Watch this Nightmare Fuel Video of a Cyborg Roach Controlled by a Tiny Solar-Powered Backpack

cyborg roach experiment

Screenshot via npj Flexible Electronics.

Here’s some nightmare fuel for your Wednesday. Scientists have developed cyborg cockroaches controlled by tiny solar-powered backpacks, with the goal of turning them into a creepy-crawly search-and-rescue team or environmental monitors.

A new study published in the npj Flexible Electronics journal includes detailed descriptions of the different types of materials the team of scientists used in their experiments with “ultrathin film electronics” in a 3-D printed tiny “backpack” attached to the roaches’ thoraxes to receive remote control instructions and an “ultrasoft organic solar cell module” for power.

Diagram from the report is below:

diagram of cyborg cockroach

Image via npj Flexible Electronics

CNET covered the new study, declaring both the Madagascar hissing cockroaches used in the study and the cyborgs the scientists created as “weird but cool,” and summarized the way this all works:

The system, which is basically a cockroach backpack wired into the creature’s nervous system, has a power output about 50 times higher than previous devices and is built with an ultrathin and flexible solar cell that doesn’t hinder the roach’s movement. Pressing a button sends a shock to the backpack that tricks the roach into moving a certain direction.

Previous versions of a remote-controlled roach backpack had used a battery, which has the drawback of eventually running out of power. One major complication was the fact that roaches are, just like Friends‘ Phoebe Buffay, very bendy, and the scientists had to experiment with different varieties of thin electronic films so they could stick these solar cells and other electronics on the roaches and without hindering their movement.

After several trials, they ended up with a material that was “17 times thinner than a human hair” and would stay adhered to the roach for about a month.

The results are shown in the video below, in which the little bionic beastie gets a signal from the scientist’s control device to turn right.

To fully optimize the robo-roaches for search-and-rescue or environmental monitoring operations, the scientists’ next step would be to develop small cameras or other sensors to the “backpack” module.

Your friendly neighborhood Mediaite contributing editor is a Florida native. We have cockroach species here that are capable of flight, and we would strongly like to urge the scientific community to never, never ever seek to adapt this technology to such critters.

We believe Ian Malcolm would agree.

Watch the video above, via npj Flexible Electronics.

Have a tip we should know?

Filed Under:

Sarah Rumpf joined Mediaite in 2020 and is a Contributing Editor focusing on politics, law, and the media. A native Floridian, Sarah attended the University of Florida, graduating with a double major in Political Science and German, and earned her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the UF College of Law. Sarah's writing has been featured at National Review, The Daily Beast, Reason, Law & Crime, Independent Journal Review, Texas Monthly, The Capitolist, Breitbart Texas, Townhall, RedState, The Orlando Sentinel, and the Austin-American Statesman, and her political commentary has led to appearances on the BBC, MSNBC, NewsNation, Fox 35 Orlando, Fox 7 Austin, The Young Turks, The Dean Obeidallah Show, and other television, radio, and podcast programs across the globe.