Researchers Build a Projectile Vomiting Robot

To understand how certain viruses spread disease, researchers have developed a robot that vomits just like a human

2 min read
Researchers Build a Projectile Vomiting Robot

Until today, the grossest robot we'd ever had the pleasure of meeting was Ecobot, which poops. This robot is much, much grosser. Its name is Vomiting Larry, and it's designed to do one thing: puke just like a human.

Vomiting Larry is a humanoid simulated vomiting system. He may be the only humanoid simulated vomiting system in existence, but we certainly don't need more than one, and even just one may be one puking robot too many. Vomiting Larry is doing some important work, though: he's being used to research the spread of noroviruses, which cause humans to projectile vomit, spreading the virus all over the place. This is no joke; here's a description from Wikipedia:

"Vomiting, in particular, transmits infection effectively. In one incident a person who vomited spread infection right across a restaurant. 126 people were dining at six tables; one woman vomited. Staff quickly cleaned up, and people continued eating. Three days later others started falling ill; 52 people reported a range of symptoms. More than 70% of the diners on an adjacent table fell ill; at a table on the other side of the restaurant, the rate was still 25%."

Noroviruses can be aerosolized in vomit, and all it takes is a handful of virus cells to infect you. Vomiting Larry's job is to puke its lack of guts out, and then researchers get to measure how far the virus travels and at what concentrations over a variety of surfaces to be better understand how it's transmitted.


Watch the action in the video below, starting at around 2:40:

Noroviruses are responsible for 21 million illnesses in the United States every year, second only to the common cold. If you get one, it probably won't kill you, but you can look forward to nausea, watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of taste, general lethargy, weakness, muscle aches, headache, coughs, and a low-grade fever. Oh, and of course, "forceful vomiting."

[ BBC ] via [ PopSci ]

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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