Cyber-insects taking off.

Wired’s Danger Room blog now has me imagining what it would be like to come under attack from a buzzing swarm of remote-controlled rhinoceros beetles:

Researchers hooked a series of six electrodes up to the brain and muscles of the insect. Then, during a demonstration at the MEMS 2009 academic conference in Sorrento, Italy, “they equipped the beetle with a module incorporating a circuit to send signals to the electrodes, wireless circuit, microcontroller and battery. The university has so far succeeded in several experiments of electrically controlling insects, but it used a radio control system this time.”

You just gotta see the diagram.

Tech-On (the source of Wired’s report) has an interesting perspective on why we are turning beetles into toys:

Setting aside the question of whether it is morally right or wrong to use a living creature for such a purpose, we must think about the “production efficiency” to create “cyborgs” that are beneficial to mankind. Commenting on this, the university said it can produce the cyborg in a short period of time because the positions of the electrodes worn by a beetle need not be so precise.

That’s a Japanese publication, and it’s no surprise they’re taking an interest in this UC Berkley project. Rhinoceros beetles are much more charismatic than the Japanese robo-roaches.