February 21, 2010

Robot Land… opening in South Korea in 2012.

Sources: Wired, via The Korea Herald.

Early concept of Robot Land

Click the image to get to the official Robot Land website.

BOY, have we got a vacation for YOU!

(Korea Herald) The government said yesterday (12-Feb-2009, by the article’s date) it authorized Incheon to build the world’s first robot theme park, aiming to boost the regional economy and advance the nation’s robotics industry.

The robot theme park in the Incheon Free Economic Zone is to be officially designated today as Robot Land development area by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy under the robotics development law, ministry officials said.

The robot theme park, which the government says is the first of its kind in the world, will feature a number of attractions such as entertainment facilities, exhibition halls, research and development centers, education buildings and industrial support facilities, officials said.

Wired must be slowing down a bit, given they called this a “recent news report.” Still, robo-philes must be jumping at the chance to visit a theme park featuring real robots… not the Disney animatronic bots, but real robots like factory bots, service bots, pleasure bots, hunter/killer bots… wait, what?


Better make reservations now. The park is expected to have a price tag of $560M US with groundbreaking planned for this November with the park’s opening in 2012, though construction will continue until 2013.

Among the facilities will be a Robot Hall of Fame featuring well known bots from TV and film, an aquarium and water park featuring robot fish, a food court with… yes, robot waiters, and stores where you can buy robots.


It’s all fun and games until…

The robotics industry is a future-oriented industry.
In connection to Incheon Free Economic Zone’s advanced industrial complexes that can provide foreign funds and easily connect to logistics IT and entertainment businesses, Incheon Robot Land will grow into the Robot Land of the world.

South Korea, like Japan, is watching its population age and is looking at robots to assist the elderly. To this end, they are making Robot Land not only to entertain, but to educate possible roboticists and draw the needed dollars/Won needed. Robot Land will have a Graduate School of Robotics, research and development centers, and corporate facilities for corporate-government contacts. There will also be residential and commercial centers with robot-themed shopping.


Haven’t we been here before? You might think of Robot Land as a potential Delos, but the site’s photos show no signs of a robotic wild west area, though it may be possible to see a dressed up Yul Brenner-bot in the Hall of Fame. Accidents will happen, but nothing like the Delos tragedy should be expected.

When Robot Land opens to the public in 2012, you can expect a lot of robot stuff, some good, some bad. But remember…

Westworld Gunslinger


This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living by Mr. Roboto.

February 17, 2010

Today in cyberpunk history: First BBS goes online.

Source: Wired, and elsewhere.

textfiles.com login

Those of you who never experienced the days of the “command line” or “DOS prompt” may not realize the impact that the bulletin board system, or BBS, has on today’s Internet. The archive site textfiles.com seeks to preserve those heady, monochrome, dial-up days for old-timers to relive and for the curious to see what the net was like before GUIs. Click the image to get there.

Future calling. When Ward Christensen and Randy Suess first put their computerized bulletin board system, or CBBS, online for the first time they probably never realized how it would become a major part of the net as we know it today. The idea came to them as a result of being snowbound, they wanted to take the cork-and-tack based bulletin boards and make it electronic so others can post… well, just about anything:

(Wired) It was several decades before the hardware or the network caught up to Christensen and Suess’ imaginations, but all the basic seeds of today’s online communities were in place when the two launched the first bulletin board, dubbed CBBS for computerized bulletin board system. The two developers announced their creation to the world in the November 1978 issue of Byte magazine.

The article created a stir among hobbyists and hackers, and it wasn’t long before others begin building clones of CBBS. By the mid-1980s, BBSs supported an active community with no less than three magazines devoted to covering the latest in the proto-online world.

Primitive, but consider some of the tools today’s netizen has for similar communications: Forums (like our Virtual Meatspace), blogs (akin to posting a newsletter on those cork boards), and instant messaging, including Twitter.


The world was yours for a (modem) song. Since there was no broadband services back then, you had to program your modem (”baud,” anyone?) to dial a number to access a BBS. And when you finally were connected, you found mostly technical stuff posted there since many of the early adopters were the hacker types. But, you may have also found some ways to make free phone calls thanks to some friendly “phreakers” (phone system hackers) so you were able to call those out-of-area BBSs to find the latest news, warez, or porn (done in tasteful ASCII).


More info to download… Wired’s news piece is only a small sample of what BBSs has become. To see what the past was like, click over to textfiles.com and peruse the files they have there (Try searching for “cyberpunk” on their site!). Also, there’s an in-depth look at the history of BBSs in a 3 DVD set called BBS: The Documentary. I’m going to try ordering it and see about a review for you.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk History by Mr. Roboto.

Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 1976

Directed by: Richard T. Heffron

Written by: George Schenck, Mayo Simon

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Moderate

Key Cast Members:

  • Chuck Browning: Peter Fonda
  • Tracy Ballard: Blythe Danner
  • Dr. Duffy: Arthur Hill
  • Dr. Schneider: John P. Ryan
  • The Gunslinger: Yul Brynner
  • Rating: 4 out of 10


    The bots are back in the official “unofficial” sequel to Westworld. Actually, the makers, American International Pictures, was bought up by Filmways, which was bought up by Orion Pictures, which was bought up by MGM, who made Westworld.

    Overview: The idea of making a (crappy) sequel to a popular movie isn’t exactly new, as Futureworld will show. As the now “official” sequel to Westworld, Futureworld tried to take the storyline into a new (some would say “misguided”) direction by answering the big unanswered question: Why did the robots suddenly turn on the human guests of Delos?

    I managed to catch this on Reelz a few weeks back. I’ve been looking for a DVD for some time as well, but this rare film is… well… rare. I resorted to torrenting it to give you this review. I’ll keep on searching for it.


    The Story: Reporter Chuck Browning (Fonda), who first reported the Westworld fiasco, gets a phone call from a person who says he has important information. When they meet, the contact dies, but uses his last breath to say why he needed to contact Browning… “Delos.”

    The Delos Amusement Park is now set to reopen after two years and some $1 billion in “improvements,” and want Browning and fellow reporter Tracy Ballard (Danner) to visit the park and report on the improvements to show that it is now safe. Among the improvements made are the abandonment of Westworld in favor of the space adventure “Future world.” Browning soon discovers that the park has a more sinister operation behind it than just entertainment.

    CGI Hand

    Another moment in cinematic history: Just as Westworld was the first to use 2D CGI, Futureworld is the first to use 3D CGI. The hand on the monitor is the first example.

    A Gunslinger’s last stand.

    Ballard gets to try out a brain-wave scanner. This is where we see Yul Brenner in his last movie role before his death in 1985. Meanwhile, Browning is watching it all through a scanner.


    An unanswered question is answered. And now, the answer to the million dollar question: Why did the robots go screwloose and kill everyone in Delos?

    Somehow, the robots were learning through their contact with the guests, and what they learn is that humans are a threat not only to them (the robots), but to the the planet as a whole:

    Futureworld - Dr. Duffy

    “The human being is a very unstable, irrational, violent animal. All our probability studies indicate that, if left alone, you will destroy much of this planet before the end of the decade. We at Delos are determined to see that doesn’t happen. We don’t intend to be destroyed by your mistakes.”

    To stop the humans, the robots came up with a plan:

  • Invite the world’s “elite”… the rich, the famous, the powerful and influential… to visit Delos park.
  • Drug the guest’s meals and measure and sample their inert bodies.
  • Create clone “duplicates.”
  • Program the duplicates to act on behalf of Delos.
  • Have the duplicates kill the guests.
  • Send the duplicates out into the world to work on behalf of Delos.
  • ?????
  • WORLD DOMINATION! (Why not? They already run Delos.)

    But, is it cyberpunk? Like Westworld, Futureworld was made before anyone ever coined the word, so they could not have made this cyberpunk… at least not on purpose. The visuals aren’t there (even the access tunnels are brighter and cleaner than what one would expect), there are no hackers or underground resistors, and there’s no word on the state of the world in the movie other than the above mentioned probability studies. The added themes of corporate control (Delos’s plan) and the robots running the show do push Futureworld closer to being cyberpunk, but not totally into that arena.


    Conclusion. Since its release, Futureworld has had a rather hard-knocked life of being constantly panned by critics (Rotten Tomatoes gives it only a 33% “Rotten” rating), some see it as a worthy sequel to Westworld. At least, it was worthy enough to attempt a television series, Beyond Westworld. I sort of liked it, but you may feel differently, depending on how you see ‘unofficial’ sequels.

    Chuck Browning (Peter Fonda)

    Spring must be around the corner. I can hear the birds… flipping.

    This post has been filed under Proto-Cyberpunk Media, 4 Star Movies, Android Movies, Cyberpunk movies from before 1980, It's Not Cyberpunk! Mkay? by Mr. Roboto.

    February 10, 2010

    Spammer gets boot for spamming.


    Fucking spambots.


    You may have noticed it recently. I would have missed it if not for a post I was trying to work on. We had a spammer among our reviewers (No names, please. We already know who it is.). It managed to poison my Westworld review with drug adverts, and caused two other posts to “disappear” with HTML tags. I managed to clean up the review, but didn’t realize the tag-poisoning until I saw the source from the “Corporations-Are-People” piece. I was able to clean that story up, but deleted the sexbot story without checking the source. Hopefully, I can find it in a cache somewhere, or someone managed to copy/backup the piece.

    After all that, one more cleanup: The spammer’s account has been deleted.

    GTFO and STFO!

    Asleep at the wheel. Having a spammer infect our site is one thing, but not paying attention…

    Unfortunately, like with last year’s spam-outbreak on the forums, I have to take some of the blame for not keeping a closer eye on CPR. Somewhere between a 40 hour work week with a 45 mile daily commute round trip, Neocron sessions, digging out from three feet of snow from two storms in a week, and looking for media and stories to review and blog, I lost track of this site and allowed the spammer(s) to do their dirty work.


    Extra eyes needed. As you can see (!), running a website is a full-time occupation. Not easy when you already have a full-time occupation like consulting or document imaging, and your second doesn’t come with a paycheck. This is where we can use some help from our regular visitors and registered users. If you see what appears to be spam, shoot a private message to me. I will check it out and, if need be, delete it.

    In the mean time, I’m going to make it a point to visit every day even if I don’t have anything to post. Nothing worse than seeing a good site being smothered in spam.

    This post has been filed under Site Development by Mr. Roboto.

    Source: Public Library of Science PLoS Biology, via CNET Crave.

    Evolutionary Robots

    The Public Library of Science (PLoS) have published an essay by two Swiss researchers who are working with robots that “evolve” via darwinian methods. Pictured are a “prey” and “predator” robot used in the study.

    Robots do evolve, and Chuck D. thanks them. Two Swiss researchers set out on what could be called an ambitious project: To show that robots can evolve like organic creatures… and piss off the creationists. While their work is considerably simpler than trying to evolve humans out of chimps, it does pave the way for better understanding organic evolution…

    … and for a possible robot takeover of the world, or (if humanity is lucky enough) the emergence of the Borg.

    You can check out the details from the PLoS site where you can download the PDF or XMS for leisurely reading offline. Caution: It is a scholarly work.


    The results are in. In their experiments, the researchers used a “darwinian algorithm.”


    This “algorithm” shows how the robots evolved during the various tasks they performed. Those tasks were navigation, homing, predation, brain and body morphology, and foraging (cooperation and altruism).

    They found that, after a couple of hundred “generations” (loops of the algorithm), the bots were able to move through a maze without bumping into walls, adapt and change strategies for hunting and evasion, find their way “home,” and adapt to new bodies. They even found that, during the foraging exercises, the robots were able to cooperate in the task, and some even sacrificed personal gain for group gain.

    These examples of experimental evolution with robots verify the power of evolution by mutation, recombination, and natural selection. In all cases, robots initially exhibited completely uncoordinated behaviour because their genomes had random values. However, a few hundreds of generations of random mutations and selective reproduction were sufficient to promote the evolution of efficient behaviours in a wide range of environmental conditions. The ability of robots to orientate, escape predators, and even cooperate is particularly remarkable given that they had deliberately simple genotypes directly mapped into the connection weights of neural networks comprising only a few dozen neurons.


    It’s official… Humanity is SCREWED. Not quite yet…

    As stated, it took these robots several hundred generations to do seemingly “simple” tasks. Humans have been at it for several thousand generations (and they still find ways of mucking things up). So it will be some time before we see a Cyberdyne series 800 model 101 walking down the street with an Uzi in each hand…

    In the meantime, other scientists can use this new field of Evolutionary Robotics to further their studies…

    and piss off the creationists.

    This post has been filed under Rise of the Robots, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

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