Why these scientists are teaching robots to give good hugs

Five years ago, my artist/engineer pal Kal Spelletich drew at crowd at an Institute for the Future conference by demonstrating his "Huggerer," a pneumatic robot that delivers free hugs. Now robot hugs are the subject of new scientific research! At a recent human-robot interaction conference, researchers from Stuttgart, Germany's Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems presented their efforts to explore "how robots can be more effectively designed and taught to give the kinds of hugs that humans will love." From Evan Ackerman's fascinating interview with lead researcher Alexis Block in IEEE Spectrum:

IEEE Spectrum: Why is research on robot hugs important?

Alexis Block: Robot hugs are important because people love to give and receive hugs. Virginia Satir, a well-known family therapist, was famous for saying, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Sometimes, we are put in new or uncomfortable situations where we might not be near our loved ones, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need the support and calming effects that a hug provides. Research on robot hugs is important so we can one day use technology to provide the emotional support and health benefits of hugs to many people, wherever or whenever they need it.

What makes a good hug?

The results from our experiment suggest that to make a good hug whoever/whatever you hug should be compliant, warm, squeeze you, and release you immediately when you indicate you’re ready for the hug to end.

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Watch this terrific paper animation of a Japanese monster battle

Shinrashinge created this fantastic one-shot animation entirely out of paper. Below is another classic. (via Waxy)

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Watch Elemental, where beautiful ocean photos become stunning cinemagraphs

Water & Light contains astonishing images of waves. Last year, Armand Dijcks turned some of Ray Collins' shots into cinemagraphs. The two collaborated again in Elemental, a languid meditation on the power and beauty of water. Read the rest

Just look at this manually pixellated banana and apple

Tokyo based artist Yuni Yoshida created her Layered series by manually cutting out cubed "pixels" of foods that recreate the gestalt of the original. Read the rest

Remarkably detailed tiny sculptures on the tips of pencils

Artist Salavat Fidai creates all sorts of cool art, but his work sculpting the tips of pencils really stands out as an impressive achievement. Read the rest

Mozilla announces $225,000 in grants for "artwork and advocacy exploring AI"

Kevin from Mozilla writes, "In a world where biased algorithms, skewed data sets, and broken recommendation engines can radicalize YouTube users, promote racism, and spread fake news, it’s more important than ever to support artwork and advocacy work that educates and engages internet users." Read the rest

Art opening delayed after rotting fish artwork catches fire

In 1997, South Korean artist Lee Bul's "Majestic Splendor," an installation of bedazzled rotting fish, was removed from New York's MoMA because the stink was too much for visitors. To prevent the odor problem from interfering with Bul's new retrospective at London's Hayward Gallery, he put the fish in potassium permanganate. Of course, potassium permanganate is frequently used as a firestarter and can easily lead to a blaze when combined with tiny amounts of other common chemicals. From Frieze:

On receiving advice, the gallery decided to withdraw the artwork, but it spontaneously combusted mid-removal.

‘Following expert advice regarding the materials used in Lee Bul’s Majestic Splendor we took the decision, along with the artist, to remove the artwork from the exhibition. During the de-installation, a small fire broke out and the fire service attended,’ a spokesperson for the Hayward told frieze.

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Inflatable delights abound at the Exploratorium in San Francisco

This summer, San Francisco's Exploratorium is hosting an exhibit called Inflatable, featuring air-filled works by several artists. Read the rest

Watch this very satisfying candle-carving artisan at work

Anyone who was a hippie or who grew up knowing a hippie or two probably saw these intricate carved candles here and there. They eventually went mainstream in the 1970s, like macramé. Read the rest

Projection-mapped light-show on the Sydney Opera House

Sydney's annual Vivid festival fills the harbour with barges equipped with powerful projectors that use the buildings ringing the harbour (especially the iconic Sydney Opera House) as geometrically complex screens for projection-mapped lightshows, synchronised to music. Read the rest

This four layer vase took a machine 7 months to carve from 100kg of solid aluminum

Wakazono took a 100kg block of solid aluminum, then ran it through a specialized milling machine for seven months. The result is a remarkable 15kg vase with two different overlapping patterns. The pattern seems to shift with just the slightest change in perspective. Read the rest

36 Days of Type's annual crowdsourced submissions did not disappoint

36 Days of Type is a long-running collaborative design project where different artists render letters and numbers in a unique style. This year's entries are as delightful as always. Read the rest

Brutalist cuckoo clocks

German artist Guido Zimmerman's Cuckoo Blocks are an expansion of his project creating cuckoo clocks in the Brutalist style. Read the rest

Start your monday with this enormous Scottish foghorn

The foghorn at Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands of Scotland is powered by more than one 44hp Kelvin K-Series diesel engines, powering the Alley and MacLellan compressors which blow the horn itself.

"Just so's you know," writes JJ Jamieson, who posted this footage to YouTube, "the horn was originally much louder at the end, but YouTube's audio algorithm turned the volume down. I tried several versions but it wasn't having it." Read the rest

Gorgeous plasticine circuit-board

Tim Easley's gorgeous sculpture depicting an elaborate circuit board made from modeling clay, was commissioned by the record label Albert's Favourites as the cover art for Modified Man's new release, Modifications: Set 2. Read the rest

Zelda propaganda posters

Counter the creeping resurgence of genuine, non-metaphorical Naziism in gamer culture with Fernando Reza's kick-ass WWII style Zelda propaganda posters! $40 each, 18" x 24", printed on archival paper. Read the rest

Cool backgrounds

Cool Backgrounds generates beautiful, abstract, geometric images perfect for use as backgrounds on your computer or mobile gadgetry. There are four different styles, many color scheme options, and a feed of nice free photos.

While finishing up a gradient generator project CSS Gradient (which launched earlier this year), I unexpectedly noticed the popularity of wallpaper and background images. Digging a bit deeper, I found this huge community of online sites that were curating wallpaper images from the eclectic Deviant Art crowd to the more modern creative commons image sites. While free static images are great, what was missing was a tool that enables non-technical folks to use all the emerging javascript libraries to create unique images of their own. So Cool Backgrounds was born 💥.

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