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.

But it is the procedure that is required to implant the device into the cockroach that has upset some scientists.

According to Backyard Brains, the cockroach has to first be placed in ice-cold water in order to “anaesthetise” it, then some of the wax on its back is sanded off. The electrode connector is then glued into place and a needle is used to make a small hole in the thorax in order to insert a wire. Its antennae is then cut and electrodes inserted.

The Roboroach device costs $99 Should people control animals using smartphone apps?

Michael Allen Fox, professor of philosophy at Queen’s University, told the journal Science, it “encourage(s) amateurs to operate invasively on living organisms” and encouraged people to think of the insects as “mere machines or tools”.

 Animal behaviour scientist Jonathan Balcombe, quoted on US scientific websites, said: “If it was discovered that a teacher was having students use magnifying glasses to burn ants and then look at their tissue, how would people react?”

But a spokesperson for Backyard Brains told BBC News: “At the moment this crucially important subject is woefully under-taught,” she said, “with many schools teaching neuroscience within the biology syllabus when it should be a subject in its own right.

“That is especially the case when diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer's take a heavier toll within society.”

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Agile Tester

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

    Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

    SAP BW BO

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

    Recruitment Resourcer

    £18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Recruitment Resour...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on