back to article Brit boffins build projectile-vomiting robot to kill norovirus

Bioboffins at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Derbyshire, UK, have developed a robot that can projectile vomit on command as a tool for studying the spread of the highly infectious norovirus. Reuters reports that the hyperemetic droid has been dubbed "Vomiting Larry" by its creator, researcher Catherine Makison, who …


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  1. Johnny Canuck

    head movement

    They don't seem to have taken into account the head movement that usually accompanies vomiting - straight out, followed by a downward arcing spew, ending at the feet. Also, what about consistency, watery or chunky? How can we take this research seriously? Keyboard for, well, you know.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      It's but one more facet of the British stiff upper lip

      Rude colonials may well "chunder" or "call ruth on the technicolour phone", brash Yankees might jitterbug about as if to call attention to their plight, benighted natives lacking even the rudiments of etiquette may even make noises when so afflicted. That's all as maybe; under such circumstances that prevent his retiring from the company in good time a true gentleman shall merely avert his face for the duration of the emesis (and his fellows shall of course make no direct reference to the matter, though among especially close comrades it is likely to be acceptable to ask whether the port should be passed past him). Thus this "mechanical Lawrence" is a splendid tool for addressing the most important of questions: how can the Englishman better avoid feeling socially inept when seriously ill?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's but one more facet of the British stiff upper lip

        It's "call Ralph on the porcelain phone" , not "technicolor phone".

        You are thinking of doing "the technicolor yawn".


        * make an offering to Ralph at the porcelain altar.

        * experience a personal protein spill

        1. MrT

          Re: It's but one more facet of the British stiff upper lip

          ...or doing the big spit.

          Just wondering if the stiff upper lip has any effect on the pattern of spread...

        2. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: It's but one more facet of the British stiff upper lip

          *Shouting soup

          *Coughing carrots

          and many more :-)

          Plus, only 3m? Have they ever met a 2 yr old? 3m isn't even trying for a 2 yr old. Not to mention the fact that when your kid is that ill the projectiles aren't limited to just the mouth, you get that garden sprinkler meets fire hose effect from multiple outlets.

        3. Christoph Silver badge

          Re: It's but one more facet of the British stiff upper lip

          "Praying to god on the big white telephone"

      2. Ian Michael Gumby

        Re: It's but one more facet of the British stiff upper lip


        But we believe that its much cheaper and more fun to find some undergrad lab pukes (pun intended) who we can feed copious amounts of food and beer/alcohol and then get them to blow chunks.

        Much cheaper, more realistic and it helps with their college tuition.

        Shame on you Brits for not being so economical in your research.

    2. LarsG

      Useful BUT

      It would be cheaper to film what goes on in Leeds town centre in the early hours. It would give a new insight to projectile vomiting.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Ralph B

      Re: head movement

      I think they may have used Little Britain as one of their primary research sources:


  2. Bob Vistakin

    "Vomiting Larry" huh? Just as Google gets off another monopolies rap

    Someone has a twisted sense of humour.

    1. ian 22

      Re: "Vomiting Larry" huh? Just as Google gets off another monopolies rap

      Yes, there IS an app for that (now).

  3. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    This is just asking

    to feature in a BOFH episode

  4. NomNomNom

    wow so this is what my hard fought tax payer money gets spent on. makes me sick.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well, if you could have been sick in advance, you could have saved your hard fought tax payer money. Although this may possibly have created a paradox. Better you just stay sick after the event.

  5. MrT

    Does the robot have...

    ...optional head accessories?

    "Peter! Peter! I need you to hold my ears..."

    Who wants chowder?

  6. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

    Kebab and Lager?

    How much kebab and lager is required to produce sufficient quanity of the vomitus substitute?

    And does he only work on Friday and Saturday evenings?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward




  8. Eddy Ito

    Chew it back man that caviar cost a fortune!

    How many times to I have to tell lose his lunch Larry that martinis and milk don't mix.

    I think it's time for a new coat.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Is it all a joke?

    I like how the narrator talks as you watch the video, he has a sense if sincerity in his voice that sounds like you actually care about anything he's talking about.

  10. John Tserkezis

    Larry's got nothing on some of my mates after a Friday night pub crawl.

    Volume, frequency, inopportune moments, and that smell.

    At least girls are more subtle.

    They just pee their pants while they're sitting on your lap. (happened to a mate of mine).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Larry's got nothing on some of my mates after a Friday night pub crawl.

      How much did he have to pay for that?

  11. Katie Saucey

    I could have saved them some time..

    ..if you need vomit, just stop by my place on the average Saturday morning.

  12. marky_boi

    actually it's driving the porcelain bus

    enough said...

    1. A J Stiles

      Re: actually it's driving the porcelain bus

      No -- driving / riding the porcelain bus refers to diarrhoea.

      1. Lord Raa

        Check your Profanisaurus

        I think you should check your Profanisaurus app.

        The "driving" part comes from having your hands around the bowl of the toilet.

  13. Dainase

    3 metres? Pah!

    Back in the 80's my old mate Jonesy could hurl a belly of diced carrots and Greene King clear across a road, so technology has got some work to do if it wants to catch up with his sterling efforts.

    1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

      Re: 3 metres? Pah!

      Alas! There are no entries in the Guinness Book of World Records. Perhaps Jonsey ought to invite a couple of judges over for a pub crawl.

  14. fridaynightsmoke

    This is what happens, Larry.

    I do hope the researchers shout that at the chunk blowing 'bot.

  15. Magister

    Don't read whilst eating

    I provided a microlab with tech support for a few years; they used to do regular testing for various things on people's hands and clothing. The lab manager told me that the biggest single cause of transmission of bugs comes from people not washing their hands correctly; particularly after using the toilet.

    Many of the contaminents could very easily be passed along from what people were touching with their hands for even the briefest of contact; door handles, stair rails, telephone handsets etc. I got her to test a couple of mice and keyboards; they were absolutely covered in nasties; some of the mice she checked had almost the same bacterial counts as the inside of a toilet bowl. Even after we used some cleaning wipes, we found a high level of contamination.

    Flames because that is one way of getting rid of the bugs!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't read whilst eating

      Seeing as actual cases of contamination causing illness are pretty rare, maybe the conclusion should be that it doesn't really matter that much?

      The research seems to suggest that if someone in the house/workplace is projectile vomiting the bugs are going to get everywhere, regardless of how much you try to avoid them, but in more general circumstances your body manages to keep fine and healthy even with all those billions of bugs on your door handles etc.

      Sure, if you've got someone already vulnerable to infections, then worry about it - but for the rest of us?

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Don't read whilst eating

        My thought also. Nothing much one can do to avoid infection, so stop worrying. If it's going to happen it's going to happen. From experience of both I'd prefer the vomiting bug to real flu. At least one recovers quickly!

    2. Goldmember

      Re: Don't read whilst eating

      I read somewhere that during an average working day in an office environment of 200 people, you will ingest around a litre of other peoples' fart gas, and indirectly have 'touched' 20 penises from touching door handles, themselves touched by thoses neglecting to wash their hands. Having a thing about germs and working in a similar office environment, I stopped reading before the talk of fecal matter.

      Having said all that, I have never been ill other than the odd cold from working in offices, so maybe it's all blown out of proportion. Or maybe I have the immune system of a fucking superhuman. Both plausible I think.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want one of these!

  17. Steve the Cynic


    Don't forget:

    * praying at the porcelain altar

    * losing your lunch

    and I suppose that Americans would have called the machine "Barfing Bob".

    Curious and probably untrue tale, qualifying easily for "urban legend" status: In my student days, one of the residence halls narrowly avoided (so the story goes) being called a "residence facility". The problem was, of course, that it was on "Burdett Avenue", and included a dining hall. Going to eat at "BAR-H" was OK, but not so much if you had to eat at "BARF".

    1. Eddy Ito

      Re: "Terminology"

      I rather think we Americans would have called it 'up chuck Chuck'.

      It's probably best we didn't name it as this solves the question of what really happened to Larry's leisure suit.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Terminology"

      Liquid laugh

      Technicolour yawn.

      Shouting for ralph down the great white telephone...

      To name a few...

  18. Crisp

    So not spread by coughing then?

    Looks like I'm going to need a new reason to be annoyed by people that don't cover their mouth when they cough.

  19. Zog The Undeniable

    Obligatory Kenny Everett joke

    "Got a weak stomach, have we?"

    "Whaddya mean, weak stomach? I'm chucking it as far as he is."

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The trick is to projectile vomit between parked cars without breaking stride. Just turn head, yawn and carry on walking.

    PS Never a good idea to vom inside a full face bike helmet. Managed to pull up and whip the lid off in time, but forgot about the scarf still around my face...

  21. Electric sheep

    Cure for cancer?

    Nope lets try cure a bug that's makes a few people throw up for a bit.

    1. Lord Raa

      Re: Cure for cancer?

      Do you have any idea how complicated cancer is? Cancer refers to a group of diseases that are by many things that affect many different parts of the body.

      What might cause lung cancer might not cause prostate cancer.

    2. Nigel 11
      Thumb Down

      Re: Cure for cancer?

      What's an unpleasant but passing experience for most of us, is not so for the infirm or the elderly whom this bug can kill. Incidentally one of the vulnerable groups is people being treated for cancer. Chemotherapy weakens one's immune system. (It also often damages one's mucous membranes, which may create an infection pathway). So a way to protect against this bug might well reduce mortality amongst people fighting a treatable cancer.

  22. Charles Osborne

    First mention of Mister Creosote...

    ...comes from this side of the pond? Gawd I'm old.

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: First mention of Mister Creosote...

      Brilliant! They should have called it Mr Creosote.

      They could set the robot in action by inserting a waffer-thin mint. See icon for result.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    The real question is:

    Does it have carrot in it????

  24. ukgnome

    It starts as a vomiting Larry, but next thing you know it wants your clothes, your boots and your sunglasses.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


      Just as long as he doesn't want my bike.

  25. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    "The dramatic nature of the vomiting episodes produces a lot of aerosolized vomit, much of which is invisible to the naked eye," Goodfellow told Reuters.

    But not invisible to the nose...

  26. heyrick Silver badge

    Déjà vu!

    So many little bits of this article I read just the other day... (etc)

  27. mark adrian bell

    Novovirus is no laughing matter.

    As Nigel11 points out, the elderly are particularly vulnerable to Novovirus, and it spreads very, very quickly through vulnerable populations in hospital or aged care facilities. I've seen hospital wards have to be strictly quarantined over a Novovirus outbreak. That means that people who need care have to wait while all available resources go into fighting the outbreak and looking after the sick before they get too dehydrated. And it's not glamorous work.

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