Cyborg Beetle is a darkling beetle implanted with an electronic device that is remotely controlled by Hirotaka Sato and his team of engineers and scientists in Singapore.
This insect-computer-human hybrid (biohybrid) robot is not entirely controlled by the performer because its movements depend on its body structure and sensory system. The beetle has outstanding locomotory skills through its complex nervous system and diverse sensory organs, which allows them to have autonomous navigations. The human performer implements a feedback control system in the beetle’s lightweight body to perform a flexible navigation. The electronic backpack receives the insect’s response to their automatic navigation system, which is evaluated by the performer to control its flight. Combining their ability to navigate through complex terrains, their biological body structure, and synthetic electronic devices implanted by humans, the performer remotely controls the cyborg insect to achieve desired movements in unknown and dangerous environments.
From this work, we could evolve utilizing organic components in robotics application into a technique for hybrid kinetic sculpture. I consider this robot as an artwork because it is partly nature. Although we may not reach perfect insect-level autonomy, we can attempt to learn their autonomy and integrate it into our hybrid kinetic sculpture.
It is terrifying at first because humans are able to control a living thing through technology and science. However, this work extends to search-and-rescue missions through its ability to both detect humans and explore inaccessible spaces with its tiny, lightweight body. It also stretches out to turning invasive pests such as cockroaches and green June beetles into cyborg insects: track, detect, and destroy. This robot is very similar to nano drones that are used by the military for operating search-and-rescue and situational awareness, but it integrates a living creature for less power consumption and biodegradability.
The performance of Cyborg Beetle flight alone is fascinating, but I personally find it extraordinary since it considers practical applications.