Hybrid Insect MEMS Sought By DARPA For Bug Army

HI-MEM-based bug armies? Our friends at DARPA seem to have cyborgs on the brain. Hot on the heels of last week's presentation of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center's progress on shark cyborgs comes a solicitation notice for Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS).

In their solicitation notice BAA06-22, DARPA explicitly rejects research which merely results in "evolutionary improvement upon existing state-of-the-art." They are looking for more innovative proposals, suggesting that it should be possible to integrate microsystems within insects during the early stages of metamorphosis. Specifically, DARPA believes that "healing processes from one metamorphic stage to the next stage are expected to yield more reliable" implantation results. Hopefully, this will result in more sophisticated (and more reliable) bio-electromechanical interfaces, as opposed to those cheap "adhesively-bonded systems" sometimes used on adult insects.

The final demonstration goal of the HI-MEMS program is the controlled arrival of an insect within five meters of a specified target located one hundred meters from the insect's starting point. It must then remain stationary indefinitely, unless otherwise instructed. It must also be able to transmit data from DOD sensors providing information about the local environment.

Tired of working with flying insects? No problem; DARPA says that "hopping and swimming insects could also meet final demonstration goals."

Effort is required in the following areas:

  1. Demonstrate reliable bio-electromechanical interfaces to insects
  2. Demonstrate locomotion control using MEMS platforms
  3. Demonstrate technologies to scavenge power from insects.
DARPA has tried to make use of insects before. In their Detection of Biological and Chemical Warfare Agents by Honey Bees program, it was hoped that the natural foraging behavior of honeybees could be harnessed for military applications. However, after some initial success, it appears that "Instinctive behaviors for feeding and mating -- and also for responding to temperature changes -- prevented them from performing reliably."

It also appears that honey bees can be trained to recognize individuals; whether or not they can be trained to salute and obey orders is another matter.

Entomologists are skeptical. According to the BBC, Dr George McGavin of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History said it appeared impossible to connect the technology to the right places during the metamorphic phase, particularly with regard to flight.

Museum entomology expert Stuart Hine added, "I feel that the reality of such cyborg fusion between insect and machine lies squarely in the realms of fiction."

That may be true, but I can't find the reference. I can think of various examples of implants made after birth, like Jones the cyborg dolphin and implanted microprocessor monitors for executives. Anyone?

Update 27-Jan-2008: It turns out that this program was actually inspired by a specific science fiction novel: read more about it in HI-MEMS: Cyborg Beetle Microsystem and HI-MEMS: Control Circuits Embedded In Pupal Stage Successfully. End update.

Read more about it at the BBC site. Thanks to alert reader Masa Thavia for the story tip.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/15/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 8 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.

Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.

Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.

Researchers Create Bowls, Coils, Ripples Of Living Tissue
'... biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Las Vegas Humans Ready To Strike Over Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot... had to be compensated.'

You'll Regrow That Limb, One Day
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to regrow his lost fingers.'

Elon Musk Seeks To Create 1941 Heinlein Speedster
'The car surged and lifted, clearing its top by a negligible margin.'

Somnox Sleep Robot - Your Sleepytime Cuddlebot
Science fiction authors are serious about sleep, too.

Real-Life Macau or Ghost In The Shell
Art imitates life imitates art.

Has Climate Change Already Been Solved By Aliens?
'I had explained," said Nessus, "that our civilisation was dying in its own waste heat.'

First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.

VirtualHome: Teaching Robots To Do Chores Around The House
'Just what did I want Flexible Frank to do? - any work a human being does around a house.'

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Workshop
SF writers have thought about this since the 19th century.

Nanorobots Roam Your Bloodstream, Cleaning It
Too bad they won't have lasers, though...

Galini 3D Printed Sleeping Pod Tiny Houses
'The houses are prefabricated units...'

MIT Boffins Create Psychopath AI On Purpose
There's a lesson in this for neural net AI engineers everywhere.

Skin Electronics 3D Printed
'June's body is a tracery of lambent lines, like some arcane capillary circuitry...'

Artificial Sensory Neurons For Prosthetics, Robots
Great for humans and robots!

China Uses Artificial Intelligence To Grade Student Papers
Looks like the City Fathers are starting to take over China's education system.

Electronic Tongues Will Rule The Kitchen
'Install taste buds in the end of one tentacle...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.