We’ve been busy in the trenches of our R&D department designing a working prototype of the “RoboRoach,” a remote control system to enable left and right turning in running cockroaches. This began as a University of Michigan Senior Engineering Project we sponsored in Winter 2010, and over the past year we’ve incrementally been working to improve it, especially after getting great feedback from our colleagues at the latest Society for Neuroscience conference (thanks Cindy). By taking the small, lightweight control circuitry out of the toy “HEXBug Inchworm” and modifying it with low-power 555 timer chips to create biphasic pulses, we can deliver 55 Hz stimulation to the antennae nerves of large discoid and fuscia cockroaches.
We gave a seminar recently on Feb. 25th to the undergraduate students at Grand Valley State University (thanks for the invite John and Merritt!), and we publicly unveiled a working prototype! Samara Woolfolk andStewart Berkos were the first eager students to try it out, and they agreed it worked. We believe in crowd-based peer review of real-time experiments. Being in pure speaking mode, we didn’t take any pictures or videos of the event, but here is Samara and Stewart posing after lunch…
And below is a movie of a basement experiment… Are you convinced?
We plan to offer the RoboRoach as a beta product soon. Stay tuned! In the meantime, we need to do a couple more experiments to ensure:
1) the wires stay in the antenna (principal failure point).
2) the preparation works reliably (at present we only get evoked movement in ~25% of our preps (n=30)…we are working hard to figure out the causes).
Let us know if you have any suggestions/advice! To the NeuroRevolution!