Mind control is a staple of sci-fi films such as X-Men, but a Chinese student has now made the technology a reality.
Using just his thoughts, he is shown in a video controlling the movement of the cyborg insect, fitted with electrodes and a chip, by wearing an electroencephalography (EEG) headset.
After guiding the robo-roach around an S-shaped bend, he uses his brain patterns to negotiate a zig-zag path accurately.
But despite his amazing mind-control feat, Li Guangye, a postgraduate student at China's Shanghai Jiaotong University (SJTU) only won second place in the 2015 IEEE RAS students' video contest.
His innovation was pipped to the post by Osman Doğan Yirmibeşoğlu from Özyeğin University in Istanbul, Turkey, whose video, entitled ‘Robots are on our side’ shows them writing in lights and playing rock, paper, scissors among other actions.
Third place went to a researcher behind a robot than can make pizzas by copying a human.
It is not the first time that cockroaches wearing electronic ‘backpacks’ have been controlled by humans, but it is the first time they have been controlled directly by the human mind.
Mr Guangye implanted live microelectrodes to stimulate nerves in the insect’s antennae.
These electrodes are linked to a remote control or central computer via a wireless network.
Brainwaves, read by the EEG headset, are transmitted to the controller.
The headset decodes the directional intention of the wearer from eye movements, for example, and sends this to the electronic ‘backpack’ receiver on the back of the roach, so that it can be steered in the right direction.
The ‘backpacks’ control the robo-roach's movements because they are wired to the insect’s cerci - sensory organs cockroaches usually use to feel if their abdomens are brushing against something.
By electrically stimulating the cerci, cockroaches can be prompted to move in a certain direction.
The new development has been hailed as a sensation in allowing human beings to beam their thoughts to animals in order to control them, but animal rights charities are likely to be unimpressed with the breakthrough.
The researchers claim the project has extended existing brain-computer interface technology and attempts brain-to-brain communication.
In the future, the cockroaches could be used for reconnaissance missions and the next step is to control an ‘army’ of cockroaches at once.
Electrical engineers at North Carolina State University also believe cyborg cockroaches could be used to survey areas and sent to disaster zones to seek out humans trapped under rubble.
They too have used backpacks to control cockroaches - using a remote control rather than the mind - but their backpacks are also equipped with an array of three directional microphones to detect the direction of the sound and steer the biobot in the right direction towards it.
Another type is fitted with a single microphone to capture sound from any direction, which can be wirelessly transmitted - perhaps in the future to emergency workers.
They ‘worked well’ in lab tests and the experts have developed technology that can be used as an ‘invisible fence’ to keep the biobots in a certain area such as a disaster area.