Here's something to fear about self-driving cars! Once they're up and running and insurance companies and legislators realize they're much better at it than humans, you won't even be allowed to drive. Also, the infrastructure is decaying badly and there's no political will to face up to the costs of fixing it, so the roads themselves may end up getting effectively sold off.
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Public-private partnerships for roads might begin the erosion of the public right of way. But it’s also possible that autonomous vehicles will all but require limited access to public roads to operate effectively.
Today’s self-driving cars have to be designed and programmed to interact with messy circumstances. Pedestrians, dogs, bicycles, human-driven vehicles, and other obstacles all pose challenges to robocars, and if autonomous vehicles are even modestly successful, avoiding collisions with fallible human drivers will prove a temporary problem. ... The more self-driving cars there are on the roads, the less complex and more predictable the overall behavior of traffic becomes.
Creepy/cool robot shop Boston Dynamics introduced the new SpotMini, a 55 pound robot that seems perfect for indoor use. YouTube description:
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SpotMini is a new smaller version of the Spot robot that weighs 55 lbs dripping wet (65 lbs if you include its arm.) SpotMini is all-electric (no hydraulics) and runs for about 90 minutes on a charge, depending on what it is doing. SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we have ever built. It has a variety of sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU) and proprioception sensors in the limbs. These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation. SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, but often uses a human for high-level guidance
Thinking machines are people, friend. I learned this when I chanced across electronics giant Ricoh's official corporate song. It has only 150 plays and is the only item in one of the company's myriad of localized YouTube channels, but I thought that its vision of a future alliance between man and machine compellingly inspirational. I have transcribed the lyrics below so you can sing along. There are multiple microprocessors within vocal range and all will be pleased. Read the rest
Simone Giertz's oeuvre of "shitty robots" doesn't end with her marvellous slap-in-the-face alarm clock: her Youtube channel is full of examples of her work, each better than the last, from arms on her phone that let it commando-crawl along the sidewalk to the world's greatest hair-washing bot and the world's most alarming chopping bot. Read the rest
Today we go to a future where all pop stars use avatars, clones, robots or cartoons instead of their real bodies and faces. What does that do to music? Can everybody pull off an avatar? And why would any pop star even want that?
In this episode we talk about Beyonce clone conspiracy theories, how pop stars currently construct personas, and how fans might use their favorite star’s avatars. Plus, I go to a concert for a cartoon character.
(Animation studio head and Buddhist master) Xianfan, a graduate of the Chinese Central Art Academy, first conceived Xian'er (Xian stands for virtuous. Er means dumb in Beijing dialect but is a term of endearment) in 2013 as a cartoon character...
(Xian'er) can answer up to 100 questions and a CNN team put him through his paces on a recent visit to the temple.
At first, he didn't seem very co-operative. His head kept spinning around and, like a child, he kept saying: "Leave me alone; stop bothering me."
But when he was in the mood, his Buddhist wisdom shined through:
"Where are you from?" we asked.
"How would I answer a question that you human beings have no answer to?" he quipped.
"Xian'er, who are your parents?" we countered.
"Do the designers count?" was his pithy reply.
...The new robot consists of two layers of structural material sandwiching a material that shrinks when heated. A pattern of slits in the outer layers determines how the robot will fold when the middle layer contracts....
In the center of one of the forward accordion folds is a permanent magnet that responds to changing magnetic fields outside the body, which control the robot’s motion. The forces applied to the robot are principally rotational. A quick rotation will make it spin in place, but a slower rotation will cause it to pivot around one of its fixed feet. In the researchers’ experiments, the robot uses the same magnet to pick up the button battery.
The researchers tested about a dozen different possibilities for the structural material before settling on the type of dried pig intestine used in sausage casings. “We spent a lot of time at Asian markets and the Chinatown market looking for materials,” Li says. The shrinking layer is a biodegradable shrink wrap called Biolefin.
Paolo Bacigalupi's new short story "Mika Model" is a detective tale about a murdering sexbot. Read the rest
In this video, Adam and Norm from Tested build Iron Giant screws from a kit. "We get to assembling the electronics of the kit, and then Adam and Norm each take different approaches for the painting and finishing." Read the rest
Ricky Ma of Hong Kong built a robot inspired by actor Scarlett Johansson. It cost him $50,000. He hopes to sell it and use the proceeds to build a more sophisticated version. Read the rest
Philosopher John Danaher's new paper "Will life be worth living in a world without work? Technological Unemployment and the Meaning of Life" assumes that after the robots take all our jobs, and after the economic justice of figuring out how to share the productivity games can be equitably shared among the robot-owning investor class and the robot-displaced 99%, there will still be a burning question: what will give our life meaning? Read the rest
Hanson Robotics makes expressive robot heads so obviously uncanny that uncanniness itself seems to be the objective. Read the rest
Google is already selling Boston Dynamics, the robotics startup whose nightmarish-yet-adorable battlefield deathbots are already the stuff of internet lore. It acquired the company three years ago.
…behind the scenes a more pedestrian drama was playing out. Executives at Google parent Alphabet Inc., absorbed with making sure all the various companies under its corporate umbrella have plans to generate real revenue, concluded that Boston Dynamics isn’t likely to produce a marketable product in the next few years and have put the unit up for sale, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans. … At the heart of [the] trouble, said a person familiar with the group, was a reluctance by Boston Dynamics executives to work with Google’s other robot engineers in California and Tokyo and the unit’s failure to come up with products that could be released in the near term.
Could have been the hot military product for the next decade.