Cockroach-Controlled Mobile Robot

Garnet Hertz has created a cockroach-controlled mobile robot. A hybrid biorobotic system, the robot consists of a mechanical system that amplifies and translates the bodily movements of a live giant hissing Madagascar cockroach.


(From Communication in the Animal and the Machine)

The cockroach essentially drives the robot by sitting on top of a ping pong ball that actuates the movement of the robot. When the robot detects an object in front of it, one of a set of lights goes on in front of the cockroach, stimulating it to move.


(From Communication in the Animal and the Machine)

"This project also strives to completely hand over the computational logic of the mobile robot to the insect system operator: this project will provide no "middleware" to obfuscate or sanitize the intentions of the insect. As a result of this, this project will strive to not use any microcontrollers or complex logic. In essence, this device will be built primarily with pre-microprocessor (1940-era) circuitry which will also provide an anachronistic perspecitve on Weinerian Cybernetics and pre-AI/ALife hybrid/embodied-logic systems that never came to pass.

This animal-controlled system is also meant to be framed within the context of embodiment, intelligence, hybridity and posthumanism. While posthumanism tends to view humanity's self-reflective referenc e point as significantly shifted as a result of technology, this project can be viewed as affirmation or rejection of posthuman theory; either human and computational logic can be replaced with the rugged, viseral, and adaptive logic of the cockroach, or the cockroach can be viewed as the ultimate "posthuman": proof that technology has forced a re-calculation of humanity to itself, rendering the Kafkan cockroach body as a better model of intelligence than standard human embodiment within contemporary culture."
(From Communication in the Animal and the Machine)

SF author Frank Herbert often combined hard science with animal capacity - see the entry for distrans from Dune.

Update 20-Dec-2015

Vernor Vinge wrote about a strange race in his 1992 novel A Fire Upon the Deep:

Ravna looked across the surf. When the waves backed down the sand, she could see the Skroderiders' fronds peeping out of the spray... They sat in the surf, thinking thoughts that left no imprint on their minds...

Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to "help them out." Someone had put them on mobile platforms, the skrodes. With wheels they could move along the seashores, could reach and manipulate with their fronds and tendrils. With the skrode's mechanical short-term memory, they could learn fast enough that their new mobility would not kill them...

End update.

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