back to article Japanese boffins build solar-powered, remote-controlled cyborg cockroach

A research breakthrough in Japan could mean future search and rescue missions are conducted using cyborg cockroaches. What's more, an ultra-thin solar film is the real star of this show.  The techno-leap that made "Robobug" possible was developed by the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research (CPR), which said it outfitted a …

  1. First Light

    "Electronics that can be integrated with organisms"

    This story is repulsive and not just because it involves cockroaches. The idea of taking over organisms and directing them to act against instinct is hideous. Why not create a true robot instead of violating the rights of an actual living organism? Too expensive? The Riken press release notes that "for the use of cyborg insects to be practical, handlers must be able to control them remotely for long periods of time."

    Cockroaches are extremely primitive, but I suspect as the science improves they will test it on more complex beings. Soon they'll be making dogs snuggle up to cats, and other unnatural and crazy things.

    Icon because you can keep off my lawn, and away from my cockroaches.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      While you raise a fine ethical concern, it's a roach, and the idea of it's self agency is more of an abstract concept then a concrete manifestation.

      The more glaring point you gloss over is how all of these "Roach pilot" systems currently work. This isn't an advanced neural interface, that controller pack isn't making it move because every joint is being delicately puppeteered. The "control" system is purely based on triggering an aversion response.

      To put a finer point on it, it's based on roach torture.

      People treat this like it's a cute toy, to the point they have released kits for grade schoolers to do this in science class. I have and will continue to dispatch those vile little suckers by fairly brutal means, with the caveat that while they may die violently, they will at least do so quickly.

      My problem with is is also as much about what doing that to a living thing does to US psychologically as it is about the suffering of the roach. The school that teaches this kind of dehumanizing lesson is preparing its students for a world where they will either face the cattle prod, or wield it themselves.

      1. ChoHag Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Ethics

        There are no ethical concerns. It's a cockroach. Jesus Wept.

        We can care about the suffering of cockroaches when god's precious mosquitoes stop giving babies malaria.

        1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

          Re: Ethics

          There are no ethical concerns.

          What a load of manure! Of course, there are -and better be- ethical concerns. After all, it's a living being being used, maybe abused, for the pleasure of scientists. Now, with the electric stimulation of the cockroaches, it may very well be for the pleasure of the roaches, too. But that is beyong the point; we simply have to make sure that any possible suffering of the roaches is justified by the possible outcome and goal of the experiment - which I doubt in this case. I mean, rescueing people from a collapsed building, seriously?!

          However, if, for example, we could make a swarm of roaches prepare me a cuppa in the morning an bring it to the bedside, that'd be quite something...

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Ethics

          "There are no ethical concerns. It's a cockroach. Jesus Wept."

          And what about if it was a slightly more cuddly creature? A mouse is ok? A puppy or kitten? A chimp? A human? Where do YOU draw the line?

          1. ChoHag Silver badge

            Re: Ethics

            After reading some of these comments, a little higher than I did before.

        3. Plest Silver badge

          Re: Ethics

          ( With respect to the original poem. )

          They came for the dead spiders...I said nothing.

          They came for the roaches...I said nothing.

          They came for the mice...I said nothing.

          They came for the cats...I said nothing.

          Then they came for me....

          1. Zolko Silver badge

            Re: Ethics

            Or as the EU people say (Jean-Claude Junkers I think):

            "We put proposals in the wild, if no-one complains we do it, and then continue, until it's too late to turn back "

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ethics

        to the point they have released kits for grade schoolers to do this in science class. I have and will continue to dispatch those vile little suckers by fairly brutal means, with the caveat that while they may die violently, they will at least do so quickly.

        Look, I know grade schoolers can be a bit annoying at times, but that seems a little harsh if you don't mind me saying so...


  2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Too Many (Electronic) Bugs

    The surveillance kings are gonna deploy the next generation of these stealthy little these things to pick up "targeted" audio data, and perhaps even video.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too Many (Electronic) Bugs

        That just means it's the cute ones you need to watch out for. Ladybugs and Butterflies probably get the swatter and Doc Marten treatment far less than roaches and spiders.

  3. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

    "For example, according to Reuters, a recent demonstration of the technology had the roach turning left on command, but when told to turn right it simply spun in circles. "

    Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do.

    I'm with other people, this is torturing an insect and should not be done. Build a robot, not a cyborg. This is no different than carneys charging you to watch a dancing chicken. The claim is the chicken dances for money, the reality is the money turns on a hotplate under the chicken. You're actually paying money to torture a live animal by burning its feet, not watch it dance.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      What evidence is there that cockroaches can feel pain? There is an awful lot of anthropomorphism going on here.Just wait till people find out about electric fences for livestock.

      1. DonL

        "What evidence is there that cockroaches can feel pain?"

        The fact that it turns when a current is applied is strong evidence in itself.

        It's like cutting out your vocal cords, then applying electric currents to your body and then laugh because you start jumping around. Since you can't scream anymore there is no evidence that you're feeling any pain, so there is no harm done right?

        Normal people call that torture, but I imagine you would need to experience it yourself to be able to conclusively determine that you still feel actual pain even when you're incapable of clearly expressing it?

      2. Tom 7

        Is it the old fishermens argument - fish cant feel pain bollocks. If you hook a fisherman and drag him around underwater you cant hear him scream so he cant be in pain.

        So why the fuck is he thrashing around like a mad thing.

        As for electric fences animals learn very quickly not to touch it, its not a 24/7 thing and despite what vegans say ethically farmed animals tend to have pretty charmed lives compared to living in the wild.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The real problem is at $35 per roach it's going to cost bazillions to take over the world


      Anyone else feeling itchy?

      1. Tom 7

        I'm guessing that putting PV on fish isnt such a good idee!

  4. Spherical Cow Silver badge


    Have they considered putting dark sunglasses on the cockroaches?

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Sunlight

      Yes, and the cockroaches did indeed stay in the light. But the problem just shifted as then they've been quickly picked by birds.

    2. Mike 125

      Re: Sunlight

      So wait- you think the first ever Madagascar hissing-solar-cy-cock-borg-roach isn't cool enough already??

      Tough crowd.

  5. Tubz Silver badge

    Ancient Research

    Isn't this rather old research, Amazon mastered this, controlling warehouse staff for years by AI, telling them where to go, what to pick, when they can use the loo and cheaper than keeping cockroaches in a terrarium.

  6. batt-geek

    anyone reminded of the film "the fifth element" where the president is spied on by a camera/microphone wielding cockroach ??

    1. Zolko Silver badge

      5th element

      Ah yes ... so we'll have those flying cars at last ? Much more interesting than these cyborg cockroaches.

  7. x 7

    Killer bees

    So who will be the first to remotely control swarms of Africanised killer bees?

    Would make a good anti-personnel battlefield weapon.

  8. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    What is a mystery...

    Is how it is possible for Kenjiro Fukuda to share his cockroach research with the world at large.

  9. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge


    frikkin lasers come later yes?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: umm

      Have you seen the tiny size of current laser emitters? CD and DVD players are years old tech now and there lasers were small enough to attach to larger insects. The power source might be a bit trickier though.

    2. innominatus

      Re: umm

      or a small explosive charge? already been thought about for drones

  10. Claverhouse Silver badge

    Scientists who torture creatures are scum.

    1. Tom 7

      I take it you dont travel fast enough to harm insects or birds?

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