As War Clouds Gather, Robot Brings Peace To Holiday Season
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A world on the brink of a war that likely will be fought with aerial drones, laser-guided bombs and other “smart” weapons may welcome a peacenik robot invented by a University of Florida student.
Roughly the size of a large coffee can, the robot – named Gandhi – wears a digital smile and zooms around on two wheels. When it encounters two similar frowning robots rolling jerkily at one another as though spoiling for a fight, it touches them with two electronic probes, turning their frowns to smiles and calming their activities.
The robot is named after Mahatma Gandhi, who led the successful movement to end British colonial rule in India using noncooperation, hunger strikes and other methods of nonviolent resistance. The robot was invented by Andrew Davis, a 22-year-old UF student majoring in electrical engineering.
“Gandhi’s whole behavior is looking around for belligerent robots and pacifying them,” he said. “The robot is a model for how conflicts could be settled more rationally.”
Ghandi uses infrared sensors to detect the presence of the other robots and electrical signals to change their behavior. Davis, who created the robot as part of part of a UF class in robot design, said he got the idea after seeing a movie about the famous Indian peacemaker and reading about his philosophy. While the robot doesn’t have any practical application, Davis said it is an example of how the technology found in modern weapons of the sort likely to be used in a war against Iraq instead can be put to more peaceful purposes.
“I’m contrasting this peace-loving robot with the same kind of technology used for destructive purposes,” he said.
Some 18 undergraduate and graduate engineering students built a variety of robots in the UF class, which is intended to help students in electrical and mechanical engineering put their class work to practical use. Among the others developed was a robot mouse that plays with a cat, one that takes pictures and one that plays ping-pong with a human opponent.