Next month, Backyard Brains will begin selling the Bluetooth RoboRoach, the first cyborg to be commercially available to the general public. Priced at $99.99, the product is cheap and simple to use. After a “brief surgery,” users attach an electronic backpack to a cockroach and then use their smartphones to overstimulate the cockroach, making the insect move to the left or to the right.
Backyard Brains’ founders, Greg Gage and Tim Marzullo, began creating the cyborg after raising funds on KickStarter to start Backyard Brains in 2010. Although Greg and Tim began working on the project three years ago, the ideas for RoboRoach were planted in their minds years ago, when they conducted neurological experiments together as undergraduates at the University of Michigan. Greg’s family suffered from depression and neurological disorders, and neurology helped him understand his family’s medical problems. He thought creating a fun, commercially viable cyborg would increase the public’s interest in neurological issues.