This drywall-installing robot will finish building your new home, meatbag

There's a robot apocalypse coming, but it's likely not going to result in the loss of billions of human lives. Rather, it's our livelihoods that are at stake. For some vocations, signs of a paradigm shift are already here. The HRP-5P humanoid robot is designed to be a drywall-hanging machine. It's slow now, but it's capable. Sooner or later, it'll be fast enough and cheap enough to make skilled construction labor a thing of the past. My Grandfather, who spent the better part of his life building churches, homes and movie theaters, would have shit a brick were he alive to see this.

Have no doubt, no matter what you do for a living, that similar appliances are on their way to make our daily toil a redundancy. Society's going to need to learn to adapt--fast. Read the rest

Electromechanical "skin" turns everyday objects into robots

Yale engineers developed "robotic skins" from elastic sheets integrating sensors and electromechanical actuators. The idea is that most any flexible object could be transformed into a robot. Professor Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio and her colleagues reported on their project, called OmniSkins, in the journal Science Robotics. From YaleNews:

Placed on a deformable object — a stuffed animal or a foam tube, for instance — the skins animate these objects from their surfaces. The makeshift robots can perform different tasks depending on the properties of the soft objects and how the skins are applied.

“We can take the skins and wrap them around one object to perform a task — locomotion, for example — and then take them off and put them on a different object to perform a different task, such as grasping and moving an object,” she said. “We can then take those same skins off that object and put them on a shirt to make an active wearable device.”

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Meet Hal, the Pediatric Patient Simulator built to suffer

HAL is described as the "world's most advanced" Pediatric Patient Simulator. Hal simulates lifelike emotions through "dynamic facial expressions, movement and speech." Gaumard Scientific's video promises "amazed, transient pain, crying, and more." [via @3liza]

HAL not only looks like a boy, he behaves like one. He can track a finger with his eyes, answer questions, cry for his mother and experience anaphylactic shock. He can even breathe faster and/or urinate when scared. And he has also been built in a way that allows doctors and nurses in-training to perform a myriad of tests such as taking blood pressure, checking his pulse and monitoring breathing. Trainees can also use real medical equipment such as an EKG machine or a heart or blood pressure monitor—or tools such as a scalpel or breathing tubes—to perform realistic medical procedures.

Here's HAL's ad.

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Papers sought for We Robot: Miami's eighth annual conference on robots and the law

Michael Froomkin writes, "We Robot, now heading into its 8th year, is lots of fun -- and it's also the leading North American conference on robotics law and policy. The 2019 edition will be held at the University of Miami on April 12-13, 2019, preceded by a day of special workshops on April 11. We just today opened the submissions portal for paper and demo proposals. Full details are in the Call for Papers. Read the rest

LA has a cool exhibit about making robots at the new Japan House

A couple of weeks ago Carla and I went to the newly opened Japan House in Hollywood to see a presentation about prototyping of robots. Japan House is a combination gallery, shop, event venue, and restaurant at Hollywood and Highland that "seeks to foster awareness and appreciation for Japan around the world by showcasing the very best of Japanese art, design, gastronomy, innovation, technology, and more."

The current exhibition at Japan House focuses on the work of professor Shunji Yamanaka, who leads the Yamanaka Laboratory at the University of Tokyo. Visitors can pick up and inspect 3D printed prototypes of lifelike robotic creatures that look like insects, lizards, and otherworldly animals. Many of the robots are outfitted with motors and they move in lifelike ways.

Professor Yamanaka gave a presentation of his work that evening. I learned that he was the inventor of the card-activated gate that's used by millions of Japanese every day when they ride the rail system. I used these gates dozens of times when I was in Japan this summer to ride the subway, activating the gates with a stored value card called SUICA. (You can also open the gates with a smart watch, like the Apple Watch.)

Professor Yamanaka also co-created, along with Takayuki Furuta of the Future Robotics Technology Center at Chiba Institute of Technology, a robot called the CanguRo (Spanish for kangaroo). The robot can be ridden like a motorized scooter or it can roll alongside you and carry heavy items. Here's a video of it in action:

“Prototyping in Tokyo” runs until 10 October 2018, Monday - Saturday from 10 am - 8 pm and Sunday from 10 am – 7pm. Read the rest

Rolling robots 3D print a bridge, inching their way along the span as they lay it

The Smarter Bridge is a project led by Mix3d, which makes robotic 3D printers that can sinter stainless steel structures and inch their way along the surfaces as they are completed. Read the rest

What robots can learn from fire ants

When fire ants dig out a new nest underground, a small number are actually doing most of the work while the rest dilly-dally. Apparently this is actually an effective division of labor because it prevents the insects from getting in each other's way. Now, Georgia Tech researchers suggest this approach could be help future robot swarms be more efficient in cramped areas like collapsed buildings or construction sites. From Science News:

(Physicist Daniel) Goldman’s team created computer simulations of two ant colonies digging tunnels. In one, the virtual ants mimicked the real insects’ unequal work split; in the other, all the ants pitched in equally. The colony with fewer heavy lifters was better at keeping tunnel traffic moving; in three hours, that colony dug a tunnel that was about three times longer than the group of ants that all did their fair share.

Goldman’s team then tested the fire ants’ teamwork strategy on autonomous robots. These robots trundled back and forth along a narrow track, scooping up plastic balls at one end and dumping them at the other. Programming the robots to do equal work is “not so bad when you have two or three,” Goldman says, “but when you get four in that little narrow tunnel, forget about it.” The four-bot fleet tended to get stuck in pileups. Programming the robots to share the workload unequally helped avoid these smashups and move material 35 percent faster, the researchers found.

"Collective clog control: Optimizing traffic flow in confined biological and robophysical excavation" (Science)

(image: Stephen Ausmus/Wikipedia) Read the rest

Swarm robots for airplane engine maintenance

Rolls Royce and Harvard University are exploring how tiny swarm robots could someday crawl through an airplane engine for mechanical check-ups and maintenance.

Each robot measures around 10mm in diameter which would be deposited in the centre of an engine via a ‘snake’ robot and would then perform a visual inspection of hard to reach areas by crawling through the engine. These robots would carry small cameras that provide a live video feed back to the operator allowing them to complete a rapid visual inspection of the engine without having to remove it from the aircraft.

"SWARM Robots" (Rolls Royce via Uncrate)

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Watch Skippa the rock-skipping robot get optimized

Skipping stones takes a little practice and finesse, so Mark Rober enlisted his extended family to help build the perfect rock-skipping robot. Their creation, named Skippa, ended up helping humans learn, too. Read the rest

Roboticist Simone Giertz describes her recovery from brain surgery

Boing Boing fave Simone Giertz (of "Shitty Robots" fame) had brain surgery earlier this year, so it's great to see her back with an update. Read the rest

Sex-robot has "family mode" switch so kids can play with it. Ethicist says it is "profoundly damaging" to children

Aarran Lee Wright, 36, a married man and father of two young children, says his sex-robot can be switched to "family mode," for G-rated playtime with the kids.

From the NY Post:

Wright revealed that his children, aged three and five, play with Samantha and watch TV alongside her. And his wife said: “I am not worried she will replace me. She is just someone there like a family member.”

Now a group of professors have slammed the idea of a family-friendly sex robot as “damaging” for kids.

“Children will imitate machines if brought up by them,” Kathleen Richardson, professor of ethics and culture of robots and AI at De Montfort University, told New Statesmen.

“A daughter is going to grow up and think maybe this happened because Mommy wasn’t beautiful enough – am I?

“They’ll learn that women only have certain uses. Then they start to use that as a template for how they interact intimately with others – this is profoundly damaging.”

NSFW video:

Image: HAVC pipes by F. Javier Ballester/Shutterstock Read the rest

Watch an autonomous race car navigate a course

Autonomous racing company Roborace demonstrated their latest technology for the crowd at the 2018 Festival of Speed. Read the rest

Help save artist Kal Spelletich's robots and the future of tech-art

For 25 years, my friend Kal Spelletich of Seemen and Survival Research Labs has lived and worked in a San Francisco warehouse studio where he's built myriad robots, fire machines, and sculptures, hosted music, art, and political action events, and provided support for more than 100 other artists, activists, and fringe characters. Guess what. Kal's been evicted. This is yet another gut punch for the Bay Area's creative community that inspired so many technologists but is now being eviscerated by today's big money tech bubble. Kal has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help him push through: Save Kal's Robots

Rented way back in 1995, my space is was one of the last remaining raw warehouse art spaces and I made it into a home for experimental, non commercial art. I hosted jaw-dropping, fire spewing, ear shattering robot performances, music, noise and art events with the likes of Chris Johanson, Johanna Jackson, Marie Lornez and her epic boat, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Matt Heckert.

I did all this without grants or outside support.

No trust funds, patrons or high paying side jobs here. I passed along the cheap rent.

I provided housing and studios for countless artists, freaks, traveling activists and radical journalists like Trevor Paglen, AC Thompson, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, worked on Survival Research Laboratories shows, and countless others.

My life and warehouse were the inspiration for Rudy Rucker’s sci-fi novel Realware. Another book that wouldn't have happened without my warehouse is Streetopia.

I ran my studio as an experimental art/live space that housed and supported over 100 other artists and activists.

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3D printed origami robots that crawl and grab when activated by magnets

A team at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have created a set of foldable, 3D printed robots that are doped with magnetic particles that are precisely aligned during printing; when triggered by a control-magnet they engage in precise movements: grabbing, jumping, rolling, squeezing, etc. Read the rest

New San Francisco restaurant has factory-style "burger bot" making all its hamburgers

Tech Crunch visits Creator, a San Francisco fast food joint that uses a factory-style "burger bot" to assemble its $6 hamburgers. Owner Alex Vardakostas says his burger-making machine, which he built himself, makes a better burger than any human could do. But doesn't a mini burger factory displace jobs? Nah, not according to Vardakostas. He says he's got a decent size staff, who make $16/hour, and they each receive "5% time" on the clock during which they can read a book or do anything else enjoyable while the robot keeps up its nonstop pace. (My calculations determine that 5% time on the clock is only 3 minutes per hour. I assume that's on top of standard breaks and a lunch break!)

According to Bloomberg, Creator will open its doors on June 27th. Read the rest

CoachBot malfunctions during basketball match

Boston Dynamics finally took a step too far with its new model, "Jalen Rose."

(Note: video contains NSFW language. Note: Rose is in fact neither a robot nor a coach) [via Reddit] Read the rest

These 3D-printed shapeshifting bots can crawl, jump, and catch things under magnetic control

MIT researchers designed and 3D-printed an array of soft, mechanical critters that are controlled by waving a magnet over them. The shapeshifters that fold up, crawl, grab things, and snap together into intricate formations may someday lead to new kinds of biomedical devices. For example, one of the devices "can even be directed to wrap itself around a small pill and carry it across a table." From MIT News:

“We think in biomedicine this technique will find promising applications,” says (MIT mechanical engineer Xuanhe Zhao.) “For example, we could put a structure around a blood vessel to control the pumping of blood, or use a magnet to guide a device through the GI tract to take images, extract tissue samples, clear a blockage, or deliver certain drugs to a specific location. You can design, simulate, and then just print to achieve various functions.”

In addition to a rippling ring, a self-squeezing tube, and a spider-like grabber, the team printed other complex structures, such as a set of “auxetic” structures that rapidly shrink or expand along two directions. Zhao and his colleagues also printed a ring embedded with electrical circuits and red and green LED lights. Depending on the orientation of an external magnetic field, the ring deforms to light up either red or green, in a programmed manner.

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