Interdisciplinary researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel managed to connect a dead locust's ear to a robot that receives direct signals from it and moves accordingly.
This biological and technological research could pave the way for future development in medical technology that uses sensory integrations of insects and robots.
The team's research was published in the journal Sensors.
What's extraordinary is that the robot moves backwards or forwards when the researchers clap once or twice, thanks to its link to the dead locust's ear.
"Our task was to replace the robot's electronic microphone with a dead insect's ear, use the ear’s ability to detect the electrical signals from the environment – in this case, vibrations in the air – and, using a special chip, convert the insect input to that of the robot," Dr. Ben Maoz from TAU said.
Combining biology and technology for the future
The interdisciplinary team of researchers chose the sense of hearing over other senses, like smelling, as it is one of the easier senses to compare to technology.
In the study, the team was able to isolate and characterize the dead locust's ear and keep it functional for enough time to link it to the robot. Finally, the researchers discovered a way for the locust ear to pick up signals in a method that enabled the robot to respond accordingly.
Maoz and his team point out just how valuable this type of research and ultimate use could have on the energy industry, as using such small biological systems requires less energy than electronic systems. They are ultimately more economical and efficient.
On top of that, using such a blend of biology and technology for sensory integrations could dramatically alter both the technological and biological industries. Dogs are already used to sniff out diseases or bombs, and recently a new device that sniffs out diseases drew major inspiration from such disease detecting dogs — so why not further that use to include other senses and other animals or insects?
As Maoz said, "The sky's the limit."