Tuesday, 14 Jul, 2009 Technology

Japanese Researchers Closer to Creating Hybrid Robot Insects


Japanese researchers look forward to construct robot insects that could perform different tasks, such as sniffing out drugs that are located several miles away or identify landmines or people that are buried under ruins. To be able to create small robot-insects, scientists need to analyze the brains of real bugs, which is exactly what Ryohei Kanzaki, a professor at Tokyo University's Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology, has been doing for the last three decades.

After about thirty years of examining insects' brains Prof Kanzaki looks forward to become the first to open the door in the field of insect-machine hybrids. His main goal has always been to understand human brain and be able to rebuild connections that were damaged by an accident of diseases. However, before starting digging into the human brain he decided to pay a closer look to the micro-brains of insects.

It is worth mentioning that there are about 100 million nerve cells in a human brain and their goal is to transfer signals and prompt our body to respond to stimuli. The 2mm-wide brain of a silkmoth, for example, has much fewer neurons, about 100,000. According to Prof Kanzaki, the insects' small brain is able to control sophisticated aerobatics like grabbing another bug while flying, which gives evidence that they represent "an excellent bundle of software" that developed throughout hundreds of millions of years of evolution.

In the near future the scientist hopes to create an artificial insect brains. "Supposing a brain is a jigsaw-puzzle picture, we would be able to reproduce the whole picture if we knew how each piece is shaped and where it should go," he said. Prof Kanzaki believes that in the future an artificial insect brain would be created using electronic circuits, which would allow scientists to control a real brain by adjusting its circuits. You can read more about robots and robotics here at www.infoniac.com; look for links after the article, reports News.com.au.

The researcher and his team made a few successful steps in the filed of rewriting insect brain circuits. They managed to genetically modify a male silkmoth and make it respond to light instead of odor, or react to the aroma of a different kind of moth. These modifications would allow creating robot insects that in future would have a lot of applications, including finding drugs, people under rubble and toxic gas. Find more information on LiveScience

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