The novelty of robotics has reached an all time high, as some of the most popular costumes this Halloween are Terminator, Optimus Prime, and Real Steel. I think the idea of humans dressing up as machines illustrates our comfort zone as being the top creature on the food chain. However, this premise is now being tested by unusual new mechanical plant.
University of Maine engineer Mohesen Shahinpoor presented his own ‘Venus Roboric Flytrap’ that lures and kills inspect prey. Using artificial muscles made of polymer membranes and coated with gold electrodes the flies are attracted in like a UV lantern and then when landing on the mechanized leaves it quickly closes up on the insect – splat. Technically speaking, “when the bugs lands, the tiny voltage it generates triggers a larger power source to apply opposite charges to the leaves, making them attract one another and closing the trap” (Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, DOI: 10.1088/1748-3182/6/4/046004). This is not the first bug eating robot, Bristol Robotics Lab in the UK created Ecobot, a terminator-like bot that can eat insects, food scraps and even raw sewage as a means of powering itself. Ecobot utilizes a special bacteria to “break down a fly’s exoskeleton in a reaction that liberates electrons into a circuit, generating electricity.”
It is true that there is great insecurity that comes with a robot that can power itself, as we humans loose the ability of unplugging our machines. This loss of control, could be balanced by our own energy needs moving mankind from fossil fuels to robotic power.