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Cockroach ‘Biobots’ Could One Day Rescue You

An army of cyborg cockroaches might sound like a sign of the apocalypse, but really, they are just here to help. Each crawling insect is outfitted with an electronic backpack that lets researchers control them like creepy, crawly remote control cars. In earlier research, scientists at North Carolina State University had discovered how to use them as little survey teams. Now, in a paper presented this week at the IEEE Sensors 2014 conference in Valencia, Spain, they say they have figured out how to make the bugs swarm towards a particular sound, thanks to three directional microphones placed on their backs. “The goal is to use the biobots with high-resolution microphones to differentiate between sounds that matter — like people calling for help — from sounds that don’t matter — like a leaking pipe," Dr. Alper Bozkurt, senior author of the paper, said in a statement. That means next time you are stuck in a collapsed building and shout for help, it could be a swarm of cockroaches coming to your rescue. Researchers also developed an "invisible fence" to keep cockroaches from wandering away from rescue sites.

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— Keith Wagstaff