Friday eve in SF: "100 Years of Robot Art and Science in the Bay Area"


Tomorrow evening (11/20), San Francisco's de Young Museum will celebrate "100 Years of Robot Art and Science in the Bay Area" with an event organized by UC Berkeley professor Ken Goldberg and Alexander Rose, executive director of the Long Now Foundation. The program includes a "Long Conversation," sort of a relay race discussion that I'll be participating in along with ten interesting people whose work is at the intersection of art and technology! Bonus: My friend Kal Spelletich will also bring two of his "praying robots" seen above! Best of all, it's free and starts early (6:30pm)!

Participants include:

Josette Melchor (Grey Area Foundation for the Arts)

Dorothy R. Santos (writer, curator)

Tim Roseborough (artist, musician, former Kimball Artist-in-Residence)

John Markoff (author of Machines of Loving Grace)

Karen Marcelo (dorkbotSF)

David Pescovitz (Boing Boing and Institute for the Future)

Catharine Clark (Catharine Clark Gallery)

Alexander Rose (director, Long Now Foundation)

Pieter Abbeel (professor, Computer Sciences, UC Berkeley)

Terry Winograd (Computer Science department, Stanford Univeristy)

Kal Spelletich (Seemen)

With special VJ Jenny Odell

Ticket Information

Complimentary tickets for the long conversation are distributed beginning at 5:30 pm at the Koret Auditorium entrance. Seating is limited. Tickets are first come, first served.

Programming and general admission to the permanent collection galleries are free of charge during Friday Nights at the de Young. A discounted $15 ticket is required to visit the special exhibition galleries.

Long Conversation (de Young)

“100 Years of Robot Art and Science in the Bay Area” Long Conversation November 20th 02015 (The Long Now Foundation) Read the rest

Adorable robotic cube jumps to the top of a pile


Robots have a hard time making their way across uneven, unstable terrain. Read the rest

A flying drone and a walking robot share a brain


This walking robot has its own eye in the sky - a flying drone that surveys the landscape to give it the best path to get from point A to point B.

Flying and walking robots can use their complementary features in terms of viewpoint and payload capability to the best in a heterogeneous team. To this end, we present our online collaborative navigation framework for unknown and challenging terrain. The method leverages the flying robot’s onboard monocular camera to create both a map of visual features for simultaneous localization and mapping and a dense representation of the environment as an elevation map. This prior knowledge from the initial exploration enables the walking robot to localize itself against the global map, and plan a global path to the goal by interpreting the elevation map in terms of traversability. While following the planned path, the absolute pose corrections are fused with the legged state estimation and the elevation map is continuously updated with distance measurements from an onboard laser range sensor. This allows the legged robot to safely navigate towards the goal while taking into account any changes in the environment. - P. Fankhauser, M. Bloesch, P. Krüsi, R. Diethelm, M. Wermelinger, T. Schneider, M. Dymczyk, M. Hutter and R. Siegwart, “Collaborative Navigation for Flying and Walking Robots”

[via] Read the rest

A book about Theo Jansen's amazing wind-powered creatures


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

You may have seen my earlier Wink Fun review of Elenco’s terrific Mini-beest Kit, a working miniature model kit of one of Theo Jansen’s amazing animated creatures. I wanted to know more about him and his work so I found a copy of his 2009 book, The Great Pretender. The 240-page volume contains notes, timelines, photos, sketches and family trees for Jansen’s “Animarus,” as he calls his species of moving, breathing, and thinking constructions. He creates magnificent beasts out of the cheapest and lowliest of raw materials: thin wall PVC pipes, packing tape, empty soda bottles, and zip ties. When assembled, the giant, articulated creatures walk along the beach in the Netherlands, powered only by the wind.

In the book’s format, each of the verso pages (on the left) have color photographs of the many details about his designs and their construction: hinges and movable joints, leg linkages, molds and fixtures, pneumatic tubing muscles, etc. Each artifact is artfully depicted with low-key lighting and muted backgrounds, like specimens in an archeological volume. There are also beautiful photos of the fully-assembled creatures in their native habitat, strolling along the shore.

The recto pages (on the right) carry the text, with chapter-length explanations of his thoughts and processes on how and why he came to create the various versions of his animated “life forms.” There’s Animarus Sabulosa Adolescense (young sand-coated beach animal) and Animarus Vermiculus (worm animal) and about 30 more, each as amazing as the last. Read the rest

Watch these drones build a rope bridge you could actually walk across


This video is amazing, and feels like something that will become even more graceful, precise, and normal as drone technology and design improve.

Read the rest

Robot wins at Rock-Paper-Scissors. Every time.


The third incarnation of the University of Tokyo's Janken (Rock-Paper-Scissors) robot never loses. Ever. From the Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory:

In this research we develop a janken (rock-paper-scissors) robot with 100% winning rate as one example of human-machine cooperation systems. Human being plays one of rock, paper and scissors at the timing of one, two, three. According to the timing, the robot hand plays one of three kinds so as to beat the human being.

Recognition of human hand can be performed at 1ms with a high-speed vision, and the position and the shape of the human hand are recognized. The wrist joint angle of the robot hand is controlled based on the position of the human hand. The vision recognizes one of rock, paper and scissors based on the shape of the human hand. After that, the robot hand plays one of rock, paper and scissors so as to beat the human being in 1ms.

This technology is one example that show a possibility of cooperation control within a few miliseconds. And this technology can be applied to motion support of human beings and cooperation work between human beings and robots etc. without time delay.

Considering from another point of view, locating factories oversea has been advantageous in labor-intensive process that requires human's eyes and hands because it is difficult to make the process automatic or it is not worth the cost. However, by realizing faster process than human's working speed, the productivity can be improved in regards to cost.

Read the rest

Robots wish you a happy Rosh Hashanah!


A robotic Shanah Tovah (Happy New Year!) from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology! Read the rest

Silicon Valley is raiding tech academia: “Uber would like to buy your Robotics Department”

The National Robotics Engineering Center, part of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon. Credit Christopher Payne for The New York Times
Silicon Valley is raiding technology departments of universities around the U.S.—can tech academia survive?

Dissecting Sphero's Star Wars BB-8


Sphero's Star Wars BB-8 is sure to be the Cabbage Patch Kid of this Christmas, the ungettable gift that will spur mall fistfights, eBay price gouging, and plenty of crying kids (and adults). uBreakiFix cracked one open to see how it ticks. Read the rest

Video of Flimmer, the US Navy's new drone that flies and swims


"Common across the services, autonomous vehicles are being seen as an effective projection of force, both above and below the water’s surface," according to the US Naval Research Laboratory. Read the rest

New Google robot named Atlas is obviously drunk

Atlas the robot recently walked in the woods for the first time. From the looks of that bot-wobble, it looks like he packed his forest flask.

WATCH: Why Japan already embraces our android future


VPRO backlight looks at the current state of androids in Japan, including an interesting segment on geminoids, or robot twins made in the likeness of a human counterpart: Read the rest

WATCH: crazy cute jerboas and the hopping robot they inspired

Jerboas, tiny desert rodents that move like kangaroos, are notoriously hard to film. BBC Earth was able to film a jerboa's escape from a fox, and its unique shape has now inspired a robot:

Jerboas use their long tails to transfer energy to their legs, allowing them to hop many times their body length. It turns out the hair on the bottoms of their their feet also serves a number of purposes, including insulation, traction, and stealth on the sand.

Read the rest

Watch: Tiny floating robot can jump from water's surface


Researchers led by Je-Sung Koh created a biomimetic robot that floats using surface tension and can jump from the surface of water like a water strider insect. Read the rest

Watch the solar-powered flight of this robotic raven


The University of Maryland Robotics Center's new Robo Raven III V4 soars on larger flapping wings that "have flexible solar cells giving the vehicle an extra 10 Watts of power. This allows this robotic bird to fly longer and recharge outdoors." Read the rest

WATCH: Our robot overlords will excel at ping-pong

This ad from Omron Automation & Safety intends to make advanced automation seem fun, but the execution makes it seem like your future will depend on whether you win your sudden death table tennis match with a robotic version of the Aliens xenomorph. Read the rest

Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking call for ban on “autonomous weapons”


Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and hundreds of artificial intelligence researchers and experts have signed a letter calling for a worldwide ban on “autonomous weapons.” Read the rest

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