Cyborg cockroaches could save us

Do you sometimes question the advances made in technology? For instance, does humanity need a mattress that can help you catch your partner cheating or a fridge that will order your groceries for you? Other times, new gadgets that are seemingly silly can actually provide us with extremely useful services.

The cockroach, perhaps the lowliest of all creatures, could play a crucial role in helping uncover earthquake survivors. A team of bioboticists at Texas A&M University are stirring up a debate with their latest technology: a cyborg cockroach device that uses wireless technology to control the paths of cockroaches.

These tiny robots are formed by attaching a ‘backpack’ to the bug, fitted with a micro-controller, wireless receiver and a rechargeable lithium battery. The backpack also has a high-resolution microphone to pick up sound. The total weight is .003kg. The cockroaches can be guided by remote control to locate survivors of collapsed mines, earthquakes and other disasters.

Materials scientist and co-author of the study at Texas A&M University Dr Hong Liang said cockroaches are better equipped than any other insect to support small-scale robots, since they are sturdy and capable of living in harmful environments.

The remote-controlled cockroaches will be capable of going “anywhere you guide them,” especially places humans aren’t able to access, such as disaster zones, she said.

“Insects can do things a robot cannot,” she said. “They can go into small places, sense the environment, and if there’s movement, from a predator, say, they can escape much better than a system designed by a human.”

Cockroaches might get a bad rap for being disgusting but, as Liang says, they’re extremely interesting. They clean themselves constantly and are one of few species that can survive exposure to dangerous amounts of nuclear radiation. If they lose a leg, they are able to grow another one.

“After having them for a while, I keep some in my office as a pet,” Liang said. 

What do you think of this innovation in technology?

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Amelia Theodorakis
Amelia Theodorakis
A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.
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