You may want to get Right Said Fred, a mag-pulse rifle, and/or your best robo-babe pickup lines ready.
The latest sex-bot struts her stuff. Only Japan can come up with a bot beauty ready to walk the catwalk. While America wastes robot-tech on wars for world domination, Japan puts the tech to better use with helpful robots. Judging by the latest, the HRP-4C fashion robot, they’re doing it right.
From Straits Times:
The girlie-faced humanoid with slightly oversized eyes, a tiny nose and a shoulder length hair-do boasts 42 motion motors programmed to mimic the movements of flesh-and-blood fashion models.
‘Hello everybody, I am cybernetic human HRP-4C,’ said the futuristic fashionista, opening her media premiere at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology outside Tokyo.
The fashion-bot is 158 centimetres tall, the average height of Japanese women aged 19 to 29, but weighs in at a waif-like 43 kilograms - including batteries. She has a manga-inspired human face but a silver metallic body.
Her official fashion show debut will be on March 23 in Tokyo. Afterward, she’s expected to go on the market for $200K US each, primarily for the entertainment industries.
A case of first-time jitters? HRP’s debut wasn’t the smoothest, as she kept looking surprised and stunned as the cameras clicked away, confusing her sound sensors. On the plus side, she wasn’t an ED-209. This problem should be fixed by her debut.
A burning question. Wired’s Daniel Roth asks the important question of what rights robot should have when they reach human levels of sentience. Something to get the philosophers, religious fruitcakes, and robot-rights activists to talk about:
This question is starting to get debated by robot designers and toymakers. With advanced robotics becoming cheaper and more commonplace, the challenge isn’t how we learn to accept robots—but whether we should care when they’re mistreated. And if we start caring about robot ethics, might we then go one insane step further and grant them rights?
Apparently Mr. Roth has already sided with the pro-human forces, mainly because of his dislike for the animatronic Elmo dolls, and a little kool-aid from Fisher-Price’s marketing Veep Gina Sirard:
Keep soul-searching to a minimum and recognize that you’re buying a product, pure and simple. “This is a toy,” Fisher-Price’s Sirard says. “There shouldn’t be any laws about how you use your toys.”
Of course, that’s what corporations, governments, slave owners, and dictators have been saying about people for centuries. They’re only toys now because the technology has not progressed to the point where robotic humanity is possible… but once it does…
THEN WHAT, MEATBOT?
To one man, it was an impromptu joke against religious fruitcakes (Click to see the story). Next time, it won’t be a laughing matter.
Given events in places like Auschwitz, the former Yugoslavia, Guantanamo, and the World Trade Center, I often wonder if humans deserve human rights. Maybe some competition from the machines may snap the species out of narcissistic slumber. Right now is the best time to recognize robot rights… otherwise…
“It sits there looking at me, and I don’t know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I am neither competent, nor qualified, to answer those. I’ve got to make a ruling – to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We’ve all been dancing around the basic issue: does Data have a soul? I don’t know that he has. I don’t know that I have! But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose.”
- Captain Phillipa Louvois (Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Measure of a Man”)
This should give you an idea of what DARPA’s latest robot nightmare project is about; The EATR Project seeks to create robots that can “consume” organic matter for fuel.
Appetite for Destruction. A Potomac, MD, US company called Robotic Technologies Inc. (RTI) has just contracted Florida-based Cyclone Power Technologies Inc. to develop engines for a new DARPA robot project. These engines will use biomass as their fuel source. Doesn’t sound like major news… unless you know that the project is called EATR: Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR(TM)).
The EATR is an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance military missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling. The system is designed to obtain its energy by foraging — engaging in biologically-inspired, organism-like, energy harvesting behavior which is the equivalent of eating. The patent pending robotic system can find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil and solar) when suitable.
In other words, the EATR-bots will power itself by doing something nature has been doing for millions of years: Ingest “food” by grazing (herbivore), hunting (carnivore), and/or scavenging. A PDF presentation of the project can be found/downloaded here.
Terabytes… or TERROR BITES? It’s not hard to imagine a pack of hungry, hungry robots being let loose in a densely populated area like a big city or a Midwest farm where their appetites can cause a major catastrophe, unless you program them to not eat certain targets. They can also be used in “clean-up” work such as clearing brush to prevent or control forest fires, cleaning up landfills, or even the recent turmoil in Gaza…
Then you have to figure what the kooks at PETA may try to do to “convince” the EATRs to go vegan. Maybe a spin-off like RETHA: Robots for the Ethical Treatment of Humans and Animals? And it may also lead to another question: What sauce do you use to serve a PETA member to an EATR?
I ate that PETA branch with some fava beans and a nice chianti. They had flava’. Om nom nom nom nom nom!
I wanted to blog this sooner, but a stomach virus kept my power levels down for a couple of days.
The idea of a personal robot has been on most everyone’s mind lately, even driving an intrepid inventor to build his own. Having a two-legged, walking, talking, thinking, tireless robot that can do household chores would be a blessing to some. But a recent article from the BBC News Magazine shows that such personal robots may not as close as most might think.
While many obstacles have been cleared so far, there are still some major roadblocks ahead (other than price) that may keep personal robots a dream:
Walking. With the likes of Honda’s Asimo robot seen walking about, one would think they would have the robotic walking mastered. But it’s actually harder than you might think. “Human walking is controlled falling. Robots doing controlled falling ends up in falling - but with a complete absence of control,” goes the article. If you watch Asimo’s walk, it definitely doesn’t look like human-style walking. Also consider this following video of another walking robot that ends up on the floor instead. So much for progress.
Handling abilities. Imagine your robot trying to grab a beer from the fridge, only to crush the can or destroy the bottle in its iron grip. Now imagine that same robot trying to shake your, or another person’s, hand. Being able to grasp something without crushing it requires a fine touch… no pun intended. But may be a bit easier than some other obstacles.
Vision and Thought. In humans, vision and thought are fundamental and often integrated functions: What we see triggers our brains to “react” to the input. Unfortunately, robot vision isn’t so advanced since they have yet to develop human-like thought.
Multitasking. Humans are great at handling multiple tasks, even though some are incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Robots can only do one task at any given time. Until robots can walk and chew gum at the same time, they will only be useful for what they were designed and programmed to do.
Human stuff. Humans came about as the result of millions of years of evolution. Some are trying the same tactic with robots. So far, they have yet to “leave the swamp.”
Ethical issues. OK, what would happen if the robots finally achieve human-level abilities? Would they be slaves to the man and woman? Does the world really need a mechanized “human?”
What’s a robot to do? They’re still saying that household robots are possible in ten years, but they won’t be the humanoid C3PO types. They’ll be limited, specialists like Roombas. Designed to do specific tasks like wash the windows, take out the trash, or get a beer from the fridge… hopefully without crushing the can or destroying the bottle in its iron grip.
Hope everyone studied for the test. Over the past weekend artificial intelligence-based “chatbots” were given the Turing test to determine who… make that “what”… had the programming to fool the judges into believing they were talking to a human and not a bot. There are three level of medals (like the olympics) that are awarded to the top bot:
Bronze: Given to the bot best able to mimic human conversation in text form, like an old-style chatroom.
Silver: The bot would need to pass a longer version of the Turing test while fooling half of the judges.
Gold: Like the silver, but the bot would process audio and video.
So far, there have been no silver or gold winners. The bronze medal winner is the Elbot AI from Artificial Solutions. You can try Elbot for yourself, but don’t expect straight answers from this program. I tried it out myself briefly. I’m no AI expert, but we can rest easy in that a fully gold-medal Turing-bot is still a long ways off.
Click the image to ‘chat’ with Elbot.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try it again next year…
Meet Zeno, a robot who seeks to save humanity from evil. What could possibly go wrong with that?
A boy bot on a mission. Hailing from an “Inventing Academy” in the year 2027 where child robots learn to fight evil, an 18-inch tall boy robot has been sent back to present day to stop evil A.I.s from taking over the world. Apparently, John Conner has run out of reprogrammed T-800s and is reduced to sending toys back through time.
The next Terminator movie script? Nope. It’s the back story created by Hanson Robotics to introduce Zeno the RoboKind at the recent Wired magazine NextFest. The idea behind Zeno’s existence is a familiar one:
David Hanson, Hanson Robotics:
We want to be damn sure that by the time [robots] become as smart as we are, they have a conscience and compassion and that we are friends.,” Hanson said. “There’s no guarantee. They could be psychotic.”
There are other robots and projects that are trying to make living with robots easier and making our eventual mechanical successors friendlier, so Zeno may seem unnecessary. Then again, those projects don’t have the Terminator-esque back story that humans can relate to.
Living la Vida Beta. Zeno has been under development for the past couple of years, so he still has some technical issues to overcome yet before realizing his full potential. He already has the ability to “recognize” people thanks to face- and voice-recognition. Future abilities may include a WiFi connection to the Internet, and the ability to make and test theories about the world (conspiracy theorists, consider yourselves warned).
Hanson Robotics is looking to bring Zeno to market around 2010 where the full-sized (18″), fully-capable dude may sell for $1500 US. A smaller (6″), less intelligent version will be priced for $300 US.
No, don’t go singing that Rembrants song! We’re not talking about the TV show, but a European project consortium. One with a rather ambitious goal: To get robots to observe and obey Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.
The European Machine Directive 98/37/EC states that all appropriate measures shall be taken to ensure that machinery or safety components may be placed on the market and put into service only if they do no endanger the health or safety of persons and, where appropriate, domestic animals or property.
This directive is the basic impetus behind the PHRIENDS project to make “safer” robots for human-robot interaction. The three-year project is due to end September 30, 2009, and they hope robots will be safe enough for humans by then. Exactly how do they plan to do this? Develop the technology:
A) new actuator concepts and prototypes;
B) new dependable algorithms for supervision and planning;
C) new control algorithms for handling safe human-robot physical interaction and for fault tolerant behaviour.
Furthermore, PHRIENDS will
D) integrate these components in functionally meaningful subsystems;
E) evaluate quantitatively components and subsystems via experimental testing;
F) contribute to the ongoing effort of international bodies towards the establishment of new standards for collaborative human-robot operation.
So, where’s the Three Laws? It appears the the forced programming of the Three Laws is not in the plans… yet. Although (B) and (C) could be used as reasons for such programming.
If this project does succeed, will it keep potential SkyNets, SHODANs, and HALs from being created? And what will this do to America’s bot-crazed military programs?
The University of Reading’s robot and its “brain”; Cultured neurons in a multi-electrode array (MEA) with electrodes for communication between the neurons and the robot body.
In what has to be a ground-breaking event, the University of Reading’s (UK) Cybernetic Intelligence Research Group (CIRG) have constructed a robot that has an organic “brain” made of cultured neurons. Control of the robot is done completly from the brain, WITHOUT HUMAN INPUT.
The project is, surprisingly, not about creating a race of cyborgs:
This cutting edge research is the first step to examine how memories manifest themselves in the brain, and how a brain stores specific pieces of data. The key aim is that eventually this will lead to a better understanding of development and of diseases and disorders which affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, stoke and brain injury.
So, no robot/cyborg overlords. Not just yet… The main goal of the brain-bot is to study how the brain works in terms of memory storage. Of course, that doesn’t mean other applications are not possible:
(From Roland Piquepaille, ZDNet) The area of focus is notably the use of electrode technology, where a connection is made directly with the cerebral cortex and/or nervous system. The presentation will consider the future in which robots have biological, or part-biological, brains and in which neural implants link the human nervous system bi-directionally with technology and the internet.
There’s also this video (a 95MB video) about the bot and a couple of its creators (I’ll be checking it out when I have some time).
UPDATE: It looks like the video link above has “expired,” so here’s a video from New Scientist showing the bot in action:
Will you (heart) Heart Robot? Also, A Robotic Love Story to Rival Wall-E and EVE.
Report from the BBC on July 29. The University of the West of England’s David McGoran has created a robot/puppet that uses a flashing “heart” to show its “emotional state.”
The Heart Robot could be among the first robots to signify a new era of “emotional machines” used for medical treatment and enjoyment, according to one of its inventors.
David McGoran, of the University of the West of England, predicts the part-puppet, part-machine creation he helped develop is an example of how robots will increasingly adopt human characteristics.
McGoran hopes to develop more sophisticated “emotional machines” for social care. More information can be found at the Heart Robot Site.
There’s also a video of McGoran taking Heart Robot to see Micromagic Systems’ “ic Hexapod,” a spider-bot with face recognition and tracking. The one on the BBC site may not work, so here’s the one on YouTube (though the first thirty seconds don’t play):
Obey me, my minions, or I will poke your eyes out with this pointy stick!
Detroit, Michigan, United States. 13-May-2008. (Source: ABC News via The Associated Press) Honda’s ASIMO robot becomes a music machine as it picks up a baton to conduct the Detroit Symphony Orchestra through the opera tune “The Impossible Dream.” The performance was to highlight a $1M gift from Honda to the orchestra’s music education fund.
The irony may be lost to those of you who may not have known that Detroit suffered a downturn when the US automakers closed their plants there because of Japanese automakers gains in America’s markets following the gas shortages of the seventies.
Practice makes perfect. Almost. ASIMO’s limitations became apparent during a rehersal. It was programmed to observe the orchestra’s education director and mimic his moves, but it could not adjust the pacing of the music:
During the first rehearsal, the orchestra lost its place when ASIMO began to slow the tempo, something a human conductor would have sensed and corrected, said bassist Larry Hutchinson.
The song went off without any problems reported, and ASIMO… and the orchestra… was applauded for the performance. Though if ASIMO wants to take up the baton again, it will need to learn to control the tempo of the music better. But considering how far it has come with just walking, that shouldn’t be much of a problem for ASIMO’s engineers to correct.
Now if ASIMO could be taught how to play guitar like Eddie Van Halen, or electronics like Kraftwerk…