This week in “What has science done?” comes the pooping robot.
Before you ask, yes, the robot actually does ingest matter and excretes it out. Scientists working at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory invented a robot that powers itself by ingesting food and water, digesting it and then releasing the leftover waste just as a human does.
“Robots that eat biological fuels could find enough fuel almost anywhere,” John Greenman, a scientist at the laboratory, told SA. “There is organic matter anywhere on Earth — leaves and soil in the forest, or even human waste such as urine and feces.”
The robot is called EcoBot and has been around since 2003. The first EcoBot fed off of E. coli bacteria that fed on refined sugars. The EcoBot-II used sludge microbes to digest dead flies, prawn shells and rotten apples. The latest model, EcoBot-III, is the robot that dumps the leftover waste it “digests.” If it didn’t do this, the robot would become poisoned by its own waste and stop working.
The scientists claim that these robots can keep operating for upwards of 30 years as long as they have food to eat.
The team has received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their work. They hope to turn the robots into a machine that can tackle both sanitation and energy needs in poor countries that need it the most.
NASA is also eyeing the technology for extended space travel. If the robots can survive off of human waste, they would be the perfect companion for astronauts traveling to distant planets like Mars.
Fortunately for humanity, the robots can only perform tasks in short bursts before needing to recharge again. Once the technology improves, however, we can expect robots to eat everything on the earth in their tireless domination of the human species.