This Wild Vomiting Robot Could Save the World From the Spread of Disease


A team of researchers from North Carolina State University built a puking robot to help study the spread of viruses.

Spoiler alert: It looks a lot like how coming to work on Friday feels.


Grace Tung Thompson and her team at North Carolina State's Jaykus Laboratory published a corresponding paper showing their findings on how noroviruses spread. The most common way is through the oral-fecal route, which is why you should make sure you aren't eating out at a restaurant with a constantly bad hygiene grade. But a huge culprit of how these viruses keep moving on is, apparently, through vomit. 

According to the paper in the science journal PLOS ONE, 30 million virus particles are released in a single puke session. Thompson's team believes the particles are then aerosolized, turned into tinier particles that just float in the air (like, well, farts).

Plus, noroviruses are resilient. They can stay potent, even when living on open-air surfaces, like subway poles and bathroom-door handles. So if someone with a norovirus puked all over your train, and someone else gave it a quick wipe-down with a napkin, the virus particles from that puke could still be living on seats and poles, biding their time until a host picks them back up. The likelihood of that varies depending on how thick the vomit was ("vomitus viscosity") and how much of the virus came with that particular launch.

It becomes a vicious cycle: One shameful night at a Jack in the Box could start a chain reaction of miserable, pestilence-spreading vomit rocketeers.

The vombot's version of barf isn't 100% realistic. It's just green liquid, omitting any solid chunks. Plus, the pressurized pump launches the spew with a precision and velocity that would bruise fruit.

But still, the idea here is to measure how puking all over the place can affect the perpetuation of a virus. And it did so in the most Exorcist way ever.


Here is the full video, with Thompson's explanation of the vomiting machine:

Vocativ also has a video explaining how the process works: