Cockroaches gunned down by AI-trained laser cannon is 21st century pest control

How do you get rid of a cockroach infestation?

If you answered insecticide, calling in the professionals or moving house – you’re wrong.

The correct response is, of course, that you build a high-powered laser system and train an artificial intelligence program attached to a camera to target them.

Then simply sit back and watch the fireworks.

We’re being overly simplistic here, but that’s pretty much what a bunch of scientists from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland did.

Designed by PhD student Ildar Rakhmatulin, the cockroach-killing system uses affordable, off-the-shelf equipment and detects the critters within 1.2 metres of accuracy.

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Cockroaches are a pest found all around the world and in the UK.

They’re famously resilient – for years people believed they could even survive a nuclear bomb. Rakhmatulin’s system was tested on them last year and findings have now been published in the journal Oriental Insects.

Household cockroaches can live in populations of millions. They can spoil food and appliances, but are also a serious health hazard – triggering allergic reactions and the development of asthma.

Existing methods of pest control for cockroaches have been ineffective, but Mr Rakhmatulin’s system relies on machine vision.

How does it work?

Two cameras send signals back to the computer which give the cockroach’s position.

When researchers used the laser on low power, they could change cockroach behaviour: emitting persistent heat from the laser causes the cockroaches to change position or direction. This means they can be deterred from dark hiding places.

Turning the heat up on the laser meant they could neutralise, or kill, the cockroaches from up to 1.2 m.

‘This laser system is selective and eco-friendly pest control method. It’s extremely promising,’ Mr Rakhmatulin said.

‘It’s a tuneable system, so it could be used to protect against mosquitos, to keep predatory hornets away from bees or parasites from valuable crops or stores.’

Despite the fact it was built with off-the-shelf parts, the advice is not to try and use this in your own home, if you’ve got a problem. Becuase, as we all know, lasers are dangerous.

‘This system is not suitable for household use,’ Mr Rakhmatulin said.

‘The laser used will cause blindness or serious damage to the eyes.

‘I’m sorry for people with cockroaches in their house, but this isn’t the solution for them.’

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