Across the globe from the uncanny valley that is Diego-san’s facial expressions, the University of Zurich’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory making another weird foray into the creation of a robot toddler.
Roboy is being developing with the help of crowd-funding,, sponsorships and almost 40 engineers and scientists.
Just like its weaker, fleshy, real-life inspiration, Roboy’s design gestation is going to take about 9 months to full completion.
Roboy is being developed to ease people into actually living with robots and not being creeped out by them. Roboy’s face was chosen during a Facebook contest. Its body is made entirely of plastic and will be covered with a fleshy, rubber-like material to simulate skin. Unlike typical robot movement mechanisms, Roboy will feature elastic cables pulled by motors in order to provide movement more human-like and less bad robot-dance-like.
Part of Roboy’s mission is to help build a bridge across the uncanny valley and get people more comfortable with having robots around and being a part of their lives.
Service robots are going to be a part of our lives in the very near future. As the population ages, new generations will already be more comfortable with having robots around and using them to do menial tasks for us.
Roboy will heading out into the world as part of the ‘Robots on Tour’ event that begins March and will exhibit all sorts of our future replacements.
Then there’s that incessant and nagging subconscious feeling that we might piss them off and see an army more terrifying than anything Hollywood could put in front of our peepers….
Well BigDog just got out-weirded and out-creeped by DARPA’s newest step toward removing the word ‘human’ from ‘humanity’.
Designed as a part of DARPA’s Robotics Challenge, the robot ‘thing’ in the video above, known as the Pet-Proto, will be let loose in a series of environments designed to replicate the conditions of a natural disaster. Several other teams are working on similar robots to compete in the challenge. They will all be competing to gain access to a more advanced version of the Pet-Proto called the Atlas which will be used in the 2013-2014 live disaster-response event.
We don’t know what’s worse…being trapped in a natural disaster or being saved from natural disaster from something that looks like this.
Robotics design is continually making all those creepy robot-takeover concepts part of our future reality. Check this thing out. It’s a ‘robot’ that imitates the actions of a worm but has the uncanny creepy factor of a maggot when you continue to watch it move. As soon as someone attaches some kind of weird syringe-probe thing? We’re done.
Earthworms creep along the ground by alternately squeezing and stretching muscles along the length of their bodies, inching forward with each wave of contractions. Snails and sea cucumbers also use this mechanism, called peristalsis, to get around, and our own gastrointestinal tracts operate by a similar action, squeezing muscles along the esophagus to push food to the stomach.
Now researchers at MIT, Harvard University and Seoul National University have engineered a soft autonomous robot that moves via peristalsis, crawling across surfaces by contracting segments of its body, much like an earthworm. The robot, made almost entirely of soft materials, is remarkably resilient: Even when stepped upon or bludgeoned with a hammer, the robot is able to inch away, unscathed.
Watch it again….it’s creepy little self gets stepped on and hit with a hammer! And it KEEPS GOING!
Wired magazine is celebrating the ten year anniversary of the Steven Spielberg film MINORITY REPORT in an article that talks about the secret summit where technologists were invited to imagine the world of 2080 (revised to 2050 for the film) as well as a piece that covers all of the ideas MINORITY REPORT introduced that now have become a reality. There’s only one problem, for avid futurists, MINORITY REPORT was already mired in the past. The film didn’t so much predict the future as much as retread ideas that had been around in the 60’s several of which were already outdated by the release.
In a section that measured up 10 key technologies from the film, the Wired staff judged how accurate the predictions were. They failed to mention how a number of the technologies they credited to the “idea summit” were already in use. For some technologies they dismissed they seemed to have entirely missed current areas of research. Here’s a look at Wired’s list and our thoughts:
Iris recognition: Retina scanning, the first biometric security measure using the eye was commercially available in 1981. This method was first discussed in the 1930’s. More advanced iris scanning was in practical use before the release of the film.
Self-driving cars: The vehicles in MINORITY REPORT used a specially built highways system because they couldn’t imagine cars ever being able to drive themselves on the roads and highways we use today. While the futurists were locked away in their hotel conference room deciding this, hundreds of miles to the north, the nascent Google was already laying the groundwork for a technological revolution that would see robotic cars drive the California highway less than a decade later.
Spiderbots: Robots built like spiders were already available in toy stores. Keen watchers of Return of the Jedi remember one lurking around Jabba’s palace. The Michael Crichton directed film RUNAWAY featured hundreds of them trying to kill future cop Tom Selleck.
Predictive policing: A core idea of the story by Philip K. Dick, this concept has been around for decades. Law enforcement agencies have been using computer modeling for years to try to predict and apply resources to trouble spots. Psychic policing always has been and will be a fantasy. Predicting crime and stopping it before it happens is child’s play anyhow; real cops use time travel to go back and fix things after they happened.
Holograms: Holograms have been a staple of science fiction forever. In Wired’s run down, Neil Gershenfeld of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms makes the statement, “The problem with Star Wars-style 3-D projected in mid-air is that the physics don’t work.” Which physics do you speak of? Better not tell these researchers here who have managed to do this feat by using lasers to generate plasma excitations in free floating oxygen and nitrogen molecules. Other researchers are experimenting with water jets and dust particles suspended by sound.
Sick sticks: In MINORITY REPORT cops could tap you with a baton that made you lose your lunch. Stun wands, sonic disruptors and fields were already either in use or being tested by the military long before MINORITY REPORT. The idea of a weapon that made you lose bodily control actually goes as far back as Tesla.
Personalized billboards: We were already being bombarded with personalized ads on the web via tracking cookies since 1996. Max Headroom explored the impact of this in 1987.
Gestural interfaces: Wired hailed the hand waving interaction of Tom Cruise’s with the police computer as futuristic. For anybody that remembers the Nintendo Power Glove, it was an artifact from the past (1990 to be exact). By the time MINORITY REPORT was released, researchers were already moving away from the idea of using gloves, to actual visual imaging systems that could recognize what your hands are doing. 20 million Microsoft Kinects later, the glow gloves scene from MINORITY REPORT is as laughable as a brick phone or a pager.
E-Newspapers: Digital paper was a laboratory demo in the 1990’s and a much theorized technology before then. While Wired says this could hit the mainstream in the next five years, they must have missed the issue of Esquire 4 years ago that featured this on the cover. The real question is in the iPad age, will we ever go back to traditional-sized newspapers when e-paper becomes dirt cheap? Stanley Kubrick looked a lot more prescient in 1968 than the futurists of MINORITY REPORT thirty years later.
Jetpacks: Wired writes off the jetpacks of MINORITY REPORT as implausible tech included for cinematic purposes. We’re going to take Spielberg’s side on this one. Since the release of MINORITY REPORT we’ve found that the military has made use of jet-assisted bat suits and we’ve seen daredevils use personal rocket propulsion to perform stunts every bit as exhilarating as what was in the film. For anyone saying don’t hold your breath for a practical jetpack, the same could have been said for remote controlled drones controlled by your phone (now available in toy stores) or rockets that land themselves (now being tested).
What still needs to be adjusted for, in our opinion, is repetition of ads. We might suspect that a film with an ad in heavy rotation for two weeks would get a higher skip rating in the second week than the first because people have seen the clip already.
So the next time you want to predict Box Office success, look no further than your own thumb for the answers.
Back in the Victorian era, steam engines were on the bleeding edge and electricity seemed magical and revolutionary. In those times it seemed that all could be solved by technology and in many ways this was true. Inventors like Edison, Tesla, Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace inspired authors like Jules Verne and H.G Wells. These thinkers were setting down what the future would be like in ways that we are only now, in the second decade of the 21st Century are beginning to understand .
In many ways this is literary archaeology. By revisiting the classics with our 2011 minds we recognize gems that others might have passed up in the past century. The following are several inventions from the texts of the greatest Victorian Scientific Fantasy authors.
1899 iPod Touch: HG Wells, in his 1899 short story “When The Sleeper Wakes”, good ol’ George foresaw a device that could be carried on the palm that had the sole purpose of storing and displaying movies and music. As his protagonist fumbles with the device he discovers that:
He pressed this and a rapid clicking began and ceased. He became aware of voices and music, and noticed a play of colour on the smooth front face. He suddenly realised what this might be, and stepped back to regard it.On the flat surface was now a little picture, very vividly coloured, and in this picture were figures that moved. Not only did they move, but they were conversing in clear small voices.
1889 Skype: In his prophetic “In The Year 2889″ Verne prognosticates a future with fiber optic communications and video calling ala Skype or Google Hangouts. The motivation is very similar to an Apple’s Facetime app:
Incredible though it seems, in the 10 years since their marriage, this is the first time Mrs. Edith Smith, the professional model, has been so long absent from home; two or three days usually suffice for her frequent trips to Europe. The first thing Mr. Smith does is activate his phonotelephote, the wires of which communicate with his Paris mansion. The telephote! Here is another great triumph of modern science. The transmission of speech is an old story; the transmission of images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wires is a thing but of yesterday. A valuable invention indeed; Mr. Smith this morning is full of blessings for the inventor, when by its aid he is able distinctly to see [and speak with ] his wife despite her great distance.”
1899 Multi Touch iPad: Wells also delved into portable computers complete with multi touch interphases. Again from “When the Sleeper Wakes” in which the main character sleeps for 250 years and goes to the tailor in the future, the tool the tailor uses to show the sleeper different styles should sound very familiar to us.
“You lived, Sire, in a period essentially cylindrical — the Victorian. With a tendency to the hemisphere in hats. Circular curves always. Now –” He flicked out a little appliance the size and appearance of a keyless watch, whirled the knob, and behold — a little figure in white appeared kinetoscope fashion on the dial, walking and turning. “Trust me,” said the tailor. “My machine follows. What do you think of this?”
“What is that?” asked the man from the nineteenth century. “In your days they showed you a fashion-plate,” said the tailor, “but this is our modern development. See here.” The little figure repeated its evolutions, but in a different costume. “Or this,” and with a click another small figure in a more voluminous type of robe marched on to the dial. The tailor was very quick in his movements, and glanced twice towards the lift as he did these things.”
1889 Podcasting: Yes, we all know he also came up with the submarine, moonshot, airplane et. al. But this jewel was long forgten until recently. In between eating crepes zussette and buying baguettes, Jules proposed that in the future news would be consumed via telephone like contraptions conected to recording devices in his 1889 story, “In the Year 2889″ . Even the concept of subscribing to podcasts is mentioned. You can imagine a Steampunk version of Scott Johnson or Tom Merritt speaking to the masses through their wired conections to the brass and wood Apple portable phonographs. Here is an excerpt:
“Instead of being printed, the Earth Chronicle is every morning spoken to subscribers, who, from interesting conversations with reporters, statesmen and scientists, learn the news of the day. Furthermore, each subscriber owns a phonograph, and to this instrument he leaves the task of gathering the news whenever he happens not to be in a mood to listen directly himself.”
Recently there have been great deal of discussions over who invented what technology and who came up with this idea or that one. The fact is that the far thinking Victorians foresaw even the information age back in the 19th. So you see, there is prior art in everything and we are indeed living in the Victorian equivalent of technological paradise. So who knows what else is posible from cavorite to the flugurator all manner of wonders prognosticated by the visionaries from the Steam Age might be coming soon. I guess there is something to donning hats with goggles after all.