Wed, Jul 22, 2009 - Page 1 News List

US military robot not a man-eater, creators say

THE GUARDIAN , SAN FRANCISCO

It sounded like something pulled straight from a grisly scene in Terminator: an unstoppable military robot that powered itself by devouring everything in its path — including trees, grass and even, some reports say, dead bodies.

But after a string of headlines that labeled the machine a “corpse eater,” the robot’s creators have gone on a public relations offensive to extinguish the rumor that their invention will feed on human or animal flesh.

Its inventors say the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR) — does indeed power its “biomass engine” by digesting organic material, but that it is not intended to chomp its way through battlefields of fallen soldiers.

“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” said Harry Schoell, the chief executive of Florida-based Cyclone Power Technologies, one of the companies behind the machine.

The publicity drive is in reaction to the buzz the project created when it emerged that it was already in the testing phase, thanks to funding from the Pentagon.

The concept was originally put forward in 2003, and has been pushed forward with money from the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Another of the robot’s inventors, Robert Finkelstein of Maryland-based Robotic Technology (RTI), said that EATR had built-in systems that would help it determine whether material that it ingested was animal, vegetable or mineral.

“If it’s not on the menu, it’s not going to eat it,” Finkelstein told Fox News.

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