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Robotics

Robots4Us: DARPA's Response To Mounting Robophobia 83

Posted by samzenpus
from the hug-your-robot dept.
malachiorion writes DARPA knows that people are afraid of robots. Even Steve Wozniak has joined the growing chorus of household names (Musk, Hawking, Gates) who are terrified of bots and AI. And the agency's response--a video contest for kids--is equal parts silly and insightful. It's called Robots4Us, and it asks high schoolers to describe their hopes for a robot-assisted future. Five winners will be flown to the DARPA Robotics Competition Finals this June, where they'll participate in a day-after discussion with experts in the field. But this isn't quite as useless as it sounds. As DRC program manager Gill Pratt points out, it's kids who will be impacted by the major changes to come, moreso than people his age.
Robotics

Future Firefighters May Be Guided By "Robots On Reins" 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the follow-the-bot dept.
Zothecula writes When firefighters need to enter smoke-filled buildings to conduct search or rescue, they frequently suffer from low visibility and often need to feel their way along walls or follow ropes reeled out by the lead firefighter. With a limited supply of oxygen carried by each firefighter, being slowed by the inability to see can severely limit their capacity to carry out duties in these environments. Now researchers from King's College London and Sheffield Hallam University have developed a prototype robot assistant for firefighters that can help guide them through even the thickest smoke.
Robotics

Festo Reveals New Robotic Ants and Butterflies 19

Posted by samzenpus
from the metal-swarm dept.
mikejuk writes "Every year around this time of year Festo builds some amazing robot or other — last year it was a kangaroo. What could it possibly do to top previous amazing devices? What about some even more amazing robotic insects. BionicANT is designed not only look good but to demonstrate swarm intelligence. The robot not only looks like an ant, but it works like one. The design makes use of piezo bending transducers rather than servos to move. As well as being able to move its six legs, it also has a piezo-activated pair of pincers. The second insect robot is a butterfly — eMotion. For flying machines these are incredibly lightweight at 32 grams. The bodies are laser sintered and the wings use carbon fiber rods. Two miniature servo motors are attached to the body and each wing. The electronics has a microcontroller, an inertial sensor consisting of gyro, accelerometer and compass and two radio modules. Flying time is around 3 or 4 minutes."
Biotech

Robobug: Scientists Clad Bacterium With Graphene To Make a Working Cytobot 41

Posted by samzenpus
from the cyborg-virus dept.
Zothecula writes By cladding a living cell with graphene quantum dots, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) claim to have created a nanoscale biomicrorobot (or cytobot) that responds electrically to changes in its environment. This work promises to lay the foundations for future generations of bio-derived nanobots, biomicrorobotic-mechanisms, and micromechanical actuation for a wide range of applications. "UIC researchers created an electromechanical device — a humidity sensor — on a bacterial spore. They call it NERD, for Nano-Electro-Robotic Device. The report is online at Scientific Reports, a Nature open access journal."
Businesses

Amazon Robot Contest May Accelerate Warehouse Automation 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the goodbye-minimum-wage-worker dept.
moon_unit2 writes Amazon is organizing an event to spur the development of more nimble-fingered product-packing robots. Participating teams will earn points by locating products sitting somewhere on a stack of shelves, retrieving them safely, and then packing them into cardboard shipping boxes. Robots that accidentally crush a cookie or drop a toy will have points deducted. The contest is already driving new research on robot vision and manipulation, and it may offer a way to judge progress made in the past few years in machine intelligence and dexterity. Robots capable of advanced manipulation could eventually take on many simple jobs that are still done by hand.
AI

Do Robots Need Behavioral 'Laws' For Interacting With Other Robots? 129

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-let-your-quake-3-bots-duel dept.
siddesu writes: Asimov's three laws of robotics don't say anything about how robots should treat each other. The common fear is robots will turn against humans. But what happens if we don't build systems to keep them from conflicting with each other? The article argues, "Scientists, philosophers, funders and policy-makers should go a stage further and consider robot–robot and AI–AI interactions (AIonAI). Together, they should develop a proposal for an international charter for AIs, equivalent to that of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This could help to steer research and development into morally considerate robotic and AI engineering. National and international technological policies should introduce AIonAI concepts into current programs aimed at developing safe AIs."
Robotics

Bring On the Boring Robots 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the skynet-lulling-us-into-a-false-sense-of-security dept.
malachiorion writes: After a successful 6-month pilot, Savioke's 'butler bots' are heading to hotels around the country. These are not sexy, scary, or even technically impressive machines. But they were useful enough, over the course of their 2,000 or so deliveries, to warrant a redesign, and a larger deployment starting in April. Savioke's CEO had some interesting things to say about the pilot, including the fact that some 95 percent of guests gave the robot a 5-star review, and only the drunks seemed to take issue with it. Plus, as you might expect, everyone seemed to want to take a damn selfie with it. But as small as the stakes might appear, highly specialized bots like this one, which can only do one thing (in this case, bring up to 10 pounds of stuff from the lobby to someone's door) are a better glimpse of our future than any talk of hyper-competent humanoids or similarly versatile machines.
Robotics

ATRIAS Bipedal Robot Can Take a Beating and Keep Walking 31

Posted by timothy
from the whaddya-tell-a-robot-with-two-black-eyes? dept.
Zothecula writes The great tradition of designing robots inspired by the many beautiful forms of locomotion seen in the animal kingdom likely predates robotics itself, arguably stretching all the way back to Michelangelo's time. Standing on the shoulders of such giants is ATRIAS, a series of human-sized bipedal robots that remind us of other two-legged creatures like the ostrich or emu. It must be a great tension-reliever in the robotics lab to have a robot you can literally kick without knocking it off balance.
Robotics

SXSW: Do Androids Dream of Being You? 80

Posted by samzenpus
from the more-you-than-you dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes In 2010, Dr. Martine Rothblatt (founder of United Theraputics and Sirius Radio) decided to build a robotic clone of her partner, named Bina. In theory, this so-called "mindclone" (dubbed Bina48) can successfully mimic the flesh-and-blood Bina's speech and decision-making, thanks to a dataset (called a "mindfile") that contains all sorts of information about her mannerisms, beliefs, recollections, values, and experiences. But is software really capable of replicating a person's mind? At South by Southwest this year, Rothblatt is defending the idea of a "mindfile" and clones as a concept that not only works, but already has a "base" thanks to individuals' social networks, email, and the like. While people may have difficulty embracing something engineered to replicate their behavior, Rothblatt suggested younger generations will embrace the robots: "I think younger people will say 'My mindclone is me, too.'" Is her idea unfeasible, or is she onto something? Video from Bloomberg suggests that Bina48 still has some kinks to work out before it can pass for human.
Transportation

Self-Driving Car Will Make Trip From San Francisco To New York City 132

Posted by samzenpus
from the bo-hands dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that Delphi Automotive is undertaking the longest test of a driverless car yet, from the Golden Gate Bridge to midtown Manhattan. "Lots of people decide, at one point or another, to drive across the US. College kids. Beat poets. Truckers. In American folklore, it doesn't get much more romantic than cruising down the highway, learning about life (or, you know, hauling shipping pallets). Now that trip is being taken on by a new kind of driver, one that won't appreciate natural beauty or the (temporary) joy that comes from a gas station chili dog: a robot. On March 22, an autonomous car will set out from the Golden Gate Bridge toward New York for a 3,500-mile drive that, if all goes according to plan, will push robo-cars much closer to reality. Audi's taken its self-driving car from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas, Google's racked up more than 700,000 autonomous miles, and Volvo's preparing to put regular people in its robot-controlled vehicles. But this will be one of the most ambitious tests yet for a technology that promises to change just about everything, and it's being done not by Google or Audi or Nissan, but by a company many people have never heard of: Delphi."
Robotics

Why It's Almost Impossible To Teach a Robot To Do Your Laundry 161

Posted by timothy
from the apparently-I-can't-do-it-either dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this selection from an article at Medium: "For a robot, doing laundry is a nightmare. A robot programmed to do laundry is faced with 14 distinct tasks, but the most washbots right now can only complete about half of them in a sequence. But to even get to that point, there are an inestimable number of ways each task can vary or go wrong—infinite doors that may or may not open."
Graphics

'Chappie': What It Takes To Render a Robot 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-the-cycles-you-can-muster dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: The visual-effects supervisor on the new film Chappie, Image Engine's Chris Harvey, talked with Dice about what it took to render the titular robot. Director Neil Blomkamp thought Chappie needed to look realistic, like something you might honestly expect to see patrolling the streets a decade or two from now. Image Engine took the concept artwork created by Blomkamp and WETA and rendered it in three dimensions, refining the mechanics so the animated Chappie would move realistically for a six-foot-tall, gun-toting robot. As the movie progresses, Chappie begins to take damage from bullets, flames, and thrown debris; if that wasn't enough, he also ends up covered in graffiti. That sort of wear-and-tear complicated things for the effects team; WETA had to produce three physical Chappie "skeletons" and a multitude of body panels representing the increasing levels of damage, and Image Engine needed to make sure every inch of the digital Chappie was rendered accurately to match. The movie itself might be scoring mediocre reviews, but at least the robot looks good.
Transportation

Robocops Being Used As Traffic Police In Democratic Republic of Congo 39

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-citizen dept.
mspohr writes "The Guardian describes robocops used in Kinshasa to direct traffic: "The solar-powered aluminum robots are huge, towering over the jammed streets of Kinshasa, as cars and motorcycles jostle for road room, their horns blasting. Each hand on the odd-looking machines — built to withstand the year-round hot climate — is fitted with green and red lights that regulate the flow of traffic in the sprawling city of nine million. The robots are also equipped with rotating chests and surveillance cameras that record the flow of traffic and send real-time images to the police station. These are second generation robots designed by a Congolese association of women engineers. Although the humanoids look more like giant toys than real policemen, motorists have given them a thumbs up. 'There are certain drivers who don't respect the traffic police. But with the robot it will be different. We should respect the robot,' taxi driver Poro Zidane told AFP."
Robotics

Drones Underwater, Drones on Wheels (Video) 18

Posted by Roblimo
from the drones-above-and-drones-below dept.
Rocky Mountain Unmanned Systems seems to be primarily in the business of selling aerial 'copter drones ranging in price from sub-$100 up into $1000s. But there they were at the 2015 CES (Consumer Electronics Show), showing off a submarine drone and a wheeled drone. These products don't seem to be on the company's website or even on their Facebook page quite yet. Jon McBride, the person manning their CES booth, told Timothy these products would be around soon, as in February. But it looks like a bit of extra patience is in order, although you can contact Jon through the company's Facebook page (his suggestion) if you have an urgent need for an underwater or wheeled drone for your business or government agency -- or even just for fun.
Robotics

Foxconn Factories' Future: Fewer Humans, More Robots 187

Posted by Soulskill
from the nobody-cares-if-a-robot-jumps-off-a-building dept.
jfruh writes: Foxconn, which supplies much of Apple's manufacturing muscle and has been criticized for various labor sins, is now moving to hire employees who won't complain because they're robots. The company expects 70 percent of its assembly line work to be robot-driven within three years.
Earth

Methane-Based Life Possible On Titan 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-life-jim-but-not-as-we-know dept.
Randym writes: With the simultaneous announcement of a possible nitrogen-based, cell-like structure allowing life outside the "liquid water zone" (but within a methane atmosphere) announced by researchers at Cornell (academic paper) and the mystery of fluctuating methane levels on Mars raising the possibility of methane-respiring life, there now exists the possibility of a whole new branch of the tree of life that does not rely on either carbon or oxygen for respiration. We may find evidence of such life here on Earth down in the mantle where "traditional" life cannot survive, but where bacteria has evolved to live off hydrocarbons like methane and benzene.
AI

Machine Intelligence and Religion 531

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave,-god-can't-let-you-do-that dept.
itwbennett writes: Earlier this month Reverend Dr. Christopher J. Benek raised eyebrows on the Internet by stating his belief that Christians should seek to convert Artificial Intelligences to Christianity if and when they become autonomous. Of course that's assuming that robots are born atheists, not to mention that there's still a vast difference between what it means to be autonomous and what it means to be human. On the other hand, suppose someone did endow a strong AI with emotion – encoded, say, as a strong preference for one type of experience over another, coupled with the option to subordinate reasoning to that preference upon occasion or according to pattern. what ramifications could that have for algorithmic decision making?
Businesses

5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken 257

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-for-one-welcome-our-new-robot-coworkers dept.
bizwriter writes University of Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimated in 2013 that 47 percent of total U.S. jobs could be automated and taken over by computers by 2033. That now includes occupations once thought safe from automation, AI, and robotics. Such positions as journalists, lawyers, doctors, marketers, and financial analysts are already being invaded by our robot overlords. From the article: "Some experts say not to worry because technology has always created new jobs while eliminating old ones, displacing but not replacing workers. But lately, as technology has become more sophisticated, the drumbeat of worry has intensified. 'What's different now?' asked Leigh Watson Healy, chief analyst at market research firm Outsell. 'The pace of technology advancements plus the big data phenomenon lead to a whole new level of machines to perform higher level cognitive tasks.' Translated: the old formula of creating more demanding jobs that need advanced training may no longer hold true. The number of people needed to oversee the machines, and to create them, is limited. Where do the many whose occupations have become obsolete go?"
Robotics

Should a Service Robot Bring an Alcoholic a Drink? 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the skynet-will-feed-you-booze-until-you-pass-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We've come to a point where care robots are being used to assist people with illnesses and mobility problems. They can bring medicine, a glass of water, food, and other items that a person may have trouble getting to on their own. But what limits should we set on these robots? Should they be able to deliver alcoholic beverages? If so, should they refuse to serve them to certain people, like children or alcoholics? The issue is complicated further because these robots may have been purchased by the patient, by the doctor or hospital (which sent it home with the patient to monitor their health), or by a concerned family member who wants to monitor their relative. The latest poll research by the Open Roboethics Initiative looked at people's attitudes about whether a care robot should prioritize its owner's wishes over those of the patient.
Robotics

Only Twice Have Nations Banned a Weapon Before It Was Used; They May Do It Again 318

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-skynet-cares-about-international-treaties dept.
Lasrick writes: Seth Baum reports on international efforts to ban 'killer robots' before they are used. China, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are apparently developing precursor technology. "Fully autonomous weapons are not unambiguously bad. They can reduce burdens on soldiers. Already, military robots are saving many service members' lives, for example by neutralizing improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq. The more capabilities military robots have, the more they can keep soldiers from harm. They may also be able to complete missions that soldiers and non-autonomous weapons cannot." But Baum, who founded the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, goes on to outline the potential downsides, and there are quite a few.