the face repeatedly with no idea what's going on.
Watch out; the next bug that just won’t buzz off might actually be spying on you. Just make sure you give it an almighty whack with a newspaper – that’s sure to give the operator a nasty headache. Now where can I get me a beast of a bug I can actually fly around the office? [New Scientist]
Image credit: pondhawk from flickr