Sunday, January 24, 2010

Robots Evolve To Learn Cooperation, Hunting

A predator robot, right, faces a prey robot, left. (Credit: Dario Floreano & Laurent Keller)


If robots are allowed to evolve through natural selection, they will develop adaptive abilities to hunt prey, cooperate, and even help one another, according to Swiss researchers.

In a series of experiments described in the journal PLoS Biology, Dario Floreano of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and Laurent Keller of the University of Lausanne reported that simple, small-wheeled Khepera and Alice robots can evolve behaviors such as collision-free movement and homing techniques in only several hundred "generations."

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Quantcast Cockroaches Inspire Creation of Running Robots

From US News And World Report/National Science Foundation:

Most people shudder at the sight of a cockroach. Scientists, on the other hand, are fascinated. Cockroaches, as it turns out, are a biomechanical wonder that may help researchers design the world’s first legged robots that can run easily over the roughest surfaces.
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Cockroaches are capable of instinctive muscle action that doesn’t require reflex control. For the most part, they don’t have to think about running--they just do it. Researchers at Oregon State University are trying to apply what they are learning from the bodies of these tiny insects to create running robots that can effortlessly cover rough ground.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

China Details Homemade Supercomputer Plans

Photo: Enter China: A prototype four-core Loongson 3 will be produced at commercial scale by STMicro starting this year. Credit: Institute of Computing Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences

From Technology Review:

The machine will use an unfashionable chip design.

It's official: China's next supercomputer, the petascale Dawning 6000, will be constructed exclusively with home-grown microprocessors. Weiwu Hu, chief architect of the Loongson (also known as "Godson") family of CPUs at the Institute of Computing Technology (ICT), a division of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also confirms that the supercomputer will run Linux. This is a sharp departure from China's last supercomputer, the Dawning 5000a, which debuted at number 11 on the list of the world's fastest supercomputers in 2008, and was built with AMD chips and ran Windows HPC Server.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Age Of The Killer Robot Is No Longer A Sci-fi Fantasy

You can't appeal to robots for mercy or empathy - or punish them afterwards. CHRIS COADY

From The Independent:

In the dark, in the silence, in a blink, the age of the autonomous killer robot has arrived. It is happening. They are deployed. And – at their current rate of acceleration – they will become the dominant method of war for rich countries in the 21st century. These facts sound, at first, preposterous. The idea of machines that are designed to whirr out into the world and make their own decisions to kill is an old sci-fi fantasy: picture a mechanical Arnold Schwarzenegger blasting a truck and muttering: "Hasta la vista, baby." But we live in a world of such whooshing technological transformation that the concept has leaped in just five years from the cinema screen to the battlefield – with barely anyone back home noticing.

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My Comment: The key paragraph in this report is the following, and it sums up perfectly the direction that we are going ....

.... When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, they had no robots as part of their force. By the end of 2005, they had 2,400. Today, they have 12,000, carrying out 33,000 missions a year. A report by the US Joint Forces Command says autonomous robots will be the norm on the battlefield within 20 years. ....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Truth About Robots And The Uncanny Valley: Analysis

Japan's government sponsored research laboratory, AIST, unveils the humanoid robot "HRP-4C," which has 42 actuators and several sensors on its body. (Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

From Popular Mechanics:

An oft-cited theory in robotics, the uncanny valley, refers to that point along the chart of robot–human likeness where a robot looks and acts nearly—but not exactly—like a human. This subtle imperfection, the theory states, causes people's feelings toward robots to veer from fondness to revulsion. Here, contributing editor Erik Sofge argues that the theory is so loosely backed it is nearly useless for roboticists. For an in-depth look at the human–robot relationship, check out PM's feature story "Can Robots Be Trusted?" on stands now.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

China's Loongson Processor Could Power First Natural-Born Chinese Supercomputer

The Loongson "Godson 2-C" An earlier generation of the Loongson – also known as "Dragon Core" or "Godson" – used in some netbooks and PCs. The next-gen Loongson 3 should be able to power China's first home-grown supercomputer. Konstantin Lanzet

From Popular Science:

As technological tensions run high between the U.S. and China these days (see Google's recent dust-up with the party, etc.), the People’s Republic has unveiled more details on its quest to phase U.S.-made processors from its microchip diet. China’s next supercomputer – a Linux-running machine known as the Dawning 6000 – will run purely on Chinese processors, possibly before the end of this year.

Read more ....

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fleet Of High-Tech Robot 'Gliders' To Explore Oceans

Glider under water. (Credit: Holger v. Neuhoff, IFM-GEOMAR)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Jan. 18, 2010) — The Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) in Kiel, Germany, recently obtained the biggest fleet of so-called gliders in Europe. These instruments can explore the oceans like sailplanes up to a depth of 1000 metres. In doing so they only consume as much energy as a bike light. In the next years up to ten of these high-tech instruments will take measurements to better understand many processes in the oceans. Currently scientists and technicians prepare the devices for their first mission as a 'swarm' in the tropical Atlantic.

Read more ....

Saturday, January 16, 2010

From Scientific American:

Given that robots generally lack muscles, they can't rely on muscle memory (the trick that allows our bodies to become familiar over time with movements such as walking or breathing) to help them more easily complete repetitive tasks. For autonomous robots, this can be a bit of a problem, since they may have to accommodate changing terrain in real time or risk getting stuck or losing their balance.

Read more ....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

U.S. Military Terminates Several Robotic Warriors

MULE Gone to the robot junkyard in the sky Lockheed Martin

From Popular Science:

Budget cuts focus attention on smaller, more flexible drones and bots.

Judgment Day has come for the machines, or at least two robotic warriors once slated for the U.S. military's arsenal. The budget cut casualties include a mine-sniffing, six-wheeled transport called the MULE, and an autonomous helicopter called the Fire Scout, according to The Hill.

Read more ....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

'Wet' Computing Systems To Boost Processing Power

Sketch of artificial wet neuronal networks.
(Credit: Image courtesy of University of Southampton)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Jan. 12, 2010) — A new kind of information processing technology inspired by chemical processes in living systems is being developed by researchers at the University of Southampton.

Dr Maurits de Planque and Dr Klaus-Peter Zauner at the University's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) are working on a project which has just received €1.8 from the European Union's Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Proactive Initiatives, which recognises ground-breaking work which has already demonstrated important potential.

Read more ....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Quantum Computer Successfully Calculates Exact Energy Of Molecular Hydrogen

Cepheus B, a Molecular Hydrogen Cloud Try modeling the molecular hydrogen in this cloud with a conventional computer. Go ahead, we'll wait. NASA

From Popular Science:

Researchers at Harvard and the University of Queensland have come up with a novel, just-crazy-enough-to-work method for modeling and simulating quantum systems: use a quantum computer. Employing the superior computing power of a custom-built quantum computing system, the researchers were able to determine the precise energy of molecular hydrogen for the first time, an impossible feat using classical computing methods. By doing so, they've opened the box on what could be a computing breakthrough stretching across disciplines.

Read more ....

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Firm Unveils X-rated Robot

Engineer-inventor Douglas Hines adjusts the head of his
company's "True Companion" sex robot, Roxxxy

From AFP:

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Roxxxy the sex robot had a coming out party Saturday in Sin City.

In what is billed as a world first, a life-size robotic girlfriend complete with artificial intelligence and flesh-like synthetic skin was introduced to adoring fans at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas.

"She can't vacuum, she can't cook but she can do almost anything else if you know what I mean," TrueCompanion's Douglas Hines said while introducing AFP to Roxxxy.

Read more

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Robot Border Guards To Patrol Future Frontiers

Walls alone won't seal US borders (Image: KPA/Zuma/Rex Features)

From New Scientist:

A MIGRANT makes a furtive dash across an unwalled rural section of a national border, only to be confronted by a tracked robot that looks like a tiny combat tank - with a gimballed camera for an eye. As he passes the bug-eyed droid, it follows him and a border guard's voice booms from its loudspeaker. He has illegally entered the country, he is warned, and if he does not turn back he will be filmed and followed by the robot, or by an airborne drone, until guards apprehend him.

Read more ....

My Comment: It will be expensive .... but it will probably secure the borders.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Rise Of Robodoc

The Acrobot Robot, which helps orthopaedic surgeons
to carry out computer navigated partial knee replacements

From The Independent:

Many operations are becoming less invasive and more efficient due to the growth of cyber-surgery. Nina Lakhani on a British medical success story.

While surgeons are often criticised for their brusque bedside manner, few could accurately be described as robots. This is going to change as surgical consultations increasingly involve robotic systems to help diagnose, plan operations and reassure patients.

The development of robotic systems, both active and passive, is enabling surgeons to use keyhole techniques in hard-to-reach areas not previously thought possible. Britain is at the forefront of many advances. Collaborations between NHS surgeons, universities and private companies enable Britain to develop robotics more quickly and cheaply than North American and European counterparts.

Read more ....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

When Robots Want Rights

Many believe super-intelligent machines are inevitable,
but will we treat them as mere property? REUTERS

From The Globe And Mail:

Many believe super-intelligent machines are inevitable, but will we treat them as mere property? REUTERS

In late November, Gecko Systems announced that it had been running trials of a “fully autonomous personal companion home-care robot,” also known as a “CareBot,” designed to help elderly or disabled people live independently. The company reported that a woman with short-term memory loss broke into a big smile when the robot asked her, “Would you like a bowl of ice cream?” The woman answered “yes,” and presumably the robot did the rest.

Read more ...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

'Ferropaper' Is New Technology For Small Motors, Robots

Purdue researchers have created a magnetic "ferropaper" that might be used to make low-cost "micromotors" for surgical instruments, tiny tweezers to study cells and miniature speakers. Babak Ziaie, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, holds a miniature birdlike shape made from the material. The wings move slowly, but the structure is not capable of flight. (Credit: Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Jan. 6, 2010) — Researchers at Purdue University have created a magnetic "ferropaper" that might be used to make low-cost "micromotors" for surgical instruments, tiny tweezers to study cells and miniature speakers.

The material is made by impregnating ordinary paper -- even newsprint -- with a mixture of mineral oil and "magnetic nanoparticles" of iron oxide. The nanoparticle-laden paper can then be moved using a magnetic field.

Read more ....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Real Frankenstein Experiment: One Man's Mission To Create A Living Mind Inside A Machine

Professor Markram believes that if his 'Blue Brain' project is successful,
it will render vivisection obsolete

From The Daily Mail:

His words staggered the erudite audience gathered at a technology conference in Oxford last summer.

Professor Henry Markram, a doctor-turned-computer engineer, announced that his team would create the world's first artificial conscious and intelligent mind by 2018.

And that is exactly what he is doing.

Read more ....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Future Robots Will Run Like Cockroaches

Researchers at Oregon State University are using studies of guinea hens and other animals such as cockroaches to learn more about the mechanics of their running ability, with the goal of developing robots that can run easily over rough terrain. Credit: Oregon State University

From Live Science:

Most people find cockroaches repulsive, but not John Schmitt. A mechanical engineer at Oregon State University, Schmitt is using the leggy pests as a model for futuristic robots that can run effortlessly over rough terrain.

Current robots require too much computing power to get around, Schmitt explained. "We are trying to create robots that are more stable and take less energy," he said.

Read more ....

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Year In Robotics

Photo: Talking to me?: This robot, called Robovie, uses gaze cues to manage a conversation. Credit: Bilge Mutlu

From Technology Review:

During the past 12 months, robots got better at grasping, smiling, and avoiding angry humans.

In the past year, researchers have developed new robots to tackle a variety of tasks: helping with medical rehabilitation, aiding military maneuvers, mimicking social skills, and grasping the unknown. Here are the highlights.

Read more ....

Friday, January 1, 2010

Six Wacky Robots From 2009 (photos)

From CNET:

Nurse robot Riba

What could be scarier than waking up in a hospital with a giant teddy bear robot nurse at your bedside? Perhaps a giant Hello Kitty robot nurse. But I digress.

Riba, short for Robot for Interactive Body Assistance, can lift elderly patients from wheelchairs and beds. Developers at Japan's state-run Riken research center are calling it the world's first robot to lift people in its arms.

Read more ....