UPDATE: Good news, via FastCompany. Fox, who was the source of this terrifying story, now says, "contrary to reports, including one that appeared on FOXNews.com, the EATR will not eat animal or human remains." FastCompany notes that this "makes Fox News seem like a passive victim of commonly circulated facts." But...
But Fox News actually originated the meme by surmising that dead bodies would be a logical source of food, since they'd be numerous on the battlefield. Sadly, they've completely taken down the offending story rather than correcting it at the bottom (as less fair, less balanced news sources do).
Cyclone Engine, who manufactures the EATR power source, issues a press release that insisted the device would be herbivorous: "EATR runs of fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips ... desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone, or Robot Technology."
But at some point, don't all robots eventually turn on their masters and start devouring human flesh? Guess we'll find out!
It's not everyday that a person gets to blog about how military contractors are developing terrifying, ironically named robots, which will roam around, feasting on dead flesh until the day comes that they will rise up and kill us all, but guess what? Today is one of those days:
A Maryland company under contract to the Pentagon is working on a steam-powered robot that would fuel itself by gobbling up whatever organic material it can find -- grass, wood, old furniture, even dead bodies.
Robotic Technology Inc.'s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot -- that's right, "EATR" -- "can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable," reads the company's Web site.
That "biomass" and "other organically-based energy sources" wouldn't necessarily be limited to plant material -- animal and human corpses contain plenty of energy, and they'd be plentiful in a war zone.
You know, my editors frown on me for swearing, for good reason, but in this case: SERIOUSLY, PENTAGON, WHAT THE FUCK?!?
I am having a really hard time trying to figure out what the military purpose of a robot that eats dead bodies is. Maybe the idea is these robots will make it difficult for independent observers to quantify casualties? Maybe President Sarah Palin will nominate one to the Supreme Court? The article states that EATR is a "platform" that things could be "built upon" -- like an "ambulance" or a "mobile gunship." But it seems to me that the ambulances and gunships we have now are perfectly okay, and, at any rate, DON'T MAKE MY SOUL HURT.
The advantages to the military are that the robot would be extremely flexible in fuel sources and could roam on its own for months, even years, without having to be refueled or serviced.
So then: some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. But it looks like it's going to end in a hail of white-hot terror at the hands of marauding, corpse-eating Roombas.