Robot makes cocktails

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.

Air-powered 3D-printed robot tentacle

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.

Print Your Own Robot: Part 6 (via JWZ)

Stanford Robotics and the Law Conference call for papers

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.

Call For Papers: Robotics and the Law Conference at Stanford Law School

Google’s driver-less cars and robot morality

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."

Marcus writes,

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.

Singularity Summit San Francisco, Oct 13/14

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."

The Singularity Summit | October 13-14, San Francisco (Thanks, Eric!)

Spacecraft 3D: Nifty robotic space travel augmented-reality app from NASA JPL

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!

The app is really a ton of fun. You can download it here for free, iPad and iPhone and iPod Touch. Here's the JPL press release announcing its release.

3D printed, pre-assembled robot hand


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.

Anthromod (Shapeways) (Thanks, Chris!)

Babies driving robot wheelchairs (super cute video)

[Video Link]

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.

Robotic rings turn your fingers into a face

Keio University's robotics group have demonstrated a set of remotely-controlled facial elements designed to be worn as rings. These could be directly controlled by the wearer, or could be remotely controlled by a piece of software that was portraying a character that inhabited your hand like a sock-puppet or Senor Wences.

"First of all, this device resembles a toy. So we want to make it more like a character, like when children or their parents play finger games. That would enable a new form of interactive play. We'd also like to incorporate this robot into the way children use their hands to communicate with each other."

Robotic rings for wearable robotic interaction (via Neatorama)

The science and ethics of digital war

From the Department of Terrible Ideas: The Washington Post has a must-read story up reporting on research that promises to someday make military drones fully automated. Yes, that's right, drones that kill based on software such as facial recognition, rather than any direct human command.

I know the obvious thing to do here is make Skynet jokes. But, frankly, there are plenty of problems with this without welcoming our robotic overlords. Say, for instance, this issue, which the Post broaches with a note of wry eyebrow-raising:

The prospect of machines able to perceive, reason and act in unscripted environments presents a challenge to the current understanding of international humanitarian law.

To say the least.

But here's the really interesting thing about this story: Arms control ethicists are trying to deal with it before it exists, rather than after-the-fact.

In Berlin last year, a group of robotic engineers, philosophers and human rights activists formed the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) and said such technologies might tempt policymakers to think war can be less bloody.

Some experts also worry that hostile states or terrorist organizations could hack robotic systems and redirect them. Malfunctions also are a problem: In South Africa in 2007, a semiautonomous cannon fatally shot nine friendly soldiers.

The ICRAC would like to see an international treaty, such as the one banning antipersonnel mines, that would outlaw some autonomous lethal machines. Such an agreement could still allow automated antimissile systems.

“The question is whether systems are capable of discrimination,” said Peter Asaro, a founder of the ICRAC and a professor at the New School in New York who teaches a course on digital war. “The good technology is far off, but technology that doesn’t work well is already out there. The worry is that these systems are going to be pushed out too soon, and they make a lot of mistakes, and those mistakes are going to be atrocities.”

Via NPR

Also: If you're confused about the choice of photo, look to the right of the guy's head, about the middle of the image.

Image: Droning, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from oddwick's photostream