Archive for the ‘Robot’ Category

Disturbing Robot ‘Baby’ Makes Ultra-Realistic Faces – Smiles at the End of Mankind

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

In our article about the other new toddler robot called Roboy we mentioned Diego-san. Here’s your first look into the robotic wagon-train that’s leaving Uncanny Valley slowly but surely.

When John Connor shows up and SkyNet goes live it won’t be the T1000s we’re worried about.


We’ll be too terrified by something that’s already been here.

Robot babies.

And you can tear that cute baby robot picture off the wall of your imagination…because robot babies are about as far as you can get from being ‘cute’.

Because we’re not satisfied with making skeletal robots that look like mechanical grim reapers, the University of San Diego has created a ridiculously amazing and disturbingly realistic over-sized one-year-old in order to study the cognitive development of infants.

“Its main goal is to try and understand the development of sensory motor intelligence from a computational point of view. It brings together researchers in developmental psychology, machine learning, neuroscience, computer vision and robotics. Basically we are trying to understand the computational problems that a baby’s brain faces when learning to move its own body and use it to interact with the physical and social worlds.”

As we continue grinning and patting ourselves on the back about our advances in robot technology and march ourselves into our own demise, you can rest assured that the armies of creepy robot babies are just going to keep on smiling that same frightening smile that’ll remind us of ourselves when we were so excited about our accomplishments in robotics.

Until then just keep hitting the replay button and shuddering at Diego-san’s facial expressions.


Company Creates Robotic Toddler to Help Us Like Our Future Overlords

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

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….


Disney Develops Robot That Plays Catch and Juggles!

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

When the Hall of Presidents attraction opened in Disneyland decades ago, the animatronics featured in it floored guests with their life-like movements. Disney became known for its animatronics in other attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and others. It was good ol’ Abe Lincoln, though that got a lot of attention…especially when he stood up.

But that was then.

Recently a video has surfaced on YouTube from a Disney R&D lab in Pittsburgh that hints at what they’ve been working on since then. Imagineers are now literally playing ball with a robot prototype that can track object movement and respond in real-time!

Being that this is just taking its baby-steps at this point, it both frightening and amazing to think about what Disney might have in the works for this type of interactivity with a robot and park guests.

From the video’s description:

Robots in entertainment environments typically do not allow for physical interaction and contact with people. However, catching and throwing back objects is one form of physical engagement that still maintains a safe distance between the robot and participants. Using an animatronic humanoid robot, we developed a test bed for a throwing and catching game scenario. We use an external camera system (ASUS Xtion PRO LIVE) to locate balls and a Kalman ?lter to predict ball destination and timing. The robot’s hand and joint-space are calibrated to the vision coordinate system using a least-squares technique, such that the hand can be positioned to the predicted location. Successful catches are thrown back two and a half meters forward to the participant, and missed catches are detected to trigger suitable animations that indicate failure. Human to robot partner juggling (three ball cascade pattern, one hand for each partner) is also achieved by speeding up the catching/throwing cycle. We tested the throwing/catching system on six participants (one child and ?ve adults, including one elderly), and the juggling system on three skilled jugglers.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t get bored of playing catch with the guests in the parks and decide one day to unbolt itself, head to Cinderella’s Castle and proclaim the Disney parks as the headquarters of our new robotic overlords!

DARPA Robot Navigates Obstacles – Strolls Into Your Nightmares!

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Remember that weird and completely creepy mule-like, self-stablizing robot that’s been swimming around the internet for a while now called the BigDog from Boston Dynamics?

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.


South Korea’s Deadly New Border Weapon!

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Because there’s not enough tension already in North and South Korea, a company has now developed what’s being hailed as a ‘super gun’ to help keep an eyeball on the demilitarized zone between the Hatfield/McCoy-style rivalry amongst the two countries.

The Super aEgis II is one of the most intimidating weapons ever to back up someone’s ‘No Trespassing’ policies. Featuring a thermal camera, a laser range-finder and can nail and destroy a human-sized target from almost 2 miles away. Because it’s designed as a modular system, the aEgis II’s ‘gun pod’ can be replaced and fitted with various other life-destroying joys like surface-to-air missiles or similar goodies yet to be revealed by its manufacturer.

What’s disturbing about the Super aEgis II isn’t that it can destroy a target before the target’s even aware it’s being destroyed…it’s that once Skynet takes over or some 12 year-old hacker decides to add them to their toybox? We’re all in a lot of trouble.


Sperm-Extracting Machine Comes to Chinese Hospitals!

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Because some people just can’t get the job done while locked in a room by themselves with some fun magazines or just some mental photography, some genius in China has developed something to help those people out…

The lonely Chinese scientist who created this was probably suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and couldn’t even hold a tablet that was playing his favorite movies any longer without discomfort.

(Insert your sad-face pervy scientist emoticon here)

Now this once-sad scienstist has solved ALL of his problems! This thing even has adjustable controls and a built-in dvd player so you can watch your favorite ‘films’.

Like the krill in Finding Nemo, there’s nowhere for your little swimming future-yous to go but in the perpetually slurping maw of a robot that looks like the original Pong arcade game’s second-cousin from the hills.

Clicking play on that video above will either bring laughter, what some like to call ‘cringy-I-smelled-poop’ face or a look of awe and wonder and possibilities to your precious little faces.

The director of the urology department at Zhengzhou Central Hospital said the machine was being used by infertility patients who are finding it difficult to retrieve sperm the old fashioned way.
A website which is selling the machine for $2,800 promoting it stating ‘it can give patients very comfortable feeling.’

Is this the end of prostitution? As newer versions of this machine hit the market, will the older ones find their way into dark alleys and those fun-smelling booths in the back of porn shops or will they start showing up in brothels to replace human workers as the recession keeps taking a chunk from EVERYONE’S budget?

Only time and enough oddly satisfied customers will tell.

[DailyMail UK]

Soft, Creepy Worm-Like Robot Gets Hammered…Keeps Going!

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

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.

From MIT:

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!


Lonely? These Creepy Robotic Lips Won’t Help That – Ever!

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Prepare for a new level of weird, people.

A while back we reported on a kind of pillow ‘roboty’ thing that would cuddle with you and that your siginificant other could be channeled through. Creepy and a little awkward, right?

That’s like a mild ‘2’ on a scale of 1-10.

THIS? This just pegged that scale into oblivion.

Unveiled in the UK at the annual Designing Interactive Systems conference, the egg-like device has been dubbed Kissenger. Hidden inside Kissenger’s eyeless, Humpty-Dumpty-like body is a pair of pressure-sensitive soft plastic lips that peek through a smooth plastic casing about the size of an Easter egg.

The lips contain pressure sensors and actuators. When you kiss them, the shape changes you create are transmitted in real time over the net to a receiving Kissenger. There, the actuators reproduce the mirror image of the pressure patterns you created– magically transmitting your smacker to your partner.

“People have found it a very positive way to improve intimacy in communications with their partners when they are apart,” claims Hooman Samani of Singapore-based Lovotics, which developed the device.

The device is a prototype and Samani says it will not be commercialised until “all the ethical and technical considerations are covered”. He adds: “I am not interested in sexual uses for it.”

Remember that part where he stated, “I am not interested in sexual uses for it”? He’s obviously been locked away in his lab for far too long and has forgotten what people are like.

While this isn’t the first weird thing used to kiss across a distance (that award goes to a device that’s more like tonguing a slurpee straw attached to a speaker box with someone equally lonely as yourself on the other end), it IS the first to accurately record your partners kiss onto a pair of lips so it can be played back like a sad reminder of what your relationship’s come to.

Best part of the story from the New Scientist article? THIS little excerpt:

“I think that approach is too much and I find it kind of creepy,” says Samani. “You don’t need to transmit all the parameters of a kiss. The main aim is to improve long-distance relationships. We’ve taken several steps to minimise the creepiness.”

Two things: We’d hate to see this dude’s idea of what he considers creepy and what did this thing look like BEFORE he minimized the creepiness?

We all just collectively shuddered together.

Here’s Lovotic’s actual company video for an earlier version of the device (in case you were wondering about that ‘before’ design mentioned above)…which makes us wonder how going from a cute rabbit-like design to the disembodied mouth of a Cenobite is ‘minimizing the creepiness’. Again…can someone get a search warrant for this dude’s basement? Or are we just not ready for that?

[New Scientist]

[Video]:Robot Walks Like Human!

Monday, July 9th, 2012

For the most part, the current generation of robots are about as mobile as a piece of gym equipment.

Depending on who you talk to, that could be a good thing. It means that our future overlords, unless they begin linking up with the drones we discussed a few postings ago, are pretty much stuck in one place while the surviving humans can hide and make plans to take our world back.

Then THIS happened…

Researchers at the University of Arizona have created the first robotic legs to accurately mimic a human being’s walk.

Innocently enough, the researchers are using the sauntering robot legs to understand how babies learn to walk as well as understanding how spinal cord-injury patients could possibly recover the ability to walk.

Sounds great. Unless of course you’ve seen the Gekkos in Metal Gear Solid 4 (for the uninitiated…watch the first half of the video below). You’ll know exactly where this tech could potentially lead to…mounting an arsenal-laden torso on top of these legs and setting them loose on the streets.


Meet Your New Running Partner – Joggobot!

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Jogging just got potentially exciting.

Meet the Joggobot, a small quadcopter drone, from Exertion Labs.

Running around town with your own drone is kinda nerdy…running around town with about four or five of these hovering around you? Badass.

Joggobot isn’t available to the masses yet, but we’re willing to bet that once it is, it’s only a matter of time before the ‘maker’ community arms it with options like pepper spray or a taser, slaps some devices on it for a mean game of LaserTag, some over-achiever hooks it to the Kinect or some Comic-Con cosplayer decides to go as Booster Gold and Skeets.

And, like we repeatedly mention on this blog and in the podcast, once it gets online? Joggobots world-wide will just wait for that inevitable signal from Skynet.

[Exertion Labs]

[Video] Man vs Robot at Rocks Paper Scissors.

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

News about this Rock Paper Scissors-playing robotic hand has been buzzing because people seem to think it’s novel and cute.

Mocking the slow reflexes of humankind is not novel and not cute. This is more like a total dig and a little kid saying ‘nyah nyah’ and then blowing mankind a big old raspberry. It’s our first glimpse at just how responsive robots will become in the very near future.

Developed at the Ishikawa Oku lab in Tokyo, researchers say they ‘wanted to show what human-machine cooperation systems are all about.’

A high-speed camera recognizes the shape of the human hand and one millisecond later, is able to determine what the result will be and throw the winning sign….every time…without fail.

Sure there’s a lot of awesomely respectable things that this kind of technology could be used for.

That’s all well and good but a human-robot interface with this kind of response time is bringing something even cooler closer to being a reality…

Robot versus robot fights ala Real Steel!


Robot Doctor Comforts You Until Your Last Breath in Creepy Art Installation

Monday, June 11th, 2012

You’ve had a long life. It’s time to check out. It’s a peaceful time and you know it’s about to come to a quiet conclusion. Everything’s cool and right. You hear a calming voice, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to comfort you.” You sigh.

“I am sorry your family and friends can not be here for you right now.”

The voice sounds synthetic. No one’s here? Who’s caressing my arm? Your eyes snap open. Then nothing.

Creepy? Seriously creepy.

Created by artist Dan Chen as part of an installation called ‘Last Moment Hospitable’, the ‘Last Moment Robot’ was inspired by Paro – a robotic seal used to comfort people suffering from Dementia. Chen’s goal was to test the idea of replacing human intimacy on an extreme level.

A “doctor” greets the visitors where they’re guided to lie on a table where the robot’s squeaky padded arm begins caressing their outstretched arms.

The robot keeps caressing through its recorded script.

“Your family and friends love you very much. They will remember you after you are gone.”

The caressing continues quietly for several moments until the robot speaks again…

When it very calmly states your time of death.

[Design Taxi]

Science=Complete: Google’s Self-Driving Car Takes Blind Man to Taco Bell

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Necessity is the mother of invention.

For blind California resident Steve Mahan, he absolutely needed to get a taco. But how to get there? He could walk, call a cab or get picked up from a friend.

He relied on a trusty friend from Mountain View named Google.

And so Steve headed to the Bell, driven by one of Google’s new self-driving cars. Science and technology had finally advanced it’s most challenging rubric, getting a blind man to a chalupa as fast and easy as possible.

According to the Google’s own Google+ page, since Mahan doesn’t have a driver’s license he had to get special permission from local law enforcement to sit in the front seat. A police official even sat in on the ride. But we’re pretty sure it was just so he could get one of the new Dorito shell hard tacos.

[Google’s Google+]

DARPA Wants To Build A Robotic Ostrich That Runs 50 MPH

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Robot Ostrich. Yes.

[Improbable Research]

We Can Create Yeast Cyborgs

Friday, November 11th, 2011


If you thought that we’d never create a feedback loop with yeast that could help us control it’s organic nature using a computer, you are dead wrong.

This work, performed by scientists at the Automatic Control Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, is exceptional because of its simplicity: The computer turns the yeast on by flashing a red light, and it turns the yeast off by flashing a deeper red light. Connected to the yeast is a “reporter” molecule that fluoresces when the protein is produced. The computer can see this fluorescence and alter the light it emits, thus creating a full feedback loop.

This is the first step toward manipulating organic material by way of cell signaling which could lead to us making anything from fuel to pills from a vat ooze. Which is awesome.

[Extreme Tech]

And Now… A Robot Peels A Grape

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Surgery robot Da Vinci shows off exactly how precise it is by peeling a grape. Like a show off.

[Da Vinci Surgery]