Israeli Scientists Develop Sniffing Robot with Locust Antennae

A scientist fits a locust antenna to a newly-developed robot, which allows it to detect and identify odors, at Tel Aviv University, on Jan. 25.

TEL AVIV (Reuters) — A new sniffing robot equipped with a biological sensor that uses the antennae of locusts could help advance disease diagnosis and improve security checks, its Israeli developers said.

Locusts have an acute sense of smell, which the researchers in Tel Aviv University have managed to harness to their bio-hybrid robot, making it far more sensitive than existing electronic sniffers, they said.

Locusts smell with their antennae. On the four-wheeled robot, the researchers placed the insect’s antenna between two electrodes that send electrical signals as a response to a nearby odor. Each scent has a unique signature which, with machine learning, the robot’s electronic system can identify.

“Ultimately, we are trying to create a robot with a sense of smell that will be able to distinguish between smells and to locate them in space,” said Neta Shvil of the Sagol School of Neuroscience.