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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.

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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."

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