261 posts tagged robotics
When Robots Write Songs
Bach, Coltrane, McCartney: New algorithms can produce original compositions in the style of the greats. But can those compositions actually be great?
When Pharrell Williams accepted five Grammy Awards this year for the French duo Daft Punk (pretending to be robots), he may have portended a coming invasion by real music robots, from France. Computer scientists in Paris and the U.S. are working on algorithms enabling computers to make up original fugues in the style of Bach, improvise jazz solos a la John Coltrane, or mash up the two into a hybrid never heard before. “We are quite close now to [programming computers to] generate nice melodies in the style of pop composers such as Legrand or McCartney,” says Francois Pachet, who heads Sony’s Computer Science Lab in Paris. The commercial applications of such efforts may include endless streams of original music in shopping malls that can respond to crying babies with soothing harmonies, as well as time-saving tools for busy composers. But the questions raised by computerized composition are more abstract—touching on the nature of music, art, emotion, and, well, humanity. The music-bots analyze works by flesh-and-blood composers and then synthesize original output with many of the same distinguishing characteristics. “Every work of music contains a set of instructions for creating different but highly related replications of itself,” says David Cope, a computer scientist, composer, and author who began his “Experiments in Musical Intelligence” in 1981 as the result of a composer’s block. “It’s truly impressive,” says jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, commenting on a track by a jazz-bot programmed by Pachet’s team to sound like sax legend Charlie “Bird” Parker blended with French composer Pierre Boulez. “I sent it to Chris Potter, the saxophone player in the band I am touring with right now, and asked him who the player was. He immediately started guessing people.” (via When Robots Write Songs - The Atlantic)
What makes love so important to us? Why is it so central to our lives? Why do we invest so much of ourselves into its discovery and feel so strongly that our happiness depends on it lasting? Are we fools to embrace the twisted turns of human relations, with their unimaginable unpredictability, which often leaves us feeling angry, resentful, insecure, sad, and alone? Or, is this just the gambit of our existence; our unavoidable human condition, a product of our being social animals, coupling species — a simple consequence of our apparent pursuit of the other half, as Plato would have us believe? What if we could simplify the process and fall in love with a machine instead of a person? Would we be happier if we found somebody who was designed just for our unique personality and who would align with our ideal version of ourselves? After all, how often in love do we say ‘he is the one for me’ or that ‘we are soul mates’? Too often for it to be credible, perhaps, but often enough to know that it matters that we mean it. In love, more than any other form of human connection, we long to find someone who truly gets us, so why not create someone who does precisely that? Not an automaton; that would be silly, but an evolved being, someone or something with higher intelligence, who knew how best to challenge us, love us, understand us and, through this intimate knowledge, help us grow, help us become the people we want to be, someone who will help us find happiness. The movie Her invites us to consider this prospect. It introduces us to the protagonist Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), whose melancholic disposition encouraging us to empathize with his romantic, idealised view of relationships, and the genuine sadness he feels at his marriage ending. He is unable to move on, to believe in love again, to accept that true love can end.
Robot Olympics Planned for 2020 Powered by Japan’s ‘Robot Revolution’
Japan likes robots. And while some Americans raised on a confusing sci-fi diet of Star Wars, Terminator, and iRobot are perhaps a little wary of advanced AI and robotics—Japan simply can’t wait for the “robot revolution.” In a recent tour of Japanese robotics firms, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe declared his intention to create a government task force to study and propose strategies for tripling the size of Japan’s robotics industry to $24 billion. And one more thing, Abe said, “In 2020, I would like to gather all of the world’s robots and aim to hold an Olympics where they compete in technical skills.” While mere mortals compete in the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo—in a stadium somewhere nearby, the world’s most advanced robots may go head to head in events showcasing their considerable prowess (hopefully by then, right?). (via Robot Olympics Planned for 2020 Powered by Japan’s ‘Robot Revolution’ | Singularity Hub)
When Will Robots Take Over the World?
Jul 17, 2014 | 2-part series
Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg, Sam Price-Waldman, Paul Rosenfeld
The Big Question is a series inspired by The Atlantic's back-page feature.
Courtesy of The Atlantic
The Moral Hazards and Legal Conundrums of Our Robot-Filled Future
The robots are coming, and they’re getting smarter. They’re evolving from single-task devices like Roomba and its floor-mopping, pool-cleaning cousins into machines that can make their own decisions and autonomously navigate public spaces. Thanks to artificial intelligence, machines are getting better at understanding our speech and detecting and reflecting our emotions. In many ways, they’re becoming more like us. Whether you find it exhilarating or terrifying (or both), progress in robotics and related fields like AI is raising new ethical quandaries and challenging legal codes that were created for a world in which a sharp line separates man from machine. Last week, roboticists, legal scholars, and other experts met at the University of California, Berkeley law school to talk through some of the social, moral, and legal hazards that are likely to arise as that line starts to blur. At a panel discussion on July 11, the discussion ranged from whether police should be allowed to have drones that can taser suspected bad guys to whether life-like robots should have legal rights. One of the most provocative topics was robot intimacy. If, for example, pedophilia could be eradicated by assigning child-like robots to sex offenders, would it be ethical to do that? Is it even ethical to do the research to find out if it would work? “We’re poised at the cusp of really being surrounded by robots in daily life,” said Jennifer Urban, the Berkeley law professor who moderated the panel. That’s why now is the time to start grappling with these questions, Urban says. A future filled with robots may be inevitable, but we still have an opportunity to shape it. Below are five thought-provoking themes that emerged from the discussion. (via The Moral Hazards and Legal Conundrums of Our Robot-Filled Future | Science | WIRED)
Meet Ray: Düsseldorf Airport’s autonomous robot car parking concierge
You’ve just caught the “red-eye” flight home. The baby in the next row screamed all of the way, your inflight meal was awful, and you’re beyond tired. You drag yourself off the plane and schlep your heavy baggage over to the car park – only to realize that you’ve forgotten where you parked your car. At times like this, wouldn’t it be nice if you could just have your vehicle magically appear? Well, if you’re at Düsseldorf Airport in Germany you can. That’s because “Ray” the parking robot concierge installed there knows when your flight arrives, picks up your car in its mechanical arms and delivers it right to you. (via Meet Ray: Düsseldorf Airport’s autonomous robot car parking concierge)
An intelligent robot equipped with emotion might feel sad at its lack of progress, and eventually give up and do something else. (via Artificial Emotions - Issue 1: What Makes You So Special - Nautilus)
hitchBOT aims to be first robot to hitchhike across Canada
In what is hailed as a world first for robots, a Canadian robot dubbed “hitchBOT” hopes to be the first to hitchhike across Canada this July. Wearing jaunty red boots and yellow garden gloves (with one in a permanent “thumbing a ride” gesture), HitchBOT is going to try to use his good looks and power of speech to convince people to pick him up and drive him from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia. According to his designers, hitchBOT boasts artificial intelligence (AI) and and has been endowed with speech recognition and speech processing capabilities so that he may understand and converse with those people that he may encounter on his journey. To keep them engaged in conversation, hitchBOT apparently also runs social media and Wikipedia APIs, so that he will not only be able to talk to the people that pick him up, he’ll be able to make interesting and informed small talk with them whilst tweeting and posting his “thoughts” to a wider audience. A collaborative venture first conceived in 2013, hitchBOT is a product of the work of Dr. David Harris Smith of McMaster University and Dr. Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University. Since its inception, the team has further expanded to include other collaborators and researchers from a wide range of disciplines from both universities, including computer science, electrical engineering, communication, and mechatronics. (via hitchBOT aims to be first robot to hitchhike across Canada)
Thanks to new technology, sex toys are becoming tools for connection - but will sexbots reverse that trend?
There is only one true sexbot that you can go out and buy today. Her name is Roxxxy, and she is a ‘robot companion’ intended to look human, or something very close. She’s 5’7” and slender. She’s got a wide range of hair and eye colours. And depending on the model you choose, she can ‘hear’ you, ‘talk’ to you, and ‘feel’ you. First introduced in 2010 after nearly a decade of development, the Roxxxy line now includes RoxxxyGold, RoxxxySilver, and RoxxxyPillow, as well as Rocky. Only RoxxxyGold comes equipped with a ‘personality,’ although RoxxxySilver will talk during sex. RoxxxyPillow, the least expensive model, is only the torso, head, and three ‘inputs’ – vagina, anus, and mouth. Unlike the other models, which are full-sized, RoxxxyPillow can be tucked away discreetly when not in use.
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For my own take on the issue read here:
Photos of a Strange, Thriving Humanoid Robotics Movement
Japan is famous for its robotics industry which has developed everything from faceless industrial robots that power factories to cybernetic cats that provide companionship to the elderly. There’s also a subculture of scientists trying to create robots that could pass as humans and London-based photographer Luisa Whitton has captured their stories in a series called What About the Heart? A scholarship provided Whitton with the opportunity to travel to Japan to meet with robotics pioneer Hiroshi Ishiguro, who became famous in tech circles for having built an eerily creepy robotic copy of himself. “I was initially drawn to the uncanny and surrealistic aspect to Ishiguro’s story, and this area of robotics specific to Japan which has a reputation in pushing the boundaries between science, art, and philosophy,” says Whitton. The result is a collection of photos that appear to capture robots in the throes of electronic existential crises. (via Photos of a Strange, Thriving Humanoid Robotics Movement | Design | WIRED)