Snackbot, the vending machine that comes to you

Two years of work for Carnegie Mellon University's Paul Rybski and his team of students, the combined minds of 17 other faculty members, and a $20,000 cocktail including a laser navigation system, sonar sensors and stereo camera-eyes all led to one marvelous invention: the Snackbot. Yes, as you've no doubt already surmised by the name, we're talking about a robot that serves snacks.

The Snackbot isn't just a dumb waiter, though — it's got something of a personality, according to Ian Daly of The New York Times:

"Hello, I'm the Snackbot," it said in a voice not unlike that of HAL 9000, from "2001: A Space Odyssey," as its rectangular LED "mouth" pulsated to form the words. "I've come to deliver snacks to Ian. Is Ian here?"

I responded affirmatively. "Oh, hello, Ian," it said. "Here is your order. I believe it was a granola bar, right?"

Yes, it was. "All right, go ahead and take your snack. I'm sure it would be good, but I wouldn't know. I prefer a snack of electricity."

A cheeky personality, at that. The Carnegie Mellon team behind Snackbot wanted to develop a robot that would help them study human-machine interactions. The easiest way to grease the wheels, they figured, was to have the robot offer people snacks. Scientific research is, after all, the result of blood, sweat, tears, potato chips and soda, right? Isn't that how it goes?

Snackbot, via The New York Times