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Working RoboRoach Prototype Unveiled to Students of Grand Valley State University

We’ve been busy in the trenches of our R&D department designing a working prototype of the “RoboRoach,” a remote control system to enable left and right turning in running cockroaches. This began as a University of Michigan Senior Engineering Project we sponsored in Winter 2010, and over the past year we’ve incrementally been working to improve it, especially after getting great feedback from our colleagues at the latest Society for Neuroscience conference (thanks Cindy). By taking the small, lightweight control circuitry out of the toy “HEXBug Inchworm” and modifying it with low-power 555 timer chips to create biphasic pulses, we can deliver 55 Hz stimulation to the antennae nerves of large discoid and fuscia cockroaches.

We gave a seminar recently on Feb. 25th to the undergraduate students at Grand Valley State University (thanks for the invite John and Merritt!), and we publicly unveiled a working prototype! Samara Woolfolk andStewart Berkos were the first eager students to try it out, and they agreed it worked. We believe in crowd-based peer review of real-time experiments. Being in pure speaking mode, we didn’t take any pictures or videos of the event, but here is Samara and Stewart posing after lunch…

And below is a movie of a basement experiment… Are you convinced?

We plan to offer the RoboRoach as a beta product soon. Stay tuned! In the meantime, we need to do a couple more experiments to ensure:

1) the wires stay in the antenna (principal failure point).

2) the preparation works reliably (at present we only get evoked movement in ~25% of our preps (n=30)…we are working hard to figure out the causes).

Let us know if you have any suggestions/advice! To the NeuroRevolution!


29 Comments »

  1. That’s making the most of what you have laying around :-)

    Comment by NetlabLoligo — 2011-Mar-03 @ 23:28

  2. Amazing! Long live the NeuroRevolution!

    Comment by merritt — 2011-Mar-04 @ 00:41

  3. So convinced! Way better than the n=1/2 back at SFN. keep up the great work!!

    Comment by DanInSD — 2011-Mar-04 @ 15:04

  4. Very cool!

    Comment by Kip — 2011-Mar-04 @ 16:24

  5. [...] but it still squicks me out to think that we are capable of doing this bio-manipulation so easily. Backyard Brains, the company who made this “RoboRoach,” are planning on offering a kit. A mind-control [...]

    Pingback by Yikes, A RoboRoach Made By Grafting A Toy Bug To A Real Bug — 2011-Mar-04 @ 22:18

  6. [...] Working RoboRoach Prototype [...]

    Pingback by Remote controlled cockroach - machine quotidienne — 2011-Mar-04 @ 22:25

  7. [...] but it still squicks me out to think that we are capable of doing this bio-manipulation so easily. Backyard Brains, the company who made this “RoboRoach,” are planning on offering a kit. A mind-control [...]

    Pingback by Yikes, A RoboRoach Made By Grafting A Toy Bug To A Real Bug | GEAR SYNDRO.ME — 2011-Mar-06 @ 09:14

  8. [...] Working RoboRoach Prototype [...]

    Pingback by Follia Digitale » Remote controlled cockroach — 2011-Mar-06 @ 17:55

  9. [...] [More Info] [...]

    Pingback by RoboRoach Lets You Mind Control Cockroaches For Your Own Creepy Army — 2011-Mar-07 @ 15:22

  10. [...] latest effort combines cockroaches and electronics to create a bio-electrical hybrid known as the RoboRoach. Using control circuitry donated from a HexBug inchworm and some 555 timers to create properly [...]

    Pingback by Coming soon to a store near you: remote-control cockroaches - Hack a Day — 2011-Mar-08 @ 08:04

  11. Living creatures as toys? Not cool, even if they are insects.

    Comment by Andrew — 2011-Mar-08 @ 12:07

  12. [...] it only works on 25% of roaches. If you’re interested in finding out more, head over to Backyard Brains. Hit the break to watch RoboRoach in action: [...]

    Pingback by RoboRoach lets you control cockroaches | Gadgets Geekly — 2011-Mar-08 @ 14:45

  13. Great start and excellent work.

    Comment by Dilshan — 2011-Mar-09 @ 04:36

  14. I wonder if the same principle can be applied to humans? In particular my kids who only do what they are told about 25% of the time :)

    Comment by spacecowboy — 2011-Mar-10 @ 09:07

  15. [...] les dires de son cr��ateur, le tuto sera prochainement am��lior�� et rendu plus l��ger ! ��a va ��tre sympa l’espionnage [...]

    Pingback by Un cafard pilotable avec une t��l��commande — 2011-Mar-10 @ 10:32

  16. this “project” is pathetic.

    Comment by walt — 2011-Mar-10 @ 10:51

  17. [...] out their blog post at Backyard Brains for more [...]

    Pingback by Best Action Figures of 2009 - Strange Real Bug / Hexbug Hybrid — 2011-Mar-11 @ 11:50

  18. [...] [BackyardBrains via Treehugger] [...]

    Pingback by Video: DIY Cyborgify-Your-Own Cockroach Kit Lets You Steer Real Live Bugs Around | Mutual Cognizance — 2011-Mar-11 @ 20:08

  19. [...] [...]

    Pingback by Video: DIY Cyborgify-Your-Own Cockroach Kit Lets You Steer Real Live Bugs Around | Go Ring On — 2011-Mar-12 @ 12:07

  20. It looked like the cockroach did what he wanted, no remote control whatsoever? ^()

    Comment by Andy — 2011-Mar-15 @ 14:22

  21. [...] [...]

    Pingback by Cucaracha Cyborg, para los Salones de Clase | Robotikka — 2011-Mar-19 @ 03:15

  22. Maybe if you implant the electrodes into the optic lobe you could get better results with evoked movements? Also the “staying in the antenna” problem maybe solved by fixing the electrodes with dental acrylic or such…

    Comment by Adam Szabo — 2011-Mar-25 @ 06:22

  23. That’s just cruel.

    Comment by Jesse — 2011-Apr-01 @ 12:51

  24. This was the coolest thing I had ever experienced. And for it to be made for kids in science would be a big breakthrough! Keep up the great work guys!

    Comment by samara woolfolk — 2011-Jun-26 @ 14:08

  25. Hi
    we are german documentary film makers producing a documentary about human and future tecnics .
    We’d like to get in contact with you – and your really fascinating experiments.
    please write back:
    Roswitha Ziegler

    Comment by roswitha ziegler — 2011-Aug-29 @ 03:57

  26. No

    Comment by Give me idea for how and which ic are used in my project i.e " cockroach using remote control".....hury up. — 2012-Sep-15 @ 03:40

  27. it is fab project…..
    i want full detail of this circut and this all instrument…..,

    Comment by atul jadhv — 2012-Sep-16 @ 15:06

  28. if its possible, would i be able to get more specific or how tos. i want to recreate it. thanks

    Comment by Tyler — 2013-Jan-12 @ 20:12

  29. Interesting stuff. But as we dont know what type of emotions / feelings a roach has: Cruel shit!

    No doubt this will be on cats and dogs soon enough (probably has aleady) along with anything else what moves.

    Comment by Anonymous — 2013-Jun-12 @ 08:23

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