Watch Where You Sit: Attack of the Flesh-Eating Furniture

[image via DJ Reko]


Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge fan of technological advancements.
iPhones, electron microscopes, instant streaming Netflix—all good stuff.
But every once in a while, something comes along that makes you wonder what those scientists are smoking.
This one feels like a big, big mistake.

We all know the limitations of batteries: they are clunky and cumbersome, and they need to be regularly recharged or tossed out. They are the biggest obstacle to streamlining and miniaturizing all the handy electronics in our lives.

That’s why fuel cells are the way of the future. While batteries carry their own stored chemical energy, fuel cells need an added form of energy that can be converted into electrical energy. The holy grail of fuel cell technology is a cell that can draw its own energy from its environment. There have been successes, like sewage treatment plants that run on their own methane gases released by waste. And there have been setbacks, like the failure to harness and store solar power as fuel.

If the energy source is drawn from the environment, then fuel cells have to be specifically configured for what’s available in the environments where they’ll function—think of the methane gas example, or a lawn mower that can run on its own clippings. Scientists have been left to ponder an energy source for personal and household electronics that operate in our environment. They’ve come up with the idea that appliances can draw on what’s readily available in their environment by using the same fuel as us—basically eat what we eat. And the most efficient energy producer is meat.

The U.S. Department of Defense has been working with something it’s dubbed the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot, known as EATR for short. They plan to send EATR on unpiloted missions where it would forage for its own food. Essentially any organic material in its path could be ingested and converted to energy by its biomass engine, although the military contractors have gone to great lengths to ensure us that EATR will not be chomping its way through the fallen on battlefields.

A team of scientific designers has envisioned a future of carnivorous household furnishings.
They adapted biomass fuel cells that feed on household pests to create self-powering appliances. There’s a fly-paper wall clock (8 flies powers 12 days); an insect-trapping lampshade—the moths are drawn to the very light that they fuel; and a cheese-baited dining table that doubles as a queasy-making mousetrap complete with a garbage disposalesque opening to the fuel cell.

Machines with a taste for flesh? The living room as deathtrap?
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m having a hard time with this one.  And I’ve read enough science fiction to figure out that this doesn’t end well.
If the robots have to eat can we at least make them vegetarians? At any rate, I’d keep an eye on the cat.

You’ll find video of the carnivorous household robots and plenty more on the designers’ website.


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