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Smart Robot Capable of Hunting For Its Own "Food"

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the note-to-robots-i-am-not-food dept.

Robotics 191

coondoggie writes "Ok, maybe this is getting a little too close to bringing Terminator-like robots to life. For starters, eco-friendly engine builder Cyclone Power this week inked a contract from Robotic Technologies, Inc. (RTI) to develop what it calls a beta biomass engine system that will be the heart of RTI's Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR). The purpose of EATR is to develop and demonstrate an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling — in other words it needs to 'eat.' According to researchers, the EATR system gets its energy by foraging, or what the firms describe as 'engaging in biologically-inspired, organism-like, energy-harvesting behavior which is the equivalent of eating. It can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable.'" We can only hope they don't team up with the Multi-Robot Pursuit System project to "search for and detect a non-cooperative human."

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191 comments

Not like Terminator (4, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26652917)

Ok, maybe this is getting a little too close to bringing Terminator-like robots to life.

No, too-Terminator-like would be if it said, "You are not Sarah Connor. But I am a bit peckish...."

Re:Not like Terminator (5, Funny)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653023)

Come on... look on the bright side. Instead of your child getting blown apart by a land mine left over from the last invasion, they can get blown apart by a hunter-killer drone. That's WAY cooler.

Reminds me of Stephen King's The Dark Tower... maybe they could dress it up like a bear...

Re:Not like Terminator (1)

kitgerrits (1034262) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653161)

I am weary, and their deaths will bring me little joy.

Of course, sometimes, a little is enough.

Then again, that was a vampire...

I'm starting to think that the Amish (5, Insightful)

wiredog (43288) | more than 5 years ago | (#26652921)

may just have a point.

Re:I'm starting to think that the Amish (5, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 5 years ago | (#26652957)

I'm sure the robots will find them delicious as well.

Re:I'm starting to think that the Amish (5, Funny)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653029)

I bet the Amish could apply for the "organic" label.

If a machine only eats "organic" people, do you think they'd be eligible for tax breaks as a "green" consumer?

Re:I'm starting to think that the Amish (3, Funny)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653133)

I bet the Amish could apply for the "organic" label.

As in Amish potato salad?

=Smidge=

Re:I'm starting to think that the Amish (4, Funny)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653365)

No, more like "Genuine Corn Fed Humans, no extra processing, no artificial hormones or sweeteners! Raised on the farm without cages!"

Soylen Green is Free Range People! (-1, Offtopic)

wiredog (43288) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653709)

"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Ummm, I'm thinking that, in this situation (2, Funny)

wiredog (43288) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653287)

they'd be the "consumed" rather than the "consumers", so no tax break. Unless you're talking about giving the robots a tax break.

Re:Ummm, I'm thinking that, in this situation (5, Funny)

Retric (704075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653375)

I don't think the "consumed" need a tax break. So, I expect he was talking about the robots.

Only a few questions (4, Funny)

ari_j (90255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26652929)

  1. Am I "biomass"?
  2. Is my kitten, Fluffy, who likes to go outside, "biomass"?
  3. If I died in my home, would I then become "biomass"? In other words, will Fluffy have any competition for my corpse?

Re:Only a few questions (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653099)

I assume you have question #1 there to see if fluffy has any competition for eating your non-corpse?

Or maybe I'm the only one who's well fed cats want to eat him.

Re:Only a few questions (4, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653117)

1) Yes.
2) Yes.
3) Yes.

I think the big limitation against a robot "eating" living things at this point is that the energy required in harvesting anything that moves is far in excess of the energy that the robot will be able to extract from it. Bound to be an inefficient process.

In the long run, however, I think I'd be leery of giving them any sort of decision tree about whether or not "object A" is edible. Even discounting human.pet accidents, no one wants to wake up in the morning to find that a robot has eaten your picnic table.

Re:Only a few questions (4, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653327)

...that the energy required in harvesting anything that moves is far in excess of the energy that the robot will be able to extract from it.

Tell that to every ambush predator on the planet. As an added bonus, I bet the standby mode on the robot burns less energy than most waiting ambush predators too.

"Hey, is that a new trashcan outside the Dunkin Donuts? Huh I think it moved....WAARGHHHHHHH...."

Re:Only a few questions (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653433)

It's still probably better to grab a big resin-filled chunk of a pine tree than to try and render down Fluffy for biodiesel, but I take your point.

The odds of Fluffy wandering by are a bit higher than a chunk of pine tree wandering by.

Re:Only a few questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653481)

They're also assuming that tools won't be built. Humans are by no means built to hunt. Except we've developed tools that make it feasible for us to do so.

Re:Only a few questions (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#26654035)

Ambush predators eat stuff - and get nutrients and energy from it.

This thing burns stuff. Which seems better efficiency wise - ambush a deer and burn it or cut down a tree and burn it?

Re:Only a few questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26654155)

A chainsaw, a gripper, and a camera pointed at the action. Perfect setup for a horror film.

Re:Only a few questions (1)

trold (242154) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653447)

I think the big limitation against a robot "eating" living things at this point is that the energy required in harvesting anything that moves is far in excess of the energy that the robot will be able to extract from it. Bound to be an inefficient process.

Yeah, I can't imagine anything surviving on what it would have to hunt itself... Oh, wait, predatory carnivores do this all the time. It might be too pessimistic to assume that the efficiency in nature cannot be approximated.

Re:Only a few questions (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653485)

Even discounting human.pet accidents, no one wants to wake up in the morning to find that a robot has eaten your picnic table.

Or emptied your car of fuel...

Re:Only a few questions (4, Interesting)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26654017)

Imagine the military possibilities - you drop it behind enemy lines, and if there's any tanks it can't destroy, it just siphons off their gas.

Re:Only a few questions (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653579)

... no one wants to wake up in the morning to find that a robot has eaten your picnic table.

I may have just found a new motto.

Re:Only a few questions (1)

chord.wav (599850) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653727)

How much energy can it take to spot someone, point and shoot the attached gun and crawl to it before other predators take the body?

Future posts will be along the lines of: "..I remember when their first prototypes appeared, we joked about them"

Re:Only a few questions (2, Interesting)

MjDelves (811950) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653861)

I think the big limitation against a robot "eating" living things at this point is that the energy required in harvesting anything that moves is far in excess of the energy that the robot will be able to extract from it. Bound to be an inefficient process.

1. Attach an object-tracking device and a harpoon to it.

2. Reel in the prey.

3. Put prey in a big sealed container.

4. Time/Standby mode.

5. Lots of biogas.

6. Dung heap.

7. GOTO 1.

Nothing to it.

How much longer (1)

armer (533337) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653033)

do we have until they become self-aware? 2-3 years? Maybe this "economic downturn" is really Skynet "puberty"

Re:How much longer (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653809)

So the nuclear war was really just emo-skynet cutting itself?

Chainsaw and Turret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653043)

Not like terminator more like The Matrix.
If the robot can't find oil based fuel it can just shoot a few humans with the turret, cut them into little chunks with the chainsaw and stuff them into the Biomass Generator.

biomass to fuel? (2, Interesting)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653059)

So this thing can forage for biomass, which means it is not that picky...why can't we put this in our cars for fuel (ala Mr. Fusion - Back To the Future II)

Re:biomass to fuel? (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653203)

It's almost certainly wildly inefficient.

That gasoline engine in your car is inefficient compared to a big power generator that uses the same fuel. The size, the inability to efficiently process the waste heat...It all adds up.

Taking into account the returns of biomass plants that use high-grade biomass (e.g. corn, unprocessed chicken/pig parts, etc) and then taking into account the efficiency that will certainly be lost by reducing that process to something small enough to be mobile, and I'll be surprised if they can make it work at all.

Re:biomass to fuel? (0, Redundant)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653475)

Yet animals that are millimeters large do it all the time?

Re:biomass to fuel? (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653771)

Well, I imagine that after billions of years of work, and uncountable design changes, our robots will be able to do it too.

In other words, it's not apples to apples. It would take me less energy to build a car from parts than it would take a car to drive a hundred miles. That's because I'm a machine at the end of a multi-million year design process, optimized to live on a wide variety of biomass, in a wide variety of terrains, that is capable of reproducing myself and building semi-autonomous tools.

Re:biomass to fuel? (3, Funny)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653733)

I misread your post and got the mental image of waking up, preparing for work, going to the garage and finding my car has wandered off in search of fuel because it "got hungry."

Re:biomass to fuel? (1)

redxxx (1194349) | more than 5 years ago | (#26654029)

Well the thing generates 80 watts and weighs 6 lbs. Google seems to be of the opinion that 80 watts is 0.107281767 hp.

Weight isn't going to scale up directly with power, but the thing need to generate about 100,000% more power than it does to be of much use in a car.

That doesn't seem like it is going to necessarily be practical. Some other similar technology? Maybe, but not this.

My worst fear (5, Funny)

parascott (962903) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653061)

I have visions of the energizer bunny as a mutant omnivore.

It just keeps going, and going, and going.....

For the love of God! (2, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653067)

Please don't give these abominations the ability to make replicas of themselves!

Re:For the love of God! (2, Interesting)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653543)

A few years back I thought about building an autonomous, self-replicating robot like this. My idea was that it would live in a museum, and people could feed it coins.

Besides the coins, everything else would come from the immediate environment. It would forage for biomass as fuel. Once it had gathered enough fuel and coins, it would reproduce.

It seemed like a feasible, if horribly complex, task. I thought it would make a nice open source project.

Re:For the love of God! (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#26654093)

Once they install a "baby-robot making arm" onto the other end, they'll be all set to take over.

Remember the most important lesson... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653085)

Limit the robots to a six foot power cord.

Back to the future (1)

MC68040 (462186) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653089)

Well, obviously, all they need to do is invent a Mr Fusion! That should give them enough jiggawatts to run their precious doomsday machines =)

Re:Back to the Matrix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653521)

Until we blot out the sun fighting with them, and become the power sources...

Not at all premature (2, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653095)

We can't even safely do an autonomous robot lawn mower that won't grind up the neighbor's cat.

Re:Not at all premature (5, Funny)

Covert Penguin (1094443) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653253)

You're assuming that the lawn mower was tasked with the cat's safety in addition to cutting the grass.

Alternatives:
1.) Make the wheels smaller so the cat can't enter the business end of the machine.
2.) Get a dog. Most are too big for the lawnmower to injure, and will keep the cat off the grass.
3.) Reconsider feline sympathy.

Re:Not at all premature (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653345)

That's already been invented; it's called a goat. It might chew up your hanging laundry though.

Unstopable! (3, Funny)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653123)

Great. This thing will siphon your fuel tank, and if that fails, threaten to eat your cat unless you hand over the charge card for the local service station.

What will it do when it figures out WE are biomass?

Zombie Robots Need Are "Power" (1)

mothore (1382155) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653169)

A stone throw away from being classified as a zombie, besides the indestructible body and ability to calculate complex algorithms faster than you or I. Now, not only do I have to stock my artillery with 12-gauge shot guns, but also high powered magnets!? But it'll be a cold day in Hell when I'm taking for means of "consumption"...

Keep that thing away from me! (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653201)

I don't want it to "...find, ingest, and extract energy" from MY biomass! I would look too much like a giant, high-energy, slow-moving fuel depot to it.

Then again, if it didn't hurt too much ...

Alternative to scary Sci-Fi plots (4, Insightful)

i am calliope (1452699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653217)

While there is the possibility of this giving life to Sci-Fi plots such as Dune, Terminator, and Battlestar, I can't help but think that the eating robot can do a lot to save us. What if this "biomass" were food scraps, animal feces, or some other waste product? Cow dung lets off mass amounts of methane that can then be burned. The eating robot could help decrease a need for landfills and decrease carbon in the atmosphere.

Re:Alternative to scary Sci-Fi plots (1)

lucas_picador (862520) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653409)

What if this "biomass" were food scraps, animal feces, or some other waste product?

Paging John Waters... we have just the robot to star in your next movie.

Really, the thought of a poop-eating robot roaming the streets is just... what's that you say? They already have these deployed in Japan?

Re:Alternative to scary Sci-Fi plots (4, Funny)

lucas_picador (862520) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653493)

"Attention, citizen! I am Robocop(rophage). Step away from the doggie doo and nobody gets eaten."

"Thank you for your copro-peration."

(Sorry, I just can't stop.)

Re:Alternative to scary Sci-Fi plots (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653729)

While there is the possibility of this giving life to Sci-Fi plots such as Dune, Terminator, and Battlestar

Let's see...

Terminator, Robots rise up and try to kill us all, I see the connection.
Battlestar, Robots rise up and try to kill us all, I see the connection.
Dune, young boy takes refuge among oppressed natives and later uses them to defeat the emperor... I think I missed that one.

Re:Alternative to scary Sci-Fi plots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653799)

Dune was set long after the Butlerian Jihad, which was a revolution by the humans against the robots that had taken over. Think of Dune as being set 9000 years after Battlestar Galactica.

Re:Alternative to scary Sci-Fi plots (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26654069)

FH's "thinking machines" weren't of the try to kill us all variety though.

Re:Alternative to scary Sci-Fi plots (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653883)

Dune had a machine uprising in its backstory that is the reason people aren't allowed to make intelligent computers anymore and have to hire genetically boosted humans as calculators instead.

Re:Alternative to scary Sci-Fi plots (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26654095)

The uprising wasn't really a man vs machine conflict in any way that even vaguely resembled the other two.

Re:Alternative to scary Sci-Fi plots (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#26654121)

Whatever it eats, its going to have to combust, so that means more CO2 getting pumped out, not less.

So don't look to a pack of these for salvation.

Dirty Trick (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653241)

What would happen if you fed it a gallon of Olestra [wikipedia.org] ? Talk about rear seal leakage!

Re:Dirty Trick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653627)

Olestra + orlistat would be a nice touch. ;P

My home would be an ideal habitat (5, Funny)

srussia (884021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653267)

When can I get a Roomba that runs on nacho crumbs and spilled Mountain Dew?

Re:My home would be an ideal habitat (2, Interesting)

smitty97 (995791) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653721)

Technically the Roomba falls into this category.. Not with dust and dirt, but it does seek out its base station when it gets hungry for its EMF food

Re:My home would be an ideal habitat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26654195)

Awesome! You made my day.

Old Glory Insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653299)

Can they use old people's pills for fuel?

Chainsaw ! (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653369)

RTFA, the thing has a freakin' chainsaw ! An eating robot with a chainsaw. Who would win the apocalypse war, the zombies or the robots ? We have the answer now, the robots obviously, they would saw through the zombies and eat them.

This might be cool... (1)

jsidious (838114) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653385)

if the robot in question:
1) Constantly attempts to procure and imbibe alcoholic beverages.
2) Possesses a sarcastic demeanor, coupled with a devil-may-care attitude and disregard for life.
3) Comes equipped with a shiny metal ass.

Gas... or ammo? (1)

neo (4625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653407)

When you find holes punched in the gas tanks of your SUVs and the filling station has a hole drilled into the ground you can thank this project for all it's amazing innovations.

However when you start missing shotgun shells and 9mm ammo from your gun locker... we're all in trouble.

Dr. Frankenstein (5, Funny)

SL1200MKII (1263800) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653411)

"Cyclone brings to this project one of the most advanced external combustion engine technologies we have seen," stated Dr. Robert Finkelstein, President of RTI"

Maybe it's just me but I find it a little worrying that this monster of a robot was created by Dr. Finkelstein

It's alive Igor, It's Alive!!

Robot Insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653423)

If they run on old people's medications, I'm starting a robot insurance company right now.

Not a new idea (2, Interesting)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653463)

Although I've never seen anything exactly like this, I've personally built a BEAM robot [wikipedia.org] that foraged for its own "food". Instead of seeking biomass, or hydrocarbons, my little BEAM robot just looked for a light source to charge its capacitors through photovoltaic cells.

Let me be the first robot to say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653499)

... soylent green is people?!

They're evolving, and they have a plan (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653553)

Used to be, flesh-eating robots could eat only slugs [wired.com] .

Re:They're evolving, and they have a plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653661)

Anyway, Dr. Kelly's goal is for SlugBot to be able -- without any human assistance -- to catch slugs, turn them into energy, then use this energy to proceed with its mission, which is, well, catching more slugs. If that sounds pointless to you, ask yourself this question: In what significant way is SlugBot's lifestyle different from yours?

-- Dave Barry in "Following the slime trail to scientific breakthroughs"

So if it "eats" then does that mean... (1)

DrBuzzo (913503) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653607)

So if you have a robot that is powered by biomass that it seeks out, not all of that biomass is going to be able to be converted to energy. There's going to be a significant residue of inorganic material or material that is not able to be efficiently utilized.

What I'm getting at is that the robot will have to poop. If it eats, it must poop. All things that eat poop, except, of course, for attractive women, who never do that.

The next question is whether this means that the robot must he followed by someone with a little baggy to pick up the poop or will the robot scoop its own poop.

Killing Fields... (1)

Twide (1142927) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653651)

After all, the human body generates more bioelectricity than a 120V battery, and more than 25000 BTU's of body heat. Let's never block out the light...

Re:Killing Fields... (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653945)

Burning a human might produce 25,000 BTU, but if you're talking about body heat, your units are not correct and you're off by two orders of magnitude. It's more like 250 BTU/hr.

Won't be limited to robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653689)

Once the technology to ID & convert biomass to fuel is better, I'd bet that the military refits it to their vehicles. Be a good way to shorten their supply chain. (Use the biomass-derived fuel first, then the fuel delivered by the supply corps.)

And then there's always the possibility that an auto maker will put a similar system in a car.

Re:Won't be limited to robots (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653955)

And then there's always the possibility that an auto maker will put a similar system in a car.

That's way old. In World War II, trucks (and cars) were converted to run on just about anything that could burn - charcoal, wood, even garbage. In occupied France, these were called Gazogenes [citroenmodelcars.nl]

As soon as the War was over, those trucks were junked.

Note that agricultural waste is generally used already and is definitely not free.

Run to the hills...run for your life... (1)

nickdwaters (1452675) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653763)

Once they self-replicate we are screwed! These robots will become hosts for nanobots and will spread 'round the world ingesting all the biomass (including fluffy kittens).

Powered by Soylent Green (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26653803)

Soylent Green is people!

If a bird eats in my garden (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653889)

If a bird eats my tomatoes, or a deer the grass on my lawn, that's part of nature.

If a robot eats my tomatoes, somebody is going to pay.

Yes! the FF2000! (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 5 years ago | (#26653933)

Did anyone else immediately think of this [penny-arcade.com] when they read this headline? I see a sudden rise in Q-tip sales.

DARPA's new endeavor (5, Funny)

NonUniqueNickname (1459477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26654009)

long-endurance missions such as search and rescue in the mountains and caves of Afghanistan and Pakistan

Greetings person in Afghan cave.
I am a robot.
I am here to rescue you.
*chainsaw*
Stand still so I can rescue you.

Burp! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26654023)

So technically does this robot burp or fart?

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