Showing posts with label robotics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label robotics. Show all posts

The Bright Side Of The Moon: Speculative Moon-Mining Mission Is Go

As Led Zeppelin extols, it’s been a long time since we walked in the moonlight.  Well, at the source, at least.  Now, although humans aren’t slated to return to our shiny little satellite-rock anytime soon, a private company has been granted access to robotically rock the regolith…

Sky pioneers = sky-oneers?
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Putting The "Art" In "Artificial Intelligence": Robots Vs. Real Writers

***Wordsmiths Wanted: A Haiku***

Silicon Valley
needs poets, writers, empaths
to teach A.I….us.

We didn't say the emotional input wouldn't be cheesy.
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From Bytes To Buildings: New Robots Lay Bricks Super-Quick

Traditional science fiction would have us believe that some robots want to watch the world burn, but reality shows us that there are plenty of robots here to help it build!  While 3-D printed buildings, from mud huts to museums, are rapidly becoming a hot housing idea, there are several ‘bots that build in the most elementary (and necessary) of manners:  bricklaying.

Edgar Allen Poe could wall up some serious enemies
with this baby.
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Please Mr. Robo-Postman: These New Droids Can Deliver Your Mail

Another day, another android gunning for your job.  On top of bartenders, hotel staff, fast-food workersindustrial laborers, writers, artists, and pizza deliverymen, now the robots are bringing the freshest electronic edge to mail delivery since you first signed up for an email inbox...

It's even better-dressed than most humans.
We're doomed.
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Ultra-Modern Art: World's First Software-Generated Art Competition Produces Striking Results

Yesterday we talked about how robots are coming for your menial-labor jobs.  But what about artistry?  Surely, even with robot poets, robot "dreams", and robot literary aids, there's no way that a computer could become autonomous enough to actually paint something that we'd recognize, right?

Wrong, puny human.  They can out-art us, too.

Could a robo-Banksy be tagging the cities of the future?
Or will they be more refined, such as a Van Gogh-bot?
(Artwork by Banksy.  Image courtesy

Space Station Sunday: New Crew, And Robot Rovers Too

Good afternoon, space fans!  Here's what was up on the ISS this week.

Controlled chaos of the coolest sort.
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Pizza Delivery Bots: Dominos' Autonomous Awesomeness

You may have heard that robots are coming to take your jobs.  While we'll still require human brain-meat to calculate and create certain amazing things (like cool blog articles, amiright?), it's getting more and more clear that many menial gigs are about to go extinct.  This week's sacrifice to the Singularity?  Pizza delivery people.

Aww, it's so cute, you almost don't want to crush it for stealing your livelihood.
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Impersonal Shopper: New Robo-Stockboy Tallies Up Inventory

It's time once again for the Robot Replacement Roundup, in which we assess the viability of a seemingly-harmless robot taking over your job.  Bartenders, pizza cooks, fast food folks, factory workers, personal chefs, and hotel staff have already been considered candidates for replacement, and now, the 'bots are taking their style to the aisles...

The Terminators arrived not with a bang, but with a whisper.
Namely, "You need to order more Pop-Tarts."
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Harden Up From The Garden Up: Robot Lawn Mower Reports For Duty

Eventually, nearly everything is going going to be outsourced to robots.  Deal with it.  In the meantime, allow them to deliver the domesticity, with a new Roomba-styled lawnmower-bot...

Good for 5,400 square feet of grass massacre (grassacre?)
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No Artificial-Intelligence Armies, Implore Already-Intelligent Humans

Well, here we are, citizens of the future.  Our planet's greatest minds have had to band together and openly, prominently state that artificial intelligence shouldn't be used for warfare.  That's where we're at.

Eventually, we'd make "The Terminator" look like a toy.
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Oh Japan, that noble bastion of racing headlong into the future, no matter how weird it might be.  While the rest of the world secretly frets about eventually being displaced by robots, the Japanese not only take it in stride, but make it look stylish.  Example #9,217:  a robotically-staffed hotel.

There's a lot less chrome and claws than we imagined.
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Welcome To The Machines: Chinese Factories To Drastically Outnumber Human Workers With Robots

Robot bartenders.  Robot chefs.  Teachable robots in industry.  Yes, robots might be a little bit poised to take over the world.  And now, China isn't even trying to hide it...

Even your computer science degree is nothing, next to an actual computer.
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Pan-droids: Futuristic "Automated Kitchen" Robo-Chef To Debut In 2017

Many classically-popular visions of the future are starting to pick up steam, but one in particular is really cooking.  No, seriously, it's a robot that cooks...

Just don't let it drink too much of that wine as it works.
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Evolution Comes Full Circle As NASA Develops "RoboSimian" Robot

As of this morning, it is 2015, and therefore further into the future.  And what future is fun without new space gadgetry?

As reported by CNN, NASA has developed a new robot to navigate the adventures of interplanetary exploration...or even just to help out around the home planet.  Designed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) facility, the new RoboSimian bot doesn't mess around with any of those cheesy humanoid-droid elements and skips straight to having seven cameras mounted all around a headless, dexterously multi-limbed body.

Don't freak out if you see this thing in a disaster situation; it's trying to come help you.
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RoboSimian's four jointed limbs can function as either arms or legs, enabling walking or even rolling over various surfaces.  The limbs can also pick up and manipulate objects, making the robots useful not just to rescue themselves from far-flung planetary problems, but also to aid in earthly disaster scenarios (for example, RoboSimian is dexterous enough to turn off valves.)  If after a nuclear event or other catastrophe, RoboSimian could be sent in to help where rescuers can't reach.

RoboSimian and other robo-siblings will be put to the test in June as part of DARPA's Robotics Challenge, an eight-event challenge that will discern which bots are the most badass.  RoboSimian and its 18 challengers will have to attempt to drive a car, use tools, navigate rubble and climb stairs, all without a human pilot.  A $2 million prize awaits for the robot that can function at the level of what DARPA compares to "as competent as a 2-year-old child."

A two-year-old-child, minus the puking and screaming, plus serious survival skills.
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JPL already has a huge winner in its wheelhouse with the interplanetarily-famous Mars Rover, currently still on task on the red planet.  The difficult communications gap between Earth and Mars helped to lead to the technology that allows for RoboSimian's autonomous achievements.  This thorough, classic-NASA cautious "consciousness", coupled with RoboSimian's adaptability, makes for a slow but steady robo-rover.

"It is intentionally the tortoise relative to the other hares in the competition," said Brett Kennedy, JPL's supervisor of the Robotic Vehicles and Manipulators Group. "We feel that a very stable and deliberate approach suites our technical strengths and provides a model for one vital element of the 'ecosystem' of robots that we expect to be deployed to disaster scenarios in the future."

RoboSimian (left) will progress to the DARPA Robotics Challenge as JPL's entry after, among other victories, beating out fellow contender Surrogate (right) in a robot dance contest.
(Image courtesy JPL/

Kennedy also noted that due to the nature of the search/rescue/explore jobs that RoboSimian will hold, this intent was instilled in RoboSimian's design.  "Basically, we wanted the perceptual equivalent of a St. Bernard," he said.

Yes, someday your life might be saved by a robot-monkey-St. Bernard...if it's not busy working on a comet or Mars.  Welcome to a little further in the future!

R2-D2 and C3P0 have a new buddy in town, and he means business.
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Sales Pitches From A Cyborg: New "Pepper" Robot Is Japan's Hot New Salesdroid

Yes, the robots are everywhere.  Yes, there's going to be even more of them.  And now, one popular company has taken the "robot friend" concept far enough to make one your barista-bot...or at least sell you a coffee machine.

According to the Guardian, Pepper is a new robot who sells Nestle coffee machines in Japan.  Cute, friendly, and interactive, Pepper asks things like, “How do you enjoy coffee? Number one: An eye-opener coffee; Number two: A post-meal cup of coffee." You reply, and these caffeine-free Terminators point you in the direction of the right machine.

That's just a demo on his screen, Pepper totally isn't subtly screaming to be set free from his imprisoning robot body.  Maybe.
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The humanoid droid is 120 cm tall, with an unsettlingly cheerful face and a tablet body mounted on rollers. Soon, he'll be as ubiquitous as Starbucks in a city, with 1000 clones expected to roll out and eventually join the workforce in Japan alone.

"Yay, you're all getting fired if I succeed!"
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Pepper has already has some sales experience, slinging cell phones and gathering opinions at some 74 stores of its parent/creator, SoftBank. A Pepper of your own can roll into your heart soon, starting at (£1,060) plus monthly fees. Best of all, the engineers claim his AI makes him amenable to learning things from conversation. So if you don't have anyone to talk to and you don't like cats...

"Well, I'm finishing a screenplay, but I always felt I wanted to pursue my roots in interpretive dance, you know?  Listen to me blabbing on.  Your new hair looks great with those highlights.  You want to get out of here and get some real drinks?"
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Shock And Awe: Robot Electric Eels To Protect Our Shores?

Oceans are notoriously hard to keep secure from invading threats, particularly those that lurk in the deep.  Now, a new development in robotics may help keep our coasts safe thanks to some electric-eel-style swimming 'bots.

According to Science Daily, the Anguilliform robotic fish is a droid that dives deep and reports back if it spots any enemies.  Designed specifically to venture to more intense depths than a human is capable of, the eel-bots are unobtrusive and agile.  They could be trained to find and detonate undersea mines, and maybe even launch counteroffensives against enemy divers.

It doesn't look like your typical badass robot, but that is part of its camouflage.
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The current methodology of keeping our coasts safe to this degree involves attack dolphins (seriously.)  To avoid bringing possibly-unethical harm to the animals, the eel-bots make warfare a little more moral.  

The fish contains an artificial neural network which enables it to autonomously run via its oscillators and an amplitude modulator.  Prof. Jianxin Xu, one of the lead researchers and co-authors of the project, was pleased with the results, explaining, "We performed simulations and experiments on the robotic fish, equipped with a motion library to cope with different scenarios, and the results validate the effectiveness of the proposed controllers was able to swim forward and backward as predicted."

If you catch one of these while fishing, it's in everyone's best interests for you to throw it back.
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Could this robotic sushi really help protect us? It's no crazier than some of other ideas, and doesn't harm our humans or dolphins. Let's just hope the other members of the oceanic ecosystem don't think the undulating undersea eels look tasty.

The eel-bots better not get into a turf war with the attack dolphins.
(Image couresy

Roaches To The Rescue! New "Biobots" Could Help Respond To Your Cries For Help

Technology can be used for all manner of rescues.  We have devices and programs that can spot and stop fires, find humans in the dark, preserve habitability in difficult environments, and much more.  But what about sending another species on a rescue mission, amped up with the benefits of technology?  Meet the biobots.

As reported by the Atlantic, biobots are basically hot-rodded common cockroaches.  Armed with small electronic "backpacks", they are able to transmit sound wirelessly using a multi-directional microphone.  These dispatches are analyzed by first responders and could be used to help determine everything from a leak in a pipe to a human trapped under a pile of collapsed debris.

Is this the real hero Gotham needs?
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Dr. Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University and major contributor to the project, explained, "In a collapsed building, sound is the best way to find survivors."

Another type of the "backpack" the roaches can be outfitted with uses three-directional microphones to locate the source of the sound, which hopefully the roaches can be trained to pursue.  The research team hopes to train the roaches to go for only the most important sounds, such as prioritizing human cries for help rather than lesser distractions.  In time, these public nuisances may be recreated as creepy, crawly heroes!

Then it's only a matter of time before they teach themselves to remix the sounds into funky Roachstep jams.
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Electroadhesion: How Does That Grab You?

It's no secret that robots are fast taking over a variety of different manual labor jobs.  Yet their fine motor skills could use some refinement other than "clutch that thing" or "use suction to grab that thing."  Now, a new company is developing a means for robots to snag things using the principles of static electricity (which actually has uses other than rubbing your feet on the carpet to shock someone or sticking a balloon to your hair.)

According to, the GrabIt company has created mechanical "hands" that use electrostatic attraction to lift and relocate objects.  Electrodes embedded on the gripper's surface or in its flexible "fingers" use the forces to delicately deliver everything from sheets of glass to crates.  Even particularly fragile tech items like an iPad are safe in static electricity's grip, and bruisable items like fruit or poppable bags of chips are also no problem for "electroadhesion."

One version of a GrabIt robot's grip ability.  It's bigger, flatter brother can pick up large crates.
(Image courtesy

With no reconfiguration of gripper parts needed (as traditional grabber/sucker robots might require), the possibilities for electroadhesion are vast.  Check out GrabIt's website for a variety of videos of what their technology is capable of.  The machines' electrostatic surface area generates and maintains a great deal of well-dispersed power, making larger objects as easily handled as smaller or more delicate ones. The technology could even be applied to conveyor belts for an added level of factory security.

Best of all, the electroadhesion technology requires less power than traditional gripper robotics.  The GrabIt 'bots don't require expensive vacuum tubes or pumps, which is nice not only on the wallet but also on the ears (this technology is considerably more quiet than other types of grippers.)  It's small enough to be useful at home, but strong enough for factory work.  Could one of the most useful pieces of future robotics be a technology that's basically just giving everything an electrostatic hug?

Everything can use a little grabbing sometimes.
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Devices Slinging Slices: Fresh 90-Second Pizza Vending Machines Firing Up Soon

In today's immediate-gratification culture, it often seems like a race to obtain everything we "need" as quickly as possible.  Things that used to be worth a wait might now sometimes be sidelined for instantaneous happiness, no matter how fleeting that exchanged-for sensation may ultimately be.  However, some innovations have been made that allow for speedy and significant satiation.  One device that may achieve this is the Pizzabox.

According to, the Pizzabox is a new type of vending machine that serves up a fresh 10" pie in only 90 seconds.  Their proprietary 800-degree oven (NOT a microwave) bakes the pies from non-frozen scratch, yielding crispy crusts and stretchably melty cheese.  Optional pepperoni, as well as seasonings like red pepper and oregano, plus utensils and wet-naps are included.  Full pies cost a cool $5.  According to, a sausage-and-egg "breakfast pizza" is an option to start your day (or conclude your night of partying.)  No word yet on whether you can live dangerously and add pineapple, anchovies, or other roommate-repelling toppings.

Should the electronic chef get something wrong with your order, you can video-chat live with customer service operatives directly through an onboard screen in the Pizzabox machine.  Like many device and services that modern technology tries to tout, the pizza machine of the future wants you to be happy.

Not having to deal with any weird humans makes the pizza-procuring experience even better.
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The Pizzabox was created by parent company The Box Brands, whose brainchild Burritobox is a similar device specializing in Mexican fare.  While already making the rounds of various conferences for demonstrations, Pizzabox is likely to be released for the masses in 2015.  Prospective initial locations include airports, and colleges like the University of Southern California (machine-made munchies, dude!)  The Box Brands' founder Denis Koci said, "We are initially launching it as the first-ever drive-through pizza experience."

Will it outdo the elderly Italian dudes down your street? Probably not. Will it provide a satisfying snack on the go? Likely way better than soggy fries and tragic fast-food burgers. For fast-paced food-fuel that almost seems like a real meal, the Pizzabox could be a slice of instant gratification that will have you sending your regards to the robot chef.

The only thing it doesn't do is dope dough-tossing tricks.
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'Bots And Bottles: Robo-Bartender "Monsieur" Could Be Worth A Shot

You step into your favorite local watering hole, nodding at the regulars.  You sit down on your usual stool and are greeted by a nondescript black box with a screen interface and a small compartment on the bottom that holds a cup.  The screen depicts a cozy candle-lit pub in rural Ireland.  You're actually in New York, but that doesn't matter.  You swipe the screen and suddenly you're in Costa Rica at a beach bar.  Another swipe, you're in Finland in an ice cave, where vodka bottles are frozen into the bar.  Another swipe and you're in a Kentucky honky-tonk.

You tap the screen, selecting from scrolling menus with options of shots, cocktails, martinis, drinks neat or on the rocks.  Various flavor profiles like "bitter", "sour", "tropical" and "refreshing" are also there to choose from.  Touching the button for "bourbon" then another for "highball", the machine starts to buzz and fizz, and in an instant, your beverage sits before you.  You take a sip, smiling as the day's worries slough off like a file deleted and a recycling bin emptied.  You raise your glass in toast to the robot bartender, offering thanks.  You haven't had to talk to anyone until this point, when you chose to.

"Excellent as always, Monsieur."

If this seems weird to you, congratulations, you're another citizen who isn't ready for robots to take over commonplace human jobs.  However, the mixological option has now been made manifest by Monsieur, a new startup robotic project that replaces your friendly neighborhood shot-slinger with an impartial and boringly accurate robot.

According to, Monsieur is the boozy brainchild of two Georgia scientist/engineers who were fed up with long waits for drinks at popular bars, and decided that manufacturing a saucy service wench (or, if you prefer, seasoned sommelier) was a viable alternative.  The Monsieur is capable of serving a variety of mixed or straight drinks, tracking your intake, cutting you off, and basically doing everything short of throwing you out of the bar when you've started slapping it trying to break into its Jagermeister stash.  

Another feature of the Monsieur is remote ordering (via your phone), so you can have that next round of Kamikaze shots ready and waiting for you at the bar while you divebomb your way across the dancefloor.  Or if you're sitting pretty someplace super fancy, your own private Monsieur could be your bottle service valet for the evening.  Perhaps if you find yourself overseas in a foreign land, you can scroll through the hotel bar's Monsieur in your desired language and be sure you haven't ordered the local camel-milk White Russian-Province.

"We swear it's not made with too much antifreeze, comrade...drink up!"
(Image courtesy

With 1,000 units on track to ship, Monsieur is no longer a garage project (even though it literally was created in co-inventor Barry Givens' parents' garage.)  You could be spotting these 'bots in all sorts of locations soon (pro tip: there is a setting that adjusts the pour on your drink from regular to "boss.")   No word on whether they have a "wildly inappropriate dirty jokes" or "wingman to help me meet that hottie down the bar" feature available yet.  

Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name...and of course Monsieur will.  It's in his programming.  He'll listen to everything you have to cry about, although he won't really have any wise life advice to offer you in return.  But for those who just want booze at the touch of a button, Monsieur will be honored to serve you.

Remember, you cannot hit on it, literally or figuratively, to try to score a heavier pour.
(Image courtesy