Pictured above is a little robot, only a few centimeters in any direction. It looks like a robot to us humans, and isn’t anything that would make us gag or stand up on a stool to avoid it as it scurries across the floor. But to cockroaches, the robot above, called the Insbot, is one of them. Hopefully.

The Insbot is the creation of the Leurre project, a collaboration between researchers in various universities in Belgium and France. The project aims to create artificial beings — robots, basically — which can interact with animals in a meaningful, social way. The researchers would ideally work with ants, which are highly social, but the current state of robotics doesn’t allow us to make robots small enough to interact with them. Cockroaches, on the other hand, are roughly the same size as what we can build, so Leurre has created the Insbot in hopes of interacting with the pests.

Per the Age (Australia), the Insbot is programmed to behave like a cockroach, and is outfitted with pheromones which further convince actual cockroaches that the box-shaped robot is one of their own.  In an interview with the Discovery Channel’s “One Step Beyond” (viewable here), Leurre’s Dr. Jose Halloy discusses the Insbot, explaining that it is programmed to identify cockroaches and, when one of the bugs gets near, to pause. Cockroaches are herding animals, and will naturally collect around the largest nearby group. So the Insbot, properly programmed, can gather up a large group of pests and lead them to traps or other pest-removal solutions.

More photos of the Insbot, including the one above, are available here.

Bonus fact: The American cockroach — the one the Insbot is designed to interact with — is the most common type of cockroach, and found throughout the Americas. But it is not endemic to the Western hemisphere; rather, it is originally from Africa.

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