Research roach-scouts

Published on July 2nd, 2013 | by Important Media Cross-Post


Insects As Post-Apocalyptic First Responders? Creepy!

July 2nd, 2013 by  

This article first appeared on Insteading


Imagine a terrible disaster that leaves the air toxic and the soil contaminated with radiation. A disaster like that, one like Fukushima or Chernobyl or London towards the end of 28 Days Later, that humans might need to – but might not be able to – safely explore. In almost any scenario you come up with, it’s probably easy to imagine that something will be able to survive – thrive, even! Namely: cockroaches.

A team of researchers from North Carolina State University have done exactly that kind of imagining, and they’re using special computer chips hard-wired into bugs’ nervous systems in order to create cyborg insects and control the behavior of some truly massive cockroaches.  “Our goal is to be able to guide these roaches as efficiently as possible, and our work with Kinect is helping us do that,” says Dr. Alper Bozkurt of NCSU. “We want to build on this program, incorporating mapping and radio frequency techniques that will allow us to use a small group of cockroaches to explore and map disaster sites.”

The scientists are using a “hacked” version of Microsoft’s Kinect gaming system to control the cyborgs (cybugs? -Ed.). We’ve known for some time that Microsoft’s popular video game controller has a lot of great potential – but who would have thought it would be used to control cockroaches? Frankly, it sounds a bit gross, especially if you are someone who spends a great deal of time trying to smash the ugly critters, but there may be some genuinely good uses for such technology. On the other hand, I find the way that cockroaches move creepy enough to begin with, and it would be unfortunate if disaster survivors ended up smashing the expensive creatures simply out of habit without knowing they were there to help!

Further, the paranoid part of me also wonders about this kind of technology going from one that’s used on insects to being used against humans – whether it’s cyborg insect spies or – worse! – Kinect-controlled humans? DARPA’s probably working on it as you read this … and maybe smacking ALL the bugs is a great idea!

You can get a better sense of how the technology works in the video, below. Let me know if you agree that it’s got some pretty creepy implications in the comments, below.

Source | Photos:  NC State, via

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  • agelbert

    “Let me know if you agree that it’s got some pretty creepy implications in the comments, below.”
    You are right. An insect’s nervous system is not that different from ours for some NSA bright bulb to think about controlling humans with this technology against their will.
    Brain stimulation devices are already being implanted into humans to deal with Parkinsons, pain and depression in different cases. It’s all about where the electrodes are placed, if you get my drift. :>(

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