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How a remote-controlled cockroach might come to your rescue

A new cyborg roach is the prototype to a search-and-rescue insect that could be dispatched to hunt for survivors in disaster zones.

A roach is steered using remote control.
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Expect a national "Thank Your Cockroach" day in the near future.

Scientists at North Carolina State University have invented remote-controlled cockroaches that they expect will be used as search-and-rescue animals, sent to disaster zones to hunt for survivors and relay back information that will help to map the damage.

“Our aim was to determine whether we could create a wireless biological interface with cockroaches, which are robust and able to infiltrate small spaces,” said Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at North Carolina State and co-author of the paper, presented at the Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society.

“Ultimately, we think this will allow us to create a mobile web of smart sensors that uses cockroaches to collect and transmit information, such as finding survivors in a building that’s been destroyed by an earthquake,” he said.

To create a cyborg cockroach, scientists embed a chip with a wireless receiver and transmitter onto a Madagascar Hissing Cockroack, making a somewhat endearing-looking little cockroach backpack. That backpack is wired to the cyborg’s antennae and its sensory organs on its abdomen and can trick the hapless animal into believing that it has bumped into a wall and must turn. In simulating walls, the scientists can effectively steer the insect.


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