Robot Round-Up

JamesWhitehead

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One Local Authority has been importing old Daleks for some
time and retraining them as classroom teachers.

But today's kids weren't so easily scared. By lunchtime on day
one the Daleks quit en masse at the sight of one of their
number, brain scooped out, being taken for wheelies in the
playground.

I blame the Local Authority. They should never have unmanned
the poor creatures by removing their right to exterminate. :hmph:
 

CygnusRex

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Its also frightening to think that intelligence may be reduced to an algorythm,

And by the way, the Daleks weren't that scary... Now Metal Mickey, thats scary
 

NilesCalder

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lucydru said:
I AM NEVER GOING TO BE FRIENDS WITH AN ANDROID, NEVER!

But Luce, I thought we are friends!

Niles"To err is human. Ergo all problems are caused by humans..."Calder
 
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Anonymous

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We already have Artificial Intelligence - Deeper Blue beating Kasparov was the first and last demonstration of that. We also have neural nets that can compose music. Doesn't mean that one can do the other. The true test of artificial intelligence will come when Deeper Blue decides that playing Chess is not enough and wants to go and watch Status Quo. What we have now are predictive algorithms. Given a specific task, any reasonably programmed machine can out perform a human (even now, apparently, playing Go). Any of these machines can also pass the Turing test, because they are inquisited by experts in their field. Artificial intelligence will come when a Chess computer can give a reason why it prefers "Twelfth Night" over "Macbeth", or when a musical neural net can tell you that "West Side Story" is the same as "Romeo and Juliette". Intelligence, in my opinion, can be defined not by how much you know, but the way in which you apply what you do know. Until an artificial intelligence can comment on something outside it's programming, it is not cogniecent. A chess playing, Shakespeare loving, mathematical genius is not alive if it can't tell you that no matter how hard you pump it, you burst tyre isn't getting any bigger!
 
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Anonymous

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Daleks

When I was a kid (about 1986ish), me, my Dad and my sister had been to visit Lancaster Castle. When we came out after doing the tour we saw, down a cobbled backlane, a Dalek wheeling about in circles waving it's arm things. I wish that I had imagined this, but I didn't. There were no cameras/vans/people, just a dalek casting a long shadow over wet cobbles...
 
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Anonymous

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Anton, have you heard of COG? If you haven't you should look him up. He is the most amazing robot (IMHO). He was built with the brains of a five year old child, but also with the capacity to learn much more. He is now pretty amazing, and advancing. With an old head, he learnt to focus his eyes perfectly on objects. The designers made him a different head, and he managed to focus it perfectly straight away. As robots go, this guy is amazing.

Sally, have you ever read Douglas Adams (The Hitch Hikers Guide)?

DH
 
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Anonymous

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COG, I've never heard about him. And what do you mean the brain of a 5 year old. As far as I know they don't judge their advances in robot technology to be more than the brain of a grasshopper so far. So with a brain of a 5 year old we wouldn't need to be discussing if we can do AI anymore.

That darn I keeps slipping.
 

CygnusRex

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This is related to the AI unit at MIT, tho if you are going to the website good luck, because its real slow to load :hmph:
 
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Is it Kismet you mean? I don't understand why they don't get Muppet to build them a whole face for it.
 

Ioethe

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Robots are being let loose in a colony of machines in an attempt to find out whether they can learn from their experiences.

The scientists behind this unusual experiment describe it as an evolutionary arms race for robots, with the machines struggling to collect energy.

The Living Robots experiment will be open to the public from 27 March at the Magna science adventure centre in Rotherham in England.

Visitors will be able to watch the real life Robot Wars in a purpose-built arena, designed to hold 500 people.

Hunting prey

For the experiment, the robots have been divided into predators and prey.

The prey robots are small grey metal creatures on wheels that get their energy by positioning their solar panels near sources of light.

The larger predator robots get their energy by locating and hunting down the prey to extract their battery power.

The robots all operate without any human intervention, designed to learn by themselves and evolve.

Scientists hope the experiment will reveal that these robots have the ability to use their accumulated experiences to enable them to
develop improved escape routines and more complex hunting strategies.

"You may find that the predators will go into packs and hunt in packs which will be the clever things to do," said Professor Noel Sharkey of Sheffield University.

"My own feeling is that they won't hunt in packs until they are very evolved and to begin with they actually will try to fight each other off to get at the prey."

Electronic genes

The ultimate aim is to build more intelligent robots for dangerous tasks like exploring distant planets, where machines might need to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Professor Sharkey and his dedicated team at the Creative Robotics Unit at Magna spent the last 18 months developing the robots.

Both the predator and prey robots are controlled by neural networks that take input from their sensors and send output instructions to their drive motors. This is what enables and controls their behaviour.

Most of the sensing on the robots is done with their infrared sensors.

The machines can evolve by uploading their electronic genes to a remote computer.

The principle of survival of the fittest will apply as only robots which survive for a given length of time will be allowed to re-enter their electronic genes into the breeding pool.

(Source - the BBC website)
 
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Anonymous

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You can do this online - in a virtual world of course - at

http://www.techosphere.org.uk

Create your own robots and send them out into the virtual world to eat and reproduce, fight, hunt etc.
You just set them up and off they go - you get a report every now and then telling you how they are getting on - it's fabulous!

.....sorry.....I'll get my coat.......

:rolleyes: :)
 
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Anonymous

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Robot cameras will predict crimes before they happen

According to this item from The Independent.
 
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Anonymous

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Soccer Robotics

The BBC report on a World Cup for robots here .

'Running concurrently with the human World Cup, automatons will play in Japan in June in the annual Robocup tournament.

The event is officially described as "the robot world cup soccer tournament". Priscilla will take part in the first "humanoid league" to be held at the event. '

Never heard of this before.

P.S. Is anyone else having trouble with getting the forum to display properly? I seem to be getting a lot of mesages that just show a picture in the space for text - nothing else. Probably comes of being an slavish IE user. :(
 

Pinklefish

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Maybe I'm just soft, but I couldn't help thinking on another level with this one - WHY was it trying to escape? If it's thinking, does that mean it has free will? Does it mean it can determine between something it wants and something it doesn't want?
Could this lead to it not wanting to be in captivity, and hence seeking escape?
Or am I just reading way too much into this.

pinkle
 
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Anonymous

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'Thinking' in this case was the headline but really the robots learn from their experiences and mistakes.
As for free will it's an interesting thought and one which has been addressed in many films and books from (loosely) Fritz Laings Metropolis to Robocop.These bots have already learned the fight (if not fight/flight) lesson to get seviced afaik.
Personally i have a sneaking suspicion it was looking for a pub to watch England-Brazil :D
 

Anome

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Of course, we don't know for sure that the robot was trying to escape from its evil overlords. For all we know it just got lost on the way to the recharge point.

There are, however, a number of worrying aspects to the article:

from The Age Online
The small unit, called Gaak,

Gaak? What kind of name is that? Do they want it to get picked on in Robot School?

Gaak made its bid for freedom yesterday after it had been taken out of the arena where hundreds of visitors watch the machines learning as they do daily battle for minor repairs

These robots are being forced to fight for their very survival as entertainment for crowds of oil-thirsty gawkers? Has the RSPCM* heard about this?
("Twenty quatloos on the newcomer...")

He later found it had travelled down an access slope, through the front door of the centre and was eventually discovered at the main entrance to the car park when a visitor nearly flattened it with his car.

Obviously the Yorkshire police need to start some kind of Robot Awareness training.

And he added: "But there's no need to worry, as although they can escape they are perfectly harmless and won't be taking over just yet."

Isn't that just what they want us to believe?

On a more serious note, it would be foolish to leap to the conclusion that these robots have actually developed sentience. We can only determine sentience in others by observing behaviour. We assume other humans are semtient, because we believe ourselves to be. Much easier than developing a system that is self-aware, is to develop one that looks like it is. Of course, then we are faced with the opposite problem, how do we prove that it isn't?


*Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Mechanoids.
 

Yithian

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Cyber Christ

Well, not quite but here's the story from the BBC:

Robot insect walks on water

By Ivan Noble
BBC News Online science staff


Scientists have developed a robotic insect which walks on water.

The team, based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, were testing out a theory about how one family of foraging insects performs the same trick.

Previous theories put forward to explain how water striders (Gerridae) manage to propel themselves across the surface of ponds and lakes had one major problem.

They predicted that young water striders should be too weak to move, while nature shows clearly that they are not.

Rowing and surface tension

Surface tension explains why water striders do not sink below the surface as they stand on water.

But a careful experimental study was needed to explain how they propel themselves forward.

"What we did was to apply some conventional techniques of flow visualisation in fluid dynamics," MIT's John Bush told BBC News Online.

"You basically sprinkle dye or tiny particles into the water and record what happens with a high-speed camera."

Dr Bush and his collaborators, David Hu and Brian Chan, discovered that the secret to the water strider's locomotion is that it rows across the water without penetrating the surface.

The rowing motion leaves a telltale vortex behind each foot, clearly visible on camera.

The robotic version of the water strider is bigger than its real-life counterpart and its motion less graceful, but it does seem to show that the MIT team has managed to capture the essence of a natural phenomenon.

Details of the research appear in the journal Nature.
==========================
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Roboboffin

Researchers create first robot scientist

By Gareth Cook, Globe Staff, 1/15/2004

Researchers said yesterday that they have created the world's first robotic scientist, a system that can form theories, devise experiments, and then carry out the experiments almost entirely without human help.


The system, say its British creators, did just as well as biology graduate students in solving a problem in genetics, according to an article in today's issue of the journal Nature. Although the system uses robotic equipment common in modern laboratories, this is the first time that a machine has carried out so many of the roles traditionally done by scientists.

With technology becoming increasingly sophisticated, the announcement adds to a sprawling debate seen in fields as diverse as drug discovery and the exploration of Mars about what role humans will play in the future of scientific discovery.

In biology, as in many sciences, automation has given scientists powerful tools to find masses of information, but not the tools to make sense of it all, a problem the new system is aimed at helping to solve.

"In a number of areas scientific data is being generated at enormous rates, creating the need for the automated analysis of the data," said Ross D. King, the system's co-inventor and a professor at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Though a robotic scientist may evoke images of a gleaming steel humanoid, clad perhaps in a starched white lab coat, the new invention is instead a modest collection of off-white boxes connected by wires in King's Welsh laboratory.

One computer acts as the brain, formulating experiments and interpreting the results, while other pieces of equipment carry out the experiments, drawing on a large library of materials.

Some scientists questioned whether the system, dubbed the "Robot Scientist" by its creators, deserved the title of scientist. For human scientists, some of the most interesting discoveries happen when researchers notice something they weren't looking for and suddenly change course, said Stuart Schreiber, a Harvard professor who is one of the intellectual leaders in automating aspects of modern biology. And breakthroughs often come when a scientist discards a basic assumption of the experiment. The Robot Scientist, on the other hand, is bound by the set of rules programmed into it.

"When Deep Blue recognizes a seemingly incomprehensible move by Kasparov, it doesn't have to consider that the rules of chess are incorrect," said Schreiber, comparing the system to IBM's chess-playing computer.

The Robot Scientist works in an area of biology known as functional genomics, which is concerned with uncovering the roles that different genes play in the machinery of life. As a test, the system was told to discover how certain genes affect a complex chemical pathway inside yeast cells. The task for the computer, and a common one in biology, was to figure out which genes are involved in which steps of the pathway by testing yeast cells with different genes removed.

The mind of the Robot Scientist is a piece of software, created by King with his colleagues in Manchester, London, and Aberdeen, which forms a hypothesis about which gene is involved in what step of the pathway and then devises an experiment to test the hypothesis.

This computer then sends these commands to a piece of robotic lab equipment, which can select all the appropriate ingredients, including a yeast cell with the appropriate gene removed. The robotic lab equipment can then observe the outcome of the experiment -- whether the yeast cell grows successfully -- and feed the information back to the Robot Scientist's main software, which decides whether the experiment vindicates the hypothesis and then selects a new experiment to learn more.

The Robot Scientist was able to determine the functions of the genes quickly and accurately, according to the paper. When a group of graduate students were asked to choose and design experiments with the same aim, only the best performers did as well as the robot, said King. Scientists who have seen the paper said that the system did not represent a major advance in either robotics or artificial intelligence, but rather a milestone in combining the two.

"I don't think it is a surprise that this is possible," said Gad Shaulsky, a Baylor College of Medicine genetics professor who was not involved in the research. "What is really wonderful about this is that they did it."

Pat Langley, a specialist in the use of artificial intelligence for scientific discovery at Stanford University, said that credit for the first robot scientist should go to a more modest experiment run by another researcher in 1990. That work is cited in today's paper, but King said that system used only very limited amounts of background knowledge, which restricted it to much simpler lab work, and was not able to consider multiple hypotheses -- a hallmark of the scientific process. Robots are already doing the work of scientists in a wide array of areas. Since the Apollo program, most space exploration has been done by robotic satellites that report back to human controllers. In biology, gene sequencing that once had to be done manually is now done by machines. And some mathematicians have even turned to computers to help them prove theorems, a development that some view as even more humiliating than a computer program beating a chess grand master.

The Robot Scientist isn't likely to be used in laboratories unless it becomes more sophisticated and cheaper to build, Shaulsky and others said, but it could be of interest to pharmaceutical companies, which do large amounts of automated research in their search for new drugs. Shaulsky said that he already uses an artificial intelligence software program, called "GenePath," to help design genetics experiments.

In the work reported in Nature, King and his colleagues used the Robot Scientist on genes whose function is already known, so they could be sure of their results. Now, though, they plan on using it to look at yeast genes that are not understood -- about 30 percent of the total. If that works, and the system discovers genuinely new information, it will earn the Robot Scientist a new level of respect from its warm-blooded colleagues, King predicted.

http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2004/01/15/researchers_create_first_robot_scientist/
 

river_styx

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Reminds me of the Alicebot and her insistance that I wasn't god or her father. She never managed to prove that either of my claims were false.
 

MrRING

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Dawn of the Robot Dogs

This is starting to really lead the way for robots. I think...

Check out this link:

http://xdesign.eng.yale.edu/feralrobots/

And check out this article that I got the above link from...

Robot Dogs Get Social Conscience Installed
By STEPHEN SINGER

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - They sniff, wag their tails, fetch and run in packs. Inside their plastic and metallic skins, robotic dogs programmed by engineering students at Yale University even have a social conscience.

The mechanical canines, equipped with just about everything but a wet nose, are wired to sniff out toxic materials at former landfills and radioactive sites, providing environmental information about parks, school yards and other public spaces.

The robots have spurred toxic search projects in the United States, Europe and Australia. They are the brainchild of Natalie Jeremijenko, a lecturer in engineering at Yale and self-described technoartist.

"Technology is a social actor," she said. "These dogs are programmed into instruments for social activism. It's technological politics in another form."

The dogs were originally designed, manufactured and marketed commercially as toys by Sony Electronics Inc., Mattel Inc. (MAT) and other companies.

Sony's AIBO, which has been on the market since 1999 and sells for $1,599, is intended to draw emotional responses from its masters, said Jon Piazza, a spokesman for Sony robotics entertainment in New York. The dogs' software platform is available on the company's Web site and may be used for other purposes, he said.

For example, a competition has drawn 20 universities with programmed robotic toys that participate in a "Robo Cup," he said.

The Yale project is different.

"I think that's a surprise," Piazza said.

Jeremijenko, a mechanical engineer and computer scientist, designed the robotic dogs 18 months ago as a spinoff from a research project she began in the late 1990s that she calls an Interaction Triggered System. Its intent was to see how people interact with technology.

Distribution and cost are two major advantages of transforming the dogs into community activists. The toys are easily available, and gutting them for a university engineering project is the least expensive way to teach robotics, she said.

And dogs - the real ones - are a good model for robots because they're companion animals and "can sense things we can't sense," Jeremijenko said.

Robotic technology is hardly new. It's increasingly being applied to repetitive factory tasks or dangerous work such as defusing bombs or finding victims in collapsed buildings.

Advances in microtechnology lead to ever-smaller sensors as engineers and scientists seek new uses.

For Jeremijenko, it's the feral dog project - so named, she says, because feral dogs are street-smart and wily.

The dogs'"brains" are upgraded and their "noses" programmed to pick up the scent of common volatile organic compounds - such as paint thinners or dry cleaning fluids - or more dangerous toxins. They also are built to navigate a variety of terrains.

In addition, cameras are placed in the dogs' hindquarters to allow researchers to observe their interaction with handlers.

The dogs also are wired to move in packs. To collect samples from a larger area more effectively, the pack is programmed to follow the dog with the strongest sensor reading.

The result is the collection of data from a broad area with time-specific samples and extensive mapping of the area being surveyed.

The robotic dogs have been assigned to work at several sites, often with youngsters who are fascinated by the machines and, Jeremijenko hopes, learn from the experience.

Of 12 robotic dogs wired at Yale, several have been put to work at Hamden, where tests have found arsenic, lead and other pollutants in soil beneath a school and nearby homes. Four canine robots also have been sniffing around a park on former Consolidated Edison property along the Bronx River in New York.

Jeremijenko's project has spawned an Internet presence, inspiring others to sic robotic dogs on sites in Belarus that were in the path of radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear plant, on sites in Australia used for atomic testing in the 1950s, and on radioactive waste sites in Idaho.

The dogs are available "wherever there's a site of community interest and kids are interested in robotics," Jeremijenko said.

They also advance her teaching philosophy.

"It's part of a larger shift in education: how to apply your knowledge to local problems," Jeremijenko said. "It's extremely important that engineers understand the social implications of their designs."

She also has a practical concern.

"Anyone who wants to dump a robotic dog, bring them here," Jeremijenko said of her lab at Yale. "Call this the robotic dog pound."



Article Came From Here
 
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Anonymous

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I quite like those Sony dogs. If I could find an excuse for buying one as a legitimate company expense then I probably would.

But lets face facts. A Sony cat would be a far more subtle and interesting software and mechanical engineering triumph.

A properly functioning dog has fairly predicatble behaviour IMO. Almost the reverse is true of cats.

I like cats and dogs.
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Robo-translators

Robo-talk helps pocket translator

By Jo Twist
BBC News Online technology reporter

Small robots with friendly faces have helped out in the development of handheld translation gadgets to be tried out by travellers in Japan.

Visitors landing at Tokyo's Narita Airport will be able to hire a device which can translate the local lingo.

The speech-to-speech technology was developed by NEC, tested in Papero robots and then put in PDAs.

Papero is the first all-hearing, all-seeing robot to be able to talk in conversational colloquialisms.

The PDA hire scheme is part of a wider project, e-Airport, to make Japan's main international airport the most hi-tech in the world.

Lend me your brain?

As well as being able to understand and imitate human behaviour, Papero (Partner-Type Personal Robot), is the first robot to translate verbally between two languages in colloquial tongue.

It can cope, in other words, with slang and local chatter, and has a vocabulary of 50,000 Japanese and 25,000 English travel and tourism related words.

After Papero demonstrated its translation ability, the PDAs borrowed its brain and tongue. Users can talk into the device and it will talk back in almost-perfect Japanese in a second.

It has voice recognition, digital voice translation and a voice synthesiser to talk to users, explained Chris Shimizu, NEC's corporate relations manager, and the quality of the voice spoken back to users is much more human than robotic.

The devices also serve as mobile phones, and have airport and local guides, as well as unlimited wireless net access.

Local challenges

The development of this accurate speech-to-speech technology has been a result of joint research efforts from NEC in Japan and in Europe.

"The accuracy is dependent on the size and quality of the dictionary on the handset or PDA but is usually very close to 100% accurate," Mr Shimizu told BBC News Online.

Years have been spent developing the technology to cope with the challenge of understanding different speech patterns, accents and colloquialisms.

"The technology can pick these up straight away because of its understanding of linguistic inference.

"Also, it doesn't require a user to pre-register their voice."

Developments in the quality and accuracy of speech-to-speech, high speed translation technology could find its way into mobile phones soon too.

"Most certainly, it is absolutely ideal and it is most likely this technology will be utilised," said Mr Shimizu.

Business travellers and tourists can try out the PDAs before the scheme is offered commercially in other airports and tourist centres at the end of 2004.

Papero has been sent back to continue its old job as a personal companion to family members in Japanese homes.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/technology/3513623.stm

Published: 2004/03/04 09:15:06 GMT

© BBC MMIV
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Robocop

Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 10 March 2004 1005 hrs

Locally-built robot set to become Hong Kong's latest cop

By Channel NewsAsia's Hong Kong Correspondent Melissa Hyak



HONG KONG: There is a new cop on the block in Hong Kong, all set to teach the public how to combat crime.

But the man in blue stands out for being the first of his kind in the territory - he is actually a robot.

After two predecessors from the US, Robotcop The Third is "born-and-bred", so to speak, in Hong Kong.

He was conceptualised and built by the best researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

But his key features actually came from several students who won a Robotcop design competition.

"My design is to have a plasma hidden in the centre (of the robot), and then have it open up. I think the effect's better that way than the older ones, as if we're revealing a secret," said student Tseng Chung Hung.

Fellow student Lai Kai Yee meanwhile recalled: "I wanted to make the robot's arms more life-like, since it is supposed to be a police officer."

And the cop can indeed move freely with the help of infrared sensors.

It is also highly interactive - thanks to an advanced digital system and wireless technology.

It also outshines its predecessors with its safety features.

Unlike its Hollywood counterpart, there is not a single violent bolt in this Robotcop.

It might cost around HK0,000 to develop and build, but the service it provides the Hong Kong crime prevention drive is priceless.

Like its predecessors, its main role is to spread anti-theft and anti-triad messages.

Since it was first introduced in Hong Kong in 1988, the previous two Robotcops, both American imports, have taught 800,000 school children how to fight crime.

But the cost of engaging "foreign talent" was escalating.

So the police decided to go local, which they believe, will be even more effective.

"We wanted to have a Robotcop that's developed and made with Hong Kong technology. We believe there's a stronger sense of rapport and connectedness because of it," said Sidney Chau, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police and Director of Crime & Security.

The latest Robotcop is also a great way to promote home-grown technology.

Professor David Young, Director, Applied Technology Centre, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, said: "We had a hope, that with this Robotcop, we could show that Hong Kong's technology is world class. That we can also produce a world class robot.

"And we hope too, to inspire the young in Hong Kong, that they too can one day produce such technology, to be part of the world of science."

Slowing the crime rate and sparking the interest of a whole new breed of scientists - surely heavy responsbilities for this latest addition to the Hong Kong population.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/technologynews/view/74703/1/.html
 

Mighty_Emperor

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International rescue robot

It has been rather a staple of near future sci fi and it is now here and at 3.5 meteres high it is a frightening beast (just no one mention Call me Kenneth and we'll be able to sleep easy in our beds ;) ).

Japanese firm unveils large robot for disaster rescue work

Thu Mar 25, 9:37 AM ET


TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese company unveiled a 3.5-metre (11.55-foot) tall robot that can forage its way through a heap of debris as a trailblazer for rescue workers following a disaster such as an earthquake.

The five-tonne T-52 Enryu (literally "rescue dragon") is hydraulically operated and equipped with two arms ending in pincer "hands" that can grasp and remove obstacles to help rescuers reach people trapped under rubble.

Each arm is capable of lifting 500 kilogrammes (1,100 pounds) and when they are fully extended the two pincers are 10 metres (33 feet) apart.

The prototype robot was developed by Tmsuk, a company based in the southwestern Japan city of Kita-Kyushu, in cooperation with fire-department officials and university researchers.

The company aims to develop a commercial model by the end of the year.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/japan_technology_robot

Emps
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Muscle powered robots

First robot moved by muscle power

18:17 27 February 04



A silicon microrobot just half the width of a human hair has begun to crawl around in a Los Angeles lab, using legs powered by the pulsing of living heart muscle. It is the first time muscle tissue has been used to propel a micromachine.

This distinctly futuristic development could lead to muscle-based nerve stimulators that would allow paralysed people to breathe without the help of a ventilator. And NASA which is funding the research hopes swarms of crawling "musclebots" could one day help maintain spacecraft by plugging holes made by micrometeorites.

Whatever the ultimate applications of the technology, no one was more surprised to see the tiny musclebots finally move than Carlos Montemagno, the microengineer whose team is developing them at the University of California, Los Angeles.



Muscle-powered micromachine

He has spent three disappointing years trying, and failing, to harness living muscle tissue to propel a micromachine. But when he and his team looked into their microscopes, they were amazed to see the latest version of their musclebot crawling around.

The device is an arch of silicon 50 micrometres wide. Attached to the underside of the arch, the team has grown a cord of heart muscle fibres (see graphic). It is the contraction and relaxation of this cardiac tissue that makes the arch bend and stretch to produce the bot's crawling motion. And the muscle is fuelled by a simple glucose nutrient in a Petri dish.


Arch-shaped skeleton


The prospect of using living muscle to power microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) is an attractive alternative to micromotors. While motors need electricity, muscles can draw their energy from glucose - perhaps deposited on the surface where the robot will be working.

The UCLA team's breakthrough is to have developed an automated way of anchoring muscle tissue to a substance like silicon. The team carved an arch-shaped skeleton from a wafer of silicon using automated microchip manufacturing equipment, and coated it with an etchable polymer.

They then etched away the coating on the underside of the arch and deposited a gold film there. This acts as an adherent for the muscle cells. To grow the muscle, the skeleton was placed in a Petri dish containing rat cardiac muscle cells in a glucose culture medium. Over three days, the muscle cells grew into muscle fibres that attached themselves to the gold underside, forming a cable of cardiac muscle running the length of the arch.

During this process, the arch was held in place by a restraining beam. When this was removed the musclebot immediately started crawling at speeds up to 40 micrometres per second. The geometry of the musclebot ensures that its flexing pushes it in one direction, rather than simply contracting and relaxing on the spot.


Phrenic nerve

Montemagno now wants to use the technology to help people who have damaged phrenic nerves. These stimulate the diaphragm to make us breathe and damage means patients often need ventilators instead.

Rather than moving the legs of a musclebot, the muscle fibres would flex a piece of piezoelectric material and generate a few millivolts to stimulate the phrenic nerve. Using cells from the patient's own heart would prevent rejection of the implant, and the muscle could be powered by blood glucose.

Montemagno's initial brief from NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts was to design a muscle-powered micromachine that could seek and repair micrometeorite punctures on spacecraft.

However, he stresses that such applications are several decades away. "The issue of all of the microbots talking to one another hasn't even been addressed," he stresses. Or, indeed, how they would be fuelled. Watch out for the sugar-coated space station.

http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994714
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Teaching Robots to Herd Cats

By Michelle Delio

02:00 AM Apr. 21, 2004 PT

Robots designed for emergency rescue work can survive a six-story drop onto collapsed, jagged concrete. They can be thrown 100 feet into a disaster site. They can even cope with poisonous chemicals, fires, freezing temperatures and floods. But, like most rugged individualists, they don't play well with others.

When robots are set loose at a rescue site, the situation can become chaotic quickly, which lessens the advantage of having a swarm of robots to help human rescuers. There's no way for the robots to coordinate their activities autonomously. A human operator must control them individually, making robotic searches less efficient. Right now, even with state-of-the-art technology, rescue robots essentially lose interest in their tasks when left on their own. They simply wander off or shut down.


To translate the human concept of teamwork into electronics, three teams of university researchers are working together to develop technology that would turn a pack of robots into a single machine.

Led by Nikos Papanikolopoulos, researchers at the University of Minnesota, the University of Pennsylvania and Caltech are working on software that will allow small robots to coordinate their actions, carry out commands from a single human operator or take directions from a larger, smarter robot.

Papanikolopoulos says that a single robot, or even a half-dozen of them, can't do everything that emergency personnel might need -- such as collecting air samples, testing for toxic fumes or monitoring a large area to find the wounded. Robots have to do much of this work on their own. Humans usually can't control more than three or four robots at one time.

"We've tried it -- anything over four robots and the rescuers are overwhelmed with too much information," says Papanikolopoulos.

"The rescue robots that were used at the World Trade Center site shortly after the towers collapsed had a lot of promise, because they could get into places that people and dogs couldn't access," said Frank Pulliaficaco, a rescue worker.

"But there weren't enough of them to really cover the area, and they just kind of wandered around underground. If we'd had a lot of them, and if they were smarter, they could have been really useful."

Papanikolopoulos' team is working on tiny robots called Scouts, built with off-the-shelf electronics. The Scouts are 3.9 inches long and 1.4 inches in diameter -- roughly the size and shape of the cardboard tube in a roll of toilet paper. The small package incorporates a video camera, three infrared range finders, two light sensors and a pyroelectric sensor (for sensing body heat) -- plus a two-way remote-control system that supports frequency hopping and signal encryption.

The Scouts' sensors make it possible for the research team to program them to perform activities on their own, such as finding a dark location in which to hide, something the robots will happily do.

But the robots aren't really good at wending their way through rescue sites on their own. Papanikolopoulos said the robots "cannot localize themselves effectively. And due to their size and their operation in an urban setting, we cannot use GPS to reliably find the robots' locations. This has a profound negative effect on the ability of these robots to compute maps of the environment around them."

So the teams are also building bigger, smarter robots. An emergency-response robot "dream team" might include a dozen or more Scouts with a combination of sensing devices. The team would be led by a MegaScout, a 15-inch-long sibling of the Scout that can carry larger sensors, a manipulator arm (for opening doors, lifting smaller Scouts and similar tasks) and the processing power to control the Scout team in the field. The robotic team leader could coordinate the smaller robots, perform more complex tasks and report back to a human operator.

Papanikolopoulos said the biggest challenge is developing ways for the robots to communicate with each other and with humans.

"We really underestimated this challenge," Papanikolopoulos said. "We often command the robot to move in a certain direction, but the robot never receives the command. This is usually due to ground effects (the robots are too far underground), antenna design and other interference problems."

The University of Pennsylvania team, led by Kostas Daniilidis, will be working to develop better robotic vision and perception skills, as well as collaborating on ways to develop team coordination among the Scouts. The Caltech researchers, led by Joel Burdick, are experts in sensor-based exploration and real-time mapping technology. Papanikolopoulos and the Minnesota team specialize in digital communication.

The work is supported by a .6 million Information Technology Research award from the National Science Foundation.

http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,63099,00.html?tw=wn_techhead_4
 

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Dorkbots Are Cool!

June 3, 2004 | home

DEPT. OF INVENTION
INCOMPREHENSIBLE
Issue of 2004-06-07
Posted 2004-05-31

The motto of dorkbot, a group that holds meetings once a month in Manhattan, except in the summer, and in fourteen other cities, including Sofia, Bulgaria, and Mumbai, India, is “People doing strange things with electricity.” At a dorkbot meeting in San Francisco, a speaker presented a design for two twelve-story towers. By means of a generator called a Tesla coil, the towers would produce lightning bolts as long as three hundred feet, which, a colleague said, was desirable, because “real lightning, which is very rarely seen up close, has the ability to focus and clear the mind.” At another meeting, a talk titled “Fire-Spewing Vacuum Cleaners” described a project involving vacuum cleaners fuelled with propane. The speaker called his next endeavor “Things That Might Fly If You Put Enough Rockets on Them.”

Dorkbot was founded by a young man named Douglas Repetto, who teaches computer music at Columbia. “The idea of dorkbot was to reach people who had nowhere to talk about these projects,” Repetto says. “Some might appear in a gallery, perhaps, but many are too odd, or they’re unfinished, or it’s not even clear what they are.” Dorkbot presentations typically feature novel ways of using electrical devices, especially uses that don’t require much money. “Dorkbot is about what you can do on the cheap in a back room somewhere,” he says. The name encourages humility.

Dorkbot meetings are usually held near Columbia, but the May meeting was in SoHo. The room was large, with high ceilings and white walls and columns. About eighty people in folding chairs faced a table on which there were three laptop computers. On the wall was a projection of a grid of colors, which were flashing. A man tried to make the grid disappear. Repetto, who shaves his head and has an athletic build, said, “We’ll get started in a minute. We’re just trying to solve some technical problems.” Then he took photographs of the audience.

The first presenter was a tall man named Spot Draves, whose presentation concerned his Web site, Electric Sheep, on which abstract images constantly change form, in response to information coming from other people’s computers via the Internet. Draves is tall and bald and diffident. “I’m not a big public speaker,” he said. “So I did the program at home, alone, in the dark, which is how I’m most comfortable, and I’m going to play that.” Swirling colors appeared on the wall, and Draves was heard saying mildly, “The project started in ’99. It was based on an algorithm developed in 1992. The title is based on the novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,’ by Philip K. Dick.” Draves also said that it represented “the collective dream of sleeping computers all over the Internet.” Now and then he would place his hands at his sides and gather his pant legs, which made his cuffs rise, as if he were preparing to cross a stream. At the end of his talk, he held up a disk and said, “Please buy my DVD. I quit my day job to do this.”

The second presenter was Rich LeGrand, a young engineer who had built a small robot from Legos. The robot had four wheels and was operated by means of a Game Boy. It was about the size of a big crab—it looked like a device a space probe would place on the surface of a planet—and it was capable of a complicated maneuver whereby it rotated at the same time that it moved forward. LeGrand called the maneuver “frisbeeing.” “It’s questionable whether there’s a huge market for this,” he said, “but it’s fun.”

The final presenter, Rob Seward, discussed analyzing Bach chorales according to “the generative theory of tonal music,” which, he said, “takes developments in linguistics in the twentieth century and applies them to music.” Seward was the only presenter who brought his parents. He is tall and thin, with glasses and a beard. When he stood in front of the screen to point at something, the lines of the music staff lay on his cheeks like war paint.

Dorkbot talks are frequently abstruse. The problem, Repetto says, is that the more deeply a speaker explains “the geekiness of what he’s doing, the harder it is to find an audience with a sufficiently broad grasp of the subject to understand.” A listener equipped in one discipline is rarely prepared to handle three. “I try to make a meeting fair by having it be incomprehensible in several different fields, instead of just one,” Repetto said. “Tonight was incomprehensible art, incomprehensible robots, and incomprehensible music, so everybody was a little bit lost.”
— Alec Wilkinson

Copyright © CondéNet 2004. All rights reserved.

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/content/?040607ta_talk_wilkinson

see also: http://dorkbot.org/

(if you click on dorkbot-london, it would seem that they're due for another meeting soon) :D
 
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Anonymous

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pity none of them have studies how to design a web page tho...
 

Pete Younger

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sidecar_jon said:
pity none of them have studies how to design a web page tho...

Well, they are dorks after all.:D
 
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