After an earthquake or other disaster, accurately and quickly locating people trapped in rubble can save lives. While specially trained dogs have been invaluable to locate trapped people in many situations, small cockroaches can go places a dog can’t.
Researchers are getting closer to being able to accomplish this. A cockroach can be fitted with a GPS locator beacon, plus a tiny microphone allowing the searcher to hear cries for help. A tiny camera can also be attached. Cockroaches are steered remotely by an electric pulse transmitted to their antennae. This is surprisingly effective—the pulse fools cockroaches into “thinking” they have hit an obstacle, allowing a handler to steer them in the direction he wants them to go.
Specially fitted and controlled cockroaches and other creatures are called “biobots”, short for “biological robots,” and they may someday soon be frequently used to help save lives.