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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The Uncanny Valley might not actually exist

The Uncanny Valley is that point where something designed to look human gets too close to success, and ends up accidentally reminding us of the many, many ways that it also looks totally alien. The result: A one-way ticket to Creepoutsville.

Or, anyway, that's the hypothesis. See, despite the fact that we've long treated it as a given, the Uncanny Valley isn't a proven concept. In fact, writes Rose Eveleth at The BBC, the original 1970 paper that described the Uncanny Valley wasn't really based on research at all. It was more of an essay. An essay that nobody much questioned for 30 years. Since 2000, there's been some actual research on the subject, and the results are very mixed. Some studies can find evidence of the Uncanny Valley. In others, though, it appears to not exist at all.

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Why does Japan love giant robots so much?


Transforming pop culture: Giant robots, such as those in Guillermo del Toro's blockbuster 'Pacific Rim' (above), have been big in Japan for decades.

About this Japan Times article he wrote, Matt Alt in Tokyo tells Boing Boing, "I interviewed several anime industry legends and combined it with some of my own research. The upshot: it's all about the toys. Sort of. The illustration is by my pal Hideo Okamoto, whose designs grace everything from the Gundam series to Pokemon. Unfortunately the digital version has none of the glory of the paper!" But you can click here to see a scan of the print version.

Humans will befriend a stick — as long as it moves properly

Human emotions and social interaction have a lot to do with body language — how our faces express what we're thinking and feeling, how our gestures are read by other people, and how we invade (or retreat from) each other's personal space. In fact, those movements and behaviors are so important that, if you map them onto an otherwise completely non-human, non-animal form, we'll start interpreting it as engaging with us — even if that form is nothing more than a moving stick.

This video, clips from a study that was published in 2011 by computer scientists at the University of Calgary, shows what test subjects did and said when they were left alone in a room with a stick-like robot, and asked to just think out loud and interact with the robot in whatever ways felt natural. Some people made friends. Others tried to fight it. And a few tried to talk it out of wanting to fight them.

Video Link