Now you can kill cockroaches elegantly thanks to a recent development by Heriot-Watt University researcher Ildar Rakhmatulin, reports Vice.

A study conducted last year was published just a week ago. A scientist used a laser insect control device automated with machine vision to conduct a series of experiments on domestic cockroaches. It was able not only to detect cockroaches with high accuracy but also to neutralize them, as well as scare away individual insects at a distance of up to 1.2 meters.

This was somewhat of a continuation of previous projects that used Raspberry Pi and lasers to kill mosquitoes. However, for this project, Rakhmatulin used a different type of computer, which made it possible to detect insects more accurately.

“I started using a Jetson Nano that allowed me to use deep learning technologies with higher accuracy to detect an object,” Rakhmatulin explained.

Jetson Nano is a small computer that can run machine learning algorithms. The computer processes the digital signal from the two cameras to determine the location of the cockroach. It transmits this information to a galvanometer (a device for measuring electric current), which changes the direction of the laser to hit the target.

Rakhmatulin tried this configuration at different laser power levels: at a low level, he was able to influence the cockroaches’ behavior by causing them to react with the laser. So they can potentially be taught not to hide in a certain dark zone. At the highest power level, cockroaches were killed.

The developer has also put all the data and instructions into a free access, noting that others can try if they take the proper precautions.

“I use very cheap hardware and cheap technology and it’s open source,” Rakhmatulin said. “All sources are uploaded in my GitHub and see how to do it and use it.”

The developer noted that the project has already begun to be tested on other harmful insects, such as hornets.

“If it can damage cockroaches, it can also damage other pests in agriculture,” he says.

In addition to the open nature of the project, the possibility of wide application of this technology deserves attention: it can become an alternative to mechanical traps and chemicals that harm the environment and target harmless insect species. And all this despite the fact that all components together cost no more than $250, which is relatively affordable, and the model itself is more compact than other modern pest control technologies.

All that said, while the prototype is suitable for academic research, there is still a lot to do before it can be deployed on a wider scale. A smaller laser point would be more effective in killing cockroaches, but it is difficult to implement experimentally. It would also be useful to be able to control exactly which parts of the cockroaches’ bodies will be affected.