Cockroach ‘biobots’ to find survivors in collapsed buildings via sound

Researchers have developed new cyborg cockroaches or "biobots" to pick up sounds with small microphones and seek out the source of the sound, which can help emergency personnel find and rescue survivors in collapsed buildings in the aftermath of an earthquake or disaster.

"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 do not matter – like a leaking pipe," explained Alper Bozkurt, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University.

"Once we have identified sounds that matter, we can use the ‘biobots’ equipped with microphone arrays to zero in on where those sounds are coming from," he added.

The "biobots" are equipped with electronic backpacks that control the cockroachÂ’s movements. BozkurtÂ’s research team has created two types of customised backpacks using microphones.

One type of biobot has a single microphone that can capture relatively high-resolution sound from any direction to be wirelessly transmitted to first responders.

The second type of biobot is equipped with an array of three directional microphones to detect the direction of the sound. The team also developed a technology that can be used as an “invisible fence” to keep the biobots in the disaster area.

“This is significant because it can be used to keep biobots at a disaster site, and to keep the biobots within range of each other so that they can be used as a reliable mobile wireless network,” authors concluded.

Two papers related to the research were presented at the “IEEE Sensors 2014” conference in Valencia, Spain and the 36th annual “International IEEE EMBS Conference” in Chicago, Illinois recently.

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