Important Announcement: Flesh-eating Robot Does Not Actually Eat Flesh

In the latest panic over the robot apocalypse, when Cyclone Power Technologies and Robotic Technology Inc announced their bio-mass fueled robot, the media was in an uproar over what they took to be a human-devouring robot. The companies have had to issue a press release assuring the public that their robot is a vegetarian.

2 min read
Important Announcement: Flesh-eating Robot Does Not Actually Eat Flesh

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.


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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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