These roaches will hopefully not inherit the Earth.
Worried about cyber-bugs taking over the planet? An inventor behind the headline-grabbing cyborg cockroaches unveiled earlier this month say the enhanced insects are there to do good.
In a new interview with Reuters, Kenjiro Fukuda of the Riken research institute's Thin-Film Device Laboratory explained the use cases he and his team are dreaming up for their remote-controlled Madagascar hissing cockroaches — and, fortunately, they don't sound sinister at all.
Specifically, Fukuda et al envision the cyborg roaches helping in search-and-rescue missions during natural disasters. The little buggies can fit into places humans are far too large for, and he says their endurance will be better as well.
"The batteries inside small robots run out quickly, so the time for exploration becomes shorter," Fukuda told Reuters. "A key benefit [of a cyborg insect] is that when it comes to an insect's movements, the insect is causing itself to move, so the electricity required is nowhere near as much."
The way these little guys work is pretty ingenious. Outfitted with solar cell-powered backpacks, these large cockroaches — chosen for their size and lack of wings — get their nerve-like appendages known as cerci stimulated by the packs, which in turn signals to them which direction to move depending on what operators dictate.
The tech still has a ways to go — in one demonstration, a cockroach turned left when the researchers signaled for it to do so remotely, but went in circles when it was supposed to go right. But it's still a remarkable feat of science.
And while there are indeed many ways that human minds can figure out how to use practically any technology for evil, the explicitly heroic purpose Fukuda and his team have in mind for the these funny little cyborgs is reassuring.
READ MORE: Meet Japan's cyborg cockroach, coming to disaster area near you [Reuters]
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