Few of us tolerate the presence of roaches in our homes and places of business, but researchers and the media are now telling us that, in certain circumstances, roaches might be our best friends because they’ll keep us “safe.”
A new video produced by North Carolina State University’s iBionics Laboratory shows how the bugs can be “surgically transformed into remote-controlled ‘biobots’ that could help locate earthquake survivors in hard-to-access areas,” according to National Geographic News.
No doubt then that these creatures can be transformed into loathsome little spybots as well, but more on that in a moment.
In the video, researchers demonstrate how their transformed roaches can be “steered” very precisely.
A little background on these critters
Alper Bozkurt, who led the roach biobot project, said during an interview with NGN that the transformed Madagascar hissing cockroaches, which appear to be about twice as long as a quarter according to a photo posted on the website, that they are technically called “biological robots” (or the shorter biobot), but are in fact an early type of “insect cyborg.”
“Currently, we can steer these roaches remotely and make them stop, go, and turn. If we can have them interact independently with the technologies we’ve surgically implanted in them, then they will become true cyborgs,” Bozkurt said.
In describing what he called a “simple” procedure, Bozkurt said researchers put the insects into a cold environment, like a refrigerator, for a few hours, which makes them hibernate, “so they don’t move.”
We do a simple surgery to insert the electrodes in the roaches’ antennae and cerci [rear sensors],” he said, noting that the procedure is done with only a pair of tweezers and a microscope. “We also use medical-grade epoxy to glue tiny magnets to their backs, so that we can just snap on the backpack containing the wireless control system.”