Concerns about Russian spies have captivated American audiences for decades. These fears are founded in both truth and in fiction, ranging from the realities of the cold war to fictional movies exaggerating the intentions of our Russian neighbors.
Yet most recently, Russian designers Danil Borchevkin and Aleksey Belousov have developed the first bionic cockroach at Kaliningrad’s Kant University. The current robot can move autonomously for up to 20 minutes, although future prototypes are expected to last much longer. It comes equipped with photosensitive sensors in addition to sensors that can detect contact in order to avoid obstacles, and is about 4-inches long.
Borchevkin and Belousov were inspired by a cockroach indigenous to South America called Blaberus giganteus. The bug is commonly referred to as ‘dead-head,’ as a nod to the creatures unique movement patterns. Given that the cockroach cannot be found in Russia, they used a similar species to model their robot after, a Blaberus cranifer, which moves in the same ways as the giganteus. The researchers studied the exact movements of the roach, and designed their robot to move precisely in the same ways.
Although the current prototype is not equipped with a video camera, the bug-bots were designed to be able to carry up to 10g, which is enough to carry a small portable camera. Further improvements include this and the aforementioned lengthened autonomous time.
Purposes for the cockroach spy can be various, which provides some exciting possibilities. The current plans for the tiny robot include scout and recovery missions, where the bot could search for people or debris. Perhaps the bug could help locate and recover victims in areas humans have no business exploring.
Other researchers have developed similar technologies throughout the years. Scientists as University of California, Berkeley developed a robotic cockroach that can slip through grass-thin beams without the need for additional sensors. This is unique given that other robotic bugs can avoid obstacles, but not traverse them.
Borchevkin and Belousov’s cockroach robot has received some other attention. In example, the Russian military has already expressed an interest in the cockroach. The scientist have been working on samples to send for armed forces testing. If successful, the possibilities for the small bot could take off to great success from there.