Obama's robot fist-bump photo has a great back story

One of Obama's last posts while in office showed him fist-bumping a robotic arm. It's actually a prosthetic robotic arm belonging to Nathan Copeland, who can control it with his mind and sense touch with it. Read the rest

This robotic arm's cleanup task is bloody endless

The Guggenheim has Sun Yuan & Peng Yu’s installation "Can’t Help Myself" on display through March. The robot arm monitors and attempts to contain a viscous blood-red liquid as it spreads out from the base of the arm, spattering more liquid around its enclosure. Read the rest

Are you ready for robots skinned with sensitive hairs?

Biomimicry in robotics has led to robots that can climb, fly, and swim better. Now researchers have developed hair-like filaments for robots that allow them to have more fine-grained senses of touch, sensing even forces as delicate as coming in contact with a piece of tissue. Read the rest

Boston Dynamics Christmas video: 3 robot reindeer pulling Ms. Santa's sleigh

Elite engineering and robotics design firm Boston Dynamics released this holiday video for the holiday 2015 season, and it holds up well in the weird year that followed.

[via Laughing Squid] Read the rest

One small step for a robot, one giant leap for robotkind

The Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) developed a control algorithm enabling Boston Dynamics' Atlas humanoid robot to walk across a short stretch of rocky terrain. It's much harder than you might think.

"After each step the robot explores the new foothold by shifting its weight around its foot," IMHC explains. "To maintain balance we combine fast, dynamics stepping with the use of angular momentum (lunging of the upper body)."

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Madeline Gannon's Mimus examines robot-human interdependence

The Design Museum in London just unveiled Mimus, Madeline Gannon's newest exploration of robot-human interdependence. From its enclosure, Mimus senses visitors and interacts with them. Read the rest

What does it mean to be human in an age of machines?

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In his 1854 book, Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Men have become the tools of their tools.” Thoreau’s assertion is as valid today as it was when he made it over one hundred and sixty years ago. Whenever we shape technology, it shapes us, both as individuals and as a society. We created cars, and cars turned us into motorists, auto mechanics, and commuters.

Over the centuries we’ve populated our world with machines that help us do things we can’t or don’t want to do ourselves. Our world has become so saturated with machines that they’ve faded into the background. We hardly notice them. We are reaching a new threshold. Our machines are getting networked, and enabling new forms of human machine symbiosis. We’re entering a new era where fifty billion machines are in constant communication, automating and orchestrating the movement and interactions among individuals, organizations, and cities.

Institute for the Future (IFTF) is a non-profit think tank in Silicon Valley, that helps organizations and the public think about long term future plans to make better decisions in the present. Mark Frauenfelder, a research director at IFTF interviewed Rod Falcon, IFTF’s Director of the Technology Horizons Program, which combines a deep understanding of technology and societal forces, to identify and evaluate these discontinuities and innovations in the near future. Rod discussed Tech Horizon’s recent research into how machine automation is becoming an integrated, embedded, and ultimately invisible part of virtually every aspect of our lives. Read the rest

Artificial intelligence won't destroy the human race anytime soon

The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), funded by billionaire Paul Allen's, is developing projects like an AI-based search engine for scientific papers and a system to extract "visual knowledge" from images and videos. According to Scientific American, another goal of AI2 is "to counter messages perpetuated by Hollywood and even other researchers that AI could menace the human race." SciAm's Larry Greenemeier interviewed AI2 CEO and computer scientist Oren Etzioni:

Why do so many well-respected scientists and engineers warn that AI is out to get us?

It’s hard for me to speculate about what motivates somebody like Stephen Hawking or Elon Musk to talk so extensively about AI. I’d have to guess that talking about black holes gets boring after awhile—it’s a slowly developing topic. The one thing that I would say is that when they and Bill Gates—someone I respect enormously—talk about AI turning evil or potential cataclysmic consequences, they always insert a qualifier that says “eventually” or this “could” happen. And I agree with that. If we talk about a thousand-year horizon or the indefinite future, is it possible that AI could spell out doom for the human race? Absolutely it’s possible, but I don’t think this long-term discussion should distract us from the real issues like AI and jobs and AI and weapons systems. And that qualifier about “eventually” or “conceptually” is what gets lost in translation...

How do you ensure that an AI program will behave legally and ethically?

If you’re a bank and you have a software program that’s processing loans, for example, you can’t hide behind it.

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Watch spiderbots weave a hammock-like web

Maria Yablonina developed a system for wall-climbing robots to weave fibers into useful structures on vertical surfaces, like this hammock-like web that can support a human. The bots can even trade the threaded bobbin between units. Read the rest

Robot stitches a grape back together

Here's a da Vinci Surgical System robot performing a delicate operation on a grape. Read the rest

Adorable doglike robot can climb fences and open doors

The Ghost Minitaur is the latest iteration of terrifyingly cute agile legged robots. I for one welcome our doglike robot overlords. Read the rest

See this odd "ouroboros" robot roll right along

Researchers from Germany's University of Bielefeld presented their OUROBOT, a "Self-Propelled Continuous-Track-Robot for Rugged Terrain," at the recent IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. From their technical paper:

Adapting the concept of continuous tracks that are propelled and guided by wheels, a self-propelled continuous-track-robot has been designed and built. The robot consists of actuated chain segments, thus enabling it to change its form, independent of guiding mechanisms. Using integrated sensors, the robot is able to adapt to the terrain and to overcome obstacles. This allows the robot to “roll” and climb in two dimensions. Possible extensions of the concept to three-dimensional navigation are presented as an outlook.

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Person walking dog encounters Boston Dynamics walking their robot

Lucky there are leash laws!

(via Reddit)

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Meet your robot gardener

The FarmBot Genesis is an open-source robot gardener for home food production. You design your mini-farm with their app and then the Raspberry Pi-powered robot handles the rest, from planting to watering, weeding to harvesting. The FarmBot Genesis sounds like the evolutionary descendant of Ken Goldberg and Joseph Santarromana's groundbreaking 1994 telerobotic artwork, the TeleGarden:

FarmBot Genesis:

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Hamburger joint run by robots will open in San Francisco

A robotics start-up, Momentum Machines, announced that it is going to open a restaurant in San Francisco that uses robots to make hamburgers.

From PopMech:

Every aspect of the burger is customizable, from thickness and cook time to condiments. The machine will take up about 24 square feet and the tech blog Xconomy predicted it could save a restaurant $90,000 a year in training and salaries.

Many people worry that the use of work-saving robotic technology like this machine will put vast numbers of people out of work. They might be right--one study from last year predicted that there's a 96.3% chance of restaurant cooks being put out of work by automation.

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Cataloging the problems facing AI researchers is a cross between a parenting manual and a management book

Concrete Problems in AI Safety, an excellent, eminently readable paper from a group of Google AI researchers and some colleagues, sets out five hard problems facing the field: robots might damage their environments to attain their goals; robots might figure out how to cheat to attain their goals; supervising robots all the time is inefficient; robots that are allowed to try novel strategies might cause disasters; and robots that are good at one task might inappropriately try to apply that expertise to another unrelated task. Read the rest

Gaze controller for humanoid robots

Developed at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genoa, the iCub robot resembles a baby or a drunk trying to track a moving ball.

Our humanoid robot, the iCub (I as in “I robot”, Cub as in the man-cub from Kipling’s Jungle Book), has been specifically designed to support research in embodied artificial intelligence (AI). At 104 cm tall, the iCub has the size of a five-year-old child. It can crawl on all fours, walk and sit up to manipulate objects. Its hands have been designed to support sophisticate manipulation skills. The iCub is distributed as Open Source following the GPL/LGPL licenses and can now count on a worldwide community of enthusiastic developers. More than 30 robots have been built so far which are available in laboratories in Europe, US, Korea and Japan (see http://www.iCub.org). It is one of the few platforms in the world with a sensitive full-body skin to deal with safe physical interaction with the environment.

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