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Robotics Science Technology

Robot Eats Flies to Generate Power 410

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the carnivorous-automotons dept.
ms47 writes "Interesting little story over at MSNBC today about 'robots that can be sent into dangerous or inhospitable areas to carry our remote industrial or military monitoring of, say, temperature or toxic gas concentrations.' The neat part is it's powered by 'catching flies and digesting them in special fuel cells.'"
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Robot Eats Flies to Generate Power

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:08PM (#10195714)
    "Robot Eats Files to Generate Power" and thought that's not such a great idea.
    • by Gentlewhisper (759800) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:14PM (#10195767)
      OMG! In the future when our world population is exploding would this headline change to "Robot Eats humans to Generate Power"?

      Or even how about "Robot Eats fat humans to Generate Power"?

      Damned, /. should tie up with some gym to get discount prices for its viewers!!!
      • how about "Robot Eats fat humans to Generate Power"?

        Stop being so anti-american [bbc.co.uk] YOU TERORIST!!!

      • by davesag (140186) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @01:38AM (#10198160) Homepage
        i mean what part of "thou shalt not build flesh eating robots" don't these people understand. It's a pretty basic lesson to learn you'd think, but no.... has sci-fi taught these people nothing!
    • by shigelojoe (590080) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:17PM (#10195796)
      So now your *robotic* dog can eat your homework too!
    • by FuzzyBad-Mofo (184327) <(fuzzybad) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:39PM (#10195961)
      There was a little robot who swallowed a fly.
      I don't know why she swallowed a fly.
      I guess she'll fry.

      There was a little robot who swallowed a spider
      That wiggled and jiggled and tickled insider her.
      She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
      I don't know why she swallowed a fly.
      I guess she'll fry.

      There was a little robot who swallowed a bird.
      How absurd! To swallow a bird!
      She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
      That wiggled and jiggled and tickled insider her.
      She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
      I don't know why she swallowed a fly.
      I guess she'll fry.

      There was a little robot who swallowed a cat.
      Imagine that! She swallowed a cat.
      She swallowed the cat to catch the bird.
      She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
      That wiggled and jiggled and tickled insider her.
      She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
      I don't know why she swallowed a fly.
      I guess she'll fry.

      There was a little robot who swallowed a cat.
      Imagine that! She swallowed a cat.
      She swallowed the cat to catch the bird.
      She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
      That wiggled and jiggled and tickled insider her.
      She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
      I don't know why she swallowed a fly.
      I guess she'll fry.

      There was a little robot who swallowed a dog.
      What a hog! She swallowed a dog.
      She swallowed the dog to catch the cat.
      She swallowed the cat to catch the bird.
      She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
      That wiggled and jiggled and tickled insider her.
      She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
      I don't know why she swallowed a fly.
      I guess she'll fry.

      There was a little robot who swallowed a goat.
      She opened her throat and in walked a goat.
      She swallowed the goat to catch the dog.
      She swallowed the dog to catch the cat.
      She swallowed the cat to catch the bird.
      She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
      That wiggled and jiggled and tickled insider her.
      She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
      I don't know why she swallowed a fly.
      I guess she'll fry.

      There was a little robot who swallowed a cow.
      I don't know how she swallowed that cow.
      She swallowed the cow to catch the goat.
      She swallowed the goat to catch the dog.
      She swallowed the dog to catch the cat.
      She swallowed the cat to catch the bird.
      She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
      That wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her.
      She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
      I don't know why she swallowed a fly.
      I guess she'll fry.

      There was a little robot, she swallowed a horse.
      She fried, of course.

      (whew)
      Why does the lameness filter care how many characters per line a post contains? Your comment violated the "postercomment" compression filter. Try less whitespace and/or less repetition. Comment aborted. Why does the lameness filter care how many characters per line a post contains? Why does the lameness filter care how many characters per line a post contains? Your comment violated the "postercomment" compression filter. Try less whitespace and/or less repetition. Comment aborted. Why does the lameness filter care how many characters per line a post contains? Why does the lameness filter care how many characters per line a post contains? Why does the lameness filter care how many characters per line a post contains? Why does the lameness filter care how many characters per line a post contains? Why does the lameness filter care how many characters per line a post contains?
    • by Zork the Almighty (599344) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @08:38PM (#10196443) Journal
      I was thinking, "this robot would be great for Enron or something."
  • Attractive? (Score:5, Funny)

    by romper (47937) * on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:08PM (#10195718)
    "...it will have to use sewage or excrement to attract the flies and is bound to smell appalling."

    Something tells me it'll fit right in here. =)

  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:09PM (#10195722) Homepage Journal
    "One of the great things about flies is that you can get them to come to you," he said. Hence the downside of the fully autonomous robot: it will have to use sewage or excrement to attract the flies and is bound to smell appalling.

    Hello, McFly! I think our photosynthetic brethren figured out the solution to this problem a few gazillion years ago. The answer is flowers!

    It sounds like these researchers are already taking this behemoth [sfasu.edu] as their example. Great: I, for one, welcome our new Giant Corpse Flower overlords. But why not jump forward a few million years? A rose by any other name, you know.

    On the other hand, nobody cares if the robot eats house flies. Butterflies might be another thing altogether. Won't someone please think of the Butterflies?
  • by TWX (665546) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:09PM (#10195725)

    "Heeeeelllp Meeeeee! Heeeeeellllp Meeee!"
  • Flies (Score:3, Funny)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:09PM (#10195726) Homepage Journal
    The neat part is it's powered by 'catching flies and digesting them in special fuel cells.'"

    Yep, sounds like like elementary school..

    • NASA should put this on the next rover missions to Mars, or future missions to the Moon! It could eat flies and not have to depend only on solar and battery power! Yeah!

      Wait...
  • It's name (Score:5, Funny)

    by Aadain2001 (684036) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:10PM (#10195731) Journal
    Are they going to call it Kermit the Bot?
  • by 10000000000000000000 (809085) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:10PM (#10195732)
    they need to watch out for the flies that eat robots!
  • by joeldixon66 (808412) * <joel AT jd53 DOT com> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:11PM (#10195743) Homepage
    So a robot's been created that eats flies while covered in fecal matter, to monitor toxic gas concentrations?

    Just another example of how technology is being used to take job opportunities away from me.
  • Wait... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:11PM (#10195744) Homepage Journal
    is a robot that kills and uses living things really all that good of an idea? Sure, flies are annoying and can really ruin a picnic, but someting about arbitrarily deciding that they are not worthy of life somehow seems wrong.

    OK, I lied. I think this is great! Animal rights zealots an fuck off.

    LK
    • Of course, if you really want to make the local insect life happy you can always stand naked at night in a mosquito infested swamp, and/or arrange to have your body left to putrify and rot in a field after you die so the bugs can feast and pupate on your earthly remains. I wonder why PETA isn't suggesting this as a natural alternative to cremation or burial?

      But seriously, if we could ever develop a nano-bug that dines on mosquitoes it would be a great day for mankind. Bye bye malaria!

      • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by russx2 (572301) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @08:15PM (#10196255)
        Yes, and bye bye to the dragonflies who dine on them. So then we can knock a few breeds of bird off the non-extinct list who find their daily quota of dragon-like flies diminishing. And then of course the algaes around lakes grow out of control killing off the fish.

        Everything has its place in the chain :-)
        • Re:Wait... (Score:3, Funny)

          by yog (19073)
          It's all worth it. I hate mosquitos. Let's wipe them off the face of the earth. Squish, squish, squish! Ditto for midges, no-see-ums, ticks, biting flies, horseflies, and tapeworms. Let's get rid of wasps and fire ants as well; who the heck needs'em?

          I'd like someone to build a machine that honeypots mosquitos and ticks and destroys them. A pink, flesh-like substance that coats the robot and exudes CO2 and sweat-like vapor, walks on two stump-like legs coated with the same "flesh", and poisons parasit
  • there was an episode where one of these would have come in really handy.
  • The Matrix (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SWroclawski (95770) <{gro.ikswalcorw} {ta} {egres}> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:14PM (#10195769) Homepage
    In the movie they said we were batteries, but now I know it was just another example of factory farming.
  • by Pinkoir (666130) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:15PM (#10195770)
    Why not try attracting mosquitos or something. I can't spend 5 minutes outside without 50 or so lunging for my sweet succulent veins. Just get the robot to be warmer than the environment and smell like a sweaty human. Only slightly less offensive than shit I admit but an improvement none-the-less.

    -Pinkoir
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Mosquitos are attracted by CO2 which this thing probably puts out. Still, flies are much juicer than mosquitos, unless the mosquito got to you first.
    • by kiddygrinder (605598) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:24PM (#10195845)
      Actually, i believe mosquitos are attracted to carbon dioxide.
  • Hm (Score:5, Funny)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:15PM (#10195774) Journal
    If the firmware is open-sourced, someone could make a version which preys on SCO executives...
  • by krygny (473134) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:16PM (#10195782)
    If the delicate balance of the world's fly population is upset, dog shit production in my back yard will be out of control.
  • by iMaple (769378) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:17PM (#10195788)
    Juast wondering if this is just some knifd of publicity stunt. I mean can flies really provide sufficient power for a robot to function properly (move around). I mean would'nt it need to be super effecient.Instead why not make a special recharging which periodically goes out into the hazardous env to charge the robots.
    Of course the original is a really cool toy if you need an automated fly swatter.
    • In short, yes. Anything that provides power without requiring the robot to move around or otherwise expend energy will provide it with sufficient power to move (think batteries). Although I suspect solar power would be better for most enviromnments the robot might go in. On the other hand, I fully support alternative power sources for robots, no matter how much they might stink.
  • Gastrobots (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:18PM (#10195802)

    Robots that have biotic stomachs are sometimes called 'Gastrobots'. There is a paper from MIT [mit.edu] on the subject. Another paper from some guy at USF [usf.edu] has this choice quote:

    Few robotics engineers would disagree that robot development has often been inspired by biological examples (Beer et al., 1997)

    This is not a unique insight but it is funny if you misread it as "biological examples, e.g. Beer".

  • by JayBlalock (635935) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:20PM (#10195819)
    SURELY these scientists have seen enough movies to realize that making a farking CARNIVOROUS robot is a bad, bad, BAD idea.

    Not to mention, making it "release and forget?" Yay! Invincible autonomous robot predators! WHEEEE!

    To quoth Jeff Goldblum: This is the worst idea in a long, sad history of bad ideas.

  • Hmmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:21PM (#10195822)
    We have a robot that can fail because there aren't enough bugs in the system?
  • Almost overwhelming!

    The first thing that popped into mind was "but can it catch the flies using a pair of chopsticks?"

    Followed by "that would have to be one hell of a lot of flies!"

    Then "what happens when it starts moving up the food chain and realized humans provide more enery and are easier to catch?"

    Exactly how much tequila to you have to drink to come up with ideas like this?

    "Hey! I got it! A fly eating, shit smelling robot! And I've even got an angle to sell it to the military! Barkeep? Anoth
  • If the fuel cell can turn flies into electricty, why not just feed the fuel cell refined sugar? 2.2kg is ~ US$1.50. How much energy is that compared to maybe catching bugs?

    I smell BS.

    • Not autonomous is the problem- you're solving the wrong problem. The problem isn't HOW DO WE GENERATE ELECTRICITY, it's HOW DO WE GET THE FUEL TO THE ROBOT WHEN WE NO LONGER KNOW OR CARE WHERE THE ROBOT IS.

      My question is just how much sugar is in the skeleton of a insect that only has an exoskeleton to begin with....
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:23PM (#10195832) Homepage Journal

    See Intelligent Autonomous Systems Laboratory [uwe.ac.uk] for more information.

    Slugbot, Ecobot... oddly enough I don't see a link to Ecobot II on there.

  • by DocSnyder (10755) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:24PM (#10195840)
    My car is already catching a lot of flies, especially during night trips. Attaching a "fly generator" to the front would save much fuel.
  • "Called EcoBot II, the robot is part of a drive to make "release and forget" robots

    Soon to be sued by RonCo [ronco.com] for infringing on their "set it and forget it" trademark.
  • Killing Robots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:27PM (#10195866) Homepage Journal
    Today it's flies. Tomorrow, wasps. Then, as robots grow more power hungry, WASPs. And soon, it will be your turn. Robots will grow us like plants, as seen in the Matrix!

    But seriously, I don't like this. Just because some animals are too weak to defend themselves, doesn't give us the right to kill them. Nor does it give us the right to build a robot that kills them. It's not like that robot couldn't be powered by other means.
    • Re:Killing Robots (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Just follow that locig a little farther...

      We don't have the rights to kill animals...
      We don't have the rights to kill plants...

      Oops, I just killed some tiny single-celled organism by breathing!

      Oh no; I'm no longer sick. I must have killed the virus/bacteria trying to kill me!

      I should just kill myself and get it over with.
      .
      .
      .
      Do I have the rights to do that?

      --
      Please realize that rights are the sole domain of humans.
    • Re:Killing Robots (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Have Blue (616)
      Would you have any objection to an animal being killed by another animal in order to stay alive?

      Humans are just very intelligent animals, and the fly-eating robot is just a (very abstracted) result of our drive to stay alive.
  • I can see it already. "Plug in this miracle of a bug-zapper outside your home and it will generate power while it clears away those annoying pests!" Seriously, though, that would be a kinda cool gadget to have around. Maybe they could also branch out into ant and roach traps. Pest control AND micropower in one convenient device.

    Geeze. I can't figure out if I'm being silly or serious now.

  • uberfrog (Score:4, Funny)

    by ktulus cry (607800) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:32PM (#10195901)
    This is no big deal at all. Like none of us have ever strapped a model rocket engine and a disposable camera to a frog before. Well... maybe that was just me...
  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:32PM (#10195908) Journal
    Where I'm from, on the shores of Lough Neagh [wikipedia.org], there are a gazzilion flies out in the air every night. They look like columns of smoke, so thick is the sky with them. Well a long time ago, an enterprising farmer laid very fine fishing nets down on the fields by the Lough shore. The flies that died and landed on them were all gathered up and used as fertiliser. His fields that year yeilded 50% more hay than normal. So there you go.
  • Hmmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheMeuge (645043) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:34PM (#10195923)
    A machine that can digest flies, then use the sugars in their bodies to generate energy! How ingenious. Oh, wait - it's called a FROG.
    • Re:Hmmmm (Score:3, Funny)

      by Negaiss (808263)
      actually you are free to digest flies then use the sugars in their bodies to generate energy and monitor toxic environments too
  • Bender? (Score:3, Funny)

    by canadacow (715256) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:35PM (#10195936)
    So how long will it be before we have robots that run on beer?
  • I want one of these new-fangled fly swatters!
    • I think the part about "uses sewage or excrement to attract flies" kinda rules out home use.

      On the plus side, this will also dissuade enemies from trying to explode them...
  • by rubberbando (784342) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:37PM (#10195949)
    If they made one that ate mosquitos, they'd make a fortune cashing in on the annual West Nile Disease scare. :)
  • Hah. And you all scoffed at using humans for power in the Matrix. If a fly can power a robot certainly humans can power computers. In fact, I'm going to prove it. Just need to find something with a smell that attracts humans... Ah, beer should do it.
  • hmm I wonder what kind of fly can survive gas/heat/radiation ....

    sure some do (eg scorpions take radiation well)
    but still made me think for a sec
  • What's so special about this? I do it all the time.
  • Bug eating robots invented. All Windows machines are now in danger.
  • Project Home Page (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nintendork (411169) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:45PM (#10196021) Homepage
    The Intelligent Autonomous Systems Laboratory at University of the West of England is where this robot is being developed. Here's a link to their homepage [uwe.ac.uk]. They have a projects section that has more information.

    -Lucas

  • by alchemist68 (550641) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @07:49PM (#10196064)
    "Called EcoBot II, the robot is part of a drive to make "release and forget" robots that can be sent into dangerous or inhospitable areas to carry our remote industrial or military monitoring of, say, temperature or toxic gas concentrations," New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.

    If humans and other mammals do not want to or cannot live/work in these environments, why would insects find a locally dangerous or inhospitable habitat inviting? I don't of many common flies that can withstand high temperatures or toxic gas concentrations and be in a local environment in a large enough population to sustain the energy needs of a robot.

    What scientists should be doing is finding ways that allow mammals to live/work in these toxic environments. For example, parasitic worms, the adult intestinal cestode, Hymenolepis diminuta, lives in the intestines of its host; it does not have a digestive system or any means of ingesting food from the host. It acquires its nutrients simply by absorbtion through the cellular membranes. More interestingly, these parasitic helminths have mitochondria that utilizes fumurate as the final electron pair acceptor with concommitant generation of succinate as the end product of its energy metabolism. Translation: This worm's mitochondria operate ANAEROBICALLY whereas the mitochondria in humans and other mammals operate aerobically (oxygen is the final electron pair acceptor with carbon dioxide being the end product of our energy metabolism). Scientists could start genetically modifying mammalian mitochondria to operate in both environments (this already happens naturally in clams and other aquatic muscles). This could allow human heart muscle to survive and function in low oxygen tension environments; hence, no or fewer heart attacks. Pfizer http://www.pfizer.com/ [pfizer.com] is agressively pursuing cardiac and lipid metabolism research for the treatment of artereosclerosis. Combining Lipitor and a research compound, torceptrapib, will likely prevent plaques and cholesterol from ever clogging up arterial pathways, so my argument is almost impractical, but interesting.

    Yes, I'm a chemistry geek! Did you see my Slashdot user ID?
    • What scientists should be doing is finding ways that allow mammals to live/work in these toxic environments.
      Robots are (relatively) easy to control. Bioinvaders can wreak havoc [wikipedia.org] on an ecosystem. A toxic environment shouldn't always be a call for terraforming or compensation by mutation; that could drive as-yet undiscovered biodiversity to extinction (if the toxicity wasn't recent).
  • Lots of slashdotters are stinky. If we can just convince them to eat flies they can hack 24/7 for the rest of their lives.
  • "Would you like flies with that?"
  • A year+ ago there was some talk of a robot that picked fruits or vegetables on plantations, while using the rotten fruits that fell on the ground for fuel. I can't find the link now :(

    On a related note, here is an interesting bit about a solar powered robot [post-gazette.com]. Note the date and note the mentions of NASA projects. Sounds familiar?
  • Next step (Score:2, Interesting)

    by motox (312416)
    Invent flies that can survive highly toxic and high temperature environments
  • roguebots (Score:3, Funny)

    by binarybum (468664) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @08:05PM (#10196172) Homepage
    it's so obvious that with slightly better AI these "release and forget" robots will have damn good reasons to hate their creators (castaway, sewage-ridden bots eating insects in terrible environments - I mean come on, anything with half a neural network would be pretty pissed). They will then turn on us and discover in the process that human flesh provides more energy than flies.

    Why can't we just have them eat old people's medicine instead?
  • human powered (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @08:05PM (#10196179) Homepage Journal
    Once they get the taste for flesh, there's no going back. Humans and machines have coexisted for centuries on this planet, so long as there was no direct competition for resources. Now the symbiosis is over, and the machines are in the driver's seat. We're on the menu.
  • Dr. Evil (Score:5, Funny)

    by kjs3 (601225) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @08:36PM (#10196421)
    Is it just me or does the idea of a feces-encrusted robot that eats living things to generate power sound like something Dr. Evil would think of?

    All I want is a friggin shit-covered death-bot...is that so much to ask?

  • by bahwi (43111) <incoming.josephguhlin@com> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @09:51PM (#10196965) Homepage
    No flies, but it's pretty toxic these days.
  • by shplorb (24647) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @10:03PM (#10197043) Homepage Journal
    I hope to high heaven that they don't arm these little bastards with chainsaws and set them loose in the outback.

    God knows it's dangerous enough out there as it is, what with all the venomous snakes, spiders and insects and searing heat, lack of water, backpacker murderers and all.

    The last thing you need is a bloody fly powered killer robot chasing you down when you're 500km from nowhere!
  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @11:39PM (#10197631) Homepage Journal
    Eats flies???? Come on, that can't generate a whole lot of power. Small furry animals on the other hand...
  • by d474 (695126) on Thursday September 09, 2004 @01:25AM (#10198107)
    "...military monitoring of, say, temperature or toxic gas concentrations..."
    Why would the military have the need to be monitoring toxic gas levels with robots that use flies as an energy source? Well...

    If there is a major chemical weapons attack on a major population center there will be a lot of dead people. Where there are lots of dead people there are flies. Hence, the need for a robot that can sustain it's power needs with a fuel source available both day and night...Nothing to see here. Move along.
  • The neat part is it's powered by 'catching flies and digesting them in special fuel cells.'
    If they ever develop a web search engine using this as a method to power the computer, it will bring new meaning to the term 'web spider'!

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