Charles Higgins, an associate professor at the University of Arizona, has built a robot that is guided by the brain and eyes of a moth.
The robot’s motion is guided by a tiny electrode implanted in the moth’s brain, Higgins said, specifically to a single neuron that is responsible for keeping the moth’s vision steady during flight. The neuron transmits electrical signals which are then amplified in the robot’s base and through a mathematical formula, a computer translates the signals into action, making the robot move.
The moth is immobilize inside a plastic tube mounted atop the 6-inch-tall wheeled robot. To get the moth to imitate flight, Higgins and his team placed the moth in its apparatus on a circular platform surrounded by a 14-inch-high revolving wall painted with vertical stripes. The moth’s neuron reacts to the movement of the stripes and the process begins.
The brain of a moth is about the size of a grain of rice. Although small, “its compact size and simplicity allows for an efficient way to do brain research.”