Roboroach Now Shipping!

How much would you pay for your own cyborg insect? If $99 seems reasonable, you're in luck. Backyard Brains is now ready to accept your order for a Roboroach!

(RoboRoachc from Backyard Brains)

Our Roboroach is an innovative marriage of behavioral neuroscience and neural engineering. Cockroaches use the antennas on their head to navigate the world around them. When these antennas touch a wall, the cockroach turns away from the wall. The antenna of a cockroach contains neurons that are sensitive to touch and smell.

The backpack we invented communicates directly to the neurons via small electrical pulses. The cockroach undergoes a short surgery (under anesthesia) in which wires are placed inside the antenna. Once it recovers, a backpack is temporarily placed on its back.

Science fiction fans know that the idea for steerable insects derives from Sparrowhawk, a 1990 science fiction novel by Dr. Thomas A. Easton.

"There's the brain, the spinal chord, the motor centers. A cable, here, from the controller to the interface plug... wires from that to the brain." She explained how the controller, a computer, translated movements of the tiller or control yoke and the throttle and brake pedals into electrical signals and routed them as appropriate to the jets or the genimal's motor centers, triggering the genimal's own nervous system into commanding its muscles to serve the driver. All the necessary programming was built into the hardware...
(Read more about the Roachster)

I should also point out that Philip K. Dick anticipated the general idea of the fully steerable insect in 1964 in his novel Lies, Inc.. See the reference for the housefly monitor.

Here's the scene from The Fifth Element, the 1997 film with Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, and Milla Jovovich. It's a very impressive scene, given what has been developed only a few years later.

Backyard Brains has created a number of cool kits for your use, including "Microstimulation of Neurons and Muscles", "NeuroProsthetics", "Make Your Own Homnunculus", and "Comparing Speeds of Two Nerve Fiber Sizes". Go check them out.

Via Backyard Brains. Read the full story about the creation of cyborg insects at HI-MEMS: Cyborg Beetle Microsystem.

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