Viridian Note 00177: Carnivorous Robot

Bruce Sterling []

Key concepts
gastrobots, microbial fuel cells, biomass energy, Stuart Wilkinson, Chew Chew, toy trains with taste for flesh

Attention Conservation Notice: So much our kind of cute, weird gizmo that it's almost embarrassing.

Links: Stuart Wilkinson is a hard-working academic and, although he clearly sees the humor in this effort, he's not kidding.

Wilkinson S., "Gastrobots == Benefits and Challenges of
Microbial Fuel Cells in Food Powered Robot Applications" 
J. Autonomous Robots,  paper #  99-026, Sept. 2000.

Wilkinson S., "Gastronome == A Pioneering Food Powered
Mobile Robot" Proc. of the 2000 IASTED Int. Conf. on
Robotics & Applications, RA2000, Paper # 318-037,
Honolulu, Hawaii, August 14-16, 2000.

Wilkinson S., "A Crude but Novel Carrot Powered Gastrobot  for Middle or High School Demonstrations" Proc. of the 7th IASTED Int. Conf. on Robotics & Applications, Paper # 304-024, Santa Barbara, California, October 28-30, 1999.

Wilkinson S. & Guanio D., "Development of a Spectrometric Citrus Odor Sensor for a Frugivorous Robot" Proc. of the 6th IASTED Int. Conf. on Robotics and Manufacturing, Banff, Alberta, Canada, July 26-31, 1998.

Wilkinson S. & Campbell C., "Green Bug Robots == Renewable
Environmental Power for Minature Robots" Proc. of the 4th
IASTED Int. Conf. on Robotics and Manufacturing, Honolulu,
Hawaii, August 19-22, 1996, ISBN: 0-88986-209-5, pp. 275-

Wilkinson S. & Campbell C., "Bio-Power: A Study of Fermentation Driven Insect Robots" Proc. of the 1996 Florida Conf. on Recent Advances in Robotics, FAU, Boca Raton, FL, April 11-12, 1996, pp. 204-209.

Microbial Fuel Cells:

Buy one right now! How They Work, sort of:

Entries in the Viridian Magazine Cover Contest:

Viridians stupefied by summer heat, too enfeebled to mouse-click a graphics program.

This contest expires August 31, 02000.

Source: New Scientist magazine, July 22, 02000

"Could the future of robotics be a toy train with a taste for flesh?"

by Duncan Graham-Rowe

"Beware: a hungry, flesh-eating robot called Chew Chew could have designs on you. Not that you won't hear the beast coming: Chew Chew is a 12-wheeled monster that looks

more like a train. But he's also the first robot to be
completely powered by food. He's called a gastrobot == and
he is set to make his public debut in August, at a
robotics conference in Hawaii.

"Chew Chew's 'stomach' is a microbial fuel cell (MFC),

a device that enslaves a population of bacteria, in this case E. coli, to break down food and convert chemical energy into electricity. The ideal fuel, in terms of energy gain, is meat, says inventor Stuart Wilkinson of the University of South Florida in Tampa. 'Vegetation is not nearly as nutritious,' he explains. But eating meat requires you to catch it first and that, in turn, requires a lot of extra energy and complex behaviours, he says.

"Early applications for gastrobots are likely to
include mowing lawns == and grazing on grass clippings
for fuel. The long-term idea is to develop autonomous
robots that can feed themselves, says Wilkinson.

"The robot consists of three wheeled wagons, each

about a metre long. For convenience, says Wilkinson, Chew Chew only eats sugar cubes at the moment because these are almost entirely broken down by the microbes, producing virtually no waste." (...)

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