The "uncanny valley" is the point at which human-like robots or animations are just unrealistic enough to elicit a fear response in ordinary people. Most engineers would like to take us past this valley and make us empathize with our inevitable robot overlords. Others see us peering into that terrible valley, teetering unsteadily on the edge, as they wind up for a flying dive tackle.
5 The Vomiting Robot
The U.K.-based Health and Safety Laboratory's "Vomiting Larry" (yes, they really call it that) is a disembodied head whose sole purpose is to projectile vomit like it's possessed by devils.
Health and Safety Laboratory
Which it signals by saying, "No bro, I'm good."
The unholy purpose of this pukebot is to help fight norovirus, a virus that causes extreme stomach upset and is currently rampaging through Britain, turning the entire country into a Monty Python sketch.
Health and Safety Laboratory
Though it is decidedly light on menstrual jokes.
Since norovirus is spread primarily through the air, the research team needed a way to track spew particles to get a better understanding of how the virus travels. Though there may have been better methods -- such as literally any other possible method you can think of. Seriously, just off the top of your head right now. Researchers decided to set up a mannequin head with a pump that ejects fluid on command. Then they shined an ultraviolet light into the room to see where all the little droplets went.
Surprise: The researchers discovered little bits of sick all over the place even after a thorough cleanup, which answers the question of how norovirus spreads so effectively. But it does not answer all of the many, many terrible questions we have about life, now that we know about vomiting robots.
So thanks for that philosophy prompt, Larry.
4 The Pooping Robot
Bristol Robotics Laboratory Next Nature
Creating new sources of power and autonomous robots are two of the biggest ideas in science at the moment. So when a researcher tells you that he invented a robot that can use biofuel to create electricity, it sounds impressive. That guy should get some sort of prize -- if not a Nobel one, then at least, like ... a fairly honorable one. We mean: A robot that can take organic matter and use it for fuel? Awesome!
Now let's phrase that another way: A robot that poops?
That's the EcoBot III, designed by the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the U.K., and it's made to run on biofuels -- that there's fancy-boy college-talk for "food." After imbibing a liquid that consists of yeast, salt, and minerals, the EcoBot III can function for 24 hours, powering itself without any other energy sources. But as with everything else that eats to survive, what goes in must come out the other side, so once a day its handlers have to slide it over to its litter box and watch it take a shit. Which sounds terrible, but remember: We're dealing with robots here. And what are robots?
Bristol Robotics Laboratory MSN Canada
In desperate need of fiber?
Due to its liquid diet, one researcher fittingly refers to the EcoBot III as the "diarrhea bot." Because what comes out of its putrid robo-butthole more closely resembles the aftermath of chasing a case of Miller Lite with Fourth Meal than any sort of human bowel movement.
Basically, the EcoBot III is like your deadbeat roommate: It's not really all about "usefulness" or "productivity" or that "doing things" stuff -- it just wants you to leave it alone so it can eat and shit in peace.