Gross! That’s the standard reaction when we encounter a cockroach, the six-legged scourge of households across the planet. But it’s worth knowing more about these creepy critters, if only to learn from their incredible ability to adapt and survive – and then channel those lessons into the construction of small and very clever robots. These little machines already exist: they’re not quite cockroaches, but they’re getting there.
To simulate the abilities of these hardy creatures, we need to know how they manage to stabilise on rough terrain, walk upside down, perform amazing gymnastic manoeuvres in mid-air and run full-tilt into walls without harming themselves - then build robots that can perform the same minor miracles and help humans while they’re doing it. In this fascinating TED video, Robert Full takes a look at the incredible body of the cockroach to show what it can teach robotics engineers.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have also uncovered cool facts (okay, so they’re also slightly creepy) about the cockroach: check out this video. Oh, and did you want to know how they can seemingly vanish in a split second? Here’s how they do it.
Then there are cyborg cockroaches. Scientists at North Carolina State University have developed software that allows them to map dangerous or unknown spaces – think collapsed buildings and similar sites – based on the movement of a swarm of remotely controlled cockroaches, or insect cyborgs. Their software could also help determine the location of radioactive or chemical threats if the biobots are equipped with the relevant sensors, say the researchers.