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Want to control cockroaches with your iPhone? There’s a Kickstarter for that

No matter who you are or what you believe, I think we can all agree on one simple fact: cockroaches are the scourge of humanity. They’re hideous; they transport infectious diseases; and they’re nearly impossible to kill. For centuries these foul insects have tormented us, but thanks to a recently-successful Kickstarter campaign we’ll soon have a way to torment them back.

We’re not talking about poisonous powders or boot heels; this is a much more sinister and humiliating punishment. Backyard Brains has developed a tiny module that allows you to take control of a roach’s neural impulses, transforming it into your own personal cyborg slave. Perhaps once word of this invention spreads through the ranks and reaches cockroach HQ, they’ll finally be too afraid to bother us ever again.

All joking aside, this device (called RoboRoach) is pretty cool, and and has more potential uses than just cockroach slavery. It works by attaching to the roach’s antennae – the main sensory input channel the insect uses for navigation – and pumping a small electric current into the neurons inside them. This tricks the bug’s brain into thinking there’s a wall nearby, which compels it to turn in the opposite direction. Check out the video below – you’ll be surprised by how effective this is.

The best part is that the RoboRoach module also includes a Bluetooth receiver, so you can control the roach with your smartphone. Using the accompanying app, you can adjust the strength and frequency of the electrical signals being fired into the bug’s neurons, which changes the way the animal reacts.

Admittedly, when we first came across this gizmo our dastardly little brains ran wild thinking of all the fantastic pranks that this technology could be used for, but its developers have a much more educational use in mind. Toward the bottom of their crowdfunding pitch, Backyard Brains emphasizes the fact that RoboRoach uses ‘microstimulation,’ which just so happens to be the same neurotechnology we use to treat Parkinson’s Disease. Ostensibly, if we were to expose younger generations to this technology in simplified form (ie, cyborg cockroaches), it could help them learn about how biological hardware interfaces work without needing years of school. 

So this thing helps teach kids the basic principles of neurostimulation and it lets us torment cockroaches? Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

Find out more on Kickstarter