Scientists suggest cockroaches could one day help recover missing people after natural disasters.

Autoroaches, Roll Out

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have unleashed an army of remote-controlled cyborg cockroaches to swarm a target in a sandy test area.

The motivation behind the creepy-crawling offensive was to see whether such a swarm could eventually be deployed by a larger robot to take sensor readings, hunt down specific objects, or even recover humans trapped in rubble, New Scientist reports.

In a series of experiments, as detailed in a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed paper, researchers equipped Madagascar hissing cockroaches with "backpacks," allowing them to remotely control the creatures via a central computer. These backpacks relayed commands, which were issued via electrodes on each side of the cockroaches' sensory organs, telling them which direction to go.

The scientists found that they were able to control a swarm of 20 cyborg roaches, making them travel as if they were a single insect infantry unit across a sandy hill — a slightly terrifying vision of what search-and-rescue missions could one day look like.

Crab Mode

During the experiments, the central computer's software assigned a number of the cockroaches as leaders that the others followed.

While the roaches were nudged towards either the left or right, they still could find their usual ways around obstacles, New Scientist reports. In some instances, they even helped comrades who had rolled onto their backs, flipping them back onto their six feet.

The researchers suggest that such a swarm could aid during search-and-rescue missions following natural disasters or take environmental readings across larger areas. A central robot could provide a way for them to recharge their backpacks, as well as providing food and water.

The team is already looking to take things up a notch by turning rainbow crabs into cyborgs as well.

"The crab can help the cockroaches," team lead and Nanyang Technological University mechanical engineering professor Hirotaka Sato told New Scientist. "We are working on such kinds of things, but it takes time."

More on cyborg insects: Inventor of Cyborg Cockroach Says It Will Only Be Used for Good

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