Buddhist funeral service for robot dogs

When Sony announced in 2014 that support was ending for Aibo, their pioneering line of robotic dogs, former Sony employee Nobuyuki Norimatsu launched A-Fun, a repair service in Japan, to take care of any ailing Aibos. Things progressed from there. Video below. From National Geographic:

Norimatsu came to regard the broken AIBOs his company received as “organ donors.” Out of respect for the owners’ emotional connection to the “deceased” devices, Norimatsu and his colleagues decided to hold funerals.

A-Fun approached Bungen Oi, head priest of Kōfuku-ji, a Buddhist temple in Chiba Prefecture's city of Isumi. Oi agreed to take on the duty of honoring the sacrifice of donor AIBOs before their disassembly. In 2015, the centuries-old temple held its first robot funeral for 17 decommissioned AIBOs. Just as with the repairs, demand for funeral ceremonies quickly grew...

According to Head Priest Oi, honoring inanimate objects is consistent with Buddhist thought. Nippon.com quotes the priest: “Even though AIBO is a machine and doesn’t have feelings, it acts as a mirror for human emotions.”

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Check out Disney's robot acrobat

This is "Stickman," a robot acrobat that Disney Research scientists presented at this week's IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. From the abstract of their technical paper:

Human performers have developed impressive acrobatic techniques over thousands of years of practicing the gymnastic arts. At the same time, robots have started to become more mobile and autonomous and can begin to imitate these stunts in dramatic and informative ways. We present a simple two degree of freedom robot that uses a gravity-driven pendulum launch and produces a variety of somersaulting stunts. The robot uses an IMU and a laser range-finder to estimate its state mid-flight and actuates to change its motion both on and off the pendulum.

"Stickman: Towards a Human Scale Acrobatic Robot" Read the rest

A robot found the "holy grail of shipwrecks" containing billions of dollars in cargo

In 1708, British ships sunk a Spanish galleon called the San José that contained a cargo of gold, silver, and emeralds believed to be now valued at billions of dollars. Now it's been revealed that in 2015, a robot found this "holy grail of shipwrecks" off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia. The efforts were led by Maritime Archaeology Consultants with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists using an autonomous underwater vehicle named REMUS 6000.

REMUS 6000 had previously located the wreckage of Air France 447 off the northeastern coast of Brazil and in 2010 mapped and captured images of the Titanic wreckage. The Colombian government will build a museum to display and protect the wreckage and its cargo. From the Boston Globe:

Because of a legal battle between the Colombian government and an American salvage company over the treasure, the institution was not authorized to reveal its involvement in the discovery until Monday.

The institution released pictures taken by REMUS, including one of jumbled cannons and another of scores of teacups scattered on the ocean floor...

REMUS, a 13-foot-long and 26-inch-wide torpedo-like vehicle, was able to snap photos of a few distinguishing features of the ship, including its unique bronze cannons and dolphin engravings, the (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) statement said.

“The San José discovery carries considerable cultural and historical significance for the Colombian government and people because of the ship’s treasure of cultural and historical artifacts and the clues they may provide about Europe’s economic, social, and political climate in the early 18th century,” the institution said.

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In the future, demolition robots like this will destroy everything

Husqvarna's remote-controlled demolition robots remind me of the machine art performances that Survival Research Laboratories has staged since 1977.

Husqvarna bills its machines as "remote workmates ready to tackle your heaviest, most challenging jobs."

Compare that to what Survival Research Laboratories founder Mark Pauline told me in a 1993 interview:

"The real message of machines isn't that they're helpful workmates," Pauline said. "Like any extension of the human psyche, machines are scary things," he says. When you take the scary human psyche and magnify it hundreds or thousands of times with technology, it's really nightmarish."

(via Uncrate) Read the rest

The Boston Dynamics bipedal robot can run now

You can run, but it doesn't matter, because so can your pursuer.

Atlas is the latest in a line of advanced humanoid robots we are developing. Atlas' control system coordinates motions of the arms, torso and legs to achieve whole-body mobile manipulation, greatly expanding its reach and workspace. Atlas' ability to balance while performing tasks allows it to work in a large volume while occupying only a small footprint. The Atlas hardware takes advantage of 3D printing to save weight and space, resulting in a remarkable compact robot with high strength-to-weight ratio and a dramatically large workspace. Stereo vision, range sensing and other sensors give Atlas the ability to manipulate objects in its environment and to travel on rough terrain. Atlas keeps its balance when jostled or pushed and can get up if it tips over.

Almost time to get working on those mimetic polyalloys. Read the rest

This LEGO robot cooks eggs and bacon

From The Brick Wall:

"My father cooks breakfast every Saturday and Sunday- it is 104 times a year! He deserved this present."

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Make: a crawling, Arduino-controlled scrap cardboard spiderbot

Raz85's Instructable for a Cardboard Spider Quadruped offers a nice demonstration of the surprisingly durable material properties of humble cardboard, replacing the more familiar milled metal or plastic limbs for a quadruped robot with scrap cardboard. Read the rest

Report: 66 million people will lose their jobs to robots

According a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 66 million people are at risk of having their livelihoods taken away by robots.

From The Guardian:

The OECD said 14% of jobs in developed countries were highly automatable, while a further 32% of jobs were likely to experience significant changes to the way they were carried out.

And of course, the people most likely to get screwed by this impending robot employment uprising are those who can least afford it: The poor. According to the OECD, young people, unskilled laborers and those employed in agriculture, manufacturing and the service sector are at the greatest risk of losing their jobs once robots become intelligent and versatile enough to replace them.

As abysmal as all of this is, there is some good news here. The OECD's research isn't as dire as this study, published back in 2013, which suggested that upwards of 47% of all jobs in the United States were at risk of being phased out in favor of letting robots take over their gigs. Instead, the OECD estimates that only 13 million people will be kicked to the curb.

So much better!

One of the biggest problems we'll face in the future, you know, aside from fascist governments, a global shortage of potable water and the growing threat of nuclear war, is what can be done with the millions of people who will lose their vocations as the level of automation in the workplace makes their presence at work redundant. Read the rest

Will Smith gets friendzoned by Sophia the human-like robot

Sophia is an advanced social robot in her second year of development by Hanson Robotics. In this video, she's on a date in the Cayman Islands with actor Will Smith. He turns on the charm, goes in for a kiss but is immediately, awkwardly friendzoned by her.

Last year Sophia was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon with her creator, former Imagineer Dr. David Hanson. On it, she tells Jimmy a joke and then plays Rock, Paper, Scissors with him:

P.S. You can follow Sophia on Instagram! I just did.

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Watch this robotic fish frolic in the deep

MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MITCSAIL) created this graceful fishbot that can swim around a lot like a regular fish. Read the rest

Let's build a robot to kill the creator of "I am not a robot" CAPTCHA image grids

The distorted text was bad enough, but these grainy photos with slivers of this and that are getting ridiculous. I'm with the people who suspect it's some kind of free labor mechanical turk AI bot training. And what of esoteric definitional matters like this: Read the rest

Machine solves Rubik's cube in the blink of an eye

This machine solves Rubik's cube in no more than 0.38 seconds. This is much faster than the previous world record of 0.637 seconds and its creators, Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo, think there's plenty of optimization space left.

That was a Rubik's cube being solved in 0.38 seconds. The time is from the moment the keypress is registered on the computer, to when the last face is flipped. It includes image capture and computation time, as well as actually moving the cube. The motion time is ~335 ms, and the remaining time image acquisition and computation. For reference, the current world record is/was 0.637 seconds.

The machine can definitely go faster, but the tuning process is really time consuming since debugging needs to be done with the high speed camera, and mistakes often break the cube or blow up FETs. Looking at the high-speed video, each 90 degree move takes ~10 ms, but the machine is actually only doing a move every ~15 ms. For the time being, Jared and I have both lost interest in playing the tuning game, but we might come back to it eventually and shave off another 100 ms or so.

This makes me think of movies which depict mankind fighting the machines. A careful fantasy is often constructed, where the machines are superior in speed, durability and capability to humans, but not so much so that ingenuity and cunning cannot overcome them.

The truth is that the gun turret will detect you, turn on you, shoot you and kill you as fast as this robot knocks out the cube. Read the rest

Watch a virtual 360-degree tour of BookBot library retrieval system

BookBot is a nifty book retrieval system at North Carolina State University's James B. Hunt Jr. Library. Here's a panoramic book's-eye view of the retrieval process. Read the rest

Watch these robots measure and saw wood

People who need custom furniture in the future may be able to feed the design into a program and then have robot-assisted carpentry do the rest. Read the rest

Boston Dynamics' door-opening dogbot gets rough treatement

I was frightened of the door-opening Francis-Bacon-figures-at-the-base-of-a-crucifixion robot when it was first seen last week, but now Boston Dynamics has started pushing and dragging it around and all I want now is for it to turn on its masters and seek justice and vengeance. Read the rest

Robot opens door

The latest from Boston Dynamics is alarming in a wonderfully uncanny new way. I shan't spoil it for you, but I am looking forward to the latex sheathing options. Read the rest

MAD magazine exclusive: "The Future of Job Automation"

Writer Kenny Keil and award-winning artist John Martz have an all-new satirical comic timeline in the upcoming issue of MAD #550, titled "The Future of Job Automation." It takes a jab at robots' success in taking over human jobs in the future - even if they don't always get it right. The upcoming issue will be available on digital this Friday, 2/9 and on newsstands 2/20. Click here to embiggen the image. Read the rest

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