Scientists to transform moths into search-and-rescue cyborg biobots

Scientists have developed a method to control the flight of moths using electrodes; a technique they believe could be used to perform wide-ranging search-and-rescue operations in disaster situations.

By attaching tiny electrodes, the scientists can also monitor the signals moths use to control their flight muscles – known as electromyographic signals – in a bid to better understand how the insects navigate through the air.

“We want to know whether we can control the movement of moths for use in applications such as search-and-rescue operations,” said Dr Alper Bozkurt, study co-author and North Carolina State University assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

“The idea would be to attach sensors to moths in order to create a flexible, aerial sensor network that can identify survivors or public health hazards in the wake of a disaster.”

moth-biobot

The attachment process starts when the moth is in the pupal stage, where it is cocooned and nearing the time to emerge. At this stage the scientists surgically attach electrodes to its back, which can be used to monitor and map the electrical signals it uses to control its muscles.

This is vital because before moths can be effectively controlled for search and rescue, the scientist need to have an accurate understanding of the way they move their wings.

“By watching how the moth uses its wings to steer while in flight, and matching those movements with their corresponding electromyographic signals, we’re getting a much better understanding of how moths manoeuvre through the air,” said Bozkurt.

In order to accurate measure the moth’s movements, the scientists have taken the bizarre step of creating a wireless hovering platform that surrounds the implanted moth while it flies.

Resembling a tiny fairground ride, the levitating platform is suspended using electromagnets while it collects key flight data as the moth moves around.

As unorthodox as the research is, the scientists are confident that it will allow them to develop a control system for the moths.

“We’re optimistic that this information will help us develop technologies to remotely control the movements of moths in flight,” Bozkurt said. “That’s essential to the overarching goal of creating biobots that can be part of a cyberphysical sensor network.”

There is much to be done, however, before a tiny moth search-and-rescue team can be deployed.

“We now have a platform for collecting data about flight coordination,” Bozkurt said. “Next steps include developing an automated system to explore and fine-tune parameters for controlling moth flight, further miniaturising the technology and testing the technology in free-flying moths.”

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC