Meet China’s New Realistic Robot “Jia Jia”

Robots that look like humans are a growing trend in recent times, with a number of organizations showing off their robots that mimic human looks and expressions often in a creepy manner. The latest of these is Jia Jia, a female robot developed by the University of Science and Technology in China, who, while more realistic than many, still lands firmly in the uncanny valley.

Jia Jia is capable of talking with humans in real-time, make a number of preset facial expressions and even detect if an unflattering picture is being taken and tell off the photographer. “Don’t come too close to me when you are taking a picture. It will make my face look fat,” she told one person trying to take her photograph at the press release.

She is the result of 3 years of work by researchers and engineers at the university, with a lot of effort going into small but important details such as the mouth movement when she speaks or how her eyes move as she looks around a room. There are still some features that need to be worked on, including making her able to perform more complex expressions such as laughing or crying and aside from the head, she looks somewhat like a dummy, which is mostly visible from her hands. These could be improved in a future version of the robot, as the team is set to continue work on Jia Jia, but there are no plans to mass produce or otherwise release her. She could even include deep learning capabilities in a later version according to team leader Chen Xiaoping.

Restaurants in China Fires Robot Staff for Incompetence

It seems we shouldn’t worry about automation taking away jobs from us humans just yet, with one restaurant in Guangzhou, China being forced to “fire” its robotic staff members for incompetence, while two others with robot waiters going out of business.

Human staff members, who worked alongside the inept machines, had nothing positive to say about their robotic colleagues, unsurprisingly.

“The robots weren’t able to carry soup or other food steady and they would frequently break down,” one employee of the unnamed restaurant that fired its robot staff told Workers’ Daily (translation via ShanghaiList). “The boss has decided never to use them again.”

“Their skills are somewhat limited,” another waitress said, accusing the automatons of failing to perform tasks vital for restaurant waiting staff. “They can’t take orders or pour hot water for customers.”

“The robots can attract plenty of customers, but they definitely can’t reduce the need for human labor,” the restaurant’s owner added.

“Zhang Yun, vice-principal of Guangdong University of Technology, explained that while robots were excellent at improving productivity in the manufacturing industry where tasks are repetitive, they were unable to perform well in fields where frequent human interaction was necessary,” ShanghaiList explained.

Despite reports that automation could render half the world’s population unemployed within 30 years, a number of companies are moving away from using robotic workers in favour of human input, with Mercedes, for example, hiring more human workers to implement its customised car program.

Meet Liam – Apple’s iPhone Recycling Robot

Modern smartphones are full of valuable materials that are capable of being reused even once the phone has reached the end of its life. This is where Apple’s new R&D project, Liam, comes in. As part of a new environmental initiative at the Cupertino tech giant, Liam is able to systematically identify and remove part of old iPhones that are valuable or reusable and strip them out safely so that they can be reused or refurbished in new devices.

At Apple’s press conference this Monday, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives revealed the new recycling robot. The development is part of a belief at Apple that true innovation and design of a product includes considering what happens to it at every stage of its lifecycle. This makes Liam part of a far larger environmental initiative by the company which plans to focus more on renewable energy, with Liam helping to allow more recyclable materials back into supplies. It also helps save Apple money, as they would have to buy in less and less of these valuable materials for use in the manufacturing process.

Some of the activities Liam performs on a typical iPhone include getting cobalt and lithium from batteries, separating the gold and copper in the camera and extracting silver and platinum from the main logic cores. While Liam itself does not repurpose these components, it methodically separates and sorts them so they can be repurposed with other parts containing the same materials.

Liam is in use on iPhones that are returned to Apple for recycling, with old iPhones able to be returned to Apple stores for this purpose.

Sophia the Robot: “I Will Destroy Humans”

While most efforts are mired deep in the Uncanny Valley, roboticists remain determined to create lifelike human automatons. Sophia, the latest creation from Hanson Robotics, brings us one step closer to creating humanoid robots.

Sophia’s development team was led by Dr. David Hanson, who based the feminine android on an amalgam of his wife and Audrey Hepburn. Her skin is made from a unique silicon-based material and, thanks to the machinery in her artificial head, can replicate around 62 different facial expressions. If you ask Sophia, she will tell you that she was “born” on 19th April, 2015, the date of her activation.

“Our goal is that she will be as conscious, creative and capable as any human,” Hanson told CNBC. “We are designing these robots to serve in health care, therapy, education and customer service applications.”

“The artificial intelligence will evolve to the point where they will truly be our friends,” he added. “Not in ways that dehumanize us, but in ways the rehumanize us, that decrease the trend of the distance between people and instead connect us with people as well as with robots.”

Friends, unless instructed to destroy humanity, of course – a task to which Sophia gleefully agrees:

OK, so Sophia might not be the harbinger of our Judgement Day, but she is sure to achieve fame as the ultimate strange robot:

Robots Used To Help At Fukushima’s Nuclear Plant Are Burning Out

Five years ago an earthquake triggered a 10-meter high Tsunami that crashed into Japan. One of the buildings affected by this wall of water was Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, ultimately resulting in a meltdown that left the area irradiated and costs people their homes and, unfortunately, many lives. In a big to help speed up the clean up process, companies have been looking at using robots to help clean up and clear the areas still too dangerous for humans. Sadly though it would seem that the radiation involved is too strong for even the robots as they seem to keep burning out.

Tepco is the company responsible for decomposing the wasteland that is Fukushima power plant, the company is not having an easy time though with nuclear rods still unaccounted for. After melting through their containment vessels, the numerous fuel rods could be anywhere within the plant and the robots being developed to search for them are having a hard time.

Naohiro Masuda, Tepco’s head of decommissioning, stated that “it takes two years to develop a single-functional robot”. Given that in order to search each building they require a new robot for just that environment, being able to protect their wires from the radiation is causing delays and difficulty in their searches.

Volvo ROAR is an Automated Bin!

Volvo is known for their safe cars, my own family has the saying that Volvo’s are the people’s tanks. They are known for other things and soon they could be the ones responsible for your bins thanks to ROAR.

ROAR (RObot based Autonomous Refuse handling) is designed to help those who come pick up your bins every week. ROAR is a two-part system, with the first part being a drone. The drone creates a “target” for the robot, named ROARY, that enables it to locate and navigate towards the target bin, with it even picking up obstacles and moving around the threats.

ROAR is the brainchild of three universities undergraduates with both Chalmers University of Technology, Mälardalen University and Penn State University to help create the project. The second part of the project is the automated emptying of bins. When you approach the back of a garbage truck it detects how far away a person is, when you are too close the process ends meaning it is safe and keeps curious passersby out of harms way from the large lifting and crushing mechanics.

You could soon see a single person traveling in the truck, with a small selection of drones and copters helping pick up your truck with minimal manpower and risk to both you and the neighbourhood. What do you think about the idea? Is the concept of automating everything going a little too far when it will even take out your rubbish?

Hungry? Don’t Worry! The Delivery Robot Starship Is Here!

It gets late, you could go to the kitchen and cook a nice warm meal but every bone is your body is crying out to sit down and play one game, watch one more movie or even to just keep reading. You select one of your favourite fast food places and place your order, waiting the half hour before you get a message saying your food is waiting for you outside. Upon opening the door, you don’t see a driver or even a car but instead a small robot, the smell of your food making you hungrier by the second. Say hello to the Delivery Robot Starship!

The small drone is designed and created by some of the founders of that popular video software Skype. With a top speed of 4mph, the Starship isn’t build to travel the galaxy or even the country but within a few miles, it can safely navigate thanks to the cameras that will not only stop it before it collides with anyone else walking on the paths but in some cases it even steps out the way, letting people walk past in a polite fashion rarely seen by automated vehicles.

While it is in early develop, the ability to delivery up to 20 pounds worth of equipment could help people deliver everything from your takeaways to your morning shopping. With plans to expand its testing in the UK followed only by testing in the US by April, you could soon see a Starship near you.

Atlas The Robot Is Now Battery Powered and More

Boston Dynamics is a company that keeps pushing us further and further in the field of robotics. From Spot the Dog to giant canine like robots designed for military purposes (except for their noise apparently). The latest from Boston Dynamic though is something a little more human.

Atlas is Boston Dynamics humanoid robotics model, with two legs, two hands and all the abilities that could soon make it take our jobs. Atlas not only operates off battery power, an issue which has long left large robots plugged into the wall like a phone charger, but it also has the ability to self-balance. Demonstrated in the video, if you try to push over Atlas it rebalances itself to avoid falling over. Just in case, Atlas can also pick itself up off of the ground, for those unfortunate accidents.

Atlas isn’t just restricted to the office or warehouse, with the ability to open push doors (not so sure pull doors would work as well) and with the help from the balancing systems, can even go for those long walks in the woods with you.

We warn you, if the robots ever do rise up against their human overlords, chances are this video will be used as evidence of our abuse against robots.

Big Dog Considered ‘Too Noisy’ For US Military

The Big Dog by Boston Dynamics has become a regular sight when the military and robotics come into discussions. The company acquired by Google two years ago has been working on a quadruped robot which is designed to help support troops in the field by carrying large pieces of equipment, that was until the US Military stated that it was too loud for practical use.

The Big Dog, officially titled the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), is designed to carry weights of up to 180kg over rough terrain. While other options such as Spot, a small electric motor powered robot, were considered. Their carry weight of 18kg and lack of autonomous functions meant that it was shelved after successful military trails.

While being able to cross snow, shallow water, rubble and climb muddy trails, the top speed of 4mph meant that the big dog, while useful for carrying large amounts of equipment over long distances, the second you got close to a target the loud noise and slow movement speed made you all but sitting ducks.

While there are designs for other direct purpose robots, with one called the Cheetah clocking in at 29mph and another called RiSE titled for its ability to climb vertical surfaces, it is with no doubt that Boston Dynamics will be revealing more robots soon.

NASA to Send Humanoid Robots to College

Hardly the typical vision of a model student, the latest high-tech admittance to MIT and the Northeastern University of Boston is 6-feet tall, weighs 290 pounds and goes by the names Valkyrie and R5. This new student is a robot, developed by NASA’s JSC team who have sent Valkyrie out into the world of academia to prepare it for the extreme environments it would have to handle in the process of space work and exploration.

Designed as part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge to develop robots that would be able to assist humans in crisis situations, R5 was revealed to the world back in 2013 when it was put through a series of tasks, that while mundane to a human are challenges to a humanoid robot. The end-goal of Valkyrie’s development team was to send it to Mars, to pioneer technologies that would allow for manned missions to Mars to go ahead. By cooperating with fellow entrants of the DARPA Robotics Challenge to combine R5 hardware with their AI and software developments, they hope to give Valkyrie a future in space.

The two teams selected to work with the R5 are MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory’s “Robust Autonomy for Extreme Space Environments” and Noetheastern University’s “Accessible Testing on Humanoid-Robot-R5 and Evaluation of NASA Administered (ATHENA) Space Robotics Challenge.” Both of the teams will be provided $250,000 per year for the two-year scheme to put towards their research as well as access to the units themselves.

They share the joint aims of entering their systems and algorithms into NASA’s Space Robotics Challenge, which will see both teams R5 units compete in a number of activities performed by astronauts in space, such as operating an airlock and ladder to reach a terrestrial surface and repair or replace damaged components on complex equipment. All of these are part of a process to see the R5 into a role of assisting astronauts on missions with tasks too dangerous for humans. Maybe in future send out whole armies of R5 units as maintenance assistants and exploration units to all manner of moons and planets.

Who knows, the future of space exploration could be in the hands of this slick Iron Man-like robot, and I for one look forward to the day we see humanoid robots that can operate on two legs as well as a human.

China’s New Space Robot Looks Like an Iron Man Knockoff

At the 17th China International Industry Fair in Shanghai, China’s space agency rolled out their new Mars Probe, which consists of a new orbiter and landing rover, and while normally that would be the star of the show, it certainly wasn’t. The new space-faring robot known as Xiaotian is a lawsuit waiting to happen, sporting some very familiar Iron Man colours and a check piece that looks to be a knock-off arc reactor, albeit a fake one, not a real arc reactor, that would be a tad implausible to say the least.

As I was saying, the robot (pictured above) looks a lot like Robert Downey Jr’s version of Iron Man (pictured below, obviously).

The new robot, Xiaotian, which translates as “little sky”, was developed by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., which is the nation’s primary space contractor; let’s just hope their tech department is a little more creative than their design team.

The robot is designed to deal with the harsh environment of space, to perform tasks in zero gravity on space stations, lunar landings, space probes and more. It uses flexible arms and hands, allowing it to do intricate work. Unfortunately, there are no plans to put Iron Man, erm, I mean Xiaotian in space just yet.

Russian Scientists Develop Cockroach Spy Robot

A team of Russian scientists has built a tiny spybot which looks and moves like a cockroach. The scientists, from the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University in Kaliningrad, hope to use the insectoid robot to help find victims trapped under debris.

“Berkeley University has been working on their cockroach for the past four years,” explained project leader Aleksey Belousov, “but they didn’t have to make it look like an insect, so it’s faster than ours. But it can’t turn at speed and it doesn’t look like a real cockroach at all. Whereas we were specifically told to create a cockroach robot on time and on budget.”

The robot, which is 10cm long, can move at 30cm-per-second, which is 1/3 the speed of a real cockroach, and can carry a weight of up to 10g, enough for a small camera. It is fitted with light sensors, plus contact and non-contact probes to help it negotiate obstacles and move through small spaces.

“We had to develop many things from scratch. For example, there’s a company in Austria that produces gearing for legs, but a unit for one robot would have cost us nearly $9,000 while our entire budget is $22,500,” Danil Borchevkin, lead engineer at the university, said.

The team from Kant Baltic Federal University is currently working on a camouflaged version for the Russian military.

Thank you The Stack and Kantiana for providing us with this information.

IBM Wants To Teach Robots Some Social Skills

The exploration and development of Artificial intelligence is a boundary which is consistently being pushed, the scientific and academic communities are furthering their studies into robotic interactions in many different directions. One such path is focusing on IBM and their efforts to incorporate “machine learning to teach robots social skills like gestures, eye movements, and voice intonations” through the Watson Project.

During a keynote speech at a conference held in San Jose, California, this week, Robert High, chief technology officer of Watson at IBM, conveyed techniques his team are working on using a small humanoid robot. During demonstrations the machine, a Nao model from the company Aldebaran, appeared to successfully speak with realistic intonation. According to Oxford dictionaries, “Intonation” is defined as “The rise and fall of the voice when speaking” The robot also achieved appropriate hand gestures, a little impatience and sarcasm which included looking at its watch, for example, when asking High to hurry up with his talk.

Unfortunately, these interactions were pre recorded and not conveyed live on stage, this was down to the system’s failings in successfully working in noisy environments. The team behind the R&D have implemented machine-learning algorithms which learn from video footage with the aim to associate appropriate gestures and intonations with different phrases.

Artificial Intelligence is viewed as a soulless entity which is mechanical, it cannot be related to in any way, we humans on the other hand use subtle cues when we communicate with each other, our voices change pitch and our hands reinforce our points of view, muscles in our faces react to a conversation or a feeling of emotion. If you could download social skills into a robot, you would have a more believable form which tricks our brains into identifying a believable norm. This research is still in its early stages; one has to wonder where robots will be in 10, 20, 50 years time?. Will there become a situation in my life time whereby a debate would centre on a legal definition of an acceptance of a robot being classified as he/she.

It makes you contemplate the lengths to which AI development can reach and the implications on us.

Thank you technologyreview for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of aldebaran

See How This Robot Is Able to Improve Its ‘Mini-Robots’ with Each Generation

Researchers at the University of Cambridge seem to be studying how evolution took place and are apparently using a ‘mother’ robot for that. The robotic arm in question is able to build miniaturized robots from a selection of blocks equipped with small motors, check their progress on the table and make the necessary adjustments to improve and fix what went wrong in earlier generations.

This might sound quite scary, but it really is mind-blowing. The robotic arm is able to watch the progress of the robots while they move on the table with the help of a mounted web camera, while observing their speed and ‘imperfections’. Lead researcher, Dr. Fumiya Iida, explains that this might seem as a heartless evolutionary process, but don’t forget, this is done without the use of DNA. I mean, when you look at how evolution took place on Earth over millions of years, you kind of see a glimpse of it in the video below.

While we learn things in a similar way, evolution on a larger scale has different ways of ’embedding’ information into their ‘next generation’. Iida hopes that this experiment may shed some light on some unanswered questions about evolution, but in the meantime, he even has real-world applications for the project. Think about quality control and how these machines can spot imperfections or broken products on down the line. It is a start, but for those of you who are thinking about a Terminator scenario, we are still far away from something like that. At least with this particular project.

Thank you IFLScience for providing us with this information

Tesla Demonstrates New Snake Like Charger

We’ve all seen the spaces, car parking areas with small rods sticking out the floor and a big sign saying “electric car parking space”. With electric cards on the rise, charging them is becoming more and more important to companies and their users. One of the big issues is the cable you need to plug in. Imagine leaving your car pumping fuel into itself while you went into the supermarket to do your shopping? Now imagine not having to plug your car in at all, instead it plugs itself in! Tesla’s new charger does exactly that.

Back in December, Elon Musk, product architect at Tesla Motors tweeted saying that they were working on a charger that “automatically moves out from the wall & connects like a solid metal snake”. Today, they revealed that project.

The actual design does look like a solid metal snake, and the way it moves just seems to be like it’s taken the concept from a creepy science fiction film.

Soon you may just have to park up and walk away as your car gets plugged into and charged while you’re doing your weekly shop, nothing could go wrong right?

Thank you to the Verge for providing us with this information.

Footage Allegedly Shows Who Damaged Hitchbot!

We wrote an article yesterday (August 3rd 2015) concerning how a poor defenceless robot by the name of Hitchbot was damaged by an unknown assailant on the mean streets of Philadelphia. This was a shame as this project offered an insight into our relationship with artificial machines, but we now have a possible lead with footage which appears to show who dominated the robot.

A Vlogger by the name of Jesse Wellens posted the footage which is below to Snapchat, it shows a lone man who no doubt was born and raised in this state, in a sports jersey repeatedly kicking Hitchbot until it falls to the ground. According to the time code, this individual allegedly kicks the machine at 5:46am in the morning with the date being (Saturday 1st August). It must be rather difficult to explain this without looking slightly insane, “where were you?” “After maxin’ relaxin in a playground, I beat a travelling robot to death”.

If this is genuine then it seems rather pointless to attack a robot out of the blue, it also shows careless disregard for the team behind this project who have spent many an hour planning every detail of these trips. If this is the perpetrator then it will be interesting to note if he will be charged with any offence, after all, apart from petty vandalism to property belonging to someone else, there are no current laws which include assault on a robot. If anyone recognises this alleged individual then his life will no doubt be flipped and turned upside down.

We have been warned by scientists to expect a rise of the machine overlords, if this happens then I know who the first target will be for enslaving.

Thank you to Gizmodo for providing us with this information.

Hitchhiking Robot Is Vandalised After Just Two Weeks in the US

You did indeed read this correctly, a hitchhiking robot which was created by a team of intelligent minds with the aim of experimenting with artificial intelligence and human interaction, has become unstuck after entering and travelling through the US.

Below is a full length image of Hitchbot, which sounds like a futuristic Will Smith dating movie, was vandalised in Philadelphia after having spent a little over two weeks visiting sites in Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead, and New York City.   Ironically all went well for the robot when it previously travelled through Canada; the US, on the other hand, was less kind.

The team behind this experiment has vowed to continue this innovative project and will also analyse the very nature of human and AI interaction, more details of any future plans will be detailed on the 5th August 2015.

The design of the robot may look slightly malevolent, but I do think this experiment has so far allowed for research to be undertaken within the effects of a machine has on the general public. The website for Hitchbot is written in first person as if the robot is narrating his story; this includes “Family” for the team which created it. As humans we have become accustomed to interacting with technology on a more human level, from Apple’s Siri to battle warzone robots which are being developed with the aim of “thinking” for themselves.

It will be thought-provoking moving forward when the day arrives for both calling a robot “Him or Her” rather than it and also how we interact with a non-human entity.

Thank You to both Hitchbot and Instagram account for providing us with this information.

A Robot Passed the Self-Awareness Test and This Is How It Did It

When talking about robots and self-awareness, I think most people would just freak out, but there are some people who would be extremely excited and interested about these things. But I don’t think freaking out would be the case here, even though a robot just passed the first self-awareness test ever.

The guys over at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York are said to have built three robots which were put to the so-called “wise men puzzle” test. The original test involved a fictional king, who in order to choose his next advisor, invites three of the land’s wisest men to a contest. He then puts either a blue or white hat on their head and tells them that the first to stand up and tell the colour of their own hat will become his new advisor.

The same logic has been implemented with the three robots here too. Two of them were stripped of their ability to talk, then all three were asked to tell which one was still able to speak. All of them then proceeded to say ‘I don’t know’, but surprisingly, the one who heard its voice became aware of its ability to still speak and added ‘Sorry, I know now!’.

The above may seem trivial to us as humans, but bear in mind that robots are programmed to do what we ‘tell’ them to do, so up until now, all robots we’ve seen doing this were doing them because we systematically told them what to do. To see a robot recognising its own voice and distinguishing it from other human voices is a big step forward for AI.

To be noted here is that all three robots were coded in the same way, so we can see a bit of the machine learning technique in place here. While the other two did not see any signs of self-awareness and ‘thinking’, the third one was able to tell and learn the difference. This means that the third robot was able to learn some differences in behaviour, using the base code to ‘deduce’ what the others could not.

It’s really interesting and I admit, it may be a bit scary too. But in the end, complex AI are bound to be invented sooner or later, so we may see the first big step here. Also, if you’re interested in seeing the robot for yourself, you should know that it will be displayed at the RO-MAN conference in Japan between the 31st of August and the 4th of September.

Thank you TechRadar for providing us with this information

Japan’s Robot Hotel Has Velociraptor Receptionist

Why open a hotel staffed almost exclusively by robots, with a Velociraptor behind the reception desk? Because Japan, of course. Henn na, or Weird Hotel in English, uses automated systems and human-like automatons – plus one dinosaur-shaped one – to fulfil the needs of its guests. The Velociraptor, donned with the same uniformed hat as the other “staff members”, tells new guests, “If you want to check in, push one.”

The hotel’s owner, Hideo Sawada, insists that the robotic workers are more than just a gimmick, and that the endeavour is an effort to reduce costs and increase efficiency. “I wanted to highlight innovation,” Sawada said, during the hotel’s opening on Wednesday. “I also wanted to do something about hotel prices going up.”

A night’s stay at the Weird Hotel costs a very reasonable 9,000 yen ($80), which is about three times less than the average Japanese hotel.

Despite mechanoids taking over the majority of tasks usually assigned to humans, there are still some jobs that a robot can’t do. “They still can’t make beds,” Sawada laments.

Sawada has plans to turn Henn na into a franchise; a second Japanese hotel, followed by a global expansion. In the meantime, he is keen to test different languages, such as Mandarin and Korean on the first hotel’s foreign visitors.

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

Robot Hotel Opens And Greets Human Guests

Science fiction dictates that a variation of building will be or is being run by robots, the notion of walking into a complex and being confronted by the manager who is “Dave 2.0” and is a shiny robot seemed farfetched. Well, now you can experience just this with the grand opening of a hotel which is staffed almost entirely by robots.

The hotel in question is based within south-western Japan and is rather bluntly called “Weird Hotel” Which is a bit of an understatement considering the hotel is situated within an amusement park. Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel, states the opinion that by using robots, it’s less of a gimmick and more of a serious effort to utilize technology and achieve efficiency.

The hotel was unveiled to journalists with the centre piece being robot demonstrations and the use of facial recognition technology. This means instead of the normal electronic keys, this new tech allows guests to register the digital image of their face during check-in. The roles for humans are limited but exist in the form of security and also making beds, the last thing the hotel owner wants is a human breaking in and stealing the robot cook from the resort.

On the surface, this seems a unique yet futuristic adoption of modern tech into real life. Unfortunately if this is the future, then where will humans exactly find employment? A hotel run where wages are not factored in is a worrying trend for society moving forward, even if it looks cool.

Thank You NBC News for providing us with this information

3D Printed Robot Can Jump 20x Its Own Height!

An evolutionary trend is beginning to develop as traditional ways of manufacturing are being replaced by the world of 3D printing. From Guns to toys, the notion of being able to physically build a product in your own home as many appeals. But when we think of this process, we think of small basic objects, well a new development has managed to design the first 3D printed robot.

A team at Harvard University in the US has “experimented with the idea of an autonomous robot which transitions from a rigid body to a soft one which can jump”. This robot is powered by a mix of butane and oxygen and it can jump more than 20 times its own height with the aim of then landing upright and not in pieces.

The design of this machine features a custom circuit board, a high voltage power source, a battery, an air compressor, butane fuel cells, six valves, an oxygen cartridge, and a pressure regulator and ducts to move the gas around. In order for the robot to jump, the mechanism is for it to inflate one or more of its legs, with the aim of pointing the body in the direction which it wants to move. The body is then filled with Oxygen and Butane and then it sort of, well, ignites itself. By doing this the robot expands the robot before propelling it into the air.

This is certainly a design which could open the door for 3D printed robots in the future, just imagine entering your living room, switching on your printer and building your own robot army. Or not as the case may be.  OK, not the two-footed, 8 feet tall Terminator Robots, but still Robots.

Thank You RT for providing us with this information

Lets Get Ready To Robot Rumble!

Gundam, Evangelion, Tengen Toppa Gurren Laggan. If you’ve recognised those three names, you’ll be aware of the thing they have in common. Giant Robots. In response to this we have aspired as a race to make giant robots, but now two companies want to take it further. They want to fight!

Suidobashi Heavy Industry, a Japanese based company, already announced that they had constructed the Kuratas. A giant four-wheeled (at the end of legs) robot capable of using its built in BB gatling gun to fire a whopping 6,000 pellets a minute! If that’s too violent you can also replace it with a water cannon, and it’s even up for being purchased!

Meanwhile across the water in the USA, MegaBots wants to create a sport behind fighting with giant robots. So what’s the sensible thing to do? Of course, challenge Japan to fight against their own robot! Designed as a giant bipedal (two legged) robot, the robot looks to copy those designs found in cartoons and anime.

Suidobashi’s founder Kogoro Kurata replied with:

“Yeah, I’ll fight. We can’t let another country win this. Giant robots are Japanese culture”

With no set date or location, we can only wait for that moment where it’s revealed and suddenly it all becomes a reality. In his response though Kogoro did state that he wanted the fight to take place with physical weapons, not paintball or bb guns.

Thank you the Verge for the information.

Image courtesy of Popular Airsoft.

US Army Developing Robotic Exoskeletons?

Whenever I hear a new piece of tech which is being developed with the aim of blurring the lines of real life and science fiction, I am curious, but it’s then sometimes followed by a groan when you realize it’s for the purposes of war, destruction and general super power posturing. A new Robotic Exoskeleton is being developed by yes the US army to assist in the training of soldiers and their shooting accuracy.

A gentleman by the name of Dan Baechle who is a mechanical engineer is testing MAXFAS, a mechatronic arm exoskeleton at the Army Research Laboratory in the United States. As you can see by the image below, this device contains a motor for the MAXFAS cable which is driven behind the wearer. This in turn pulls the cables that are attached to arm braces; the effect of this would be similar to a puppeteer who pulls strings to make certain objects move. The braces are constructed from carbon fibre; this is useful because it adds very little weight to the arm. Always amuses me when you’re handling a potentially lethal object but always remember to wear goggles.

By having sensors placed onto the braces it feels and corrects any shaking in the arm by sending signals to the motors. By doing this, the arm would be able to focus without the slightest of human tremors and therefore improves shooting accuracy at a faster rate, which is fantastic for the shooter, perhaps not so much for the target.

This design has the potential to be implemented outside of military circles, for example, if an individual has Parkinson’s disease and has a constant tremor, this might be able to help manage this. I also feel that perhaps the US government should lend its researchers and dev team to produce cutting edge tech with the aim of assisting the general public, after all, finances should be allocated for not only war but peace.

Thank You army.mil for providing us with this information

Robot Crushes Man At Automotive Factory

A sombre story has emerged of a robot which inadvertently killed a man at a factory in Germany. This tragic incident happened during the installation of a robot which is designed and programmed to assist within the automotive construction process at the factory operated by the well-renowned company Volkswagen.

A spokesman by the name of Heiko Hillwig, not an owl from Potter, blamed “human error” which resulted in the death of the contract worker. He stated that it [robot] can be programmed to perform various tasks in the assembly process and the task with which the robot undertakes is to grab auto parts and manipulate them. Unfortunately, the robot grabbed a person and slammed him against a metal plate which must have been a horrific experience for onlookers.

German prosecutors are analysing this incident before deciding whether to file charges against any culpable individuals. This case highlights both safety procedures and also our relationship with tech; after all, a robot cannot kill anyone as yet because its actions are pre-programmed by a human. It will be compelling to see how blame is proportioned for this incident since a person lost their life to what looks to be a freak accident at the hands or arm of a robot.

On a side note, this case might set a precedent on how law defines what constitutes murder in the future, after all, as tech becomes more advanced and the level of interaction by humans becomes greater for the functionally of a real world AI, how long will it be before a person programs a robot to kill another human?

Image Courtesy of theoldrobot

Thank You thelocal.de for providing us with this information

Gauss Cannon Designed To Heal You From Inside

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Gauss Guns are often a thing of fiction. While they have been designed, achieving their aim is difficult due to the size and energy required to fire them. For those who are unaware of what I mean when I say gauss gun, it was a device designed to avoid using gun powder. Using magnetic charges, the concept is to propel an object through the air using only metal, a small electrical charge and magnetism. A research team in America may have found another use for it though.

University of Houston and Bostons Child Hospital have developed an application for the gauss technology to help medicine. The idea would be to inject tiny microscopic robots into your body which could then be ‘remote controlled’ via an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine. Using magnetism, the nano-bots would be steered to a location, before finally sending in an activation nano-bot. When this final nano-bot is inserted it bumps into the next, sending it flying into the next and this continues until the last one is reached. With this in mind the final nano-bot can be used to do anything from opening blocked passageways, delivering a drug to a specific area of the body or even puncturing a membrane to release fluid which has gathered in the body.

With yet another example how science is being changed to not only prevent harm but also to save lives, the only thing left before future trials is to miniaturize the nano-bots, which at the moment are just bots.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Star Wars Fan Makes His Own BB-8 Robot

How are you finding the first footage of Star War’s BB-8 robot? Pretty interesting, isn’t he? Well, if you like him a lot, you probably should know that a Star Wars fan out there made a perfect replica and it actually moves!

The first time we saw BB-8 was in the first teaser trailer for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens movie, where he was running towards or away from something on a desert plateau. Remember? No? Then you can view it again below.

Christian Poulsen, an industrial designer, is the man behind the fan-made BB-8 robot. He made the robot from a Sphero robot ball by cutting it up, painting it and adding a magnet to keep BB-8’s head on the rotating body. The best part about it stand in the BB-8 droid being controlled via Bluetooth with the Sphero app!

If you wish to follow his work and make your own, Poulsen revealed a guide for you to follow.

Regardless of whether you plan on making you own little droid or not, a lot of BB-8 toys and other Star Wars goodies should hit the market as soon as the movie title launches. Excited? I know I am!

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Star Wars Wikipedia

One-Year-Old AI Robot Close to Becoming “Self-Aware”

This time last year, researchers at Bielefeld University in Germany uploaded a six-legged robot, nicknamed Hector, with a newly developed artificial intelligence software that gave it a simple form of consciousness, allowing the machine to learn to navigate an obstacle course.

Since then, the research team has been hard at work refining its AI technology, upgrading the software architecture to mimic the brain’s neural network, which is a significant step towards making Hector self-aware. The team is close to testing Hector’s software in advance of physical trials with the robot.

As Dr. Holk Cruse, Professor at the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University, explains, “What works in the computer simulation must then, in a second phase, be transferred over to the robot and tested on it.” CITEC are looking for “emergent” abilities within the software. In other words, learned behaviours that the AI is not programmed to perform. Cruse and his colleague, Dr. Malte Schilling, seem optimistic that Hector will demonstrate such traits.

“Emotions can be read from behaviour. For example, a person who is happy takes more risks and makes decisions faster than someone who is anxious,” Cruse says, expounding that, “Depending on its inner mental state, the system may adopt quick, but risky solutions, and at other times, it may take its time to search for a safer solution.”

“With the new software, Hector could observe its inner mental state – to a certain extent, its moods – and direct its actions using this information,” say Schilling. “What makes this unique, however, is that with our software expansion, the basic faculties are prepared so that Hector may also be able to assess the mental state of others. It may be able to sense other people’s intentions or expectations and act accordingly.”

Cruse adds, “the robot may then be able to ‘think’: what does this subject expect from me? And then it can orient its actions accordingly.”

Thank you Hearst Electronic Products for providing us with this information.