The ear of a locust has been transplanted inside a robot, making the machine capable of receiving signals and hearing. This groundbreaking development published in 2021 was unprecedented for scientists, taking robotics to a fascinating new level.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel demonstrated the robot’s hearing abilities by clapping. One clap signals the robot to move forward and two claps signal the robot to back up. The goal of the study was to demonstrate the effect of biological parts in technological systems.
“We chose the sense of hearing because it can be easily compared to existing technologies, in contrast to the sense of smell, for example, where the challenge is much greater,” says Dr. Ben M. Maoz, a professor with the university’s school of engineering, in a statement. Maoz worked with Prof. Yossi Yovel and Prof. Amir Ayali, experts from the School of Zoology and the Sagol School of Neuroscience, together with Dr. Anton Sheinin, Idan Fishel, Yoni Amit, and Neta Shavil.
“Our task was to replace the robot’s electronic microphone with a dead insect’s ear, use the ear’s ability to detect the electrical signals from the environment, in this case, vibrations in the air, and, using a special chip, convert the insect input to that of the robot,” says Maoz.
The first step was to create a robot that could receive sensory input from the environment. Next, researchers sought to dissect the ear of the locust and keep it functional to integrate into the robot. The final step included the production of signals that could be picked up by the robot so the team would know if vibrations were successfully heard.