Arquivo da tag: Baratas

Cockroach cyborgs use microphones to detect, trace sounds (Science Daily)

Date: November 6, 2014

Source: North Carolina State University

Summary: Researchers have developed technology that allows cyborg cockroaches, or biobots, to pick up sounds with small microphones and seek out the source of the sound. The technology is designed to help emergency personnel find and rescue survivors in the aftermath of a disaster.


North Carolina State University researchers have developed technology that allows cyborg cockroaches, or biobots, to pick up sounds with small microphones and seek out the source of the sound. The technology is designed to help emergency personnel find and rescue survivors in the aftermath of a disaster. Credit: Eric Whitmire.

North Carolina State University researchers have developed technology that allows cyborg cockroaches, or biobots, to pick up sounds with small microphones and seek out the source of the sound. The technology is designed to help emergency personnel find and rescue survivors in the aftermath of a disaster.

The researchers have also developed technology that can be used as an “invisible fence” to keep the biobots in the disaster area.

“In a collapsed building, sound is the best way to find survivors,” says Dr. Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and senior author of two papers on the work.

The biobots are equipped with electronic backpacks that control the cockroach’s movements. Bozkurt’s research team has created two types of customized 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 research team has also developed algorithms that analyze the sound from the microphone array to localize the source of the sound and steer the biobot in that direction. The system worked well during laboratory testing. Video of a laboratory test of the microphone array system is available athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJXEPcv-FMw.

“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,” Bozkurt says. “Once we’ve identified sounds that matter, we can use the biobots equipped with microphone arrays to zero in on where those sounds are coming from.”

A research team led by Dr. Edgar Lobaton has previously shown that biobots can be used to map a disaster area. Funded by National Science Foundation CyberPhysical Systems Program, the long-term goal is for Bozkurt and Lobaton to merge their research efforts to both map disaster areas and pinpoint survivors. The researchers are already working with collaborator Dr. Mihail Sichitiu to develop the next generation of biobot networking and localization technology.

Bozkurt’s team also recently demonstrated technology that creates an invisible fence for keeping biobots in a defined 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. This technology could also be used to steer biobots to light sources, so that the miniaturized solar panels on biobot backpacks can be recharged. Video of the invisible fence technology in practice can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWGAKd7_fAM.

A paper on the microphone sensor research, “Acoustic Sensors for Biobotic Search and Rescue,” was presented Nov. 5 at the IEEE Sensors 2014 conference in Valencia, Spain. Lead author of the paper is Eric Whitmire, a former undergraduate at NC State. The paper was co-authored by Tahmid Latif, a Ph.D. student at NC State, and Bozkurt.

The paper on the invisible fence for biobots, “Towards Fenceless Boundaries for Solar Powered Insect Biobots,” was presented Aug. 28 at the 36th Annual International IEEE EMBS Conference in Chicago, Illinois. Latif was the lead author. Co-authors include Tristan Novak, a graduate student at NC State, Whitmire and Bozkurt.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number 1239243.

Software Uses Cyborg Swarm to Map Unknown Environs (Science Daily)

Oct. 16, 2013 — Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed software that allows them to map unknown environments — such as collapsed buildings — based on the movement of a swarm of insect cyborgs, or “biobots.”

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed software that allows them to map unknown environments — such as collapsed buildings — based on the movement of a swarm of insect cyborgs, or “biobots.” (Credit: Image by Edgar Lobaton.)

“We focused on how to map areas where you have little or no precise information on where each biobot is, such as a collapsed building where you can’t use GPS technology,” says Dr. Edgar Lobaton, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper on the research.

“One characteristic of biobots is that their movement can be somewhat random,” Lobaton says. “We’re exploiting that random movement to work in our favor.”

Here’s how the process would work in the field. A swarm of biobots, such as remotely controlled cockroaches, would be equipped with electronic sensors and released into a collapsed building or other hard-to-reach area. The biobots would initially be allowed to move about randomly. Because the biobots couldn’t be tracked by GPS, their precise locations would be unknown. However, the sensors would signal researchers via radio waves whenever biobots got close to each other.

Once the swarm has had a chance to spread out, the researchers would send a signal commanding the biobots to keep moving until they find a wall or other unbroken surface — and then continue moving along the wall. This is called “wall following.”

The researchers repeat this cycle of random movement and “wall following” several times, continually collecting data from the sensors whenever the biobots are near each other. The new software then uses an algorithm to translate the biobot sensor data into a rough map of the unknown environment.

“This would give first responders a good idea of the layout in a previously unmapped area,” Lobaton says.

The software would also allow public safety officials to determine the location of radioactive or chemical threats, if the biobots have been equipped with the relevant sensors.

The researchers have tested the software using computer simulations and are currently testing the program with robots. They plan to work with fellow NC State researcher Dr. Alper Bozkurt to test the program with biobots.

The paper, “Topological Mapping of Unknown Environments using an Unlocalized Robotic Swarm,” will be presented at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems being held Nov. 3-8 in Tokyo, Japan. Lead author of the paper is Alireza Dirafzoon, a Ph.D. student at NC State. The work was supported by National Science Foundation grant CNS-1239243.

Cockroach farms multiplying in China (L.A.Times)

Dried cockroaches are ready to be sold to pharmaceutical companies from a farm in Jinan, China. One farmer says the insects are easy to raise and profitable.

Farmers are pinning their future on the often-dreaded insect, which when dried goes for as much as $20 a pound — for use in Asian medicine and in cosmetics.

BY BARBARA DEMICK

PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO BY WANG XUHUA

REPORTING FROM JINAN, CHINA

Oct. 15, 2013

This squat concrete building was once a chicken coop, but now it’s part of a farm with an entirely different kind of livestock — millions of cockroaches.

Inside, squirming masses of the reddish-brown insects dart between sheets of corrugated metal and egg cartons that have been tied together to provide the kind of dark hiding places they favor.

Wang Fuming kneels down and pulls out one of the nests. Unaccustomed to the light, the roaches scurry about, a few heading straight up his arm toward his short-sleeve shirt.

“Nothing to be afraid of,” Wang counsels visitors who are shrinking back into the hallway, where stray cockroaches cling to a ceiling that’s perilously close overhead.

Although cockroaches evoke a visceral dread for most people, Wang looks at them fondly as his fortune — and his future.

People laughed at me when I started, but I always thought that cockroaches would bring me wealth.”

— Zou Hui, cockroach farmer

The 43-year-old businessman is the largest cockroach producer in China (and thus probably in the world), with six farms populated by an estimated 10 million cockroaches. He sells them to producers of Asian medicine and to cosmetic companies that value the insects as a cheap source of protein as well as for the cellulose-like substance on their wings.

The favored breed for this purpose is the Periplaneta americana, or American cockroach, a reddish-brown insect that grows to about 1.6 inches long and, when mature, can fly, as opposed to the smaller, darker, wingless German cockroach.

Since Wang got into the business in 2010, the price of dried cockroaches has increased tenfold, from about $2 a pound to as much as $20, as manufacturers of traditional medicine stockpile pulverized cockroach powder.

“I thought about raising pigs, but with traditional farming, the profit margins are very low,” Wang said. “With cockroaches, you can invest 20 yuan and get back 150 yuan,” or $3.25 for a return of $11.

China has about 100 cockroach farms, and new ones are opening almost as fast as the prolific critters breed. But even among Chinese, the industry was little known until August, when a million cockroaches got out of a farm in neighboring Jiangsu province. The Great Escape made headlines around China and beyond, evoking biblical images of swarming locusts.

Big moneymaker

Business is booming at the Shandong Xin Da Ground Beetle Farm.

Only the prospect of all those lost earnings would faze Wang, a compact man with a wisp of a mustache and wire-rim glasses who looks like a scientist, but has no more than a high school education. After graduating, he went to work in a tire factory.

“I felt I would never get anywhere in life at the factory and I wanted to start a business,” he said.

As a boy he had liked collecting insects, so he started with scorpions and beetles, both used in traditional medicine and served as a delicacy. One batch of his beetle eggs turned out to be contaminated with cockroach eggs.

“I was accidentally raising cockroaches and then I realized they were the easiest and most profitable,” he said.

The start-up costs are minimal — Wang bought only eggs, a run-down abandoned chicken coop and the roofing tile. Notoriously hearty, roaches aren’t susceptible to the same diseases as farm animals. As for feeding them, cockroaches are omnivores, though they favor rotten vegetables. Wang feeds his brood with potato and pumpkin peelings discarded from nearby restaurants.

Cockroaches are survivors. We want to know what makes them so strong.”

— Li Shunan, professor of traditional medicine

Killing them is easy too: Just scoop or vacuum them out of their nests and dunk them in a big vat of boiling water. Then they’re dried in the sun like chile peppers.

Perhaps understandably, the cockroach business (“special farming,” as it is euphemistically called) is a fairly secretive industry. Wang’s farm, for instance, operates in an agribusiness industrial park under an elevated highway. The sign at the front gate simply reads Jinan Hualu Feed Co.

Some companies that use cockroaches don’t like to advertise their “secret ingredient.” And the farmers themselves are wary of neighbors who might not like a cockroach farm in their backyard.

“We try to keep a low profile,” said Liu Yusheng, head of the Shandong Insect Industry Assn., the closest thing there is to a trade organization. “The government is tacitly allowing us to do what we do, but if there is too much attention, or if cockroach farms are going into residential areas, there could be trouble.”

Liu worries about the rapid growth of an industry with too many inexperienced players and too little oversight. In 2007, a million Chinese lost $1.2 billion when a firm promoting ant farming turned out to be a Ponzi scheme and went bankrupt.

“This is not like raising regular farm animals or vegetables where the Agricultural Ministry knows who is supposed to regulate it. Nobody knows who is in charge here,” he said.

The low start-up costs make raising cockroaches an appealing business for wannabe entrepreneurs, who can buy cockroach eggs and complete how-to kits from promoters.

“People laughed at me when I started, but I always thought that cockroaches would bring me wealth,” said Zou Hui, 40, who quit her job at a knitting factory in 2008 after seeing a television program about raising cockroaches.

Wang Fuming, at his farm in Jinan, is the largest cockroach producer in China (and thus probably in the world), with six farms populated by an estimated 10 million cockroaches.

It’s not exactly a fortune, but the $10,000 she brings in annually selling cockroaches is decent money for her hometown in rural Sichuan province, and won her an award last year from local government as an “Expert in Getting Wealthy.”

“Now I’m teaching four other families,” Zou said. “They want to get rich like me.”

But inexperienced farmers can get into trouble, as Wang Pengsheng (no relation to fellow roach farmer Wang) found out after his cockroaches staged the Great Escape.

He had opened his farm just six months earlier in a newly constructed building that municipal code officials complained was too close to protected watershed land. At noon on Aug. 20, while workers were out for lunch, a demolition crew knocked down the building. The roaches made a run for it.

“They didn’t know I had cockroaches in there. They wouldn’t have demolished the building like that if there were cockroaches that would get out,” Wang Pengsheng said in a telephone interview.

After discovering the flattened building and homeless roaches scurrying among the rubble, he tried to corral the escapees but was unsuccessful. He called in local health officials, who helped him exterminate the roaches. Wang said he has received about $8,000 in compensation from local government and hopes to use the money to rebuild his farm elsewhere.

At least five pharmaceutical companies are using cockroaches for traditional Chinese medicine. Research is underway in China (and South Korea) on the use of pulverized cockroaches for treating baldness, AIDS and cancer and as a vitamin supplement. South Korea’s Jeonnam Province Agricultural Research Institute and China’s Dali University College of Pharmacy have published papers on the anti-carcinogenic properties of the cockroach.

Li Shunan, a 78-year-old professor of traditional medicine from the southwestern province of Yunnan who is considered the godfather of cockroach research, said he discovered in the 1960s that ethnic minorities near the Vietnamese border were using a cockroach paste to treat bone tuberculosis.

“Cockroaches are survivors,” Li said. “We want to know what makes them so strong — why they can even resist nuclear effects.”

Liu Yusheng, head of the Shandong Insect Industry Assn. eats fried cockroaches. Liu worries about the rapid growth of an industry with too many inexperienced players and too little oversight.

Li reels off an impressive, if implausible, list of health claims: “I lost my hair years ago. I made a spray of cockroaches, applied it on my scalp and it grew back. I’ve used it as a facial mask and people say I haven’t changed at all over the years.

“Cockroaches are very tasty too.”

Many farmers are hoping to boost demand by promoting cockroaches in fish and animal feed and as a delicacy for humans.

Chinese aren’t quite as squeamish as most Westerners about insects — after all, people here still keep crickets as pets.

In Jinan, Wang Fuming and his wife, who run the farm together, seem genuinely fond of their cockroaches and a little hurt that others don’t feel affection.

“What is disgusting about them?” Li Wanrong, Wang’s wife, asked as a roach scurried around her black leather pumps. “Look how beautiful they are. So shiny!”

Over lunch at a restaurant down the block from his farm, Wang placed a plate of fried cockroaches seasoned with salt on the table along with more conventional cuisine, and proceeded to nibble a few with his chopsticks. He expressed disapproval that visiting journalists refused to sample the roaches.

On saying goodbye at the end of the day, he added a final rejoinder.

“You will regret your whole life not trying them.”

Nicole Liu in The Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.


FOR THE RECORD:Wednesday’s Column One story about cockroach farming in China misstated the value of 150 Chinese yuan as $11. It is equal to $24.