We have previously established my disdain for hyped-up reporting of robotics that focus more on the apocalyptic implications of robots than on their actual applications. Imagine my excitement when I saw the headline "Upcoming Military Robot Could Feed On Dead Bodies" from Fox News last week, which quickly propagated throughout my email inbox and RSS feeds. (Fox News has since removed that article in favor of a revised one)
This stemmed from articles that covered two areas. One was the announcement by Robot Technology Inc and Cyclone Power Technologies of a military robot called EATR -- an admittedly ominous choice of acronym -- that is designed to be fueled by "biomass and other organic substances". The other was a quote from P.W. Singer in his recent book, Wired for War, that described organic fuel sources as "grass, broken wood, furniture, [and] dead bodies." When Popular Science combined these two pieces of information in one article, the organic matter hit the fan.
A drawing of EATR from its creator, Robot Technology Inc. Observe the large, gnashing jaws that will devour you without regard for your humanity. Personally, I'm terrified.
In response, Cyclone was forced to issue a second press release assuring people that the robot was only designed to consume plant matter, not dead bodies, to fuel itself.
Despite the far-reaching reports that this includes “human bodies,” the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips – small, plant-based items for which RTI’s robotic technology is designed to forage. ... “We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” stated Harry Schoell, Cyclone’s CEO.
There's a lot more to be said about Singer's book and the way the media has received it -- usually in tandem with alarmist headlines -- but I'll leave it at this. I think it's shameful any technology company has to make a press release establishing that their product does NOT eat humans.