As Google continues to document every crevice of our world with a camera so armchair world travelers can sit at home in their underwear and globe-trot, they’re realizing that a car with a first-gen Imperial Probe Droid mounted on its roof can’t go quite anywhere.
Google decided to ‘street view’ the Arabian desert of Liwa.
Since cars can’t tread sand, they strapped their all-seeing-eye to the back of a camel and let some poor schmuck wander the desert so we could all virtually enjoy the experience of being stranded in a desert without all those little inconveniences like thirst, dehydration, delirium and…you know dying alone in the desert.
Meet Otonoroid (the more stately female android on the right) and Kodomoroid (the awkward android on the left).
Unveiled in Japan as part of a future museum exhibit asking, “What is human?”, these two androids are accessing news stories in real time and delivering them to the audience. Not only can Kodomoroid ‘read’ the incoming news reports, she can translate them from various languages and read them aloud in other languages.
Who needs live human newscasters who require bathroom breaks, hair and make-up and can only work for a measly few hours before they get tired and need rest? Networks who buy news-reading androids and have a labor budget to swing under…that’s who.
As awkward as this demonstration is, it’s an interesting sign as to how robots are slowly becoming more and more integrated into our public lives.
While it all seems innocent and even a ‘cute’ demonstration of some oddly moving animatronics, it’s when Kodomoroid says something that should illicit a little, “Aw, Hell no!” from many of us human folk that we’re reminded of the possibility of a frightening robot-run future:
“My dream, when I grow older, is to have my own TV program. If you hear about a newscaster job, please, let me know.”
Disney is continually developing things that will make us hand over a substantial amount of cash to play in their parks.
Recently the Disney Research Hub’s YouTube Channel dropped a video showing something called PixelBots.
As entertainment in the real world becomes more interactive due to the public’s insatiable appetite for new experiences, companies like Disney continue to push into new areas of the interactive experience.
What will Disney be using these lemming-like little ‘bots for? Hard to say.
We’ll let you all role-play the part of an Imagineer in the comments.
In what’s probably the cheesiest way to show this incredible feat off, HeliGraphix, a company that specializes in aerial photography using RC helicopters, has posted a video of something that we’ve all probably kinda thought, “…if only…”.
Using two appropriately named copters called H.U.L.C.s (Heavy Ultra-Lifter Cranes), Heligraphix took one brightly dressed woman who dances like your mom trying to be sexy in front of your friends and lifted her off the ground like she weighed nothing! Seriously. These are RC helicopters and you wouldn’t think this would even be feasible.
But a lot of things…a lot of things that once lived only in our adolescent, pretend-I’m-a-spy imaginations…just became very, very feasible but it looks effortless!
Google has a new program where they’re asking hikers who’re willing to strap a on 40lb Google Street View backpack version of the device that’s usually strapped to the roof of a car. They’re asking that, should you be heading off to explore some interesting part of the world, if you wouldn’t mind ‘street-mapping’ it for the rest of us to lazy to get up and do it for ourselves.
Recently a team of willing urban explorers went to Hashima Island (also known as ‘Battleship Island’) with the blessings of the Nagasaki government. While tourists have been visiting the island since 2009 their exploration area is very limited because of dangerous conditions. Google’s team, fortunately for the rest of us, was allowed to explore much more of the island so that all of us can now visit this hauntingly unique place.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is one of the many joys associated with getting older. New generations of AMD sufferers won’t have to worry about that in the rapidly approaching future.
DARPA has funded the development of contact lens that operates like a millimeter-thick telescope. Using something along the lines of magic, the wearer of the contact will be able to switch between normal vision and magnified vision with the help of liquid crystals and ridiculously small, precisely engineered mirrors.
Basically you’ll be wearing the mechanical focusing rings of a standard still-photo camera that’s been flattened incredibly thin while retaining its functionality.
It’ll still be a while before these things trickle down to the average consumer but if you were to ask some of the future consumers if it was worth the wait? Pretty sure the answer would be a “Yes”.
Musicians are usually willing to jam with anyone that has some ability at playing an instrument. As we begin walking hand-in-hand with our quickly-becoming-commonplace robotic friends, it only seems natural that musicians and robots would start creating the modern equivalent of their own Wyld Stallyns.
Other bands, like Compressorheads, have tread this road long before Z Machine. It just seems that right now we’re all a little more comfortable with our new metal friends and Z Machine has hit the stage at the right moment because of the reaction that the band’s had overseas.
Z Machine performs a lot like an emo band who’s feet have been nailed to the floor in the video we’ve posted here. That looming alien thing in the background on the left seems to be on a union break.
Despite the feeling that this performance is like we’re watching the result of something that’s been a weekend project between the glee and choir clubs, this is a simple, innocent example of how welcoming a new generation is of their new robotic buddies.
There’s really not much to talk about here with a bunch of words. They’ll just get in the way of you pressing play and smiling like a little kid as your brain sort of automatically speculates on the possibilities of this in peoples’ homes.
We’ve all dreamed of the Holodeck being a part of our secret lair at home. Microsoft’s new IllumiRoom is a lot like watching a baby take its first steps in the direction of Holodecks becoming a standard part of any man-cave.
Sure we’ve seen mapped projections before like at Walt Disney World’s Magic, Memories and You show at the Magic Kingdom…but nothing on a consumer level and nothing with this kind of customization. Using a Kinect, a couple of cameras and some software, this is something that, while in its newborn stage, could lead to some truly innovative projects and ideas…or just mean that we’re going to be leaving our mother’s basements way less than we already do.
Recently a group of Japanese scientists at the IEEE Virtual Reality Conference in Orlando, Florida have unveiled
the latest incarnation of…
(sad, loungy drumroll please)
That’s right. Scientists have been working hard at making your television smell.
Do we really need to smell the elephants of Africa while watching a beautiful documentary about the animals?
No. Not really.
But advertisers sure would like us to get a whiff of things like the latest addition to the IHOP menu, the latest
colognes and Pilsbury would take the obesity problems in America to a whole new level when that little chubby, animated
chef shows up shoving a tray full of warm, delicious chocolate chip cookies in our faces.
Using gel pellets placed at the four corners of the monitor and small air-streams, scientists are able to get fairly
specific across the face of the monitor where the smell will seem to emanate from. Think of it like 5.1 surround sound but
your nose is the one in the recliner experiencing it.
Modern day theme parks like Universal and Disney often use gel packs or cartridges to send the smell of candy, food or, in the case of Universal’s
Halloween Horror Nights, the smell of rotting meat to add a subtle something to guests’ in-park experience.
What was unveiled at the conference is still fairly primitive but technological developments will continue to improve and
pretty soon you could be smelling the oil and smoking metal of Call of Duty…
Or the sweet, acrid smell of a Well Zombie from the Walking Dead.
For a LOT of the more nerdy kids out there, we’re placing bets that many of you pretended you had the ability to throw fireballs, move objects by waving your hands and occasionally even tried in vain to channel the Force.
That was all fun, lots of pretending and wishful thinking…wasn’t it?
Not any more.
Thalmic Labs, the creators of Myo is a company that, with the help of a special armband, could make a lot of those things a reality.
‘As a company, we’re interested in how we can use technology to enhance our abilities as humans – in short, giving us superpowers,’ Stephen Lake, co-founder and CEO of Thalmic Labs said.
Using gesture control, Myo is an armband that registers the electrical activity in your muscle movements that will produce a signal that’s interpreted and sent wirelessly to your phone, television, kitchen or even your personal drone instantly.
At that price why waste time running around in a swamp with an 800 year-old, green, raisin-skinned, wizard clinging to your back and nagging at you or visiting some weird old desert hermit when you can just drop a little cash and skip the middleman?
Let’s just hope people remember to remove it when they’re doing…uh…private stuff involving a lot of gesturing.
We’re pretty sure that this thing can’t help us ‘unsee’ things yet.
We’re always making references to the ‘Robot Apocalypse’ or about all of us being enslaved by ‘our future overlords’ when it comes to our slowly evolving erector set-like counterparts. While 30 and 40-somethings stand around and make jokes, robots continue their often awkward baby-steps into being a part of our lives.
But what about the children?
You know…the children forced to oil the joints of the those aforementioned ‘future overlords’ so that they can continue their ‘overlording’ of the humans?
Those children won’t be worried because they’ll have grown up with robot friends at school.
Friends like ‘Robovie’.
Higashihikari (sneeze it and it’ll sound just fine) Elementary School in Kyoto began a 14-month experiment just a few days ago where a new ‘student’ joined the fleshy ankle-biters’ ranks in order to collect data that will help ‘Robovie’ and other tin-men of the future to interact more naturally with various people. That way, instead of speaking atomic-age sci-fi robotic phrases like “You will not be needed” or “Exterminate!”, they’ll be sitting us down quietly and gently breaking the news our enslavement is really for our own good.
Although this isn’t the first time that a robot has been placed in this kind of environment, this will be the longest amount of time that a robot has spent in the harsh, Lord of the Flies-like habitat of the elementary school student.
Not sure about you…but pretty sure that having the ability to create our own bad-ass appendages like He-Man’s Trap-Jaw would take precedence over things like eating…sleeping…everything…well almost everything.
Ivan Owen created a mechanical hand prop and posted it on YouTube. A couple days later he was contacted by Richard Van As, an amputee and craftsman who admired Owen’s work. Once they put their put their brains together, they created a prosthetic finger for Richard. After many more prototypes, the two learned of an awesome kid named Liam who was born missing the fingers of his right hand. The two men decided to help Liam out.
A few more prototypes later and “Robohand” was born. Crafted for Liam, it took only a few days for him to get adjusted to using his prosthetic.
Most bare-bones, low-end prosthetics can easily set someone back $600 and take weeks to go through the fitting, customizing and refitting process.
Using a 3D printer, Owen and Vas As stripped down those weeks into a matter of hours and that $600 for an arm that was nothing more than a stick with a glove on the end was whittled down to a prosthetic with individually moving fingers for the pocket change of $20.
Using a Replicator 2, Ronning created
During the course of a single day and a couple more twenties? Someone’s eventually going to start tossing out ‘what ifs’.
Next day? Someone’s going to be sporting a grappling hook, a flame-thrower, a buzz-saw, a built-in paintball gun, a slingshot or some kind of ridiculously awesome combination we haven’t even imagined yet.
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.
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.
Harry Potter had one. Frodo Baggins had one. Even Max from Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place had one.
In fact, just about every single geek on the planet at some point in their life has probably hypothesized about how cool it would be to have some kind of a cape or blanket that you could cover yourself in and become instantly invisible.
Well that might soon become a reality.
While we’re still going to have to keep to our hypothetical invisible scenarios in our grinning heads, it won’t be long until soldiers, special ops agents and even….uh…submarines…begin using something called ‘Quantum Stealth’ to get all Predator-like.
Guy Cramer, the president and CEO of Hyperstealth Biotechnology in Canada, is vaguely but loudly declaring that he’s developed an invisibility cloak-like material!
After checking his site and looking at the ‘mock-up’ photos on display, we’re secretly hoping this is a serious technology that’s about to put old-school camouflage in the closet. Poking around online to see if there was ANY hint at what Cramer is developing turned up nothing that actually shows off the technology. He’s claiming that if a soldier were wearing his top secret material you wouldn’t know he was there until you tripped over him.
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!