Radio-Controlled Cockroaches – The New Biobots

Radio-controlled cockroaches maybe among the worst of your nightmares, as there are at least four species that like to hang out with us in our homes. They are quiet neighbors and will run off and hide if they think we’re watching them. They are hardy little beasts and undemanding in diet. However, they are not your everyday pet choice with perhaps the exception of the hissing variety which come from Madagascar and can eat rotting wood, fruit etc.

They are very good at getting into crevices and small places in general and are quite happy moving around in the dark. Discovery News reports out on a paper presented at the IEEE conference in San Diego (1) on the latest biobot. A more detailed report and a video are available from Shipman’s report in PhysOrg. News from N.C. State U (2).

In their lab, Latif and Bozkurt fitted out some hissing cockroaches with a radio receiver in a personalized backpack. The radio was wired up to a controller attached to either antenna to steer the beastie.

Charge up an antennae and your roach thinks it has hit a wall and will move away, so with judicious, but shocking behavior on the roach-pilot’s part, your favorite pet may be steered along a course.

In case they got lazy, electronic spurs were connected to the abdominal organs that sense air movement. The electric sensation gives your roach the feeling that something big that eats roach burger is coming and it hurries off.

The BIG question is why do we want radio-controlled cockroaches in the first place? Why accept the challenge? Because it’s there. Then once you have them wandering about ideas come pouring forth. Send them into collapsed building with sensors top detect trapped people is one suggested in the reports.

There is another possibility that is much more likely to appeal to the general public. There is just time to get the production lines going for the Holiday Season. Sell small groups with a controller that can be run from an iPhone or Android app so people can have races around the carpet.

If this catches on and people get skilled, I can visualize large public meetings with big prizes for the fastest roach and most skilled pilot. It could replace pool tables and dart boards in pubs and bars. Much cheaper to keep, feed and transport than a thoroughbred horse.


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