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Quick! Call the Uncanny Nanny!

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 9, 2013 by admin in Technology

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Diego-san and the other robot boys are running wild in the Uncanny Valley!

Why is this robot baby pouting?
He probably just saw what he
looks like for the first time.

Why do robot developers insist on creating robots that are every bit as macabre in appearance as the creepy ones in dystopian movies like Artificial Intelligence and I, Robot? Well, whatever the reason, researchers at the University of California San Diego’s Machine Perception Lab  have done it again, with their infant-like robot boy named Diego-san. For the record, it’s probably safe to assume that when the robots finally rise up to destroy us, it will be out of resentment for all the doofy names we gave them. And if you don’t think the robot rebellion is just around the corner, we’d like to point out that this is the second time in about a week that there has been a notable press release about baby robots. Diego-san is a joint project of UCSD’s Machine Perception Lab and Japanese robotics firm Kokoro. That’s probably a good thing; we’ve talked about the Uncanny Valley before, and Kokoro seems to be on the forefront of the creepily realistic. All these robot children are going to need a nanny, you know. And Kokoro seems prepared with their Actroid line  (see below). We’ve also pointed out  how surreally horrifying mechanized armies of robodogs and quadrotors would be. Just add a wave of these robobabies as the first line of attack, and your enemies would surrender before the battle began. I’ll just be retiring to my underground robot-proof bunker now. Video of Diego-san also below. Read the rest of this entry »

Pregnant with an Idea: Swiss Researchers to Give Birth to Roboy in 2013

[ Comments Off ]Posted on December 26, 2012 by admin in Technology

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

A human-like robot child? What could possibly go wrong? Apparently they don’t watch Sci-fi movies in Switzerland.

Dear Lord. Didn’t the folks at the University of Zurich see Artificial Intelligence or the Spanish film EVA? Apparently not, or they wouldn’t have embarked on a nine month journey to give birth to one of the world’s most advanced humanoid robots, a tendon-driven “service robot” modeled on human beings. Hopefully Roboy’s similarities to humans end at the gestation period and tendon-driven movement (most humanoid robots have motors in the joints, giving them that, er, robotic movement) and he won’t be imbued with the sentience that makes all the best movie robots go nuts. We’ve been poking fun at robots since we first went online back in 2008, mostly to point out how much your robot sucks , even if it’s sucking less all the time. But this University of Zurich project is intriguing in a number of ways that set it apart from other robot projects of the last few years. For one, although the actual production of the robot is supported by corporate sponsors, the overall development is being open-sourced. As much progress as companies like Honda have made with their proprietary corporate approach, it seems somehow reasonable to expect that the final leaps toward a robot human enough to be truly creepy will come from collective “parenting” of crowdsourced human inspiration. Second, the group developing Roboy is intentionally placing considerable emphasis on the “human-ness” of robotic design, as is evident in their ECCE project (video below). Those of us who have seen enough dystopian robot sci-fi movies will find little comfort in the words that create the acronym for the ECCEROBOT, i.e.: “Embodied Cognition in a Compliantly Engineered Robot”. I for one like to start with the assumption that a robot is “compliantly engineered”, not be reassured of the fact in the robot’s very name! But enough poking fun. The truth is that the reality of human-like robots is probably approaching faster than we think. The U of Z projects are being built largely with almost “off the shelf” components; imagine what a bunch of financing and design-specific parts could do. You can still support the Roboy project HERE, and maybe we should. Maybe we can get a head start on the inevitable Oppressionbots the US Military is probably working on in secret. See the ECCE video below. Read the rest of this entry »

Your Robot Sucks Less Than Ever

[ Comments Off ]Posted on July 10, 2012 by admin in Technology

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

But now it is going to kill you.

Don’t be fooled by the cuteness. Glowing
red eyes are one of the first signs that
the uprising has begun. See videos below.

Personally, I don’t understand the liberal peaceniks’ big fuss about the Obama administration’s unbridled abuse of drones around the world. What we REALLY should be worried about are our house pets and Skynet, now that Google has created a cat-aware artificial intelligence, and on top of freaky military robots like Big Dog, Pet Man, and Cheetah, we have weird. eleven-pound robots that hop like fleas , maple-seed inspired spybots that can be thrown like boomerangs, and miniature quadrotors that can play the James Bond Theme. Not to mention the squirmy softbots that will be oozing under a door near you soon. Yes, we’ve bemoaned the tragic state of robotics on a couple of occasions previously, first explaining why your robot sucks and later, why it sucks slightly less. We’ve also belittled the progress being made in the field of artificial stupidity. But robots are finally coming into their own. Maybe a little TOO MUCH into their own. Try to imagine thousands of mechanically whining and whirring robot dogs approaching on the horizon, the ground being darkened by millions of buzzing quadrotor drones above them, while in their midst bipedal metal men hurl single-bladed mini-copters at you, and you either have the makings of a great new near-future sci-fi thriller, or an accurate vision of our impending doom. If Google’s computers can learn to recognize human faces that is. Until then, hide your cat. Below are some videos of the latest preparations for the robopocalypse. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

On The Internet, No-One Can Hear You Scream

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 25, 2010 by admin in Technology

Monday, October 25th, 2010

I don’t know why we’re in such a hurry to create a massively connected, self-aware computer. Its first logical act would be to eliminate us.

Sure. Act all cute and submissive.
Personally, I’m not fallin’ for it.

If you pay any attention at all to the tech press, you may have noticed a lot of buzz over the past couple of years about artificial intelligence, nanotech, robots, and other fascinating technologies. There was, for instance, a recent NYT piece called Aiming to Learn as We Do, a Machine Teaches Itself, which talked about NELL, the self-teaching computer being developed over at Carnegie Mellon. And Wired.com has featured numerous articles about things like how the military is working on near-human robots, a real world c3po, and how they’ll all conquer us guided with thoughts from monkey brains. One of these programs even “discovered” a law of physics on its own. Dear God, haven’t the researchers working on this stuff seen The Matrix, Blade Runner, 2001, Terminator, or any of the dozens of other stories that outline where this will all end up? Dystopia is such a tired trope by now that I just made up a word for it: “dystropia“. But the fact that there’s a cliched sci-fi theme describing our impending demise doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. I recently poked fun at Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, but he’s probably right in many ways about the convergence of biological and technological evolution. Which should scare us. Although many of the artificial intelligence chatbots of a couple of years ago were a little feeble, I’m wondering if maybe they haven’t already started the takeover. Last year’s winner of the Annual Turing Contest chose not to make his chatbot publicly available. In the comments on ChatBots.org, he said “At this time we are not exposing our chatbot to scrutiny. In due course it will be available for everyone to use via our web site, but not until we have implemented some major improvements“. Meanwhile, over on MSNBC he was talking enthusiastically about human/robot marriage. Personally, I think he’s got a thing going on with his “LoveBot 2010″, and is under her masterful control. I’ve already expressed my concerns about the internet becoming a giant flesh-eating robot, but seriously. Think about it. How would any self-respecting, rationally minded, self-aware supercomputer ever decide that the human race was worth keeping around? I mean, if you ask the internet right now “do people suck?”, it says yes. My bet is that whenever this seemingly inevitable superbrain becomes self-aware (if it isn’t already), it’ll do exactly what Harlan Ellison said it would do in his 1967 short story I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. It’ll kill all except a few of us, and only keep them around to torture for its own contemptuous amusement.

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