back to article €1bn handout from the EU targets ambient nagware and robot pets

The EU is throwing an eye-watering €1bn of public funds to bankroll some of the most whimsical technology projects ever envisaged – for a decade. A shortlist of six applicants includes talking pet robots, and ambient low-power sensors that provide health tips and "emotional" advice. The program is called FET, and is funded by …


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  1. Colin Millar

    Quick mavis

    Pass me the UKIP membership form.

    Such an astounding gulf between the EU organisation and its citizens is quite depressing really. We are used to patronising politicians telling us that we reject their policies because we don't understand them. We accept that Government will always waste public money on monolithic projects designed to line up their soldiers more neatly. We know that their idea of democratic engagement is them telling us about jam tomorrow and us just getting on with the constant upheavals of education, social services, health care, transport etc.

    But a billion being blown on stuff like this? At this particular moment in the economic life of our plant?

    Their contempt for their supposed citizens grows clearer by the day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Re: Quick mavis

      "Pass me the UKIP membership form."

      Aiming high to one day become a UKIP MEP, so that you can trough on travel expenses without actually showing up at the parliament, perhaps?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "private capital is perfectly capable of funding no-hope startups all by itself"

    Yes, but private capital tends to have a different take on what sort of no-hope startups get funded than public capital. Where's your sense of balance?

    And how come when DARPA throw funds at crazy no-hope tech ideas, as Lewis Page gets all excited, but if the EU try it we get this kind of Orlowski article instead. Can't you guys swap jobs for a while, just for a bit of balance?

  3. hplasm Silver badge


    That song- are the whales returning?

    1. Chris Campbell

      Re: DARPA

      That's because DARPA's crazy no-hope tech ideas are at least good ideas. These are no-hope ideas that even if they did succeed would still be terrible.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        DARPA's crazy no-hope tech ideas are at least good ideas?

        Yay. New ways to help the US military to kill/disable/etc people.

        1. Adam Foxton

          Well, yes.

          But remember that developments from the military will filter down to the 'real world' surprisingly quickly and improve the world in ways not thought of while creating it.

          Take Radar- used to track the Germans during the Battle of Britain. Without radar, civil aviation wouldn't have become anywhere near so safe or simple.

          Or Submarines- used to launch sneak attacks. That same technology- and the tech developed to find them- created the foundations for the tech that criss-crosses over the North Sea bed to extract oil.

          None of these would have had immediately-obvious peacetime applications at the time. So what about the ability to sense people inside buildings, or have your strength augmented? Both of those have applications in the real world, and they're both DARPA projects.

          How about Jet fuel from nuclear power/seawater/atmospheric CO2? Yeah, it fuels their F-22 death machines. But it could ALSO be used to make artificial, carbon-neutral petrol.

          On the same tac, if the Atomic Bomb hadn't been developed we wouldn't have relatively-safe, low-carbon, tiny-waste-volume nuclear power. This was developed into power sources for submarines- so without it our nuclear deterrents wouldn't be as effective, increasing the chance of war- and we wouldn't have the big-ass Icebreakers that keep remote shipping routes open.

          How about processing and transmission of lots of information? While not exclusively a military problem (and predating DARPA being called DARPA), it did lead to the creation of the ARPANet, and from there the Internet.

          Even the act of war itself- having a war during this time of EEGs and powerful microcomptuting systems has lead to the demand that's driven the funding for some phenomenal leaps in prosthetics technology.

          So no, war isn't a pleasant thing. But as long as we keep pushing forwards we lower the number of injuries on both sides and the things that are developed bring incredible- and unexpected- rewards to the civillian world.

    2. mafoo


      You beat me to it.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Dear cash cow

    I have brilliant ideas but I haven't been able to develop them due to a lack of funding from the puny capitalist market place.

    Given the opportunity, I am sure that I can spend as much money as you send to me to develop my ideas into something brilliant.

    Please send funding to:


    Note: my brilliant ideas may only benefit my friends and I, but I'm willing to become friends with EuroMP's/FIFA/corrupt dictators for money.

  5. Filippo

    and THIS is why...

    ...the people who want to stop space exploration due to economic concerns are dead wrong.

    1. Thomas 4

      Very very wrong

      Space flight should be a primary concern so I can get the fuck off this rock and away from these morons.

      1. Oolons

        Send them into space

        You've got it the wrong way around send all the useless pen pushers and telephone sanitisers into space a la Douglas Adams. Of course then we'd all be doomed to die from a fatal virus picked up from an unsanitised phone..... But we'd be happier until that happened.

  6. Christoph Silver badge

    I have a proposal

    The roman emperors used to have a slave standing behind them in the processions, to every so often say "remember Caesar, you are human"

    I suggest a robot to stand behind politicians, to every so often say "remember, <politician's name>, you are a loony".

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I have a proposal

      "The roman emperors used to have a slave standing behind them in the processions, to every so often say "remember Caesar, you are human""

      I thought it was a eunuch positioned behind Alexander the Great as he marched into another city, but your point still stands.

  7. Cameron Colley

    I was hoping for electronic sheep and was dissapointed.

    Or perhaps an owl, how I'd love an owl...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    So let me get this straight...

    ...several EU states are hemmoraging money...yet somehow...some can find 1bn euro to piss away on "robot friends"? Lovely.

  9. wheel

    Favourite submission

    I get the feeling there weren't too many submissions, considering the amount of the payout. They seem to be scraping the barrel with Fabio Massacci (p.87), whose 'submission' seems more like a rant on Have Your Say:


    Actually, screw that. It's funnier just to write exactly what he has written in block capitals with four exclamation marks after each sentence.

    To be fair, he doesn't seem to be applying for funding himself, rather than throwing an idea out there. At least, I hope that's not a funding submission...

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      I'd love an owl

      Even with loads of herbs, red wine & a slow cooker they are a bit woodcock, frankly

      1. Cameron Colley

        That's barbaric!

        How could you eat an animal?

        Oh, no, I just realised my response was too slow and I failed the Voight Kampff test!


  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone can stick boggle eyes and fur on a roomba.

    Where's my £100m a year?

  11. teslar_lu


    .. those are pretty flimsy proposals. But they ain't getting the money yet. There are three more contenders (and only 2 will get the cash):

    - Improving (in the "revolutionise" sense) medicine and healthcare (ITFoM)

    - Harnessing the potential of graphene and its industrial applications before the US and/or Asia leave Europe sitting in the dust.... again (Graphene)

    - development of massive super computing efforts which may facilitate the understanding of the human brain (HBP).

    So out of the six projects, this article doesn't mention those that might actually have some merit with a single word. Bit biased, are we?

  12. Luther Blissett

    "Guardian Angels for a Smarter Planet"

    We won't need to know where you live...

  13. Anonymous Coward

    This must be a joke

    Lots of people are working on harnessing graphene. Look up IBM for example. There is not a shortage of funding for this - I don't see why it should get 1 billion Euros more.

    Are your trotters in the EU trough too? It sounds like it.

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Pushkins' poetry is sublime

    "Where there's a trough, there are pigs."

    I must study him more.

  15. RegGuy
    Dead Vulture


    My god, I didn't realise how easy it is to spot a Daily Mail reader.

    No wonder this coutry's fooked.

  16. nyelvmark

    I'm pissed off.

    OK, maybe it's my fault for not reading everything on The Register every day, but

    WHERE THE FUCK was the article announcing this project, and telling us where to apply?

    1. nyelvmark
      Black Helicopters

      5 thumbs up, but...

      ...nobody posting the link.

      Surely it couldn't be the case that the EC decided not to publicise the contest, since they already had enough high-quality* applicants beforehand?

      El Reg? Serious question.

      Was there a press release about the launching of this, and if so, why didn't it make the news?

      *As defined by all those EU quality standards, of course. Officially-normally-shaped banana, anyone?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Feed the bankers and speculators

    A billion?

    It's nothing dudes!



    to see how the sector that caused poverty in so many, many nations, bailed out by so many, many governments paid for by so many, many wage slaves wherein relative modest wealth became and becomes impoverishment unless the reckless speculator greed requires it is offset by nations (many, many of those) wealth. And equally raises speculator wealth inversely or directly proportionally to national debt and personal poverty.

    And then have audacity to say: we can loan you the money to pay for the money we stole from you but you will have to pay interest upon it. And if you don't we will go elsewhere and take our business with us.

    Our greed, dude, has to be fed, fostered and watered by your need.

    Don't rebel or hold it hard against us as we need your wealth as a matter of utmost priority.

    It will soon pass - in a generation or two - until then enjoy your beans and lentils?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So Swiss researchers can apply for EU pork?

    1. nyelvmark

      So Swiss researchers can apply for EU pork?

      Officially, yes - but they can always find pr0k on the black market should they need it.

  19. TeeCee Gold badge


    I take it that this is the same EU that insisted on a honking budget rise this year while all its member states were/are busily cutting back in recessionary pain, despite unanimous and strenuous objections from all?

    I'm sure that the leaders of the various European states will be enjoying finding out exactly what it is that their budget deficits are being pissed over...

    I guess this proves that the European Commission really do have absolutely no fucking connection at all to reality. Sod the House of Lords, they should be highest on our list of priorities to replace with an elected chamber.

    1. L.B

      making them elected would be better,

      but I would rather see them up against a wall, and have none of them.

      We have a european parliament, and that should be enough along with each member state having the equivalent of veto and requireing them to go back and re-think plans (like the lords do to the commons, but with more power).

  20. Anonymous Coward

    It's not all bad

    Just remember that the opportunity to do these projects is what we gain from being in a huge economic community. The cost to each EU country is only a few tens of millions (that's only a few millions per year, which is maybe about a quid for each person).

    In return we get to bash a really futuristic project with a stonkingly huge amount of cash and that could give us a real leg-up in the world. Just imagine the economic benefits if we could corner the market in intelligent cuddly toys.

    Well, OK. I take your point.

    Actually, I'm not really against the idea of this funding being available, but maybe what we need to work on is making our population a bit more creative with their futuristic ideas. Hang on, that gives me an idea for a project...

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Surely worth the money...

    ...when the day comes where a real-life Bender tells Captain Cyborg to kiss his shiny metal ass.

  22. David Ringrose

    What we're really about

    Glad to see that you are interested in how the European Commission is aiming to support future & emerging technologies in Europe.

    Unfortunately, your article is shot through with misconceptions, which explains perhaps your overall conclusions regarding the recent announcement of a competition for EU funding in this area.

    As an avid watcher of European research, you will know yourself that the Commission would never fund such a project unless it had been submitted to the full glare of scientific peer review. The process which we put in place, in which a panel of senior figures from academia, leaders of national research programmes and managers from Europe and the rest of the world assessed the applications, is designed to ensure that this is not, as you claim, "lacking in scientific rigour, intellectual coherence or even basic engineering principles". Indeed, the preparatory research which got the projects this far has already been funded in universities and research centres, all of which have their own peer review mechanisms.

    Nor does your selective use of quotes from one out of date consultation support the idea that these are designed to be "whimsical technology projects". We are aiming, using the collaborative, long-term nature of the programme, to build up Europe's expertise in key future information technologies and improve its competitiveness by accelerating the time to market of some breakthrough science.

    You can follow the development of this exciting programme here

    David RINGROSE

    Head of Communication Unit, European Commission, Directorate General for Information Society & Media

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