peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)

BTW, the John Henry Society reference comes from this flawed but listenable Planet Money episode. I thought they should explore energy a bit more, but it was fun to hear nonetheless.
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. . . which will swoop on the unsuspecting with bloody beak and talons. But first, a robot that flies like a bird.
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Scientific American shared this video of a new anti-mosquito zapping system. It can flash zap several mosquitoes per second, meaning people might be able in the future to set up this device around a campfire in mosquito-prone areas and roast their wieners in peace. And maybe avoid malaria in the process. Here's the developer's site.

Furthermore, since the system zeros in on its targets by triangulating on their wings sounds, it can be set to discriminate between skeeters that bite (the females) and those don't (those hunting packs of males), thus saving the battery life for zaps that matter.
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. . . is a life-sized version of this bad mo-fo.

With duster, mop and vacuum cleaner attachments.

Shamelessly stolen from [ profile] nebris.
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I got a new toy. It's a gutter-cleaning Looj. The three-letter bar code prefix caught my eye. . . .

Wait -- How did they know?!?

The Wife and I got a kick out of this . . . because we're not paranoid.
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. . . but have had no tech chops to execute. It's here!

I got the idea from a toy we had 20+ years ago in (IIRC) 1981. It was a simple wand with a keyboard. Enter the message, wave the wand, communicate over distance. I tried to hook it to my bike wheel, but refused to crack the case and destroy the toy (we weren't very affluent; wasting a cool toy was frowned upon by all). Had I done it, and found a way to trigger the next spurt of data other than the roller ball clicking on either side of the wave, that simple message maker would have been on the wheels.

Ah, well.
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And manipulated them with our remote controls. Presenting The Phoenix Hexapod!

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So some outfit called Smule (undoubtedly comprised of hippie geeks) has developed an iPhone accessory program that turns your gadget into an ocarina -- complete with breath control. The screen of these things must be sensitive enough to pick up air vibrations. Correction: [ profile] physicsduck ably pointed out that I am a idiot. The players likely blew not onto the sensitive screen, but into the iPhone microphone. Duh.

Don't believe me? Check it out with The Led Zep.

Whammy Bar riff toward finder [ profile] radven. Dude!
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It would really spruce up the front yard.
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Hypnotic attach-bots with powered articulations. Me want.
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The cutest little robot I've seen in months!
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A robotic snake, backed by an electronic version of Ozzy's "Over The Mountain."
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It will buzz like an angry 2-stroke bumblebee and walk like a drunken pushme-pullyou from Dr. Doolittle.

Via [ profile] physicsduck.
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How much automation is too much? As William Blake wrote, "Enough! Or too much." I'm of the not enough yet camp.

Take robotics. The Japanese are going gaga for robots, not just because they are technophiles, but because they are, as a culture, xenophobes, and really don't want to import labor to take care of their elderly in a few years. Taking the human touch out of human care? "That's not where the catheder goes!" That sounds frightening, more scary than a few imported humans.

But for growing food? Hmm. . . .

I see a confluence of flowing rivers of shit coming our way. Right now, food is cheap because the energy to automate, move and process food is really cheap and abundant. In areas that do not enjoy such cheapness, where fuel costs more of a buttload than a fart, the growing, preparation and consumption of eatables takes up quite a bit more time and pocket cash. Food there tends to be grown more locally. People take more time to get together to shop, cook and eat.

Well, the market for cheap fuel won't last forever. The price will continue to climb, and the portion of the paycheck for the stuff will climb as well. When that happens in earnest, food will no longer be as cheap. As in the seventies, people will probably start offsetting the cost increases by gardening, and maybe keeping a few animals in those places where that is feasible.

What I see is a leap of tech that will take robots -- large, complex and clunky in human-care scale -- scale them down and put them out in the garden. Smaller crawlers already mow. Why not weed? Why not plant, prune and harvest? For that matter, landscape on a small scale?

Imagine something the size of a small dog, moving at a crawl when at top speed, that simply sips sunshine through photovoltaics and sloths through the plot, pulling the undesirable plant and nursing the needed. The advantage: being able to tend plots in greenhouses not accessible for humans. The speed means nothing; just ask anyone with a dial-up. One can get anything one needs done, as long as the connection is stable and one has absolutely no time constraints. Rooftop greenhouses with cheap screening for bugs would be able to resist buggy appetites without chemicals. Since only the robot would be tending, there would be no need for access, and therefore a crop free from the six-legged herbivours. Automated organics.

I have always been a machine lover. I would rather spend many days designing and building a device to do a task than to "simply" do it myself. With more disposable income, the first thing I would get is the robo-mower, just to watch it work. A small plot of garden bots would be to me like a train set, something to watch just run.

And the veggies would be free. Or. . . .

If enough techies had these patches, the veggies would be urban robo-organics. These could be coordinated by farmers with no farms; crops could be sown, tended and reaped remotely, with pickups coordinated based on demand. This would be a decentralized food production system in an urban area where more of the food would be consumed -- less travel time, less spoilage. Startup projects would include highly visible sections of prime growing areas currently off-limits: triangular patches islanded by freeway access ramps. Little dog bots slothing around, and after a time, a beautiful patch of flowers with never a gardener seen.

Also, imagine Tonka-sized trucks and tractors actually doing by themselves what kids have been helping them do for decades, landscaping, plowing, sowing, reaping as needed. An intersticial existance of tiny automatons, crammed into nooks too tiny for humans to regard. Need that crawlspace dug out, but don't relish lying on your belly for hours moving dirt covered with dead bugs and rat feces? Send in the bulldozer and the dumptruck, maybe a backhoe to move fist-sized rocks. Coordinate the work gang with a simple PC in the house. Go slowly, methodically. Finish without, hopefully, a snootful of crap.

Garden bots. Tonka bots. The possibilities. . . .


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