RE: ROBOT: "world's first fully autonomous robot" is "SlugBot"

From: Sean Kenny (
Date: Wed Oct 10 2001 - 02:47:11 MDT

As a ex-student/sometime tutor at UWE I've seen the slug bot in action - not
for the squeamish!

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf Of J. R. Molloy
> Sent: 10 October 2001 08:06
> To:
> Subject: ROBOT: "world's first fully autonomous robot" is "SlugBot"
> SlugBot: Enemy of Slugs
> By Louise Knapp
> In the near future, the very mention of SlugBot could send waves of terror
> through the slug community, while farmers will sing its praises.
> A prototype robot capable of hunting down over 100 slugs an hour and using
> their rotting bodies to generate electricity is being developed
> by engineers
> at the University of West England's Intelligent Autonomous
> Systems Laboratory.
> The SlugBot is an attempt to build the world's first fully
> autonomous robot.
> When completed, the SlugBot will be the first robot to work completely
> independent of human care. It won't even need help to recharge
> its batteries.
> "Slugs are slow," said Dr. Ian Kelly, SlugBot's creator. "You
> can't expect the
> speeds of a cheetah chasing a zebra. Slugs are small and manageable."
> Resembling a DJ's turntable mounted on four wheels, the robot has a carbon
> fiber arm with a three-fingered claw grabber at the end. The claw
> is equipped
> with an electronic eye for finding its slimy prey and scrapers
> for wiping off
> slug slime.
> The robot's arm can rotate through 360 degrees and reach nearly 2
> meters in
> any direction, including upwards.
> "It takes a lot of energy to move over rough terrain," said Kelly who is
> currently working at the Collective Robotics Research Group at
> California's
> Institute of Technology. "Having a long reach means the robot
> does not have to
> move around so much."
> The SlugBot uses an electronic eye mounted on its claw to ferret
> out slugs,
> which are nocturnal.
> Slugs are difficult to see at night with the naked eye, but show
> up as bright
> blobs in the SlugBot's image sensor when illuminated with a
> special red lamp.
> When it spots a slug, the SlugBot picks it up and drops it into
> an on-board
> hopper, which is about the size of a two-liter ice cream container.
> "There is a problem with stopping the captured slugs from
> climbing out," Kelly
> said. "We may utilize a low-energy electronic shock system to
> keep them in the
> container."
> The SlugBot navigates using a combination of the Global
> Positioning Satellite
> (GPS) system, and an active infrared localization system. It
> detects obstacles
> through a combination of ultrasonic sonar and bump sensors.
> After a hard night of slug hunting, the robot returns to home
> base and unloads
> its victims into a fermentation tank.
> And while the SlugBot recharges, the fermentation station is busy
> turning slug
> sludge into electricity.
> Decomposing bacteria converts the slugs into a combustible
> bio-gas, which is
> then loaded into a fuel cell to generate electricity.
> Kelly and his team decided to use slugs as a source of energy for an
> autonomous robot because they are so easy to capture. They also have no
> exoskeleton, which makes them easier to break down in the robot's
> digestive
> system.
> Slugs are also plentiful; up to 200 slugs can be found per square meter in
> fields of winter wheat, which makes them a major pest. About $30 million a
> year is spent in Great Britain alone trying to eradicate the
> slimy critters.
> Kelly said he'd like to see armies of coordinated SlugBots protecting
> farmland, eradicating slugs from farmers' crops.
> "The robots will share a map between them showing where the
> greater density of
> slugs are and allowing them to coordinate so they don't get into
> each other's
> way and so they don't go back to the same area two days in a
> row," Kelly said.
> Kelly said one of the main advantages of SlugBot is that it may
> help phase out
> molluscicides, harmful pesticides that kill slugs and snails.
> "Molluscicides have the side effect of killing off other things
> and because
> they are used in such high quantities they can get into the ground water,"
> Kelly said.
> So far, the team has built a prototype SlugBot, which has cost
> around $3,000
> in parts. Kelly said the price would come down if the robot went into mass
> production. And of course, there are few ongoing expenses.
> The SlugBot will not, however, be ready for the production line
> for at least
> another three to four years.
> So far, it has been tested only in the lab. Kelly said it has correctly
> identified and homed in on slugs, but has trouble picking them
> up, especially
> if they are partly nestled in dirt.
> "We have accomplished the hard part of the research by getting
> the robot to
> identify the slug," Kelly said.
> Diane Schivera, assistant director of technical services with the Maine
> Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, said smaller growers probably
> couldn't afford slug-eating robots.
> "Using copper tape as a deterrent or Remay (a thin fabric cover) would
> probably be less expensive," Schivera said. "Plants are only at risk from
> slugs when they are babies, so these methods for smaller farmers work."
> However, Schivera said that increasing pressure to move away from
> pesticides
> may cause some farmers to consider it.
> "For bigger farmers it may be something that might work," Schivera said.
> "Those with extra cash to blow on something like this."
> --- --- --- --- ---
> Useless hypotheses, etc.:
> consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
> analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics,
> individual
> uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment
> We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces
> superstition.

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