Radio Controlled Beetle

Scientists at the university of California have managed to implant a chip in a giant flower beetle that makes it respond to commands from the computer. They can tell it to fly, stop, turn left and turn right.  The controls are done through its optic nerves and wing muscles. Though the article states that flight signals are sent to the optic lobes and steering is done through stimulation of the wing muscles, the video shows steering being accomplished through optic lobe stimulation.

Though we’re sure there’s some grand scientific goal behind this, we can’t help but think (hope) that we’ll be seeing giant robot controlled beetle battles with lasers and rockets.

57 thoughts on “Radio Controlled Beetle

  1. I don’t think the issue should be that they are controlling living things. I think it should be more of understanding the nervous system and a step to a possible treatment to life-threatening nervous diseases.

  2. “to me, technology stops when it tries to pierce under the skin of a living thing.”

    too late. been doing that for years with plants. better stop eating produce from the grocery store or else you’re encouraging this kind of “evil” technology.

  3. nice to see the army is still wasting my tax dollars on more useless lame crap. not to mention electronic manipulation of nerves and muscles is neither new or impressive.
    it’s odd that they would debut such a cruel project. can’t help but wonder what sort of unethical, bizarre crap they keep secret.
    way to be all you can be, army.

  4. “we can’t help but think (hope) that we’ll be seeing giant robot controlled beetle battles with lasers and rockets”

    If you recall your Dr. Seuss, beetles ought to battle with paddles in a puddle in a bottle on a poodle eating noodles.

  5. The DoD has nukes, nerve gas, anthrax, agent orange, napalm, etc., and people are worried that they can remote control beetles?

    If you want to be a hippy, fine, but there is no need to be patently irrational about it.

    As for the sentiment that this is cruel, I don’t think the beetle minds, seeing as its nervous system is not complex enough to permit any sort of ‘thought’ beyond direct physical response to stimuli.

    For comparison, the wasp Ampulex Compressa stings a cockroach so as to briefly paralyze it, then again so as disable the escape reflex, and then steers the roach to its nest where it lays eggs on, which hatch, penetrate the roach, and devour it alive as the larvae gestate. That seems a much crueler fate for the beetle, but I don’t see anyone launching an extermination campaign against Ampulex Compressa. Of course, maybe that is that is because Ampulex Compressa is not a convenient political target.

  6. “Wow robotics has become a lazy field. What ever happened to building metal contraptions from the scratch? Now we’re just adding chips to bugs? weak.”

    Lol… so true! I was thinking to myself “hm.. with a controller that small, they could easily build a “beetle” from scratch that would do the same exact things as this one, with out having to be concerned with it running off, or needing to add leg-movement inhibitors.

    In other History of Tech news:
    There was a project to burn out Japan by using Bats deployed with time release incendiary devices on their beings. They would fly in to roost after being deployed from an offshore bomber plane in the very early morning. As they left the bomber deployment system, they would prime the incendiaries. After finding roost, the incendiaries would ignite and burn Japan to the ground. It was developed and fully tested in the US before the war with Japan ended with WW2. The thing that stopped it from going ahead was the nuclear weapons program that was a month from being ready for deployment over Japan. The bat project was canceled and the nukes were dropped soon after.

    Anyway.. technology is a trip!

  7. Remember humans are animals too. Maybe with beefier brains and what not, but still animals.

    Now suppose humans are plain animals, and crocodiles are the advanced ones

    Would you rather:

    A. Die quickly and without too much pain, victim of a crocodile nuke or strong poison


    B. Be controlled by the crocodiles against your free will while you’re still conscious and with absolutely no way to escape? You’d still feel pain from whatever they are forcing you to do

    This is not about not putting technology under your skin (it has good uses), this is about having respect for the free nature of all animals, including humans.

    Also, like ak said, metallic robots are more badass

  8. So, removing all the bugs from the system would make it stop working?
    They should have started with a better platform to begin with to avoid to have to code around bugs this big.

  9. This is just how it starts. This will lead to the development of medical systems that will significantly help humans. This is just helping us understand the nervous system on a smaller scale. Imagine if there were effective artificial nerves to help paraplegics walk again or increasing the range of prosthetics. We can’t just start out putting chips and stuff in people’s heads, we need to do a few practice rounds with something…I don’t wanna say less important.

    Would it make you beetle rights people happy if they did some research to making this process painless to the beetle? I’m sure it wouldn’t effect it’s performance as a mindless cyborg-drone (lets just call it what it is)?

  10. woohoo! the cyborg era has begun! i can’t wait to get my fully-loaded machine body parts complete with rocket launchers and machine guns. oh and a dvd player.

    heck with just this they could introduce a new type of warfare: swarmfare

    guess I’ll need to equip my cyber-skeleton with a few tanks of bug spray too.


  11. “This will lead to the development of medical systems that will significantly help humans”

    “Gonna be cool when it makes crippled ppl walk.”
    Are you serious??

    “Imagine if there were effective artificial nerves to help paraplegics walk again or increasing the range of prosthetics”
    Lol wtf??

    did some of you miss the part about who is finding this project? the DOD (translated: us taxpayers). for those of you expecting medical miracles to come of this, you need to remind your self that it’s an Army project! they are not in the business of helping or healing anybody. quite the opposite. if some of their finding could possibly help the handicap, those aspects would be ignored. in fact, if this project doesn’t fulfill their ambitions of spying on and/or killing people then funding for this project will cease to exist.

    no good can come of this.

  12. Walt

    First off, just because it’s the dod doesn’t mean that they are trying to make weapons. It’s more likely that this somehow will play into moving information around on the battlefield. This kind of technology could possibly deliver necessary information to soldiers on the front lines that much faster and make them even more effective. I don’t think the dod is that closed minded that they would think that if it can’t kill someone, it’s not worth their time.

    While it’s fair to say that a good number of the people on here don’t know what they’re talking about (welcoming cyborg-bug overlords and whatnot), it’s really a fair assumption that this research is going to help people somehow.

  13. My first post was not quite so happy.
    Pacemakers and metal bones are good, but not anything that can control you.

    Just imagine if this is the first step of a secret project to control soldiers and/or civilians to eliminate the “loose cannons” that do not follow the chain of command blindly.

  14. @ what the kitten
    Bug off

    This does seem awesome, but I want specifics. Any idea on a way to make this a diy? I want to make mice walk around behind me and carry my pens and “my dog ate my homework” would be actually true once

  15. Imagine guys there intel device could really help people tell where ambushes are without the chance of being sighted from the sky not to kill people or ya know maybe if we could get a small enough insect it could get inside of people and see whats going on without exploratory surgery you all need open minds

  16. I really don’t see why this is so tragic for animal sympathizers. I mean really, once this beetle has served the country in war and has a long and decorated military background, he can run for senate and then when we eventually gets into the white house it will be the “Manchurian Candidate” all over again. (on a side note i just realized that sounds a lot like McCain)

    Let’s all hope my theory is wrong

  17. Great. Now my country will have to sign that American cyborg beetles are exempt from our laws and we’ll have to buy a bunch of old and worn out cyborg bumblebees from Americans. Just f*cking great…

  18. off topic

    why exactly am i lame? (14m3)

    is one not allowed to ask questions and express one views?

    —i wonder if youv’e ever heard the saying
    keep your mouth shut unless you have something good to say

    thank you.

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