If you are terrified of cockroaches, you must have wished you had a lethal weapon capable of exterminating these insects without mercy. And now scientists at Heriot-Watt University in the UK have heeded their request. They invented a laser device capable of eliminating cockroaches using artificial intelligence.
The study was conducted last year and published this week in the scientific journal Oriental Insects. Researcher Ildar Rakhmatulin and the other co-authors show how they used a machine-controlled laser in a series of cockroach experiments.
The equipment was able to detect the insects with great precision, in addition to neutralizing and eliminating them at a distance of up to 1.2 meters. To develop it, the scientists used a Jetson Nano – a small computer from Nvidia designed for basic artificial intelligence devices and software.
Rakhmatulin explained that the machine processes the digital signal from two cameras to determine the cockroach’s position and transmits that information to a galvanometer. This instrument capable of measuring electrical currents defines the direction in which the laser should shoot.
Scientists have tried to interact with cockroaches at different potency levels. With the low-intensity laser, they discovered that they could influence the animal’s behavior and make it fly; in this way, cockroaches could be trained not to take shelter in a specific area. With the laser at high power, the insects were eliminated.
All invention data and instructions were freely available on GitHub (platform used by developers to share projects).
“It’s a relatively cheap technology. If it can kill cockroaches, it can probably also eliminate other pests in agriculture,” he said. Rakhmatulin. The idea is that the laser becomes a plausible alternative to chemical pesticides, which are harmful to health and the environment.
However, the prototype needs to be further developed before it can be produced on a large scale. The study explains that a laser with a smaller radius would be more effective in killing the cockroaches, but there is more difficulty in accurately hitting the insect’s body.
Another point is that the laser should be used with caution and is not ready for home use. “We don’t recommend it because it’s a little dangerous. Lasers can hurt not only cockroaches, but also their eyes,” he says.
Before, the target was mosquitoes
This isn’t the first time Rakhmatulin has tried to tackle an insect problem. Previously, he developed a project that killed mosquitoes using lasers and a Raspberry Pi (a kind of complete microcomputer, with all the components).
To learn to identify mosquitoes, artificial intelligence was trained with hundreds of images; with pictures of mosquitoes with different colors; with ultrasound; and with thermal infrared image. The idea of the project was for the equipment to stay on a drone, flying around and killing disease-carrying mosquitoes.