Groucho Marx famously said, “Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.” As insulting as it is, researchers often use fruit flies for research because they have similar behavior and genetics to humans. For example, the flies exhibit signs of anxiety, stress, and many common diseases. Researchers at Imperial College London built an inexpensive and customizable research platform for fruit flies — the ethoscope — that uses a 3D printed enclosure and a Raspberry Pi to study our winged counterparts. You can see a video about the ethoscope, below.
By using a camera, the Pi can watch the flies, something researchers used to do by hand. The software is easy to customize. For example, while studying sleep deprivation, the ethoscope could detect when a fly didn’t move for 20 seconds and rotate its tube to wake it up.
In addition to 3D printing, the ethoscope can also be made with folded paper or construction bricks. Regardless, you are still going to have a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino. The specifications are online and are the result of seven years of refinement, according to the team.
The platform uses a web interface and has facilities for doing data analysis on results from research. You can also find their paper detailing the ethoscope, if you would like to learn more.
We’ll be honest. Although the team makes ethoscope sound like a new idea, we couldn’t help but remember FlyPi, but we aren’t smart enough about labwork with flies to know if they are really similar or not. Speaking of things we’ve seen in the past, we looked at some genetic hacking on fruit flies.