Futuristic-looking robots like Honda’s sleek humanoid Asimo don’t cut it for designer James Auger, at the Royal College of Art, London. Believing that they need to fit unobtrusively into the home, he has built robotic furniture. And, believing they need to be useful and entertaining, he has given the furniture an appetite for vermin, like mice and flies. …
Auger worked with long time collaborator and fellow designer Jimmy Loizeau to build the five domestic robots. Each can sense its environment, has mechanical moving parts, and can perform basic services for its human hosts, such as telling the time or lighting a room….
But the robots also have a taste for flesh. They can gain energy by chomping on flies and mice, an idea inspired by researchers at Bristol Robotics Lab, UK, who built a fly-powered robot and have also suggested that marine robots could feed on plankton.
The pests are lured in and digested by an internal microbial fuel cell. This exploits the way microbes generate free electrons and hydrogen ions when oxidising chemicals for energy. Electronics can be powered by directing the electrons around an external circuit before reuniting them with the ions.
“As soon as there is a predatory robot in the room the scene becomes loaded with potential,” Auger told New Scientist. “A fly buzzing around the window suddenly becomes an actor in a live game of life, as the viewer half wills it towards the robot and half hopes for it to escape.”
Although, for now, the robots rely on mains power, Auger believes they could become truly self-sufficient. “If the system fails, the grid goes down and all humans die, these robots could go on living so long as the flies don’t go with us.”