Posting in Food
Insect-eating robots take advantage of a model inspired by the mysterious Venus flytrap.
Robots might bake cookies or vacuum your rugs, and that all sounds very nice. But what do you think about robots trained to eat living organic matter, as in machine versions of the carnivorous Venus flytrap?
Two protoypes have been built following the model of Venus flytrap’s lobes, the ones that snap shut in milliseconds when insects brush its trigger-sensitive hairs. At first I thought such robots would be great in barns or jungles to catch nasty flies and mosquitos. Of course the goal is much more along the lines of autonomous robots. Scientists are calling these prototypes a big step towards robots that can hunt and catch their own meals...for fuel.
At Seoul National University, Seung-Won Kim and colleagues developed one prototype using shape memory materials that move when subjected to force or an electric current. The two snapping leaves of the robot are made from carbon fiber. The weight of an insect or object causes a spring to contract and closes the leaves together, ensnaring its prey.
The other prototype developed by Mohsen Shahinpoor’s team at the University of Maine uses artificial muscles made out of polymer membranes covered with gold electrodes. The electrodes act like the fine hairs on the Venus flytrap. Electrical currents force the membranes to move in different directions. When a bug lands on the membrane the tiny voltage it generates causes the membranes to have opposite charges and so become attracted to one another. They quickly close shut in an effort to be closer, trapping the poor insect.
Of course up to this point it still feels like an awesome fly-catcher as opposed to animal-eating machines about to take over the earth. As a post in iO9 aptly noted:
An insectivorious robot would probably have to transport the dead prey to some type of mechanical-chemical gut for digestion and caloric production, which would be quite a feat.
On the other hand New Scientist quotes a scientist who has built an insect-eating robot already:
"We should be able to benefit enormously from these flytrap technologies," says Ioannis Ieropoulos of the Bristol Robotics Lab in the UK. He and colleagues previously developed Ecobot, a robot that can digest insects, food scraps and sewage to power itself. Ecobot uses bacteria to break down a fly's exoskeleton in a reaction that liberates electrons into a circuit, generating electricity.
Oct 31, 2011
Yeah it amaze me a lot how the robot are going to eat insects and the blog was really informative. https://plus.google.com/112869892415100336092/about
The information was new to me about robot eating insects as per gaining power from them. http://www.aquaessentials.co.uk/aquatic-plants-c-255.html
Restaurants for robots... Robotic cooking classes... Gastroenterologists specializing in robotic digestive disorders... Robo-Rolaids... and what will we do with the "end" results? Dave
"Poor" as in hapless, dude! Why must you make it all about politics? If the plant ate you, we'd say "poor robashroy, getting eaten by a robot" no matter how rich you were! Now, on the other hand, having sympathy for vermin may bother those of us that find such creatures most annoying, but it's all relative. There could be an alien race somewhere that one day drops robots on Earth to cleanse it of its human vermin! Then we'd say "poor humans"!
While these bug traps can help with reducing pests it also competes with living predators that do a good job keeping pests in control. Man has made many problems by importing certain predators to deal with pests, those predators have no natural local enemies to keep them in control and can prey on a wider range of insects and small animals causing other problems. Australia imported the Cane toad to control some pests and now the Cane toad is a major pest. A mechanical predator may be a solution but could become a problem in the same way.
Why is this a "poor insect."? The trap shuts on a poor or rich insect. I doubt it cares if it is liberal or conservative.
Like my electric mouse trap, these robotics are cool. However, the coolest thing I have seen recently is The TickleMe Plant. It will close its finger like leaves and lower its arm like branches when tickled. My kids at school love growing them and will take home their Pet TickleMe Plants for the holidays. To see a live one in action visit www.ticklemeplant.com where you can find educational greenhouse kits to grow your own.
An invasive species will do whatever it wants to do, whether you want it to or not (for the foreseeable future, anyway) And it will multiply until the ecosystem will not support greater numbers. A mechanical predator, on the other hand, can be reprogrammed or recalled. And it doesn't reproduce. These are machines with new abilities, not artificial life forms.
I believe the author was using "poor" in the sense of weak, deserving pity, hapless, unlucky, or unfortunate. I sincerely doubt it was a statement of the fiscal standing of the insect. I assume you were joking when you imply the author was making a statement about the political leanings of insects.
You've got to be kidding. I've got these things growing all over my property. They are actually considered weeds. I used to play with them when I was just a little tyke...
It can (potentially, not necessarily) reduce prey for natural predators, thus throwing the ecosystem out of whack. The whole thing is a web. A new predator at one point, living or not, can affect a bunch of other points. Also, the use of a few machines to control insects in a certain location (house, restaurant, etc) would likely have a negligible effect, similar to bug zappers or fly traps. The consumption of bugs to power a machine, on the other hand, would have a much larger impact (even more so if these bug-powered robots gained any sort of popularity).
You hit all the salient points. I brought up the human imported invasive species to make the point that there are always consequences.