Archive for November, 2011

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Your Robot Sucks Less

[ Comments Off ]Posted on November 3, 2011 by admin in Technology

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

But the human race is probably not prepared to surrender to its Robot Overlords just YET.

Kondo KHR-3HV
The Kondo KHR-3HV pleads to get its bike back
after having it taken away for violating curfew.

It has been more than a year since we last pointed out why your robot sucks, so we thought it was time for an update, as there have been a few interesting new developments. First though, we want to point out that we haven’t ALWAYS been so down on the state of robots; in spite of the fact that he walked like he just crapped his pants and looked like a dwarf in an astronaut suit, we never criticized Honda’s Asimo much. He was the first really sophisticated bipedal robot, and as an old Laurie Anderson song pointed out, walking – although it seems relatively simple for MOST humans – is an incredibly elaborate process of falling and not falling. But let’s face it, your robot still sucks, it just sucks less. I blame my cynicism on guys like Ray Kurzweil, who has been promising some kind of exponential growth in bio-robotic convergence for over a decade (something I’ve complained about before), or Ridley Scott, who made lifelike robots seem so plausible by the year 2019 in the movie Blade Runner. But I’m afraid we’re probably more than eight years away from a readily available “pleasure model” like Blade Runner’s Pris. As evidence, we present two recent advances in robotics. One that’s actually quite impressive, and one that’s impressive if your idea of impressive is an ogreish mechanical George Jetson eternally trapped on a treadmill. In the “actually impressive” department is this tiny bicycle-riding robot (video also below). At first you might be sort of “meh” about it, but as you realize the scale of the little guy, and watch him rapidly jiggle the handlebars to maintain balance, you have to be a little impressed. I mean, I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid I ran the bike around the yard for a WEEK before I actually hopped on and crashed a few times to get the hang of things. No word on whether this little guy went through a training wheel phase or just took the plunge, but he sure seems to have a grasp on things. We just hope he doesn’t hook up with Lance Armstrong, lord knows what tiny bicycling robots would be like if they started doping. And speaking of doping, my girlfriend made the amusing observation that teams of these little guys – if armed – would be a great street crime fighting tool. As the crack dealer gangstas stood pointing and laughing, the little mini-terminator could mow them down with its state-of-the-art micro-machine guns. If you want to create your OWN little bike-riding robot, you’re going to have to dish out about 1700 bucks and be prepared to do some programming; the little guy appears to be based on a Kondo KHR-3HV Humanoid Robot Kit, which makes no mention of a bicycle or riding skills on the product page. In the “impressive if your idea of impressive is an ogreish mechanical George Jetson eternally trapped on a treadmill” department, we have PETMAN (video also below), brought to you by Boston Dynamics, the people who brought us the decidedly creepy Big Dog. Well, now Big Dog has someone to walk him, as soon as they wean this bipedal, pushup-pumping, mechanical Jack LaLanne from the conveyor belt. I hate to be Mr Pissypants, but after millions of dollars and thousands of hours of research, would it have been THAT much trouble to give this guy a HEAD and teach him how NOT to walk like a drunken Irish longshoreman from 1947? More videos below. Read the rest of this entry »

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