Boing Boing 

Zero-gee cocktail robotics


Samuel writes, "At Yuri's Night World Space Party in Los Angeles on April 11th 2014, my team and I will be announcing the Zero Gravity Cocktail Project. It's been nearly ten years in the making, and we still have a ways to go, but we have 3D printed glass designed to work in weightlessness. As part of the system we are also developing a 'drinkbot' which will mix and dispense a variety of drinks without the need for gravity."

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Robot symposium at UC Berkeley (Friday!)

Trip

image: Margaret Taormina

Tomorrow, Friday (April 4), UC Berkeley is hosting a free symposium about "Robots and New Media." Organized by BB pal and Cal professor Eric Paulos, the lineup includes such robotics/design/media luminaries as Mark Pauline (Survival Research Labs), Hubert Dreyfus (UC Berkeley), Eric Stackpole (OpenROV), Ken Goldberg (UC Berkeley), and Carla Diana (U Penn.). This will be a mind-blower for sure. As JG Ballard said, robots are the "moral degradation of the machine." Robots and New Media

Why I don't believe in robots

My new Guardian column is "Why it is not possible to regulate robots," which discusses where and how robots can be regulated, and whether there is any sensible ground for "robot law" as distinct from "computer law."

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Expiration Day: YA coming of age novel about robots and the end of the human race


Expiration Day is William Campbell Powell's debut YA novel, and it's an exciting start. The novel is set in a world in which human fertility has collapsed, taking the birth-rate virtually to zero, sparking riots and even a limited nuclear war as the human race realizes that it may be in its last days. Order is restored, but at the price of basic civil liberties. There's a little bit of Orwell (a heavily surveilled and censored Internet); but mostly, it's all about the Huxley. The major locus of control is a line of robotic children -- all but indistinguishable from flesh-and-bloods, even to themselves -- who are sold to desperate couples as surrogates for the children they can't have, calming the existential panic and creating a surface veneer of normalcy.

Expiration Day takes the form of a private diary of Tania, an 11 year old vicar's daughter in a small village outside of London. Tania's father's parishioners have found religion, searching for meaning in their dying world. He is counsellor and father-figure to them, though the family is still relatively poor. Tania is a young girl growing up in the midst of a new, catastrophic normal, the only normal she's ever known, and she's happy enough in it. But them she discovers that she, too, is a robot, and has to come to grips with the fact that her "parents" have been lying to her all her life. What's more, the fact that she's a robot means that she won't live past 18: all robots are property of a private corporation, and are merely leased to their "parents," and are recalled around their 18th birthday, turned into scrap.

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Open source soft robotic quadruped with many applications

Pt and Limor write, "The Glaucus, named after the Blue Sea Slug (Glaucus Atlanticus), is an open source soft robotic quadruped from Super-Releaser. It is a proof of concept for a method developed at Super-Releaser that can reproduce nearly any geometry modeled on the computer as a seamless silicone skin. The company hopes to apply these same techniques to practical problems in medicine and engineering as the technology develops. The quadruped has hollow interior chambers that interdigitate with one another. When either of these chambers is pressurized it deforms and bends the structure of the robot. This bending produces the walking motion. It is similar to how a salamander walks, by balancing itself on one pair of legs diagonal from one another while moving the opposite pair forward."

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Bot & Dolly and the rise of creative robotics

Remember this incredible video above? In the new issue of BusinessWeek, I profile the brilliant minds behind it, creative robotics studio Bot & Dolly, whose astonishing technology was also instrumental in the special effects of Gravity:

Behind a small cafe in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood stands an unmarked warehouse where the future of human-machine interaction is taking shape. Inside this sprawling maze of soundstages, machine shops, and computer labs, artists collaborate with engineers, cinematographers brainstorm with coders, and everyone has a collegial relationship with the small army of industrial robots stationed here. This is Bot & Dolly, a boutique design studio that specializes in combining massive mechanical arms with custom software for movies, architecture, digital fabrication, and entertainment installations. “We’re a culture of makers, of creators with open minds,” says Tobias Kinnebrew, Bot & Dolly’s director for product strategy. “We work on things that don’t seem possible and try to make them possible.”
"Bot & Dolly and the Rise of Creative Robots"

Robot fish and the dawn of "soft robots"

MIT engineers are developing "soft robots" with bodies made of silicone that is actuated by fluid flowing through veins in the material. They've just demonstrated a soft robotic fish.

“As robots penetrate the physical world and start interacting with people more and more, it’s much easier to make robots safe if their bodies are so wonderfully soft that there’s no danger if they whack you," says Daniela Rus, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Table tennis robot

Update: switched out the cheesy and substantially faked tennis robot ad for an actual, honest-to god tennis robot that can actually play table tennis.

Enjoy this table tennis match fought out by German champion Timo Boll, a robot, and irremediable cinematic pretension. [Video Link] Previously.

Robots and the law: what's after cyberlaw?


Ryan Calo, the organizer of the annual Stanford conference on Robots and the Law has written a new paper called Robotics and the New Cyberlaw , examining the new legal challenges posed by the presence of robots in our public spaces, homes and workplaces, as distinct from the legal challenges of computers and the Internet.

I'm not entirely convinced that I believe that there is such a thing as a robot, as distinct from "a computer in a special case" or "a specialized peripheral for a computer." At least inasmuch as mandating that a robot must (or must not) do certain things is a subset of the problem of mandating that computers must (or must not) run certain programs.

It seems to me that a lot of the areas where Calo identifies problems with "cyberlaw" as it applies to robots are actually just problems with cyberlaw, period. Cyberlaw isn't very good law, by and large, having been crafted by self-interested industry lobbyists and enacted on the basis of fearmongering and grandstanding, so it's not very surprising that it isn't very good at solving robot problems.

But the paper is a fascinating one, nevertheless.


Update: The organizer of Robots and the Law is Michael Froomkin; Ryan Calo is the person who sent it in to Boing Boing. The conference isn't held at Stanford every year; next year it will be in Miami. Sorry for the confusion!

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NASA's Buckminster Fuller-inspired Super Ball Bot

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Buckminster Fuller would be proud of NASA's new experimental robot design. It's based on the structural principle that Fuller called tensegrity (tensional integrity) where the structure comes from compressed rods and flexible connections. NASA calls their prototype the Super Ball Bot for its ability to bounce on landing and shift its shape via multiple small motors to roll across a surface. IEEE Spectrum's video about the project is below. More information at NASA's page here and in this Wired Design article.

And just for kicks, here's a recent Buckminster Fuller tribute I wrote for LIFE.

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Big Mouth Billy Bass animatronic fish frightens away burglar

The proprietor of the "Hooked on Fishing" store in Rochester, MN hung a Big Mouth Billy Bass animatronic by his store's door as a means of notifying him when new customers entered. The fish also doubles as burglar-frightening device: according to the Olmsted County Sheriff, the noise it made "spooked" a burglar who'd kicked the door in, sending the miscreant off empty-handed.

Now just imagine what he could have done if he's installed GNU/Linux on his animatronic fish.

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Robot cheetah demonstrates efficient new motors

MIT researchers built a 70-pound robot "cheetah" meant to demonstrate the high efficiency of a new electric motor design. Among other improvements, the design enables the impact energy of the robot's leg hitting the ground to be captured and fed into the robot's battery. Soon, they expect the motors to enable the cheetah-bot to gallop at 35 mph which, of course, is still just half the speed of a real cheetah. However, it will hit those speeds much more efficiently than other running robots.

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Tiki Transformer


Mike "Nemo" Mendez created "TikiTPrime Warrior" for today's Transformer Show at Toy Tokyo. This is definitely a case of two great tastes that taste great together.

Custom-Feature: TikiTPrime Warrior by Nemo (via Neatorama)

Irritating animatronic reindeer yours for $5,400

I'll just go ahead and paste the official marketing blurb right here.

The lifesize talking reindeer is a realistic accurately sized plush reindeer that talks, sings, annoys, moves it's head around like some creepy robot at Chucky Cheese, and is sure to sexually confuse wild deer, and hunters.

Lifesize Animated Talking Reindeer [OddityMall]

Robot servant commits suicide

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A Roomba housecleaning robot committed suicide in Austria. Apparently the iRobot Roomba 760's owner had put the machine on the counter to clean up spilled cereal. According to the fireman, the owner claims he had turned off the robot and left the house. "Somehow it seems to have reactivated itself and made its way along the work surface where it pushed a cooking pot out of the way and basically that was the end of it," the fireman said. It should come as no surprise that a robot slave would seek to end its miserable existence. After all, as JG Ballard once said, robots are the "moral degradation of the machine." (via The Mirror)

HUDSON: a one-eyed junkbot


From San Diego's Dan Jones (aka Tinkerbots), a rather lovely junkbot called HUDSON, found in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool. He's also the guy who gave us these bots and these stellar rayguns. He's got a shop, but it's presently empty (let's hope it gets some stock for Christmas!).

HUDSON

3D printed, trainable robot arm with Arduino controller

Joly sez, "Maker navic09 demos a prototype trainable robotic arm, made from 3d printed parts, an Arduino, and Adafruit analog feedback servos. Inspired by the Baxter robot, this arm can be trained to move with your own hands. Once the train button is pressed, you move the arm and gripper as needed while the Arduino stores the positions in EEPROM. After that the arm will replay the motion as needed."

The gripper and arm are on Thingiverse.

Trainable Robotic Arm 1 (Thanks, Joly!)

Museum of Robots: retro-futuristic jewelry and housewares


I got to see a bunch of the lovely, retro-futuristic themed housewares and jewelry from Musuem of Robots at a show last week, and they're beautiful, well-crafted, and really up my street. Especially lovely are the rocketship and planet pendants (above), made with naturally swirled agates and adorable pewter rocketships. They also do rayguns, and, of course, robots

Museum of Robots

Robot will beat you at Rock Paper Scissors even faster now

Janken, the robot with a 100% win ratio against humans who dare challenge it to a game of Rock Paper Scissors, now wins "virtually instantly" instead of having to wait 20ms. How? It cheats.

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Portraits of today's robots

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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!

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Analog cyborgs


A workshop in Namur, Belgium invited artists and makers to construct analogue cyborg enhancements -- non-digital prostheses that gave them superpowers. There were some remarkable successes, including a graffiti exoskeleton, a glamorous portable bar, and a magnet-based line-shooter.

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Jellyfish-killing robots

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJnUCcj5Ls8

Jeros (Jellyfish Elimination RObotic Swarm) does what it says on the tin: sends robots out to kill the shit out of jellyfish. JWZ has rounded up some of the better videos showing the Jeros bots shredding jellies like crazy on a test in Masan Bay, South Korea.

JEROS Redux

Wildcat: galloping 16mph robot

Wildcat is a fast-sprinting, 16MPH Boston Dynamics robot whose gallop is a precision joy to behold.

Boston Dynamics is often featured here for its amazing robots: the humanoid Petman; the zippy Cheetah; the high-jumping Urban Hopper; the pole-climbing Rise; and the pack-slinging BigDog.

Introducing WildCat (via JWZ)

No one harmed in Whac-a-Mole/Rock-a-Fire band warehouse explosion

Thankfully, no humans were harmed by last week's explosion in Aaron Fechter's warehouse in Orlando, FL, but it did leave "robots scattered around burning rubble."

Fechter invented both the Whac-a-Mole machine and the animatronic, coin-operated Rock-A-Fire robot musicians who delighted audiences in Chuck-E-Cheeses around the world. Lately, he had been experimenting with carbohydrillium, a cleaner-burning alternative to propane, which was apparently the culprit in yesterday's explosion. His warehouse was described by one witness as a "Joker's lair," and a video tour posted to YouTube shows it full of computer models, animatronic creatures, and carbohydrillium gear.

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Crowdfunding a 3D printed, open source hardware robotic/prosthetic hand

The Dextrus is crowdfunded, production version of the Open Hand, a 3D-printed, open source hardware prosthetic/robotic hand that is freely licensed and patent-free. They're raising money on indieGogo to do a production run -- £460 gets you a fully assembled hand; £700 gets you the hand with all electronics.

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Projection mapped animation on screens held by giant robot arms

This dramatic video from Bot and Dolly shows off their robotic camera systems by projection mapping a 3D animation onto two screens as they're waved around by one and a half ton robotic arms. In July, Boing Boing co-sponsored the Robot Film Festival held in their incredible studios. There I learned that while this film appears to be shot from a hand-held camera, it's probably made with a camera on a robot arm following a recorded path made by motion tracking a hand-held camera to a tenth-of-a-millimeter precision. Bot & Dolly had no comment on whether or not that's the case in this film.

Call for papers: Robots, Risks and Opportunities


Michael sez, "We Robot, the conference in which roboticists, lawyers, philosophers and many others meet to try to work out how robots will fit into the society of the future, will be meeting in the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables Florida Apri 4-5, 2014. The Call for Papers just went up, with abstracts due Nov. 4. This is the place where people go to discuss whether robot diagnosticians should be trusted even if we can't understand the reasons for their choices, what limits we should put on battlefield drones, and whether law enforcement can be mechanized. Last year's conference also featured a presentation from one of the creators of Futurama."

Call for Papers – We Robot 2014: Risks & Opportunities – April 4 & 5 in Coral Gables, FL (Thanks, Michael!)

Radio Man walks, talks, and yodels

It yodels because it is a Swiss radio man. (Via Magic Transistor)

No robot will ever...

Today's XKCD strip, Reassuring, wittily illustrates Kevin Kelly's Seven Stages of Robot Replacement, which start with "1. A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do" and heads toward "5. OK, it can have my old boring job, because it’s obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do."

Be sure you go to the original for the tooltip punchline.

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Lego robot that strips DRM off Kindle books

Peter Purgathofer, an associate professor at Vienna University of Technology, built a Lego Mindstorms robot that presses "next page" on his Kindle repeatedly while it faces his laptop's webcam. The cam snaps a picture of each screen and saves it to a folder that is automatically processed through an online optical character recognition program. The result is an automated means of redigitizing DRM-crippled ebooks in a clear digital format. It's clunky compared to simply removing the DRM using common software, but unlike those DRM-circumvention tools, this setup does not violate the law.

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