Russian engineers announced they have developed a realistic robotic cockroach that can crawl under low objects and into tight spaces just like the real deal. While it was inevitable that someone would eventually invent one, the real mystery here is its true purpose. What do an anonymous corporation and the Russian army want mechanical roaches for?
This is not a cyborg made by attaching a computer chip and receiver to a live cockroach like the ones developed recently at Texas A&M University. Researchers at Baltic Federal Immanuel Kant University in Kaliningrad designed an actual robot based on the South American Blaberus Giganteus cockroach and the Blaberus Craniifer — also known as the death’s head cockroach because of the skull-like pattern on its head.
The roach-bot is 4 inches long, skitters at a speed of 30 cm (12 inches) per second and can sense its environment to avoid obstacles. Its battery can hold a charge for 20 minutes and the roach-bot can carry a load of up to 10 grams (.35 ounces). That should make anything that falls on your kitchen floor fair game for the robot roach.
Except it’s not being built to find crumbs. The death’s head clone was ordered by an unnamed corporation that specified it must look and act exactly like a real roach. That proved tough, said head engineer Aleksey Belousov.
Berkeley University has been working on their cockroach for the past four years, but they didn’t have to make it look like an insect, so it’s faster than ours. But it can’t turn at speed and it doesn’t look like a real cockroach at all. We had to develop many things from scratch. For example there’s a company in Austria that produces gearing for legs, but a unit for one robot would have cost us near US$9,000 while our whole budget is US$22,500.
Also waiting for the robot roach are the Russian armed forces, which will receive the first prototypes as soon as the engineers apply camouflage colors.
Why do a secret Russian contractor and the Russian military want robots that look and act like real cockroaches? We’ll soon find out. It may be wise to invest in some bigger and thicker-soled shoes.