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Robotics Technology

Smart Robot Capable of Hunting For Its Own "Food" 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the note-to-robots-i-am-not-food dept.
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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Smart Robot Capable of Hunting For Its Own "Food"

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  • biomass to fuel? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by furby076 (1461805) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @10:44AM (#26653059) Homepage
    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)
  • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @10:48AM (#26653117) Journal

    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.

  • Not a new idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @11:13AM (#26653463) Journal
    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.
  • by benjamindees (441808) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @11:17AM (#26653543) Homepage

    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.

  • by smitty97 (995791) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @11:27AM (#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

  • by MjDelves (811950) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @11:38AM (#26653861) Journal

    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.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @11:53AM (#26654017) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • Oh shoot! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bovius (1243040) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @12:21PM (#26654431)

    Quote from article, emphasis added:

    ...the EATR robot's inherent advantage is its ability to engage in long-endurance, tedious, and hazardous tasks, such as reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition under difficult conditions, without fatigue or stress...

    So we've got omnivorous assassin bots that consume their "target" after "acquisition" to remove evidence of the mission. That's just great.

  • Re:biomass to fuel? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @01:19PM (#26655265) Homepage Journal

    Can you elaborate on whatever point you're making?

    With two iterations they were able to make a vehicle more efficient than the original with superior performance.

    This implies to me that with another couple decades (just give it a small fraction of the time that's been spent on your classic ICE four-strokes) the technology could be refined to be a direct drop-in, in terms of mass. Materials technology has advanced significantly since those vehicles were put out as well. And finally, if they had produced a vehicle with the same overall performance characteristics of the original the powerplant would have been lighter - this was a prototype retrofit designed to determine the potential of the technology.

    My point was that using a heat engine does not necessarily have any drawbacks in common use whatsoever, including increased mass. That has only been the case so far.

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