Controlling cockroaches with electrical ‘backpacks’ is one of those science experiments that’s simultaneously quite cool and ethically grey. What might make you feel better, though, is the knowledge that those remote-controlled cockroaches may save your life if you ever get trapped inside a burning building.
If you’re ever trapped in a collapsed building and are calling for help, you might want to think twice before squashing any cockroaches that wander your way – one of them might have been sent to find you. Researchers from North Carolina State University are currently laying the groundwork for such a scenario, by getting cyborg-like “biobot” cockroaches to move towards sounds. Down the road, such insects may be used to locate victims at disaster sites. We first heard about the biobots a couple of years ago. Developed by a team led by Dr. Alper Bozkurt, each one consists of a Madagascar hissing cockroach equipped with a “backpack” that contains an inexpensive microchip, a wireless receiver/transmitter, and a microcontroller.