On being bugged

Summary:Gilles Caprari of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has developed a matchbook-size robot named Insbot. Insbot can secrete reassuring chemicals and has successfully insinuated itself into colonies of cockroaches.

Gilles Caprari of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has developed a matchbook-size robot named Insbot. Insbot can secrete reassuring chemicals and has successfully insinuated itself into colonies of cockroaches. It is so realistic (to a cockroach) that it can actually lure its new friends out of their dark, safe spaces into the light (where they are presumably crushed).

So what?

The real point here is the imminent arrival of tiny robots--or "bugs," as you might call them, since one of their early uses undoubtedly will be unobtrusive surveillance. Equipped with chemical and radiological sensors, these bugs could be used to detect various kinds of contraband hidden away in hard-to-scan places. It's easy to imagine a cargo ship, truck, or train playing host to a colony (or nest or whatever) of the little insectoids, which would skitter around (and under) the cargo sniffing out evil. If that works, the folks behind it would undoubtedly turn their attention to human beings who are, after all, often used to transport illicit material. Airliners, buses and other forms of public transportation will host their own nests of importunate critters, scuttling around and probing cringing passengers with their little feelers. Fear of flying will take on a whole new meaning.

Topics: Emerging Tech

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