Hong Kong designer makes Scarlett Johansson robot

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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

After we make peace with robots doing all the work, will our lives have meaning?

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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

The most expressive robot in the world

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Hanson Robotics makes expressive robot heads so obviously uncanny that uncanniness itself seems to be the objective. Read the rest

Google dumping Boston Dynamics

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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.

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Junkbots from Madrid, recycled from iconic Spanish packaging

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Javier Arcos lives in Madrid, where he scouts junk to turn into some of the sweetest, snazziest junkbots I've ever seen (and I've seen a few). Read the rest

Watch this team of tiny micro-robots pull a car

Stanford engineers demonstrated how six tiny microTug robots -- with gripping, adhesive feet inspired by geckos -- can work together to pull a 4,000 pound car on polished concrete, albeit very very slowly.

The researchers from Stanford's Biomimetics & Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory published their work on the microTug bots in the current issue of the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.

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Is it OK to torture a robot?

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The ethics of torturing robots is not a new question, but it's becoming more important as robots and AI becomes more lifelike. Author Ted Chiang explored it in his 2010 novella, The Lifecycle of Software Objects. In 1998 I wrote an article for Wired Online called "Virtual Sadism" about people who liked to torture artificial life forms called "norns" (and a movement of norn lovers who tried to stop them). In 1977 Terrel Miedaner wrote a philosophical science fiction novel called The Soul of Anna Klan, which featured a little Roomba like creature that seems to be afraid to "die" when someone tries to crush it with a hammer. (An excerpt from the novel appears in the excellent book, The Mind's I: Fantasies And Reflections On Self & Soul, edited by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett.)

Dylan Love of Inverse revisits the idea of robot abuse in his article for Inverse, "Is it OK to torture a robot?"

Consider the latest robot to be unveiled by Google’s Boston Dynamics. When the collective internet saw a bearded scientist abuse the robot with a hockey stick, weird pangs of empathy went out everywhere. Why do we feel so bad when we watch the robot fall down, we wonder? There’s no soul or force of life to empathize with, and yet: This robot is just trying to lift a box, why does that guy have to bully it?

The Boston Dynamics video reminded me of the inflatable Bozo men, meant to be abused: Read the rest

Meat dog dislikes mechanical dog

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From Steve Jurvetson's YouTube channel: "The robot's lifelike movement catches the attention of a real dog. The uncanny uncanine valley. This is the latest quadruped robot from Google's Boston Dynamics group, and the only one outside of the military." Read the rest

Nine key legal cases about robots, and the messy legal future of robotic devices

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Robot legal theorist Ryan Calo writes, "I thought you might enjoy my new paper, canvassing decades of American case law involving robots. Courts have had to decide, for instance, whether a robot represents something 'animate,' whether the robot band at Chuckie Cheese 'performs,' and whether a salvage crew 'possesses' a ship wreck by visiting it with a robot sub." Read the rest

Kickstarting "Uprising - A Post-Apocalyptic Robot Comedy"

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Ben Hansford writes about his Kickstarter campaign for a short film called "Uprising - A Post-Apocalyptic Robot Comedy,"On the surface it's a comedy - but at its heart it's a story about me (an idiot man-child) becoming a responsible father. It's also a one-man show, with me doing all of the development, production, post, and visual effects on a shoe-string budget. But most importantly, Uprising is my chance to do my film, my way, with my friends and family by my side." Read the rest

Teaching students at a Co-Op City public school to make pollution-fighting robots

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NYU associate professor Natalie Jeremijenko brought her Feral Robot Dogs project to twenty-nine of our gifted and special-needs students at New York City's PS 153.

Happy Birthday, Roy Batty

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In this case, the cake was certainly a lie. [via] Read the rest

Check out Disney's real wall-climbing robot!

Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) developed VertiGo, a mobile robot that can roll up walls. It uses two tiltable propellers that keep it rolling and also provide the thrust that keeps it against the wall when moving vertically.

“About why Disney is interested in this area, I am not able to say specifics as you can understand," Disney Research scientist Paul Beardsley told IEEE Spectrum. "But just speaking in general, one can imagine that robots with lighting effects could be useful for entertainment effects or for wall games. This also relates to the question of why the ground-wall transition is useful. If you have to manually place a robot on a wall at the start of a deployment, and manually remove it at the end, then that's taking manpower and it's not flexible. If the robot can make those transitions automatically, then you are a step in the direction of autonomous deployment, and that makes the technology more powerful. We are motivated by making a practical device, so it is real-world feedback and challenges that drive our work.”

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In-mouth dental CNC mill

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This Russian video shows a high-tech, terrifying in-mouth CNC mill that uses built-in cameras and a machine controlled drill to precisely mill out rotten parts of teeth while you clench the machine's anchor in your jaw, whimpering around it (usefully, it doubles as a gag). (via JWZ) Read the rest

The first robot in cinema

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Harry Houdini thought he was a superstar, but there was one medium he was unable to conquer: movies.

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

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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

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

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