The next biological model for robots is the cricket. You may associate crickets with the sounds that they make when it is very quiet. It turns out that these creatures have a very sensitive sense of smell. However, they are only able to detect a very narrow range of odors. This ability is being tapped to develop a robot that can be used to detect chemicals on the battlefield or the smell of survivors in a disaster situation. Read more in the two stories cited below.
Most crickets are active only at night, and they use their long antennae both to feel their way around in the dark and to smell things - so, their sense of smell is quite sensitive, but mostly to odors that come from food. You see, one of the tradeoffs in the sensory systems of organisms like insects is that they can be very sensitive to certain chemicals, but that there will be an even bigger number of things they *CAN'T* smell at all.
IF YOU'RE trapped under rubble after an earthquake, wondering if you'll see daylight again, the last thing you need is an insect buzzing around your face. But that insect could save your life, if a scheme funded by the Pentagon comes off.
The project aims to co-opt the way some insects communicate to give early warning of chemical attacks on the battlefield - the equivalent of the "canary in a coal mine". The researchers behind it say the technology could be put to good use in civilian life, from locating disaster victims to monitoring for pollution and gas leaks, or acting as smoke detectors.
Cyborg crickets could chirp at the smell of survivors
Sat, 11 Jul 2009 08:00:00 GMT