Cockroaches have often been selected for remote control cyborg treatment, but they’re typically given instructions by electrically stimulating their antennae. This little critter, however, has the electrics on his back hardwired into his nervous system, allowing for human remote control of his motor functions.
The cockroach in the picture carries a battery-powered microcontroller — much like the commercial units you can buy to create your own RC-roach. But those DIY kits simply use electrodes to stimulate the animal’s antennae. Researchers from Texas A&M University have found that directly tapping into the pro-ganglion — a bundle of nerve cells in the cockroach’s first thoracic segment — provides far better results.
Stimulating the antennae simply tricks the cockroach into thinking that an obstacle lies ahead, but directly stimulating the nervous system gives more consistent results. In experiments, the researchers found they could make the ‘roach walk and turn using judicious stimulation of one or both sides of the nerve bundle. The team call their creation a “remotely controlled hybrid robotic system.”
If it all seems a little creepy, you can at least console yourself with the fact that it’s hoped such robo-roaches will be used in the future to find human trapped beneath debris. Small, nimble and self-powered, cyborg cockroaches compare favourably to their purely robotic counterparts, at least for now. [Journal of the Royal Society Interface via New Scientist]