Horro-bots: The Next Frontier

Looking like a terrible hybrid between a Chinese dumpling and some sort of anemic beating heart, here's the military's latest god-mocking high-tech nightmare fuel. (And we thought the A-bomb was scary stuff.) Meet ChemBot, the latest brainchild of Bedford-based company iRobot (creator of household slave-droids Roomba and Scooba, which, incidentally, also give us a serious case of the heebie-jeebies). Granted a multi-million-dollar contract from DARPA and the U.S. Army Research Office to build the palm-sized creature, iRobot teamed up with robo-experts from MIT and Harvard, among others, to create the ChemBot, which can employ Alex Mack-like capabilites to squeeze through nooks and crannies in order to garner intelligence for the US Army.
The ChemBot was unveiled in all its gooey glory at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent RObots and Systems (IROS) last week. Thanks to a flexible silicone outer layer surrounding pockets of air and other loosely packed particles, ChemBot easily shifts between a semiliquid and solid state (a process called "jamming"), which will allow it to tread where humans can't -- making it especially handy for reconnaissance missions and the like. Essentially, when air leaves the pockets, the bot's "skin" (ick) attempts to restore equilibirum by constricting its particles. Said particles then shift and re-adjust, causing the ChemBot to inflate and deflate.

We're psyched about the scientific achievement and all ... but, frankly, we have trouble fully embracing any cutting-edge military weapon that looks like it might try to ooze its way under our bedroom door at night. No word yet on when the ChemBot will be unleashed upon the world at large, but we can only hope that when it does, it stays on our side.
ChemBot isn't the only terror-inducing droid to lurch around Boston lately. Here's a few more horro-bots we dug up for your viewing (dis)pleasure -- an alarming number of them created right here in our fair city. 

The paragon of terror efficiency, this serpentine robot has the unique ability to give both ophidiophobes and technophobes the willies.
Here's a mercifully brief, blurry clip of Uniroo, the zombie haunch of a mecha-marsupial last seen hopping at MIT's disturbingly named "Leg Lab." With prosthetic-limb possibilities like this floating around, surely the first Gundam Olympics can't be too far off.
Brought to you by Boston Dynamics, Big Dog -- a military pack mule that actually looks like four furry limbs affixed to a metal torso -- can run up to 4 miles per hour. And we're told it's house-trained.
Actually, this is more hilarious than horrible. Or maybe just completely inane. WATCH IT ANYWAY.

Considering that Japan has given us Godzilla and the original Ring, we're not at all surprised that this freaky "baby" automaton was created in Osaka. Intended to behave like a real live human toddler, its official name is the CB2, but we're more inclined to call him Damien.

It looks like a cross between a Furby and a Gremlin, and it creeps us right the hell out. Also from the great minds at MIT, its name is Kismet, and it's the world's first "sociable" robot, but we don't intend on inviting it to a cocktail party any time soon.


Morgui, a terrifying disembodied skull face built by a team of mad scientists at the University of Reading, is the world's first X-rated robot. Granted, that's due to his pure creep factor, and not for lascivious behavior, but it's an achievement nonetheless. Morgui (named for the Mandarin word for "ghost") employs five "senses" and follows people around to measure human reactions to robots -- and so far, the only reaction Morgui seems to be eliciting is horror.

Aaaaand here are two automaton-type creations that -- while not actually robots -- are still terrifying in their uncanny-valley-ness.
Created by Dutch artist and sculptor Theo Jansen, the two-ton Animaris Rhinoceros looks more like a giant cardboard tarantula than a rhino, but either way, it's pretty scary stuff. 

Created for a show by the French theater company Royal de Luxe, "The Sultan's Elephant" looks like something straight out of 300. Just don't get on its bad side: an automated elephant never forgets.
--Alexandra Cavallo
| More


Follow us on Twitter for updates and links to general coolness

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
Laser Orgy Archives