“Late last year, you were introduced to real, live, remote-controlled cockroaches. Well, the insect hackers at the North Carolina State University are at it again, this time with a Microsoft Kinect and a software program that can boss the bugs around without human input. In other words, we have successfully co-opted cockroach sovereignty — and given it to the machines.
The goal is to ultimately use this kind of technology to create armies of biobots capable of things bio-inspired robots can only dream of.
Now, instead of those impulses being controlled remotely by a human, they’re tapped into the software program, which takes cues from the Xbox Kinect’s tracking data. If the cockroach veers away from the target, the Kinect observes the change and relays it to the software, which in turn makes a split-second decision about how much correctional impulse should be sent to the roach. Longer stimulation is designed to produce more drastic correction, just like pulling hard on a steering wheel.
The results are pretty impressive. Their previous work with remote control yielded only about a 10 per cent success rate, but the new technology has bumped them up to 27 per cent. You can see it for yourself below with a roach that really seems to want nothing in the world but to turn right.”