Researchers have developed a disgustingly cool remote-controlled bug. The bug in question is a giant cockroach. Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a system that uses an electronic interface to steer cockroach. The researchers say that their goal was to determine whether they could create a wireless biological interface to control the cockroach.
According to assistant Professor Alper Bozkurt, the team hopes that it will be able to create a mobile web of smart sensors using these remote-controlled cockroaches. The bugs could help with tasks such as finding survivors in buildings destroyed by earthquakes according to the professor. The team had to devise a cheap and safe way to control the cockroaches and ensure they operated within defined parameters.
The remote controlling method is intended to allow controllers to send the bugs to specific areas of interest. The system developed by the researchers uses an embedded cheap, light, and commercially available chip with a wireless receiver and transmitter. In testing, the team used Madagascar hissing cockroaches. The little backpack attached to each of the roaches weighs 0.7 g and has a microcontroller that monitors the interface between implanted electrodes and the tissue of the cockroaches to avoid neural damage.
The team wired the microcontroller to the roach’s antenna and cerci. Cerci are sensory organs on the abdomen of the roach used to detect movement in the air to indicate a predator is approaching. The wires attached to the cerci spur the bugs into motion by tricking them into thinking a predator is sneaking up. Wires attached to the antennae inject small electrical charges into the Bug’s neural tissue tricking it into thinking that the antennae are in contact with a barrier, steering them in the opposite direction.