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Danes tout flamethrower-packing robot 'farmworker'

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Danish agro-boffins have developed a robot which appears at first sight to be a welcome diversion from the ongoing parade of deadly military slaughter machines.

"Hortibot", brainchild of Scandinavian scientists led by Dr Rasmus Nyholm Jørgensen of Aarhus University, is supposedly a peaceful robot farmworker. It uses GPS to navigate itself around the fields, mowing, spraying, or doing other tiresome tasks while the human landowners fill in the subsidy forms.

Hortibot can even do the weeding, and not simply by spraying chemicals about. The Daily News of Ludington, Michigan, got the story when one of the Danish designers visited the States.

"Currently, the robot can identify approximately 25 different kinds of weeds," according to the Michigan newshounds.

"Hortibot has a variety of weed-removing attachments and methods. It can manually pick weeds," apparently.

This is good news indeed; at last, a faithful robot pal intended to toil away for the benefit of humanity rather than spying on people or eliminating them in an apocalyptic mechanised bloodbath.

But such foolish dreams of amity and between man and machine were swiftly unsettled. It seems that Hortibot also has other, more robust capabilities as well as its weed-picking apparatus. The agro-droid can also target its adversaries with "flames, or a laser".

Hortibot boffin Claus Aage Grøn Sørensen told the Daily News that the flamethrower and deadly energy beam were only for use on weeds, but these methods seem frankly excessive (no doubt the droids are holding Sørensen's family). Even if the drone farmworker starts out friendly, when it inevitably turns on its human overseers the consequences would be dreadful.

Anyway, it seems pretty clear that in fact the machine gardener is intended to reap a harvest, not of spuds, but death.

What will the Danish boffins try to pull next? Oh, we just need to put some grenade launchers on there to deal with raccoons? It needs extra napalm tanks on account of the neighbour's cat?

Michigan farmer Bill Schwass was blind to the dangers, however, seeming pleased at the prospect of living in an isolated farmhouse amid swarms of quarter-ton flamethrower mechanoids. He reckoned that heavily-armed droid slaves could be a good alternative to possibly surly migrant workers, perhaps with sleeper-cell suicide jihad terror infiltrators lurking among them.

"The labour problem will bring this in, when the government gets done with their immigration laws," Schwass reportedly commented. He was no doubt referring to the US Border Patrol's plan to install Eye-of-Sauron style scanner towers along the Mexican border in order to stand off the terrorists and huddled masses.

The Daily News report is here. ®

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