Electronic reins for cockroaches


RESEARCHERS from North Carolina State University have found a way to remotely control the movements of cockroaches.

Cockroaches are known for their resiliency and are also small enough to penetrate small spaces, making them potentially useful for search and rescue operations in disaster sites, or in military applications.

It is certainly easier and more cost-effective to control a cockroach than to build a miniature robot from scratch.

The team embedded a low-cost, light-weight, commercially-available chip with a wireless receiver and transmitter onto Madagascar hissing cockroaches. This electronic bundle includes a microcontroller that monitors the interface between the implanted electrodes and the tissue to avoid potential neural damage.

The microcontroller is wired to the roach’s antennae and cerci. The cerci are sensory organs on the roach’s abdomen, which detect movement in the air, providing prompts on incoming predators. When wired up, the researchers can send signals to fool the cockroach into thinking something is behind it, prompting it to move forward.

The antennae, which detect contact with physical barriers, are similarly wired up so the insect “detects” barriers and moves in the opposite direction.

The researchers were able to precisely control the movement of the insects along curvy lines.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to integrate sensors and mesh networking capabilities onto cockroaches, using them to collect and transmit information at a disaster site.