Mind-controlling cockroaches

Producing micro robotics is not yet easy or cost-effective, but why do we need to when we can just control the minds of cockroaches? A team or researchers from North Carolina State University is calling this augmented Madagascar Hissing cockroach an Insect Biobot in their latest research paper (PDF). It’s not the first time the subject has come up. There have already been proofs in research and even more amateur endeavors. But the accuracy and control seen in the video after the break is beyond compare.

The roach is being controlled to perfectly follow a line on the floor. One of the things that makes this iteration work so well is that the microcontroller includes a new type of ADC-based feedback loop for the stimulation of the insect brain. This helps to ensure that the roach will not grow accustom to the stimulation and stop responding to it. Since this variety of insect can live for about two years, this breakthrough makes it into a reusable tool. We’re not sure what that tool will be used for, but perhaps the next plague of insects will be controlled by man, and not mother nature.

[Thanks Ferdinand via NBC News]


  1. jeremy says:

    no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no

  2. EKoelle says:

    Reminds me of this…

  3. Hirudinea says:

    I for one welcome our new insect overlords. I guess in a few years they’ll be putting these in humans, eh?

    • pablo says:

      They’ll probably start with conspiracy theorists ;)

    • Infidellic says:

      They already did back in the 50’s (I’m trying to find a video I’ve seen on this – particularly the final 6 paragraphs):


    • R says:

      We have been quite adept at controlling human movement through the motor cortex since at least the 1960’s. I refer to the work of Dr. Jose Delgado. He performed a vast amount of experiments on electrical stimulation of the brain to bulls, cats, monkeys and humans. He did it through a device known as a “stimoceiver.”

      If you search for “bull & cat tests by Dr Delgado in the 1960s” you can find some youtube clips of his experiments.

      He published a book in 1969 detailing many of his experiments titled “Physical Control of the Mind.”

  4. So, this is how to plant literal bugs or poison your enemy.

    It loos like the crazy tech from Japanese comics really is being developed.

  5. Andrew says:

    I am unsure what to say. I want one. But it would frighten me to have one. On one hand I would have no legitimate purpose for such a creature. On the other, connecting a bunch in network form could lead to some interesting choreographed cockroach dances. I wonder is this could be done with an atmega328p chip…

  6. Rob says:

    Am I weird for feeling a a little pity for the bug? And didn’t the first Men In Black teach us anything about respecting roaches?

    • MrX says:

      If you actually read the research article before posting you would have known that:

      “The cockroach was left to recuperate before experimentation could begin. High ethical standards were followed during the treatment of the insects [22]-[23].”

      See references 22 to 23 to know more about their ethics / code of conduct.

      (I’m not affiliated with them nor I belong to their University).

      • mj says:

        Ref 22 and 23 in the paper goes to decades old article on the topic of insect pain. They in no way describe what standards the current research followed. The fact that they write “High ethical standards were followed” is of no value if they can’t explain what standards they did follow.

      • Rob says:

        “High ethical standards” could be just as meaningful as hearing just about any retailer say “we’re taking those concerns very seriously.” I’m sure they are, but there’s no real working standard definition here.

      • escott says:

        NCSU’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee takes their job(s) seriously. Then again, to be honest, there are things you can do to a roach that they won’t let you do to mouse, let alone a horse. So, yeah, they’ve got some appropriate level of oversight. The same department (different faculty) has also implanted electronics in humans, and that’s a whole different ball of regulatory goodness.

    • me says:

      actually as far as i know there are no real rules for experiments on insects. if you want to find out how much fire roaches can resist nobody will stop you. if you start setting fire to mice or other non insects the ethical commission will set fire to your ass.

      ok but where can i get some of these giant roaches?

    • Tane says:

      Yeah, I’m really not sure that this is OK.

    • Rick says:

      The advancement of science should not be prevented by concerns about non-sentient clusters of neurons in a tiny biological machine.

    • sonick808 says:

      no, you are not weird for feeling bad for the roach. That is a normal reaction of anyone with a proper functioning sympathetic brain.

      This type of stuff is wrong and should be stopped immediately. If you want to control something, build it from scratch, don’t meddle with god’s work. Even if you have no religion, you should still know this is wrong.

  7. Bogdan says:

    Just wait till it gets to spiders, then it will be scary!

  8. Corrosion says:

    Stuff like this has been going on for years (minus the new controller)

    There are those who took cells from a rats brain and implanted it into a robot, this is all just the beginning..

    For those worried…. Wait until they try it on a human, we have already made brain interfaces, not its time to reverse the communication from the brain to computer…. to the computer into the brain.

  9. pantelis says:

    This gives a whole new meaning to ‘dead-bugging’ a chip…


    wah wah wah

  10. Matt says:

    “Although, we have relatively higher success rate to obtain individual right and left turns, the success rate of completing the S-shaped lap in two-directions was around 10%”

    So not quite there yet…

  11. Necromant says:

    Great, finally some nice instructions. Now I need to get a few of those roaches.

  12. theyikes says:

    I hate roaches with a passion and i have a REALLY deep dark side but even i think this is border line cruel!!! funny yeah but a wee bit cruel!

  13. Ham says:

    And all I can think about is the remote-controlled cockroach in The 5th Element, complete with a video and audio feed.

  14. APL says:

    “when we can just control the minds of cockroaches?”

    Cockroaches don’t have a ‘mind’. They simply respond to environmental stimuli.

    Just my opinion.

  15. perroloco says:

    Incoming… cockroach shield for arduino XD

  16. Mental2k says:

    Nice new take on dead bug construction.

  17. wretch says:

    How would they debug the controller? It’s attached to a large bug. Isn’t the normal first step of debugging is to remove the most obvious bug and, thus invalidate the experiment to begin with?


  18. Mojo says:

    I’m going to try this on a horse. Who’s with me?

  19. Tobias says:

    I am aware that this is but a small insect, wich some would call vermin.
    Still, this is absolutely wrong.
    Compared to human, its a simple creature and appears to be small.
    But wenn you look at the vast lifeless universe, it´s even more wonderful and how dare you!

  20. 0.zer0 says:

    From a diagram showing when they implant the insect, it’s best done at the early pupae stage for best connections and stability. Seems like the insect lives it’s life not knowing there’s an implant, it’s always been there…

    I’m sure this same approach will be used with humans if/when it reaches that level…

  21. Mengineer says:

    Mechanical Engineering magazine ran an article on researchers at a university (forget which one) doing the same experiment a few months. They said the goal was for hot spot/disaster first responders. Since the roaches can survive the radiation they can go in and take readings of the environment before sending humans in.

    • Bacchus says:

      So all they need is an instrumentation package that can survive radiation which is also light enough for the cockroach to carry.

      Is it me, or have HaD recruited a sicko to the editorial team? There have been a few ethically-challenged articles recently. Ethics should trump tech every time, and this example seems pretty indefensible.

  22. steve says:

    combine this with a mindflex and you have a super villain in the making

  23. Waffles says:

    Yet another entry that was worth it just for the comments.

  24. ferdinand says:

    tihs is scary and must stop or we go live in the matrix for real and the real world is compleet fucktup by humans that play god

  25. bean says:

    I’m surprised that no one has yet referenced project Acoustic Kitty!

    Declassified a few years back, the CIA was doing something similar with cats in the 60’s, obviously with larger gear. The original – but heavily redacted – documents are available online and worth a read for both their scientific and (dark) comedic value.

    Supposedly, the multi-million dollar project ended abruptly, during the first and only operation, when the cat was run over by a car outside of the Russian embassy.

  26. HalfNormal says:

    Funny how much passion this subject elicits. I did a survey on stem cell implantation on a message board dedicated to spinal cord injuries for a medical ethics class for nursing. Some of the people who would benefit from stem cells actually said that it was not to their beliefs and would not try it even if it could “reverse” their injury or “improve” their quality of life.
    These type of experiments is how we find out how to improve the quality of life for those who need it. Most people would be surprised at where the information came from that allows them to be treated in the medical community.

  27. Al says:

    How do you “Debug” this system.

  28. DainBramage1991 says:

    What I find interesting is that many of the same people that protest loudly at the merest suggestion that a cockroach might be harmed don’t even bat an eyelash at the thought of a human child being mercilessly ripped apart, sucked out of it’s mother’s body, and disposed of like yesterday’s leftovers.

    • matt says:

      fetus != child

      If your going to go that crazy on us, how about the millions of children you kill everytime you masturbate?

      • Facilitator says:

        Let’s also not forget the children in war-torn countries like Somalia, where the bodies are stacked as road blocks. But what could we do about that, if we helped there then we wouldn’t have an oil patrol in the Middle East.

      • Matias says:

        Actually, while (haploid) sperm cells aren’t definitively genetically human, (diploid) zygotes demonstrably are… All the DNA is there.
        Also, many things called a “fetus != child” are perfectly viable, if severely premature. Our technology for saving premature children improves every year.

  29. Galane says:

    First they start with cockroaches, before you know it they’re taking involuntary organ donations for the protein bank…

  30. Cyk says:

    This is really creepy.
    Looks like something that Dr. Frankenstein would do in his spare time.

    On the other hand: 50 years ago nearly everybody was convinced that we would all die in an atomic holocaust, and still we are alive.

  31. gamerpaddy says:

    In few years they doesnt sell RC planes, RC helicopters and cars anymore..
    they Sell RC birds, RC cockroaches and RC fishes
    and for that guy with much money RC elephants wtf

  32. TacticalNinja says:

    If they’ll use this to rescue trapped victims, I’d rather be trapped than to be looked for by cockroach that big.

  33. jeff says:

    Can’t wait for the aliens to land and start jamming metal probes into our skulls. That’ll teach us. My advice to these research ‘clowns’ is to grow up and start designing ultra-advanced robots which are entirely mechanical and stop behaving like little kids pulling the legs off spiders. Yes, I am an Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering double major. Our mandate is to be engineers, not conduct Nazi concentration-camp style science projects on defenseless creatures. Grow up people, and stop playing with yourselves.

    • Decimator says:

      It is a cockroach. Y’know, those things we have amusing commercials about how they check in but they don’t check out? If your sensibilities are offended by cyborg insects of all things, I suggest you have a look at the nerve agents we use on our crops.

    • edonovan says:

      And when these robots become self-aware, will it be unethical to experiment on them?

      Are insects self-aware?

      If a dead insect is powered externally, would these experiments be acceptable to you?

  34. nikpfirsig says:

    I recall several year ago an article describing how Japanese scientists were studying ways to remotely control cockroaches and beetles fitted with a small camera and light to be used for searching for survivors trapped in collapsed building after an earthquake.
    I have also heard that roached are relatively unaffected by radiation, so they may also be useful for inspecting reactor containment vessels.

  35. Frank Cohen says:

  36. Terry says:

    If Sonic the hedgehog taught me anything it is that only Dr Robotnik would dream up such mind-brain interfaces.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96,687 other followers