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This Robot Vomits So You Won't Have To

Illustration for article titled This Robot Vomits So You Wont Have To

Sometimes inventions, even the important ones, aren't pretty. Case in point: this vomiting robot. It could help us understand, and then battle, an illness that no one's found a cure for in 40 years. Even if it's not the cutest 'bot out there.

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The unfortunately but appropriately named Vomiting Larry is an anatomically correct model of a freshman at a frat party and, more importantly, an anatomically correct model of someone vomiting after contracting norovirus, a nasty bug that causes puking and diarrhea. It spreads fast—less than 20 virus particles can infect someone—and it's been a higher-than-expected year for infections.

For the most part, the virus isn't especially serious; people usually kick it in a few days. But for a lot of reasons, including the fact that we're unable to grow human norovirus in a controlled environment, we have to study the spread of the virus in other ways. That's where good ol' Larry comes in, helping us to model how puking could spread the illness. The spray can travel nearly 10 feet (!), and when even a tiny bit of the stuff can be enough to pass the disease on, it's important to get a grasp on exactly how the virus travels. It's widespread, too: 21 million cases are estimated in the U.S. annually, and the only virus more commonly reported is the common cold.

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BBC has some video, and Larry comes in at around 2:43. (Spoiler alert: it's kind of disgusting.)

[BBC]


Illustration for article titled This Robot Vomits So You Wont Have To

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DISCUSSION

This seems kind of silly. How many cases of stomach flu are actually the result of virus transmission from the vomit itself? I figure it would be from human contact during the virus incubation period, long before the hurling starts (and before you even realize you have it). Unless you have a particularly nasty case, you usually have enough warning to go find a bathroom and avoid spraying innocent bystanders.

P.S. There are few sicknesses on earth more torturous than the stomach flu.