The most complex and expensive way of killing cockroaches yet

Researchers from Brussels, in a research funded by the EU (for a sum of 3 million Euro), have developed a small robot that smells like a cockroach.

OK, that was an overly simplistic way of presenting it.

The kick in the mandibles comes from a Belgian-led team who spent three years developing a mini robot that can convince cockroaches to creep out of dark holes and gather in light places. The InsBot looks more like a pencil sharpener than a household pest, but it smells like a cockroach.

The InsBot has a cocktail of pheromones and molecules painted on its body, allowing it to infiltrate the cockroach community.

Imagine, working for three years just to develop something that smells like a cockroach. Wouldn’t it have been better instead to work on something that can take away the smell of one once you crush it? These bugs stink.

Cockroaches, it turns out, are very social creatures. No, really. Yes, yes, I know that staying put even after you yell at someone to get the heck out of your house is usually considered a very asocial behaviour. They’re not social with people. Just with other cockroaches. Go figure.

And if there’s something they think is another cockroach, like a mini-robot with the right smell, they’ll tend to get friendly and stick around. So if the robot slowly wanders around near them, and then goes and stand outside on the floor, a bunch of them are likely to congregate around it.

Yes, that sounds strange to me too. Because I’ve seen many cockroaches in my life, but it was always one on one[1].

But the researches say that cockroaches tend to stick together in group. And they spent three years of intense study, not nearly thirty years of sporadic encounters. So maybe they do know better than me.

Now you must be wondering what is so exciting about being able to get the cockroaches to stick around the robot. Does it shoot them? Electrocute them? Spreads poisonous bug-spray on them? No. That won’t be fun. It won’t be sporting. And it won’t allow them to release that disgusting smell of squashed cockroaches.

The plan, the 3 million Euro plan, is far simpler, and much more direct. It could draw them all out into the middle of the floor, where a person could squash them with a shoe. Or, if there are enough of them around, maybe jump around in a marry little dance crunching and stomping cockroaches under heel with every step. How fun.

Can you imagine the cost of the extra software and electronics needed to allow the timing to be right? Because this is not automatic. Automatic means you’ll have cockroach parties in the middle of the living room when you’re sleeping, or out at work.

So there will need to be some signalling mechanism, or some pre-set timer. Letting the robot know when is it the right time to draw the little cockroaches in so you could step on them.

I wonder if it will take another research just to come out with the fact that the cockroaches, while highly social, are not entirely insane. When a person comes stomping in, do you think they’ll stay and keep the little robot company? Hell, no! They’ll scatter around, leaving the poor stomper in no better position than had he[2] just spotted a lone cockroach randomly.

Plus, how is one expected to go around stomping cockroaches when smack down in the middle of them there’s a complex, and expensive, electronic device, in the form of our erstwhile robot? You put down your leg too hard, you’ll break the robot. Unless the robot is very tough, in which case you’ll break the leg. None of the two options seems appealing.

So, given all the problems that I can think of[3], why are they still doing it? Are cockroaches really such a big problem?

In a breakthrough for the battle against mankind’s most diehard enemy – the cockroach – European scientists have hoodwinked a group of them into congregating in a place where they can be stamped on easily.

Aha! Cockroaches are mankind’s most diehard enemy.

Our greatest, and toughest, enemies. And all the EU invests in fighting them is a measly 3 million Euro fund?! And a small group of researchers from just one university?! All this with no assistance by other world countries and superpowers?!

Shocking. Truly shocking.

Plus, while fighting such a dangerous, tough, vicious, insidious, and diehard enemy, they put in the research team a traitor who sympathizes with the enemy. Seriously:

But, for now, Deneubourg is not taking his eye off cockroaches which he describes as ‘no dirtier than flies’ and victims of a ‘bad press’.

Bad press. Would that be the same press calling them “mankind’s most diehard enemy”, I wonder?

He believes it will soon be possible to develop an ‘intelligent roach nest’ in which robots are positioned to tease the creepy-crawlies into human stamping range.

Brr. Am I the only one getting odd vibes from the Terminator movies, with the robots designed to look like humans and infiltrate into their camps in order to betray them to the machines to be killed?

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  1. Me and the cockroach, Mano a mano. Two begin, but only one comes out alive. And it’s not the cockroach, let me tell you.[back]
  2. Women don’t squish cockroaches, they yell “Ewwww!” loudly, and wait for a man to come and do it.[back]
  3. And I did it with no funding, and hardly any time invested in research. So they, with the time and funding, probably came out with more.[back]

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