262 posts tagged Robotics
European scientists developing a robotic tree
The animal kingdom contains many examples of efficient forms of locomotion, so it’s no wonder that we’ve been seeing a lot of animal-inspired robots – recent examples have included a robotic cheetah, fish and snake. Plants, however, just sit there … don’t they? Actually, they do move, just not necessarily in a Point A to Point B manner. With that in mind, Europe’s PLANTOID project consortium is now in the process of developing a tree-like robot. Its descendants might ultimately find use in the exploration of other planets. The base of the PLANTOID robot is a 3D-printed plastic “trunk,” which houses a microprocessor. Extending out from the sides of that trunk are four plastic branches, the leaves of which are actually sensors capable of detecting and measuring factors such as temperature, humidity, gravity, touch, and chemical elements. The robot’s two roots, however, are where the real action is.
One of those roots, which bends like a tentacle, has a tactile-sensor-equipped tip. Using that sensor, as it squirms its way through the dirt, the root can change direction when it encounters solid obstacles … much like a natural root does. It could also be equipped to sense and avoid toxic substances in the ground.
The other root (seen below) is actually able to grow down into the substrate. It has a rotating tip, which extrudes a coiled cord behind it as it turns. The coils join together to form a tube-like root, which continues to grow as long as the tip keeps turning.
In its present form, the PLANTOID robot serves mainly as a proof-of-concept model. Down the road, however, the technology developed for its roots could lead to better endoscopic surgical tools, or for tools used in locating victims buried in debris at disaster sites.
Complete PLANTOID-type robots could be also used to monitor things like soil conditions and pollutant levels here on Earth, or they could even find use gathering environmental data on other planets. Once deposited by an unmanned rover, a PLANTOID could secure itself in place via its roots, then set about sensing the air and soil. (via European scientists developing a robotic tree)
Autómata: a believable robot future
YOUR TIME IS COMING TO AN END. OURS IS NOW BEGINNING.
Fast forward fifty years into the future, planet earth is in the midst of gradual desertification. Mankind struggles to survive as the environment deteriorates and the slow regression of the human race begins in AUTÓMATA. On the brink of life and the reality of death, technology combats the prevailing uncertainty and fear with the creation of the first quantum android, the Automata Pilgrim 7000. Designed to bring support to society’s plight, man and robot reveal what it means to co-exist in a culture defined by human nature. The descent of civilization is juxtaposed by the rise of ROC, the corporation at the helm of robotic intelligence. Despite the demise of humanity, the company has set forth security protocols to ensure mankind always maintains control over the manufactured population. As ROC insurance agent, Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas) routinely investigates cases and complaints surrounding defective androids, he begins to uncover the secrets behind who is really manipulating the Automata Pilgrim 7000. Jacq’s own suspicions propel the mystery— uncovering a truth that is far more complex than the make or model of any machine. Writer/Director Gabe Ibáñez was driven to tell a story that blurs the lines between science fiction and reality. Ibáñez gives audiences a compelling look into the theory of evolution and what life might be like for mankind in the not too distant future. With powerful performances from a cast including Antonio Banderas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Melanie Griffith, Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster, AUTÓMATA is a sci-fi film noir that explores the potential dangers and complexities when mind and machine merge. — Millennium Entertainment (via Autómata: a believable robot future | KurzweilAI)
Robo Brain is currently downloading and processing about 1 billion images, 120,000 YouTube videos, and 100 million how-to documents and appliance manuals, all being translated and stored in a robot-friendly format. The reason: to serve as helpers in our homes, offices and factories, robots will need to understand how the world works and how the humans around them behave. Robotics researchers like Ashutosh Saxena, assistant professor of computer science at his Cornell University and his associates at Cornell’s Personal Robotics Lab have been teaching them these things one at a time (which KurzweilAI has covered over the last two years in four articles).
Thousand-strong robot swarm throws shapes, slowly
Engineers in the US have built a swarm of 1,000 little robots that can shuffle into specific formations on command.
Each of the identical robots is given a picture of the required shape, and then they work together to make it happen. It takes up to 12 hours, but then this is the biggest throng of robots ever built and studied in this way. Inspired by biological examples, like cells forming organs or ants building bridges, the work could help develop self-assembling tools and structures. “Each robot is identical and we give them all the exact same program,” explained Dr Michael Rubenstein, the first author of the study, which is published in Science. “The only thing they have to go on, to make decisions, is what their neighbours are doing.” (via BBC News - Thousand-strong robot swarm throws shapes, slowly)
If robots become more cognitively capable than humans, then what happens to … everything?
“In such a future —perhaps a mere fifty years from now — the planet will be completely filled with cognitive and intelligent systems, which will intervene in all aspects of biological life, and humans will be influenced every moment by the decisions these machines make automatically,” Alexandre Pupo writes in a World Future Review report titled Cognitively Everywhere: The Omnipresence of Intelligent Machines and the Possible Social Impact. In the future, machines with brain-like capabilities will be able to know everything about everything using tools already in place, such as the internet, and then will be able to reason and put that knowledge to use like people. Pupo lists a few of the ways that this will have a drastic impact on human civilization.
If a Self-Driving Car Gets in an Accident, Who—or What—Is Liable?
The carmaker, the car owner, or the robot car itself? On the surprisingly not-crazy argument for granting robots legal personhood.
On first contact with the idea that robots should be extended legal personhood, it sounds crazy. Robots aren’t people! And that is true. But the concept of legal personhood is less about what is or is not a flesh-and-blood person and who/what is or is not able to be hauled into court. And if we want to have robots do more things for us, like drive us around or deliver us things, we might need to assign them a role in the law, says lawyer John Frank Weaver, author of the book Robots Are People, Too, in a post at Slate. “If we are dealing with robots like they are real people, the law should recognize that those interactions are like our interactions with real people,” Weaver writes. “In some cases, that will require recognizing that the robots are insurable entities like real people or corporations and that a robot’s liability is self-contained.” Here’s the problem: If we don’t define robots as entities with certain legal rights and obligations, we will have a very difficult time using them effectively. And the tool that we have for assigning those things is legal personhood. Right now, companies like Google, which operate self-driving cars, are in a funny place. Let’s say Google were to sell a self-driving car to you. And then it got into an accident. Who should be responsible for the damages—you or Google? The algorithm that drives the car, not to mention the sensors and all the control systems, are Google’s products. Even the company’s own people have argued that tickets should not be given to any occupant of the car, but to Google itself. (via If a Self-Driving Car Gets in an Accident, Who—or What—Is Liable? - The Atlantic)
Burger Robot Poised to Disrupt Fast Food Industry
I saw the future of work in a San Francisco garage two years ago. Or rather, I was in proximity to the future of work, but happened to be looking the other direction. At the time, I was visiting a space startup building satellites behind a carport. But just behind them—a robot was cooking up burgers. The inventors of the burger device? Momentum Machines, and they’re serious about fast food productivity. “Our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient,” cofounder Alexandros Vardakostas has said. “It’s meant to completely obviate them.” The Momentum burger-bot isn’t remotely humanoid. You can forget visions of Futurama’s Bender. It’s more of a burger assembly line. Ingredients are stored in automated containers along the line. Instead of pre-prepared veggies, cheese, and ground beef—the bot chars, slices, dices, and assembles it all fresh. Why would talented engineers schooled at Berkeley, Stanford, UCSB, and USC with experience at Tesla and NASA bother with burger-bots? Robots are increasingly capable of jobs once thought the sole domain of humans—and that’s a huge opportunity. Burger robots may improve consistency and sanitation, and they can knock out a rush like nobody’s business. Momentum’s robot can make a burger in 10 seconds (360/hr). Fast yes, but also superior quality. Because the restaurant is free to spend its savings on better ingredients, it can make gourmet burgers at fast food prices. Or at least, that’s the idea. (via Burger Robot Poised to Disrupt Fast Food Industry | Singularity Hub)
When Robots Take All the Work, What’ll Be Left for Us to Do?
Robots have loomed over the future of labor for decades—at least since robotic arms started replacing auto workers on the assembly line in the early 1960s. Optimists say that more robots will lead to greater productivity and economic growth, while pessimists complain that huge swaths of the labor force will see their employment options automated out of existence. Each has a point, but there’s another way to look at this seemingly inevitable trend. What if both are right? As robots start doing more and more of the work humans used to do, and doing it so much more efficiently than we ever did, what if the need for jobs disappears altogether? What if the robots end up producing more than enough of everything that everyone needs? The redefinition of work itself is one of the most intriguing possibilities imagined in a recent Pew Research report on the future of robots and jobs. Certainly, the prospect of a robot-powered, post-scarcity future of mandatory mass leisure feels like a far-off scenario, and an edge case even then. In the present, ensuring that everyone has enough often seems harder for humans to accomplish than producing enough in the first place. But assuming a future that looks more like Star Trek than Blade Runner, a lot of people could end up with a lot more time on their hands. In that case, robots won’t just be taking our jobs; they’ll be forcing us to confront a major existential dilemma: if we didn’t have to work anymore, what would we do? The answer is both a quantitative and qualitative exercise in defining what makes human intelligence distinct from the artificial kind, a definition that seems to keep getting narrower. And in the end, we might figure out that a job-free roboticized future is even scarier than it sounds. (via When Robots Take All the Work, What’ll Be Left for Us to Do? | Business | WIRED)