Back in 2009, I reported on the flesh-eating robots. The headlines at the time were all a-buzz with something that seemed straight out of Hollywood. Something that could mindlessly process human beings and then serve us up as soylent green if it so desired. I reassured the quaking readers that Ecobot was designed for vegetal flesh. Or so said damage control after Fox spread the news about the latest flesh-eating robot project.
We all quickly returned to our normally complacent lives, secure in the knowledge that this new tech would never be used against us. But not so fast. What about this interesting gizmo developed back in 2008: http://www.sciencegallery.com/robotsSG? I wouldn’t exactly call these things robots, though. They seem like regular ol’ appliances.
The guy’s absolutely right, the robot of our imagination is probably never going to exist. Oh there will be toys and sex dolls, surely. But we don’t really need autonomous, thinking things walking around and mucking up the environment. We already have humans for that.
I think, though, a robot is more than what they’ve got there. Artificial intelligence alone doesn’t make a robot. IMHO. Without motility, a robot is just a smart machine. In this case, a smart garbage disposal.
Don’t you just love the line about how these contraptions were designed for entertainment as well as utility? The mousetrap table. I really must get one of these before I throw my next cocktail party.
Back to Ecobot. They’re up to Ecobot III (pictured above) now at Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK. Check out their video of Eco in action.
Without the liner notes, I can’t tell what’s happening. I see the lines filling with, or dispensing, liquid. And Eco moves along his track, but that’s about it. I need the description below the video to know what’s going on.
I’m not sure I’d call this a robot anymore than I’d call the coffee table mousetrap a robot. It has motility. Sort of. It doesn’t seem very autonomous. And scary it isn’t. The important thing here is, that one day they will have a contraption that uses garbage to fuel itself in a self-sustaining way.
Back when they were still working on Ecobot II, they coined the term “artificial symbiosis” because they included an “onboard microbial” system that did the digesting, just like in real symbiosis between human guts and the e-coli living there. That’s a pretty cool idea right there. Not sure we need motility to take advantage of that. That’s the old compost pile model. Works pretty well. Been working pretty well since life was first invented. I guess the difference now is that we’re going to have this little “symbot” in our closet, ready for the coffee grounds. And the Arm & Hammer of course, otherwise the processing will stink up the joint.
Even though it turns out Ecobot IS consuming animal remains, I’m still not worried. Until you have a quick-moving, quick-thinking robot able to cruise the landscape picking and choosing what it’s going to consume, we have nothing to fear. But when the day comes when you’ve got walking, talking, and loafing flesh-eating robots, can the Terminator be far behind?
Thanks for reading. Hey, if you’ve got any leads on weird science, mention them below or contact me through the form. I’ll check ‘em out.
Sue Lange’s latest ebook, Tritcheon Hash, is full of lapses of logic and weird science. “It’s a wild, good read.” Get your copy from Amazon or read a couple of free chapters at the publisher’s website.