Hitchhiking Robot's Cross-Country Trip Ends In Philadelphia 192 192

An anonymous reader writes: A hitchhiking robot that successfully traveled across Canada in 26 days last year and parts of Europe, has met its demise in Philly. Created as a "social experiment," hitchBOT started its journey in the U.S. in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on July 17 with its thumb raised up and tape wrapped around its head that read "San Francisco or bust." After about two weeks in the U.S., someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair. "Sadly, sadly it's come to an end," said Frauke Zeller, one of its co-creators. The Independent reports: "The robot was designed to be a talking travel companion and could toss out factoids and carry limited conversation. A GPS in the robot tracked its location, and a camera randomly snapped photos about every 20 minutes to document its travels."

Answering Elon Musk On the Dangers of Artificial Intelligence 218 218

Lasrick points out a rebuttal by Stanford's Edward Moore Geist of claims that have led the recent panic over superintelligent machines. From the linked piece: Superintelligence is propounding a solution that will not work to a problem that probably does not exist, but Bostrom and Musk are right that now is the time to take the ethical and policy implications of artificial intelligence seriously. The extraordinary claim that machines can become so intelligent as to gain demonic powers requires extraordinary evidence, particularly since artificial intelligence (AI) researchers have struggled to create machines that show much evidence of intelligence at all.

NASA's Drone For Other Worlds 30 30

An anonymous reader writes: A group of engineers is building a new drone. What sets this apart from the hundreds of other drone development projects going on around the world? Well, these engineers are at the Kennedy Space Center, and the drone will be used to gather samples on other worlds. The drone is specifically designed to be able to fly in low- or no-atmosphere situations. Senior technologist Rob Mueller describes it as a "prospecting robot." He says, "The first step in being able to use resources on Mars or an asteroid is to find out where the resources are. They are most likely in hard-to-access areas where there is permanent shadow. Some of the crater walls are angled 30 degrees or more, and that's far too steep for a traditional rover to navigate and climb." They face major challenges with rotor and gas-jet design, they have to figure out navigation without GPS, and the whole system needs to be largely autonomous — you can't really steer a drone yourself with a latency of several minutes (or more).

A Robot That Can Walk and Jump On Water 39 39

Taco Cowboy writes: Researchers from Seoul University and Harvard have constructed tiny robots that can walk across the surface of standing water, and even jump into the air. The robots were designed to imitate the way pond-skimmer insects take advantage of surface tension to maneuver on top of still bodies of water. After studying the insects, the researchers found their legs started with a small amount of movement before gradually accelerating downward into a jump. The insects also sweep their legs inward during the jump to maximize the amount of time they stay in contact with the surface (abstract). "Using these principles, the researchers developed an ultra light robot made out of nickel titanium with a 2 centimeter long body inspired by origami. Its 5 centimeter long wire legs are curved at the tips like a real water strider's and coated with a material that repels water." Pictures of the robots are available here and here, as well as this animated gif.

Robots Must Be Designed To Be Compassionate, Says SoftBank CEO 110 110

An anonymous reader writes: At the SoftBank World conference in Tokyo, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has made a case for robots to be developed so as to form empathic and emotional relationships with people. "I'm sure that most people would rather have the warm-hearted person as a friendSomeday robots will be more intelligent than human beings, and [such robots] must also be pure, nice, and compassionate toward people," SoftBank's Aldebaran tech group will make its empathic "Pepper" robot available for companies to rent in Japan from October at a rate of $442 per month.

Beyond Safety: Is Robotic Surgery Sustainable? 54 54

Hallie Siegel writes: The release last week of the study on adverse events in robotic surgery led to much discussion on the safety and effectiveness of robotic surgical procedures. MIT Sloane's Matt Beane argues that while the hope is that this dialogue will mean safer and more effective robotic procedures in the future, the intense focus on safety and effectiveness has compromised training opportunities for new robotic surgeons, who require many hours of 'live' surgical practice time to develop their skills. Beane says that robotic surgery will likely continue to expand in proportion to other methods, given that it allows fewer surgeons to perform surgery with less trauma to the patient, but no matter how safe we make robotic surgical procedures, they will become a luxury available to a very few if we fail to address the sustainability of the practice.

Musk, Woz, Hawking, and Robotics/AI Experts Urge Ban On Autonomous Weapons 307 307

An anonymous reader writes: An open letter published by the Future of Life Institute urges governments to ban offensive autonomous weaponry. The letter is signed by high profile leaders in the science community and tech industry, such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Noam Chomsky, and Frank Wilczek. It's also signed — more importantly — by literally hundreds of expert researchers in robotics and AI. They say, "The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce."

MIT Is Improving Object Recognition For Robots 9 9

jan_jes writes: MIT have demonstrated their monocular SLAM supported approach that is able to achieve stronger performance against the classical frame based approach [where misclassifications occur occasionally]. The system is able to detect and robustly recognize objects in its environment using a single RGB camera. They have presented their paper at the Robotics Science and Systems conference last week. The system uses SLAM information to augment existing object-recognition algorithms. Robot with camera provide the improved object predictions in all views.

When Do Robocars Become Cheaper Than Standard Cars? 252 252

Hallie Siegel writes: With all the extra sensors and technology that have to go into autonomous cars, you might expect them to cost more. After all, autonomous features like park assist and auto lane changing are added-value components that you pay extra for on current vehicles. But autonomous car expert Brad Templeton thinks it could be that the overall cost of autonomous vehicles per mile driven will lower than traditional cars. Not only because features of traditional cars, like dashboards and steering columns, will not be necessary in robocars, but also because autonomous cars are more likely to be shared and constantly in use, rather than sitting in your driveway 90% of the time.

Skype Translate Reportedly Has a Swearing Problem In Chinese 82 82

An anonymous reader writes: Skype Translate was supposed to be Microsoft's attempt at the "Star Trek" universal translator, offering real-time voice and text translation. It launched with one of the most challenging of languages, Chinese. And apparently, thanks to the Great Firewall, it has its problems. An American expat using it in China reports: "A glitch in the beta software misinterpreted the words I spoke. 'It's nice to talk to you' was translated as 'It's f*cking nice to f*ck you,' and other synthesized profanity, like the icebox robot in 1970's sci-fi flick Logan's Run, but with Tourette Syndrome. It was quite funny to me - I couldn't help but laugh during repeated takes, to Yan's exasperation - but the tech team were none too happy about it as they worked late into the night."

18th Annual International RoboSub Competition Happening Now In San Diego 6 6

New submitter madsci1016 writes: The 18th Annual International RoboSub Competition is happening this week at the TRANSDEC Naval Testing facility in San Diego, California. 38 teams from around the world have built fully autonomous underwater robots designed to complete a gauntlet of underwater obstacles. No GPS here, advanced image processing and acoustic sensors are your only tools. The competition is open to the public from now until Sunday. A few pictures from the ongoing event can be found here.

Tallying the Mistakes and Malfunctions of Robot Surgeons 64 64

An anonymous reader writes: El Reg reports on a new study (PDF) that looked into malfunction and injury reports for medical procedures that used robot surgeons. From 2007 to 2013, 1.74 million such procedures were carried out, 86% of which were related to urology and gynecology. Of those, the study looked at reports of "adverse events," which were sent to the FDA. In that time period, there were 144 deaths, 1,391 patient injuries, and 8,061 device malfunctions. The malfunctions included "falling of burnt/broken pieces of instruments into the patient (14.7%), electrical arcing of instruments (10.5%), unintended operation of instruments (8.6%), system errors (5%), and video/imaging problems (2.6%)."

The more complicated surgeries involving vital organs were naturally the most dangerous. Head and neck surgeries accounted for 19.7% of all adverse results, and cardiothoracic procedures accounted for 6.4%. The much more common urology and gynecology procedures had adverse event rates of 1.4% and 1.9%. The researchers are quick to note that despite the high number of malfunctions, a vastly higher number of robotic procedures went off without a hitch. They say increased adoption of these techniques will go a long way toward resolving bugs and device failures.

Robot-Staffed Japanese Hotel Opens 56 56

jfruh writes: The front desk is staffed by a female android in a white tunic. The bellhop is a mechanical velociraptor. A giant robot arm put luggage into cubbyholes. It's the Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki and it's opening this Friday, and it's a place where 'basically guests will see only robots, not humans,' according to general manager Masahiko Hayasaka.

Robots Appear To Raise Productivity Without Causing Total Work Hours To Decline 391 391

Hallie Siegel writes: We often read about the economic impact of robots on employment, usually accompanied with the assertion that "robots steal jobs". But to date there has precious little economic analysis of the actual effects that robots are already having on employment and productivity. Georg Graetz (Professor of Economics at Uppsala University) and Guy Michaels (Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics) undertook a study (abstract) of how robots impacted productivity and employment between 1993 and 2007, and found that "industrial robots increase labor productivity, total factor productivity and wages." And while there is some evidence that they reduced the employment of low skilled workers, and, to a lesser extent, middle skilled workers, industrial robots had no significant effect on total hours worked.

This is important because it seems to contradict many of the pessimistic assertions that are presently being made about the impact of robots on jobs. What I am especially curious about is post-2007 data, however, because it's just in the past few years that we have seen a major shift in industrial robotics to incorporate collaborative robots, or co-robots. (Robots specifically designed to work alongside humans, as tools for augmenting human performance.) One might reasonably suspect that some of the negative impact of industrial robotics on low and middle skilled workers pre 2007 could be offset by the more recent and increasing use of co-bots, which are not designed to replace humans, but instead to make them more efficient.

Robot Performs Prostate Surgery Inside an MRI 64 64

the_newsbeagle writes: Researchers have developed a non-metallic robot with ceramic piezoelectric motors that functions inside an MRI machine, allowing surgeons to perform procedures guided by real-time imaging. It's now being tested in prostate biopsies. Doctors say this system will let them aim their needles more precisely and reduce the number of times they stick them in. The NIH thinks such systems could come in handy for neurosurgery too. Gregory Fischer, a professor of mechanical engineering at WPI whose Automation and Interventional Medicine Robotics Lab led the research says: "You can bring it into any MRI room and have it up and running in an hour. It can locate the target, track the needle, and if it deflects during insertion, it can steer the needle to hit the target. We’re taking baby steps to get the robot into clinical use."

Video Learning Simple Robot Programming With a 'Non-Threatening' Robot Ball (Video) 29 29

Gobot, it says here, "is a framework for robotics, physical computing, and the Internet of Things, written in the Go programming language." And in today's video, interviewee Adrian Zankich (AKA "Serious Programming Guy at The Hybrid Group") says that an unadorned robot ball -- in this case the Sphero -- is about the least threatening robot you can possibly use to teach entry-level robot programming. Start with Go language? Cylon.js? Use whichever you prefer, Adrian says. Mix and match. It's all fun, and they're both great ways to get into programming for robotics and Internet of Things applications. Open source? You bet. Here's the Hybrid Group's gobot GitHub repository for your perusing pleasure. This (and more) is all in the video, which Tim Lord shot at the recent Solid Conference, where there was a rather high background noise level (but thankfully not high enough to make Adrian hard to understand). And besides the video, there's even more material in the transcript.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge Was a Bust; Let's Try Again 35 35

malachiorion writes: The DARPA Robotics Challenge, the biggest and most well-funded international robotics competition in years, was a failure. After years of grueling work on the part of brilliant roboticists around the world, and millions in funding from the Pentagon, the finals came and went with little to no coverage from the mainstream media. The only takeaway, for those who aren't extremely dialed into robotics, is that a ton of robots fell down in funny ways. There were winners, but considering how downgraded the tasks were, compared to the ones initially announced in 2012, it was closer to the first DARPA Grand Challenge, where none of the robot cars finished, than the Urban Challenge, which kicked off the race to build deployable driverless cars. So just as DARPA regrouped after that first fizzle of a race, here's my argument for Popular Science: It's time to do it again, and make falling, and getting up, mandatory.
United States

Japanese and US Piloted Robots To Brawl For National Pride 107 107

jfruh writes: Japan may have just lost the Women's World Cup to the U.S., but the country is hoping for a comeback in another competition: a battle between giant robots. Suidobashi Heavy Industry has agreed to a challenge from Boston-based MegaBots that would involve titanic armored robots developed by each startup, the first of its kind involving piloted machines that are roughly 4 meters tall. "We can't let another country win this," Kogoro Kurata, who is CEO of Suidobashi, said in a video posted to YouTube. "Giant robots are Japanese culture."

How To Design Robot Overlords For "Robot Overlords" 17 17

Hallie Siegel writes: Ever wonder how they make robots look so awesomely real in movies? Visual effects expert Graham Edwards goes behind the scenes with the makers of Robot Overlords to take you through the development of the robots in this movie, from script development and sketches, to filming and post FX. Really cool to see how these robots come to life.