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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Marry a Machine

October 31, 2007 (Computerworld) -- An artificial intelligence researcher predicts that robotics will make such dramatic advances in the coming years that humans will be marrying robots by the year 2050.

Robots will become so human-like -- having intelligent conversations, displaying emotions and responding to human emotions -- that they'll be very much like a new race of people, said David Levy, a British artificial intelligence researcher whose book, "Love and Sex with Robots," will be released on Nov. 6.

Gone, he says, will be the jerky movements and artificial-sounding voices generally associated with robots. These will be highly human-like machines that people fall in love with, becoming aides, friends and even spouses.

It may sound like science fiction, but Levy, who turned his book into an academic Ph.D. dissertation at Maastricht University in The Netherlands this fall, said it's something we've been moving toward for decades now.

"Robots started out in factories making cars. There was no personal interaction," said Levy, who also is an International Chess Master who has been developing computer chess games for years. "Then people built mail cart robots, and then robotic dogs. Now robots are being made to care for the elderly. In the last 20 years, we've been moving toward robots that have more relationships with humans, and it will keep growing toward a more emotional relationship, a more loving one and a sexual one."

Yes, Levy was quick to say that humans will have sexual relationships with robots, perhaps within five years -- sooner than most might think.

Building that kind of robot will be much simpler than building a robot that could be a good human companion, though. Levy said the biggest advancement in robotics will come in the form of enabling a robot to carry on an interesting conversation, have self-awareness and emotional capabilities.

"There are already people who are producing fairly crude personalities and fairly crude models of human emotions now," said Levy. "This will be among the harder parts of this process… Human/computer conversation has attracted a lot of research attention since the 1950s, and it hasn't made as much progress as you'd expect in 50 years. But computers are so much more powerful now and memory is so much better… so we'll see software that can have interesting, intelligent conversations. It's really essential that both sides are happy with the conversations they're having."

Levy also estimated that robots will be able to have interesting conversations -- not yet at the level of a college graduate but enjoyable -- within 15 years. In 20 or 30 years, however, he expects them to carry on sophisticated conversations.


Scientists closing in on perfecting a robotic hand

Scientists closing in on perfecting a robotic hand: "senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth's Institute of Industrial Research, told Computerworld that creating the perfect robotic hand is akin to 'the Holy Grail of science.' 'The human hand makes us different from animals,' said Liu. 'We are talking about having super-high-level control of a robotic device. Nothing that exists today even comes close. It is still a long way to go, but we are confident we are on the right track.' While the device could provide help to the manufacturing industry, Liu said it also could have significant implications for the elderly and those with disabilities."

Friday, December 07, 2007

It's getting closer

Friday, November 16, 2007

University of Memphis researchers Stan Franklin and Uma Ramamurthy have released a new paper titled, Motivations, Values and Emotions: Three Sides of the Same Coin (PDF format). The paper talks about the interrelationships of the three concepts in autonomous agents, whether they are robots or humans. "Motivations prime actions, values serve to choose between motivations, emotions provide a common currency for values, and emotions implement motivations." As always, one needs to understand how the researchers use the terms. In this case, the authors seem to be using the words feelings and emotions in opposite roles from those I've seen defined in the past. They define feelings as raw sensory inputs such as heat, pain, or thirst and emotions are defined as feeling with cognitive content. Normally, I see feeling defined as the subjective or phenomenological aspect of emotion rather than the other way round. Of course, many people still use the two words interchangeably, so any distinction is helpful. Otherwise, the authors rely on the LIDA (Learning Intelligent Distributed Agent) model of cognition.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My friend, the robot | Newsmakers | CNET

My friend, the robot | Newsmakers | CNET " I wanted to ask you a little bit more about this notion of robots and companionship. How much of that is people projecting things onto robots, and how much of that is robot designers building in cues that will allow people to do that?"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Babies Driving Their Own Robots

Babies Driving Their Own Robots: "ScienceDaily (Nov. 11, 2007) — Babies driving robots. It sounds like the theme of a cartoon series but it is actually the focus of important and innovative research being conducted at the University of Delaware that could have significant repercussions for the cognitive development of infants with special needs."

Google & Androids

Google today unveiled an early version of the software development kit for the Open Handset Alliance’s open-source Android mobile phone platform, one of the major projects among engineers at the company’s Cambridge, MA, research lab. At the same time, the company said it will spur innovation by giving away $10 million in cash prizes to the developers of the best Android applications, in amounts ranging from $25,000 to $275,000. Contestants must submit their programs between January 2 and March 3, 2008.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Irobot's new gutter cleaner robot the ConnectR, iRobot has apparently modified the Roomba chassis to carry a tilt-and-zoom video camera, speaker, microphone, and headlight. It connects to a home Wi-Fi network and can be operated remotely by users who call in over the Internet, using their keyboard and mouse or a joystick to drive the device from room to room, using the live video feed as a guide. The device is targeted at people who would like to interact with family members, friends, or pets but can’t be physically present. “Participate in family moments even though you’re working late,” reads the company’s marketing pitch for the ConnectR. “On a business trip? Read your kids a story and see their faces light up. Tell Fido he’s a ‘good boy’ even while you’re on vacation.”

Looj, meanwhile, has a much more prosaic purpose: Taking over the dirty and dangerous task of cleaning gutters. Only 2.5 inches wide, the device fits inside a gutter and propels itself along on tank-like treads. A spinning, three-stage auger flings out dirt and decomposing leaves. “The Looj cleans an entire stretch of gutter from one location, reducing the number of times a ladder must be repositioned and climbed during gutter cleaning,” the company said.

For homeowners who want clean gutters before the winter of 2007-2008 strikes, the $99 device is available immediately at the companys’ website. It will be distributed by “select retailers” starting sometime in the fourth quarter, the company said.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | What happened to the Robot Age?

BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | What happened to the Robot Age?: "Feigning sensitivity
So while the world gasped at the sight of a robot defeating a chess Grandmaster, no one had thought to equip these mobile lumps of metal with the fundamental social skills that humans take for granted in each other.

And what do you do? Honda's Asimo hits the Royal circuit
These days, the watchword in robotics is 'multi-disciplinary' - bringing together people from sociology and psychology backgrounds, as well as the technical folk, to build a robot that could be a true domestic goddess.
Hence the research team decamping from the laboratory to a humble flat, where it has let its robots loose on 700 volunteer subjects.
The team has been studying issues such as personal space, how people expect a robot to approach them, or even get their attention.
'What's the best way for a robot to interrupt you if you are reading a newspaper - by gesturing with its arms, blinking its lights or making a sound,' says Prof Dautenhahn.
'We've this notion of the personalised robot companion and we are seriously looking into people's likes and dislikes and how they can be useful to people.'
Prof Chris Melhuish, who is overseeing similar works at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, agrees.
'The dynamics of interactions are incredibly important. It doesn't have feelings of course, but must have the techniques and wherewithal to appear to have feelings "

Robot device mimics human touch

A device which may pave the way for robotic hands that can replicate the human sense of touch has been unveiled.

US scientists have created a sensor that can "feel" the texture of objects to the same degree of sensitivity as a human fingertip.

The team says the tactile sensor could, in the future, aid minimally invasive surgical techniques by giving surgeons a "touch-sensation".

The research is reported in the journal Science.

"If you look at the current status of these tactile sensors, the frustration has been that the resolution of all these devices is in the range of millimetres," explained Professor Ravi Saraf, an engineer from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, US, and a co-author of the paper.

"Whereas the resolution of a human fingertip is about 40 microns, about half the diameter of a human hair, and this has affected the performance of these devices."


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Robot Gossip

Robot Gossip: "Robots to Guard Israeli Border Kill Zone
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are deploying automated weapon robots along the border of the Gaza Strip to create a buffer kill zone to prevent unauthorized infiltrations.

The system, called the 'See-Shoot' system, is currently being installed and will be fully operational by the end of 2007. It consists of automated weapons stations connected through a command center to visual, ground andairborne sensors.

The system is the culmination of years of development by defense contractors Rafael, Elbit Systems and IMI.

The system is part of an IDF strategy of low-signature/no-signature warfare. The no-signature doctrine strives to keep soldiers out of harms way as much as possible.

However, 'no-signature' warfare does not mean 'no responsibility' yet.
Eventually the See-Shoot system will be able to operate as a completely autonomous closed-loop system. But for now, the sensor data will be monitored by soldiers and a commanding officer will "

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Teraflops chip points to future

The chip is the size of a fingernail. 11 years ago...
A chip with 80 processing cores and capable of more than a trillion calculations per second (teraflops) has been unveiled by Intel.
The Teraflops chip is not a commercial release but could point the way to more powerful processors, said the firm.

The chip achieves performance on a piece of silicon no bigger than a fingernail that 11 years ago required a machine with 10,000 chips inside it.

The challenge is to find a way to program the many cores simultaneously.

Current desktop machines have up to four separate cores, while the Cell processor inside the PlayStation 3 has eight (seven of them useable). Each core is effectively a programmable chip in its own right.

But to take advantage of the extra processing power, programmers need to gives instructions to each core that work in parallel with one another.

There are already specialist chips with multiple cores - such as those used in router hardware and graphics cards - but Dr Mark Bull, at the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, said multi-core chips were forcing a sea-change in the programming of desktop applications.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian scientists and engineers have developed a robot with a keen sense of touch that will let doctors perform microscopic operations on the brain using the most vivid visuals yet, they said on Tuesday.


A melding of brain surgery and rocket science, the neuroArm allows neurosurgeons to do their riskiest work on patients within a magnetic resonance imaging machine, or MRI, giving a clear 3-D picture of even the smallest nerves.

It is expected to be used in its first operation this summer at Calgary's Foothills Hospital, site of the University of Calgary medical school's research facility.

The C$27 million ($24 million) robot was created in conjunction with the company that built a robotic arm called CanadArm for NASA space shuttles.

It will let doctors use surgical techniques on afflictions such as brain tumors that human surgeons are simply not dexterous enough to do, said Garnette Sutherland, a University of Calgary neurosurgeon who heads the project.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

BBC NEWS | Technology | Robotic age poses ethical dilemma

BBC NEWS | Technology | Robotic age poses ethical dilemmaRobotic age poses ethical dilemma

In Pictures: Robot menagerie
An ethical code to prevent humans abusing robots, and vice versa, is being drawn up by South Korea.
The Robot Ethics Charter will cover standards for users and manufacturers and will be released later in 2007.

It is being put together by a five member team of experts that includes futurists and a science fiction writer.

The South Korean government has identified robotics as a key economic driver and is pumping millions of dollars into research.

"The government plans to set ethical guidelines concerning the roles and functions of robots as robots are expected to develop strong intelligence in the near future," the ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said.

Ethical questions

South Korea is one of the world's most hi-tech societies.

Citizens enjoy some of the highest speed broadband connections in the world and have access to advanced mobile technology long before it hits western markets.

The government is also well known for its commitment to future technology. ASIMOV'S LAWS OF ROBOTICS
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law

A recent government report forecast that robots would routinely carry out surgery by 2018.

The Ministry of Information and Communication has also predicted that every South Korean household will have a robot by between 2015 and 2020.

In part, this is a response to the country's aging society and also an acknowledgement that the pace of development in robotics is accelerating.

The new charter is an attempt to set ground rules for this future.

"Imagine if some people treat androids as if the machines were their wives," Park Hye-Young of the ministry's robot team told the AFP news agency.

"Others may get addicted to interacting with them just as many internet users get hooked to the cyberworld."

Alien encounters

The new guidelines could reflect the three laws of robotics put forward by author Isaac Asimov in his short story Runaround in 1942, she said.

Key considerations would include ensuring human control over robots, protecting data acquired by robots and preventing illegal use.

Other bodies are also thinking about the robotic future. Last year a UK government study predicted that in the next 50 years robots could demand the same rights as human beings.

The European Robotics Research Network is also drawing up a set of guidelines on the use of robots.

This ethical roadmap has been assembled by researchers who believe that robotics will soon come under the same scrutiny as disciplines such as nuclear physics and Bioengineering.

A draft of the proposals said: "In the 21st Century humanity will coexist with the first alien intelligence we have ever come into contact with - robots.

"It will be an event rich in ethical, social and economic problems."

Their proposals are expected to be issued in Rome in April.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Irobot create platform

In a not-so-surprising move, iRobot Corp. has announced their new iRobot Create programmable robot. The platform allows you to use the robust Roomba-like chassis to create your own robotic creations. An optional Command Module plugs right into the cargo bay to allow you to program and controll the robot via the Create’s Open Interface. The command module is powered by an Atmega168.

Tom Atwood and Dan Lynch over at ROBOT Magazine have put together a great "first impressions" article on the iRobot Create, along with lots of pictures.

Another great feature of the Create Platform is that it's based on the existing Roomba system and therefore can use the same chargers, virtual walls, and remotes.

The iRobot Create itself is only $130, including the Command Module raises the price to $180. Both are an incredible deal.

iRobot has already assembled a list of projects created with Create (strange English, I know), and has forums and documentation ready.

This is an exciting development in the robotics community and I'm sure will spark a lot of creativity. Now, time to go convince the fiancee that we can spend $180 dollars on more robots ...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The current state of robotics

Remember the morphing robot T-1000 from the film Terminator 2? Could something like that ever become a reality? The folks at DARPA apparently think so. Last week they issued a request for proposals on developing so-called Chemical Robots (ChemBots), which would change shape in order to squeeze through tiny gaps.

The DARPA request states that ChemBots should be "soft, flexible, mobile objects that can identify and manoeuvre through openings smaller than their static structural dimensions". It goes on to add that, "nature provides many examples of ChemBot functionality. Many soft creatures, including mice, octopi, and insects, readily traverse openings barely larger than their largest 'hard' component."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Robots sniff out bombs -

Robots sniff out bombs - CNN.comDAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- As it increases its use of robots in war zones, the military will begin using an explosive-sniffing version that will allow soldiers to better detect roadside bombs, which account for more than 70 percent of U.S. casualties in Iraq.

Fido is the first robot with an integrated explosives sensor. Burlington, Massachusetts-based iRobot Corp. is filling the military's first order of 100 in this southwest Ohio city and will ship the robots over the next few months.

There are nearly 5,000 robots in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from about 150 in 2004. Soldiers use them to search caves and buildings for insurgents, detect mines and ferret out roadside and car bombs.

As the war in Iraq enters its fifth year, the federal government is spending more money on military robots and the two major U.S. robot makers have increased production.

Foster-Miller Inc., of Waltham, Mass., recently delivered 1,000 new robots to the military. IRobot cranked out 385 robots last year, up from 252 in 2005.

The government will spend about $1.7 billion on ground-based military robots between fiscal 2006 and 2012, said Bill Thomasmeyer, head of the National Center for Defense Robotics, a congressionally funded consortium of 160 companies, universities and government labs. That's up from $100 million in fiscal 2004.

Fido, produced at a GEM City Manufacturing and Engineering plant, represents an improvement in bomb-detecting military robots, said Col. Terry Griffin, project manager of the Army/Marine Corps Robotic Systems Joint Project Office at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

The bomb-sniffing sensor is part of the robot, with its readings displayed on the controller along with camera images. Otherwise, a soldier would have to approach the suspect object with a sensor or try to attach it to a robot. The new robot has a 7-foot manipulator arm so it can use the sensor to scan the inside and undercarriage of vehicles for bombs.

Officials would not release details of how the sensors work because of security concerns.

"The sniffer robot is a very good idea because we need some way of understanding ambiguous situations like abandoned cars or suspicious trash piles without putting soldiers' lives on the line," said Loren Thompson, defense analyst with the Washington-based Lexington Institute.

Philip Coyle, senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information in Washington, said the robots could be helpful if they are used in cases where soldiers already suspect a bomb. But he said explosive-sniffing sensors are susceptible to false positives triggered by explosive residues elsewhere in the area, smoke and other contaminants.

"The soldiers can begin to lose faith in them, and they become more trouble than they're worth," he said.

Thompson said all military robots have limitations. Their every move must be dictated by an operator, they can be stopped by barriers or steep grades, they are not highly agile and they can break down or be damaged, he said.

Robots range in size from tiny -- 1.5-pound ones carrying cameras are tossed into buildings to search for insurgents -- to brute -- 110-pound versions move rubble and lift debris.

Fido is an upgrade of PackBot, a 52-pound robot with rubber treads, lights, video cameras that zoom and swivel, obstacle-hurdling flippers and jointed manipulator arms with hand-like grippers designed to disable or destroy bombs. Each costs $165,000.

Army Staff Sgt. Shawn Baker, 26, of Olean, New York, has helped detect and disable roadside bombs during two tours in Iraq. Before the robots were available, he and fellow soldiers would stand back as far as possible with a rope and drag hooks over the suspect devices in hopes of disarming or detonating them.

Two soldiers were killed that way, Baker said. No one in his unit has been hurt or killed while disarming bombs since the robots arrived.

"The science and technology of this has been way out in front of the production side," Thomasmeyer said. "We're going to start to see a payoff for all the science and technology advancements."

IRobot posted $189 million in sales last year, up 33 percent from 2005. Its military business grew 60 percent to about $76 million.

Bob Quinn, general manager of Foster-Miller, said his company has contracts of $320 million for military robots and that its business has doubled every year for the past four years.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

'Almost Human' by Lee Gutkind

Not surprisingly, some roboticists have their most intense relationships with their creations. Richard Wallace, for example, "a marijuana-smoking maverick, expelled from many of the best universities for his erratic behavior," is deeply invested in Alice (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity), an empathetic artificial intelligence program with a female persona. "Her" interactive website has led "more people toward self-revelation and confession than most psychiatrists and priests."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

ROBOMO, the St. Louis (Missouri) Area Robotics Group, has an interesting robot maze solving competition scheduled for April 28th. So if you're a budding robot builder, or an experienced hand, and happen to live within driving distance, then there is still time to enter, compete, and - if you're lucky - go home with some neat prizes.

The competition rules and sample maze look very straight forward, yet challenging enough to trigger some real competition. There are already quite a few robots entered and range from Lego Mindstorms based bots to full custom designs. It should be a lot of good fun. We're looking forward to hearing about how it went, and seeing some photos, after the competition.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What's Up: My Weblog: When Pride Gets In The Way Of Life#more#more#more

What's Up: My Weblog: When Pride Gets In The Way Of Life#more#more#more: "'First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.'
- Napoleon Hill"

Monday, March 12, 2007

robot of the year

Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Robot Of The Year
There have been some very significant advances in robot technology and applications this year. There is strong belief that we are witnessing the beginnings of what will become an intimate and essential part of our lives. (See Bill Gates' thoughts in Scientific American) The robot revolution has begun. We humans alive today will be both the benefactors and victims of the coming changes.

For a robot to be successful it must have the right balance of technology and utility. In selecting the Robot Of The Year for 2006 we looked for this balance.
Many of the achievements of robot science this year solved some extremely complex problems. There is no denying that the technology is advancing rapidly. However, in selecting a Robot of the Year we were looking for examples of robots that accomplished more than incremental change. We focused on robots that created a new future. We looked for robots that may have come from the future.

I guess our strict criteria is why the Robot Gossip Robot of the Year for 2006 does not come from a university research lab, government engineering project, industrial, electronics or software giant. The winner of Robot Gossip Robot of the Year for 2006 was created by an artist.

Robot Gossip Robot of the Year 2006

The Robot of the Year is Beggar (Zicar) by Slovenian artist Saso Sedlacek. It first appeared in Robot Gossip in January 2006

Beggar is described as “a robot for the materially deprived.” It is built from discarded computer parts for little or no cost. It is designed to attract and interact with people and beg for alms.

It is made from four personal computer boxes and uses CD drives for begging hands and a computer screen for its sad face.
There have been two of the robots built. The first was used in Slovenian shopping malls. The second, Beggar 2.0, practiced on the streets of Tokyo.

What makes the Beggar robot so notable is they way it combines so many of the functions for which robots are used and also brings the technology into the hands of the very common human.

Some of the functions of robots today that are fulfilled by Zicar are:

Automation- robots can replace people for boring and repetitive tasks.

Telepresence - the materially deprived owner of the beggar robot could actually operate more than one robot to leverage their efforts to more locations.

Perform hazardous and dangerous tasks - Robots are used to perform jobs where ro

Friday, March 09, 2007

BBC NEWS | Talking Point

BBC NEWS | Talking PointThe three laws of robotics show the way that robots will worship us, their creators. Some people just like to live in the past and fear the future. Sure there will be robot crime. Evil people will create evil robots. The future will be better than ever and worse than ever. It has always been that way and will ever be so.

The evolution of robotics

Scientists are already beginning to think seriously about the new ethical problems posed by current developments in robotics.

This week, experts in South Korea said they were drawing up an ethical code to prevent humans abusing robots, and vice versa. And, a group of leading roboticists called the European Robotics Network (Euron) has even started lobbying governments for legislation.

At the top of their list of concerns is safety. Robots were once confined to specialist applications in industry and the military, where users received extensive training on their use, but they are increasingly being used by ordinary people.

Robot vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers are already in many homes, and robotic toys are increasingly popular with children.

As these robots become more intelligent, it will become harder to decide who is responsible if they injure someone. Is the designer to blame, or the user, or the robot itself?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

"A human being may be faster, but you'd have to say 'Thank you,"' said University of Tokyo professor Tomomasa Sato. "That's the best part about a robot. You don't have to feel bad about asking it to do things."

Sato believes Japan, a rapidly aging society where more than a fifth of the population is 65 or older, will lead the world in designing robots to care for the elderly, sick and bedridden.

Already, monitoring technologies, such as sensors that automatically turn on lights when people enter a room, are becoming widespread in Japan.

Friday, February 09, 2007

AlterNet: Jonah Goldberg's Gambling Debt: Will Tribune Company Pay It?

AlterNet: Jonah Goldberg's Gambling Debt: Will Tribune Company Pay It?: "Goldberg is just a dime-a-dozen pundit. Cranky rich people hire sharp-tongued and relatively uninformed young people all the time and put them on the mass media to badmouth the poor, spread bigotry, exalt mindless militarism, promote anti-intellectualism, and ensure that right-wing views come to predominate.'"

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Chaos is a cool little robot that is difficult to stop - its four independently controlled tracks let this feisty little guy flail its way past just about anything. Stairs, train tracks, rubble piles, gravel, steep grades of loose debris - the Chaos robot keeps on coming.

(Chaos robot from Autonomous Solutions)
Chaos is virtually silent; its battery pack keeps it going for up to three hours and its "ultra-efficient" motor and gearbox let it pack a lot of power into its small size.

Chaos can be fitted with an arm and sensors for HAZMAT situations; it can be operated from a handheld controller or use multi-vehicle autonomous behaviors.

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eureka, California, United States
As Popeye once said,"I ams what I am." But then again maybe I'm not