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No. 5: Robotic Predator

EcoBot II boasts a rather environmentally friendly appetite for flies.

Image courtesy Bristol Robotics Laboratory

If you happen to view the "Matrix" film trilogy as gospel, then you know that machines will eventually overthrow their human masters and enslave humans in a massive electronic generator. Kung fu and explosions ensue.

If you look around, you'll probably note that modern robots aren't up to the task. Seriously, if a Roomba can't outsmart a cat, then what chance do the machines have against humans?

Well, the University of the West of England's Bristol Robotics Laboratory studied the idea of a robot predator in the late 1990s. The engineers developed a prototype for a robot with a prime directive: catch garden slugs and turn them into fuel. Obviously, the mechanical and programming demands of such a venture deserve credit, but it's the focus on turning a garden pest into energy that really makes the SlugBot a green automaton.

Designs called for the bot to catch 10 slugs a minute during the night, store them in a container and then return to its base to recharge and dump the disgusting mollusks into a fermentation chamber. There, bacteria would convert the creatures into biogas, which would in turn load a fuel cell for the SlugBot's next field trip.

The slugs of the world are safe for now, though. The team behind SlugBot has moved on to the creation of all-new robo predators, including the self-powered, fly-eating EcoBot II, which attracts its prey by emitting an odor similar to that of human excrement. The team also is working on EcoBot III and has explored the idea of creating a plankton-munching, self-powered robot to live in the ocean.

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