RoboRoach app encourages children to turn cockroaches into smartphone-controlled toys
The developers of a new electronic device that fits onto cockroaches, allowing their movements to be controlled by a mobile phone app, have been criticised for animal cruelty.
Critics said that it could encourage people to think of animals as “mere machines or tools” but Michigan-based Backyard Brains have defended RoboRoach.
The company says that its $99 (£62) device was designed to encourage children to take an interest in neuroscience.
Launched on Saturday, after raising $12,339 (£7,700) on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, RoboRoach electrifies the nerves in a cockroach’s antennae, making the insect think it has met an obstacle, a sensation that can be “manipulated to steer it”, says Backyard Brains.
Using a mobile phone app to control it, the cockroach effectively becomes a six-legged cyborg, allowing users to make it turn left or right. For up to 10 turns at least until the insect’s brain learns to ignore the stimuli. Although after 20 minutes or so it works again.