New 'cyborg roach' controlled by smartphone app

By Kristen Butler,  |  June 11, 2013 at 4:46 PM
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University of Michigan grads Greg Gage and Tim Marzullo have created RoboRoach, a kit that lets you control a living cyborg cockroach with just your smartphone.

The pair came up with the cyborg roach idea to get students interested in neuroscience and neurotechnology using commercially available electronics, and launched their Backyard Brains startup.

The $100 RoboRoach kit comes with everything a kid -- or adult -- needs to perform cockroach brain surgery. Users can anesthetize the cockroach in an ice bath and attach wires to the bug's antennae and install electrodes in its brain.

The 4.4 gram "backpack" on the upgraded cyborg roach communicates through your smartphone's Bluetooth to take instructions through the RoboRoach app.

Currently, Backyard Brains is raising money through a Kickstarter campaign to develop more fine-tuned prototypes.

The RoboRoach project was also presented this week at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, where it inspired controversy over ethical treatment of the cockroaches, though RoboRoach creators say the stimulation doesn’t shock or harm the cockroach.

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