Cyborg cockroach experiment locates disaster survivors through sound

They may be one of the most disgusting insects you've ever seen, and laying eyes on one in your kitchen probably makes you want to scream, but one day cyborg cockroaches could save your life if you're trapped in a disaster. A pair of researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a way to control the bugs through a circuit board connected to their brain, and having them find the sources of sounds, including human voices.

The circuit board on the roaches' back, described as an "electronic backpack," contains a microphone, and when sounds are heard, the bug will be steered towards them, eventually traveling to the source. Tasks are actually divided between two insects, one to act as a sensor detecting sound, and the other to follow the directions sent from the sensor.

The researchers imagine an ideal situation for the roaches' deployment would be the scene of a collapsed building, where sound is the most useful to find survivors. By sending a group of the bugs into the rubble, they can use their small size to their advantage to easily make their way to trapped humans, and then send a signal to rescuers with the exact location.

The next logical problem in that situation would be what if the insects just wander off, directed by the wrong sounds. That's already been thought of, and the roaches are also contained within a specific area by a kind of invisible fence. This insures that the two types of cyborgs don't get separated or move out of each other's range, as well as lead them to sources of light, which will charge their little backpacks via solar power. Not only cool, but it allows the roaches to work for days at a time if needed, all on their own. Unfortunately nothing has been done yet to keep victims from screaming at the sight of their little rescuers.

SOURCE NC State University