A wise bard once said: "You're afraid of bugs? Get a bug." Now thanks to a Kickstarter program from Backyard Brains, the mad neuroscientists that brought you a Twitter-manipulated cockroach last year, you may be able to control that bug's mind. Their latest "educational" experiment is called RoboRoach — an electric nerve-controlling mechanism that allows you to steer roaches around your kitchen floor with an iPhone. From its Kickstarter page, launched this morning:
"When you send the command from your mobile phone, the backpack sends pulses to the antenna, which causes the neurons to fire, which causes the roach to think there is a wall on one side. The result? The roach turns! Microstimulation is the same neurotechnology that is used to treat Parkinson’s Disease and is also used in Cochlear Implants."
The 15-minute clip below shows all the gory details of the surgical procedure, including the insertion of ground wire into the thorax and tips on how to implant electrodes in the antennae. A $100 donation will get you a DIY kit, but for $50 more they'll throw in a dozen invertebrate friends to get you started.
Warning: This video is not for the squeamish.
Liz Fields is an Australian freelance journalist based in New York who has previously scribbled for Slate, ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald and more. Follow her on Twitter @lianzifields