Researchers Using Cyborg Cockroaches to Map Collapsed Buildings, Other Inaccessible Spaces
After being released into the space of interest (say, a collapsed portion of a mall) the system directs the biobots in random directions, spreading out the swarm to cover as much area as possible. Once they are dispersed enough for the controller’s liking, the system directs the swarm to move in a straight line forward in whatever direction each cockroach happens to be facing. They are only to stop moving forward when they hit a wall or some other impassable object.
All roaches then track along the wall for a time, following its contours and giving operators some specific but out-of-context information about the space they’re exploring. Remember that these are totally unknown environments where GPS and other tools are useless.
Only by repeating the disperse-and-wall-follow pattern several times — and using a complex algorithm to assemble the individual wall segments — do we get anything like a sensible map. It’s not the quickest system in the world, nor the most accurate, but it could turn a two-hour hunt through wreckage into a quick trip along a known path.
A few cockroaches might die in the process, but insect are a lot more expendable than first responders. Trapped individuals might be able to press a button on the biobot to signal their presence, or the roaches themselves could be outfitted with appropriate sensors.
(via A swarm of cyborg insects used for mapping collapsed buildings | ExtremeTech)