For $100 (and with a little bit of surgery), you can get the RoboRoach to control a cockroach’s brain patterns to make it move via smartphone app. It’s a new way to teach kids about neuroscience.


It can be hard to keep kids engaged in science class with yet another teacher-approved experiment. Heck, even dissecting frogs can get old.

What about a little live brain surgery to create your own mind-controlled cockroach? That’s the product the folks at neurological education and outreach company Backyard Brains are peddling with the RoboRoach. After years of taking apart remote control toys and affixing them to what many people would consider common house pests, RoboRoach has evolved into a $100 system that lets people control their very own bug via the Bluetooth on their smartphone.

After gaining recognition for their DIY biology efforts, the company is finally making a play to bring their first product to market with this Kickstarter campaign, which launced Monday. Using electrode technology, RoboRoach actually works with a cockroach’s brain patterns to send small signals to control its movements.

Normally, a cockroach uses its antennae to sense its orientation in a particular setting and navigate where it wants to go. The RoboRoach needs to be installed into a subject via a brief session of cockroach brain surgery, where kids can anesthetize the cockroach in an ice bath and install electrodes in the bug’s brain. The device sends light electronic pulses to make the cockroach perceive that it has hit an immovable barrier, forcing it to turn around and move in another direction.

The 4.4 gram “backpack” on the cockroach communicates through Bluetooth transmissions from a cellphone. The RoboRoach app has hotkeys to keep the user in control of the cockroach’s direction as he scurries down the hall or across a classroom table.

But all of this control of a creepy crawly critter is in the name of educating children on neuroscience and neurotechnology in a practical and hands-on way, according to the founders. Through watching a little bug get his mind zapped, kids can learn aspects of behavioral stimulation, memory and other wild and crazy things our brains do to keep hold of environmental perception. Oh, and when it’s all said and done, don’t worry — once it’s over, your beady-eyed little cockroach minion can go back to hanging out in your home, no harm no foul.

With about a month left in its fundraising campaign, Backyard Brains is looking to raise $10,000 for two more prototypes before they release RoboRoach to the masses. Then, let the cockroach mind-control uprising begin!

  1. Farden Rapgrit Monday, June 10, 2013


  2. The people involved with this are sick disgusting people. Living creatures are not play toys.

    1. Kiril Stoimenov Tuesday, June 11, 2013

      Are you a vegetarian?

  3. Interesting project. I am curious does this procedure affect the cockroach’s ability to use their antenna after the fact?

  4. Compassion for all living creatures , big or small, should be a way of life if we want our children to grown up to being compassionate people themselves.

  5. When will they introduce chip I can insert to my kid’s brains and control them. That’d be much cooler!

  6. This is cruel. Did the cockroach give its consent to being mutilated for the enjoyment of children.

    1. sergio fillinthisgap Monday, August 5, 2013

      That doesn’t stop kids from messing with insects for free. This way it at least costs them $100 before they start pulling bits off it. It might lead to fewer cockroaches being mutilated for nothing. Poor little pet cockies :(

  7. That’s beautiful, but the moral issue comes from the question of how conscious the cockroach is.

    Roaches are very good at remembering, so every time it is pulled out of its habitat with the thing attached it could have a very surreal experience of constantly bumping into “invisible” walls.

    Though the bugs probably think they’re going through a new place.

    Question is can a robo-roach pass a Turing test to other roaches?

  8. Guy Brohski Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    Talk about controlling your roach problem. BOOM!

  9. Fascinating process. I am interested achieves it process affect your daily cockroach’s authority for you to handle their own antenna after the truth.

    remote control toys


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