Writes Markoff in the NYT: "Google confirmed on Friday that it had completed the acquisition of Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that has designed mobile research robots for the Pentagon. The company, based in Waltham, Mass., has gained an international reputation for machines that walk with an uncanny sense of balance and even — cheetahlike — run faster than the fastest humans."
Nothing could ever go wrong here. I mean, seriously: tell me if you saw one of these things running after you, you wouldn’t crap your pants and have a heart attack at the same time.
Over at The Atlantic, Alan Taylor's "In Focus" presents a photographic glimpse of today's robotics state-of-the-art. Above, two of DARPA's Legged Squad Support System (LS3) robots out for a run. These rough-and-ready bots were built by Boston Dynamics. I worry about the overuse of these generous, loving robots as pack mules. As JG Ballard said, robotics is "the moral degradation of the machine." Video below!
Wondrous young maker Super Awesome Sylvia and our friends at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories are hoping to release their amazing WaterColorBot as a kit. My 7-year-old son and I both want one, and we can vouch not only for Sylvia's awesomeness but the quality of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories kits! They've launched a Kickstarter for the WaterColorBot kit.
Bill Scannell says: "I have a friend of mine who's put together a project to put an AI brain into a lifelike robot, the goal being to make it as smart as a stupid three-year-old, from which point it can begin to learn on it's own and develop consciousness."
The robot is being developed by a team of roboticist rock stars, including David Hanson (who built the Philip K. Dick android head) and Mark Tilden (creator of BEAM robotics and the WowWee Robosapien robot).
Chris Chappell and Easton LaChappelle have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of a 3D printed robotics hand. The hand is currently aimed at makers and researchers, but the eventual market will be for prosthetics.
Chris and Easton are primarily focused on dropping the cost of the hand, since current research hands or prosthetic hands can cost £50,000+. The cost of the Kickstarter hand fully assembled is £300 with electronics. They also offer a control glove (based on a nintendo power glove) for an extra £200.
Easton has also been developing a control method based on EEG measurements. Taking the design a step towards being a practical prosthesis. Easton just won the Da Vinci Award at the San Juan Basin Science Fair for his work.
Shake is a whimsical robot from Inertial Labs that can make any 3-ingredient cocktail. The LED ice cubes are a nice touch! It is entered in the upcoming BarBot competition this weekend in San Francisco.
Matthew Borgatti has built an air-powered, 3D-printed robot tentacle that waves in a friendly fashion and lends a helping hand. It is in no way erotic. Nuh-uh, not at all.
So, with a very nice looking tentacle in hand, it was time to start experimenting with robotic air control. I believe I’ve found a system that works in a pretty simple and straightforward way. It still needs some work when it comes to the programming end, but I think the mechanics are well sorted. The idea is to pulse air into the tentacle using a solenoid valve, and have a constant bleed on the line so that flex will entirely be controlled by how long the valve stays on. It’s sort of a low frequency PWM. I’d like to get this working using a visual interface in Processing but, given how little I program, progress has been slow. I’ve got a thread on Adafruit with what I’ve come up with. In the meanwhile, you might like to check a rough video of the trefoil inflating.
I'm late getting to this (my own fault, I missed an important email), but We: Robot, the Robotics and the Law Conference at Stanford Law
School is still accepting papers until Jan 18. Last year's event was apparently smashing, and this year's CFP is quite enticing:
The following list is by no means exhaustive, but rather meant as an elaboration on conference themes:
Legal and policy responses to likely effects of robotics on manufacturing or the environment *
Perspectives on the interplay between legal frameworks and robotic software and hardware *
Intellectual property issues raised by collaboration within robotics (or with robots) *
Perspectives on collaboration between legal and technical communities *
Tort law issues, including product liability, professional malpractice, and the calculation of damages *
Administrative law issues, including FDA or FAA approval *
Privacy law and privacy enhancing technologies *
Comparative/international perspectives on robotics law *
Issues of legal and economic policy, including tax, employment, and corporate governance
In addition to scholarly papers, we invite proposals for demos of cutting-edge commercial applications of robotics or recent technical research that speaks one way or another to the immediate commercial prospects of robots.
In the New Yorker, an essay by Gary Marcus on the ethical and legal implications of Google's driver-less cars which argues that these automated vehicles "usher in the era in which it will no longer be optional for machines to have ethical systems."
Your car is speeding along a bridge at fifty miles per hour when errant school bus carrying forty innocent children crosses its path. Should your car swerve, possibly risking the life of its owner (you), in order to save the children, or keep going, putting all forty kids at risk? If the decision must be made in milliseconds, the computer will have to make the call.
Eric sez, "The Singularity Summit 2012, exploring 'Minds and Machines' and 'Emerging Technologies and Science' will be taking place October 13 - 14 at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco. The Singularity Summit is the premier event on cutting-edge technologies including robotics, regenerative medicine, artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfacing and more.
Join some of the most brilliant minds in the world for discussions on the most revolutionary technological advancements on the horizon. Speakers include inventor, entrepreneur and author Ray Kurzweil, Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman, professor and author Steven Pinker, professor and author Temple Grandin, science fiction author Vernor Vinge, and many more."
I recently had a chance to visit NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory with Miles O'Brien. At the NASA center in Pasadena, engineers are readying for the long-anticipated landing of the Mars Curiosity rover on Aug. 5. During our visit, we met with the team behind a cool new iOS app from JPL: NASA's Spacecraft 3D, an augmented reality application that allows users to "learn about and interact with a variety of spacecraft that are used to explore our solar system, study Earth, and observe the universe."
Using a printed AR Target and the camera on your mobile device, you can get up close with these robotic explorers, see how they move, and learn about the the engineering feats used to expand our knowledge and understanding of space. Spacecraft 3D will be updated over time to include more of the amazing spacecraft that act as our robotic eyes on the earth, the solar system and beyond!
Chris writes, "The Anthromod Mk2 hand is a robotic hand where everything, apart from the tendons, are 3D printed. Unlike other printed hands the Mk2 requires minimal assembly, and is also available from the online 3D printers Shapeways. This is an ongoing project and later designs will plan to add greater functionality such as sensing. I'm also planning to start an Indiegogo campaign to help finance the next model."
The underlying hand is printed as a single, assembled piece with all mechanisms in place.
Here's an amazing feel-good video with which to end your week, via the National Science Foundation. The really awesome footage starts around a minute and a half in.
"James C. (Cole) Galloway, associate professor of physical therapy, and Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering -- have outfitted kid-size robots to provide mobility to children who are unable to fully explore the world on their own."
The robotic assistance devices are designed to help infants whose mobility and independence is limited by conditions such as autism, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy.
I understand that these will be among the many exhibits on display at the USA Science Fest at the Washington, DC Convention Center on Sat., April 28th. Babies probably not included.