Netflix Reveals First Clips Of It’s Voltron Series

Who remembers videos? These days we use DVD, Blu-Ray and even just watch it straight to your phone or computer through a streaming service. With so many choices for delivery it, the content itself has to be pretty amazing. Well if new shows are your thing you may want to avoid this, the first clip of Netflix’s remake of Voltron.

Originally a series in 1984, Voltron sees several astronauts that pilot giant robots that can then combine, ring a bell anybody? The series was popular and spawned everything from comics, a one-hour tv special and even a video game in 2009, 25 years after its initial release.

As part of its attempt to add more “original” content to the service, Netflix has partnered up with Dreamworks to create and share Voltron: Legendary Defender. Set to release the first 13 episodes on June 10th and features a cast that’s filled with experience including Steven Yeun (Walking Dead), Rhys Darby (Yes Man), Kimberly Brooks (Bioshock Infinite) and Bex Taylor-Klaus (Arrow) to name but a few.

You can check out the trailer below which contains everything you could want from a Voltron show. Robots, check. Roars, check. Combination sequence, check. Explosions CHECK!!

With Netflix adding more content based on classics shows and the power rangers to receive a reboot, which other shows do you want to see brought back from when you were young?

Alphabet to Sell Boston Dynamics

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are working on ventures in a great number of fields, however, the rumours that their robotics division was in trouble could be worse than expected. In a report published by the Bloomberg News, Alphabet is looking to sell off Boston Dynamics, their most prominent robotics company, who developed robots such as Spot the dog.

In 2013, Google picked up 8 robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics to form their new robotics division named Replicant. Even this early on it was reported that the numerous firms that made up Replicant had very little in common and were scattered about the globe, causing difficulties in many collaborative efforts. When the head of Replicant, Android founder Andy Rubin, left Google, those who had joined the tech giant in robotics research and development were left confused and disorganised.

After reorganizing into Alphabet, the situation got worse, with the new parent company focused on seeking investors for its sub-companies. While Boston Dynamics constantly put out publicity videos showing off their developments growing fear amongst workers that robots could eventually take away their jobs and the lack of faith that they would have a marketable product in the next few years made Boston Dynamics a liability. While many of the startups that made up Replicant have been moved to the Alphabet X division, the future seems bleak for robotics development at Alphabet.

Where Boston Dynamics will end up remains to be seen, however, the best guesses seem to currently be that Toyota or Amazon will be looking to pick up the firm, with the former recently putting a lot of funding into robotics development. Neither company has come out with a statement regarding the possible acquisition, so it really could be up for grabs. We can only hope that no matter who their next owner ends up being, that Boston Dynamics keep pushing the field of robotics forward with their work.

Billionaire Dmitry Itskov Wants to Achieve Immortality Using Robots

The concept of immortality might seem like something out of a science-fiction film right now, and it definitely sounds impossible to achieve for humans, as we have serious biological limitations working against us. However, a Russian billionaire named Dmitry Itskov wants to achieve immortality through technological means rather than biological ones, as he aims to transfer human consciousness into robotic bodies. Remember the movie Transcendence? Well, the main character played by Johnny Depp managed to transfer his consciousness into a computer, and while things actually got a bit out of hand after that, Dmitry’s idea is somewhat similar.

The difference is that he actually wants to allow humans to bypass their limitations regarding age, diseases and disabilities by living on as androids. The billionaire is confident that he’ll be able to achieve his goals in the next 30 years through the 2045 Strategic Social Initiative, which he founded in 2011. The initiative is working on developing a technology that would transfer an individual’s personality to an advanced non-biological body that could live for many years, potentially even forever.In order to achieve its goals, the project will need experts in fields such as anthropomorphic robotics, neural interfaces and artificial organs, but as long as funding will not be an issue, I’m sure that plenty of scientists will be able to offer their precious input. For now, the project’s leaders plan to create cheap android avatars that could be controlled by people remotely in order to perform dangerous tasks or rescue operations. The 2045 Initiative has

In order to achieve its goals, the project will need experts in fields such as anthropomorphic robotics, neural interfaces and artificial organs, but as long as funding will not be an issue, I’m sure that plenty of scientists will be able to offer their precious input. For now, the project’s leaders plan to create cheap android avatars that could be controlled by people remotely in order to perform dangerous tasks or rescue operations. The 2045 Initiative has stated the following regarding its plans for the future:

“The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimal conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies”

US Military to Train Marines Using Creepy Robot Targets

Long have soldiers practiced their shooting skills at a firing range, shooting at paper targets to develop their marksmanship. Static paper targets pale in comparison to moving humanoid targets out in the field, however, which is where these slightly creepy four-wheeled robots come in. Designed to simulate more realistic battlefield conditions, these robots will replace the paper targets with moving targets which can drive in and out of cover and move around corners.

Developed by Marathon Targets, these robots are far from attractive to look at (which may be appealing when they are designed to be shot), looking like the upper torso of a dummy attached to a piece of machinery, they are far smarter and more well built than first appears. Using a combination of GPS guidance systems and a laser-based obstacle avoidance system with a range of 25 meters, the bots can easily be controlled from a remote location via laptop and even feedback to the operator when and where they were shot, like a high-tech way of checking the bullet holes in a target. Despite packing all of this technology, their most impressive feat is that the manufacturer reports that each robot can handle being shot thousands of times and still maintain its structure and operability.

Recently, the robots were tested by Marines from the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton in California who provided a positive initial response to their usage. The Department of Defense released footage of the exercises, which shows Marines shooting at the robotic targets, who react to gunshot ‘wounds’ by tipping their ‘body’ at an angle.

Certainly not as cheap as a few pieces of paper down at the firing range, however, these robots show a new way of training the next generation of soldiers to be more effective against moving targets. Let’s just hope they don’t take it personally or we could be facing a robot uprising against bots able to take hundreds of shots and keep going.

Mercedes to Replace Factory Robots with Human Workers

With robot dominating manufacturing processes, and estimates suggesting that automation could make up to half the world’s human population unemployed within 30 years, and that one-third of jobs in the UK will be done by robotic or artificial intelligence systems by 2035, car-maker Mercedes has announced the surprising move of replacing its production line robots with human workers. The decision was made, Mercedes told Bloomberg, in order to support its full array of customisable options available to customers.

“Robots can’t deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants that we have today,” Markus Schaefer, Head of Production for Mercedes, told Bloomberg at the Daimler AG’s Sindelfingen factory. “We’re saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people.”

Schaefer, who is heading up the new customisation initiative, is also aiming to reduce production time from 61 hours per vehicle to 30 hours, and he believes that human staff can adapt to the range of customisation options quicker than an automated production line can.

“The variety is too much to take on for the machines,” Schaefer added. “They can’t work with all the different options and keep pace with changes.”

While the company will not eschew robots and automation entirely, its remaining mechanical systems will become smaller and more flexible to allow workers to utilise them for various purposes.

Mercedes hopes that its new E-Class model, available this March, will spearhead both its customisation portfolio and its return to using human workers.

CEO Wants the Raspberry Pi to Power New Robot Wars Revival

Robot Wars is returning to UK television, and the Chief of the Raspberry Pi Foundation wants his company’s micro-computers to power the next generation of the show’s battle robots. Raspberry Pi Foundation CEO Eben Upton is excited by the prospect of the Robot Wars revival, heading back to BBC Two sometime this year, and he hopes the Raspberry Pi will form act as the brains in Roboteers’ new creations.

“I think it’s great news that it’s coming back. Really exciting. I hope that some of the teams will use Raspberry Pis to build their robots. Definitely!” Eben told The Inquirer.

“One of the biggest problems was that sometimes the robots had fearsome potential but couldn’t be controlled well, and often it came down to who had the best controller, not who had the best robot,” he added, proposing: “I’d like to see driverless Robot Wars. Robots that use the addition of compute to be really fierce. Yeah, autonomous Robot Wars would be great.”

Gone are the days of relying on radio frequency controllers, likely to be replaced in Robot Wars by wi-fi-connected tablets, or even smartphones, with live feeds from on-board cameras.

If you were building a battle-bot for the new series of Robot Wars, what new technological advancements would you take advantage of?

Robot Wars Returning to BBC Two

Robots, re-activate! Late-Nineties battle game show Robot Wars is returning to our screens, the BBC has announced. Robot Wars invites budding engineers to build their own remote-controlled war machine, to be pitted against other entrants’ creations and the “house robots”. Mentorn Scotland has been commissioned to produce the show for BBC Two, with a new custom-built fighting arena currently in construction in Glasgow.

The original Robot Wars, presented by Red Dwarf’s Craig Charles, ran from 1998 to 2001 on BBC Two, switching to digital channel BBC Choice, and later being picked up by Channel 5 for an additional year until its cancellation in 2004. Commentary was provided by the excitable Jonathan Pearce, while Philippa Forrester gave us a glimpse behind-the-scenes at the “roboteers” hard at work refining (and often repairing) their robotic war machines.

“Robot Wars is an absolute TV classic and I’m thrilled to be updating it for the next generation of viewers,” Kim Shillinglaw, Controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, said. “With new technological advances making for an even more exciting and immersive experience, this is a fantastic example of the kind of content-rich factual entertainment that BBC Two excels at.”

Advances in technology – both in robotics and television production – since Robot Wars was cancelled promises to make a new iteration of the show a greater spectacle.

“Bringing back Robot Wars to our screens is hugely exciting,” Chris Brogden, Creative Director of Entertainment at Tinopolis, added. “Its return will see new and improved robots, with extraordinary innovation and power in these updated machines – it promises to be quite the competition.”

“The redeveloped Robot Wars proved compelling, offering a mix of real people, real passion and raw power,” said Alan Tyler, BBC Acting Controller of Entertainment Commissioning. “It is remarkable to see how much more powerful these robots have become since the series last aired, with battles now staged in an arena that is literally bullet proof. And yet, the show is still fundamentally driven by the eccentricity of the brilliant brains behind the machines. We are excited to bring this clever new incarnation not only to an audience who loved the original but also to those who may be discovering it for the first time.”

It is yet to be announced if Charles will return as host

Logan Streondj Warns That Robots Will Declare War By 2040

The continual advancement of AI is compelling at the very least; the notion that machines will have the ability to experience human emotions and abilities has opened the door to a whole new world of potential possibilities. But, are machines really a threat to mankind? Sci-fi author Logan Streondj thinks so and has detailed his vision in a blog post.

The aforementioned author suggests that a potential conflict could happen as intelligent robots are predicted to outnumber humans. The acclaimed author references the fact from “World Counts” that there are around 350 thousand human babies born each day or 130 million a year; the growth rate is 1%. According to the International Federation of Robotics, there were around 5 million robots being produced in 2014 with a growth rate of 15%. Within the same year there were approximately 11,000 military robots being produced and this could be significantly higher if you take into consideration the many top-secret projects which are being developed by governments etc.

This suggests that if growth statistics stays the same, in 25 years time or (2040) parity will be reached. Mr. Streondj also conveys the notion that there is a growth rate of 13% of military robots and by 2053, there will be around a million produced each year.

Is this possible or indeed believable? It really depends on the advancements of AI intelligence, the biggest fear among the human race is that robots will be able to decide their own destiny; if this is the case then it is conceivable that robots may not agree with us. An interesting point has been released by the World Fact Book which states that humans have a life expectancy of around 70 years globally, this compares with around 10 years for robots, this means that robots would need to produce approximately 7 times more a year in order to have the same population as humans.

It is really up to us, if we continue our path and develop a robot that is able to think for itself then we may technically see a revolt within the distant future, if not and we contain the abilities with which machines can reach, then we can control our own future.

Image courtesy of corbisimages

Robots Could Take Half of Japanese Jobs by 2035

Gundam, Asimo, Velociraptor receptionists; Japan has been at the forefront of robotics since the inception of the concept, and new research suggests that Japanese permissive attitude toward automatons could see robots taking almost half of Japanese jobs within twenty years. A report by the Nomura Research Institute (NRI) [PDF – Japanese] in Japan revealed that, of the 601 jobs it looked at in collaboration with Oxford University, 49% of the positions could be taken by robot workers by 2035.

“Due to a shrinking population, labor shortages are predicted for Japan. We’re looking at the social repercussions of attempting to preserve the labor force by introducing AI and robots into it,” the report reads.

“We did the same kind of analysis in Japan that Professor Michael Osborne from Oxford University carried out in the UK and the US,” Yumi Wakao, a researcher at NRI, told Vice Motherboard. “We found that up to 49 percent of jobs could be replaced by computer systems.”

“However, this is only a hypothetical technical calculation,” Wakao added. “It doesn’t take into account social factors.”

The report shows that Japanese workers are at greater risk of losing their job to a robot, with the US not far behind (47%), while one-third of UK workers could be usurped by mechanical systems.

Professor Stephen Hawking is Scared of AI “Incompetence”

Professor Stephen Hawking has been very vocal about the dangers of artificial intelligence – once warning that it could destroy humanity – and now the theoretical physicist has clarified the root of his fears. During a reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Professor Hawking, in response to a teacher bored of having “The Terminator Conversation” with students, said, “The real risk with AI isn’t malice but competence.”

Hawking, however, also warned of intelligent robots that are too efficient, adding, “A superintelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren’t aligned with ours, we’re in trouble.” So, unless we can find a middle-ground between under- and over-competence, we’re screwed, according to the eminent scientist.

“You’re probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice, but if you’re in charge of a hydroelectric green energy project and there’s an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants,” Hawking said. “Let’s not place humanity in the position of those ants.”

Hawking even posed his own question to reddit users, asking people if they are afraid of being made obsolete by AI. “Have you thought about the possibility of technological unemployment[1] , where we develop automated processes that ultimately cause large unemployment by performing jobs faster and/or cheaper than people can perform them?” he asked. He later answers his own question, stating, “So far, the trend seems to be toward [machine owners controlling the economy], with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.”

The sentiment was summed up effectively by reddit user beeegoood, who lamented, “Oh man, that’s depressing.”

Image courtesy of The Washington Post.

How Much Would It Cost To Build a Bionic You?

Well this is an interesting start to an article, in a world where machines are fast evolving with the aim of becoming the new humans of choice, what would be the theoretical financial cost if you either quite fancied a bionic body double, or have decided to take a career deviation to a more Iron Man existence. It turns out it is technically possible in a theoretical but far less evolved way, although it is unlikely you will see any custom iHumans anytime soon; you would need access to both the most cutting edge of tech and also the required disposal income.


So, what do you need to become truly bionic? A brain, yes that would help, Google operates artificial neural networks (ANN) and uses them for services like Google Translate, or recommending videos on YouTube. These are prohibitively expensive, but the search giant does offer a low-cost version which stands at around £13,000. An average human brain is still vastly superior and surprisingly has a power consumption of around 20 watts, which is less than a light bulb. Especially those so-called energy-saving bulbs which when you turn on take a while to provide you with any kind of light.


What else do we need then? Eyes? Yep their kind of important, Robots like the WALK‐MAN use infrared, radar, sonar and lasers to help them perceive the world. The price? That would be £98,000; there is a slight downside as robots struggle to identify objects, this is why many robotic vision systems use a combination of vision techniques, for example combining a high-speed stereoscopic camera with a slower laser scanner, which builds a 3D map of the world.


Skin would also be essential for that authentic human look, the icub, not an Apple spinoff, has created an “artificial skin” on a machine. The robots chest, arms, hands and legs are covered in pressure sensitive skin that allows the child‐sized robot to interact more delicately with objects and humans. The reasoning behind this is that electric ‘nanowires’ are being developed with the aim of eventually allowing robots to properly ‘feel’ the world around them. Oh and the price would be at least £164,000, it’s cheaper to build an actual human rather than a robot one at this rate.


Next up, hands, a research project at the John Hopkins University has built 10 prosthetic hands, at a cost of around £325,000 each. Or if you would prefer an alternative then there is a project from Open Bionics, which utilizes a 3D‐printed prosthetic hand. This works by detecting muscle movements with electrical signals. It can be custom-built and fitted in only two days, at a cost of £2000. It will be an interesting chapter in the world when you can print your own hands.


Joints are next and arrive courtesy of Festo’s prototype Bionic Handling Assistant which is modelled on an elephant’s trunk. But what if you would like the cream of the crop? Nasa have thought of this and have built a “humanoid Robot” which uses similar technology to that of Festo’s and have coined it the Robonaut 2. Its flexible joints have already helped it climb around the International Space Station. I would not open your wallets just yet as the price would be around $14 million, which is a lot.

Legs and Feet

Lastly, there is the question of legs and feet, how much would they cost? The WALK‐MAN has devised legs which are pliant rather than rigid, making balance easier and allows them to walk in a smooth-ish fashion. It’s still nowhere near as advanced as a human though and it does require a hefty power supply, prices would be around £4.3 million.

Right, if you have access to the best bionic tech, then it would cost quite a lot, to make one bionic would require a vast array of tech which would at this time be not as good as us. Advancements have been implemented, but nothing has touched the power and intricacy of for example the human brain, robots are good at being machines and humans are good at being us, well most of us.

TL;DR we’re a lot of money and that’s without adding Iron-Man like abilities.

Thank you sky for providing us with this information.

Welcome to the Future: USA Challenges Japan to Giant Mech Fight!

You think this article is going to be boring don’t you? Well feast your eyes on this bad boy below, this is a life-size MegaBot which employs cutting edge tech to operate a life-size piloted robot, by life-size I mean for a 15 foot robot which fires paintballs at 120 miles an hour, which coincidentally is faster than an F-35 jet, read my previous article for the reference.

MegaBot is challenging fellow robot maverick builder Suidobashi who is from Japan and has created Kuratas, which is equally insane as the image below demonstrates to a robot battle. Suidobashi is quoted to have hinted at a duel by stating that “we have a giant robot, you have a giant robot; you know what needs to happen” This offer was accepted by MegaBots co-founder Matt Oehrlein who replied “we challenge you to a duel.”

So how heavy are these two fighters at a pre fight weigh in? MegaBot breaks the scales at six tons while Kuratas barely moves the needle and is a measly 4.5 tons. As of writing the date of battle where two mighty steel warriors clash heads has yet to be confirmed.

By all means check out the creators of these robots websites, it’s stunning what can be achieved with an imagination to create the impossible on paper and turn it into a reality. Oh and before I sign off, is your reaction to real life MegaBots similar to that of an 8bit dancing Carlton from 90s sitcom the Fresh Prince Of Bel Air in Gif form?



Thank You MegaBot, suidobashijuko and CNET for providing us with this information

Image Courtesy of primeirahora, CNETAmazon and GIF Central

Meet the Robot That Won $2 Million in the Darpa Robotics Challenge

In Pomona, California on Friday and Saturday, some of the greatest robotic engineers gathered together to compete for a £2 million prize in a competition run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to find the most advanced robot in the world. The two-day event pitted 24 teams –  each with their own robot funded by companies and institutions such as Amazon and NASA – against each other.

“You are going be the vanguard of this new future that you’re going to go build,” Arati Prabhakar, director of Darpa, said at the prize-giving ceremony. “We have people here from countries all over the world, and every single one of you made an incredible contribution to the field of robotics. As you do that, I know you’re going to think back to 2015, the end of the DRC and the beginning of a huge journey.”

The eventual winner that scooped the $2 million prize money, revealed on Saturday evening, was DRC-Hubo, a humanoid robot developed and built by the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, South Korea. DRC-Hubo was one of three robots to successfully complete the eight-task challenge – the other two being Atlas, a robot developed by Google’s Boston Dynamics, and Chimp, built by Tartan Rescue – but the South Korean creation was the one deemed to have engaged with the test most effectively.

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

Ultimate Showdown: Industrial Robot vs Sword Master

Robots have become the lifeblood of many industries, their speed, accuracy and constant workflow outmatches their human rivals. Though taken away from the production line, could they match instinct, technique, could you take a bot to a sword fight?

The Yaskawa Bushido Project aims to answers this question pinning a Motoman-MH24 industrial robot against a Laijyutsu Master. The Motoman-MH24 is a 286kg high-speed industrial robot made by Yaskawa Electric Corporation.

The Yaskawa Bushido Project’s a short video clip showcasing a friendly competition between master and pupil. Japanese Master Swordsman and five-time world recorder holder Master Isao Machii teaches the Motoman various Laijyutsu forms, his technique’s analysed via 3D motion capture and replicated by the Motoman, their synchronous movements are a sight to behold.

Master and pupil start off with a cut in 4 directions, the first technique’s a diagonal cut which both execute stunningly, the second technique’s a rising cut, Master Machii’s technique’s flawless whereas the Motoman’s overkill, the third technique’s a horizontal cut this one’s stunning, love the slow mo, the final technique’s the thousand cuts, this one’s demanding though Master Machii pulled it off, completing the thousand cuts in style.

A brilliant display of martial prowess and mechanical engineering Yaskawa deserves a round of applause and best wishes for the upcoming 100th anniversary, this was by far the best thing I saw all week, a good ending to a good day.

Thank you for providing us with this information.

Damaged Robots Use Algorithm to Adapt and Keep Moving

We all love robots, they’re awesome creatures that can do fantastic things in today’s, ever-developing world.

Well, now your little friend can take a hit and recover from the damage. It does make me wonder if there could be a doomsday scenario off that.However, it’s functionality that developers and researchers are working towards, rather than world domination.

The system works by using an algorithm before it is “deployed” to create a map of the different ways to behave and the value of each behaviour. Once a robot loses a limb it conducts a self-test to work out a new method of functioning without using that limb or part.

The team who have developed this new system have been led by Jean-Baptiste Mouret at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) in France. The main idea behind the scheme was to create less fragile robots by allowing them to adapt like an injured animal would, finding the best way to continue by adjusting the way they walk.

Having this sort of technology will be extremely useful in many fields, they could be used in space to visit other planets, asteroids and even other lifeforms! If it is damaged in transit or the landing it can recover, otherwise a multi-million-pound mission could be over. It could also be used in the military, deep sea cabling teams and even the medical industry.

Thank you to Geek for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of ZentaOlbaid

AI to Develop “Common Sense” Within a Decade According to Google

Artificial intelligence could be given “common sense” within ten years, according to Google’s leading AI scientist. Professor Geoff Hinton, the man tasked with developing intelligent operating systems for Google, claims the company is close to artificially replicating the human capacity for logic, natural conversation, and even emotive behaviours such as flirting, within a machine.

A new type of algorithm that Hinton and his team are working on, described as thought vectoring, encodes thoughts as number sequences. Though in its infancy, early experiments in thought vectoring has already suggested that human-like reasoning can be replicated with a computer or, as Hinton puts it, “Basically, they’ll have common sense.”

“There’ll be a lot of people who argue against it, who say you can’t capture a thought like that,” Hinton adds. “But there’s no reason why not. I think you can capture a thought by a vector.”

Hinton will present his findings to the Royal Society in London on Friday, and he thinks that thought vectoring will break computers out of being simply tools or appliances and into actual relationships with its owner. “It’s not that far-fetched,” he said. “I don’t see why it shouldn’t be like a friend. I don’t see why you shouldn’t grow quite attached to them.”

As an intellectual exercise, Hinton’s work is fascinating, but do we really want our computers to be anything other than functional tools? Does your laptop need a personality? Hinton isn’t scared about the development of AI itself – unlike Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, and Professor Stephen Hawking – but does fear how it could be misused.

“I’m more scared about the things that have already happened,” Hinton said. “The NSA is already bugging everything that everybody does. Each time there’s a new revelation from Snowden, you realise the extent of it.”

“I am scared that if you make the technology work better, you help the NSA misuse it more. I’d be more worried about that than about autonomous killer robots.”

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

Miniature Robot Can Pull 2,000 Its Own Weight

A team of engineers from Stanford University in California have built a series of “MicroTugs”, tiny robots capable of dragging objects substantially heavier than they are, the strongest of which can pull up to 2,000 times its own weight, despite weighing only 12 grams.

The robots’ pulling power comes from their adhesive feet, inspired by those legendary reptilian climbers, geckos. The feet of the robots are covered in tiny rubber spikes that, when pressed against a surface, create a large surface area that allows the feet to stick. Another member of the animal kingdom inspired the movement of the robots, with the little mechanoids mimicking the scooching motion of the inchworm, with one foot holding while the other moves forward a small amount.

The Stanford team built a wide range of MicroTugs, the smallest of which weighs 20 milligrams, can pull loads of up to 500 milligrams, and had to be constructed under a microscope with tweezers. The 9 gram robots are able to tug objects as heavy as a kilogram, both horizontally and vertically.

The powerhouse iteration of the MicroTug is the μTug, a 12 gram robot capable of hauling loads of up to 24 kilograms, which is “the same as you pulling around a blue whale”, according to project engineer David Christensen.

The robots will have a public unveiling at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle, Washington next month.

Thank you New Scientist for providing us with this information.

Man Sword-Fights Against a Robot Arm

The Japanese scoff at the idea of banning killer robots, and instead are teaching them to sword-fight. Both robot and human combatants are only using foam swords in the following clip, which shows a robotic arm parrying an attack from a researcher, but it’s only a matter of time before the crazy fools give it a katana:

The robotic arm in the video was developed by the Namiki Laboratory in Japan as part of a research paper entitled “Development of a Sword-Fighting Robot Controlled by High-Speed Vision”.  The researchers sum the paper up thusly:

“In this paper, we propose a sword-fighting robot system controlled by a stereo high-speed vision system as an example of human-robot dynamic interaction systems. The developed robot system recognizes both of the positions of a human player and that of the sword grasped by the robot hand. And it detects the moment when the human starts to move by using ChangeFinder which is a method of detecting the turning points. Next it predicts the possible trajectories of the sword of the human player by a least-squares method from the moment when the attack started. Finally it judges the kinds of the attack and generates an appropriate defensive motion. Experimental results verify the effectiveness of the proposed algorithm.”

The results are impressive, with the robotic arm able to sense and react to movement in an instant, and as an intellectual and engineering exercise it’s laudable, but what if the sword were instead a gun? Would we be confident that a robot, sophisticated AI or not, could accurately differentiate between friendly and hostile targets? Are you afraid of the imminent robopocalypse, stocking up on EMP weapons, ready for the day the cyborgs come knocking at your door? Won’t somebody think of the children?

Thank you Popular Science for providing us with this information.

Harvard Human Rights Clinic Tells UN: “Ban Killer Robots”

A new 38-page report, written by a partnership of Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, is warning the United Nations to “ban killer robots”.

The report, entitled Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots, expresses the fear that “Fully autonomous weapons, also known as ‘killer robots,’ raise serious moral and legal concerns because they would possess the ability to select and engage their targets without meaningful human control.”

In the report, Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School deal with the concern that fully autonomous weapons will lack the sophistication to always be able to differentiate between hostile and friendly targets, or military and civilian targets, on the battlefield.

The issue is further compounded by the lack of accountability for “unlawful harm caused by fully autonomous weapons,” which, under current laws, absolves operators, commanders, programmers, manufacturers from any responsibility for the actions of such a robot.

The only solution that the report suggests is for a global ban on fully autonomous weapons, similar to the pre-emptive ban on blinding laser weapons in 1995 and the forced removal of unexploded cluster bombs initiated in 2006.

The UN will begin a week-long international meeting in Geneva next Monday that will debate the issue of autonomous weapons systems, with additions to The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons being considered.

Thank you Digital Trends for providing us with this information.

Bill Gates Warns That the World Isn’t Prepared For the Impact of Automisation

We are approaching the age of automation, a time in which machines, robots, and software will dominate the labour market. But, unlike the industrial age, which brought with it a plethora of jobs, automation will render many human workers obsolete, and we’re not ready to deal with this consequence, according to Microsoft impresario Bill Gates.

Speaking at economic think tank The American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, Gates said, “Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses […] it’s progressing […]  Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set […] 20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

In terms of solutions, Gates posits that tax codes could be changed to encourage companies to employ people over machines, even suggesting scrapping income and payroll taxes entirely.

Source: Business Insider

Elon Musk – Artificial Intelligence is Akin to ‘Summoning the Demon’.

Telsa CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk believes artificial intelligence (AI) is like summoning the demon, and that humanity should tread with caution. We all know the AI apocalyptic novels and movies – with robots and artificial life taking a hold of power and dominating life over the planet. During a Q&A session at an MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Centennial Symposium, Musk made it clear he wasn’t keen on leading us down such a path for artificial intelligence; warning us of the dangers AI could lead us to.  We need to make sure “we don’t do something very foolish,” Musk said. “If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that.” Musk continued stating that within “all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”

One thing is for certain, Musk is a firm believer that AI is a real and potential threat – warning us earlier in the year on Twitter that “we need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.” Musk was so caught up in the question of AI that he actually failed to take in the next audience members question. He apologised with “sorry can you repeat the question, I was just sort of thinking about the AI thing for a second.” eTeknix readers, where do you stand on the topic of artificial intelligence?

Thanks to MIT for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Den of Geek.

All-Robot Event Heading to Japan 2020 Olympics

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has begun preparations for the 2020 Olympics, and while all the usual events will still be taking place in six years time, he has plans to shake things up with a completely new event designed exclusively for robots!

Abe has expressed interest in hosting an Olympic event exclusively for robots, “I would like to gather all of the world’s robots and aim to hold an Olympics where they compete in technical skills,” Abe said when speaking with Agence France Presse. “We want to make robots a major pillar of our economic growth strategy.” he added.

With RoboCup, RoboGames and the DARPA Robotics Challenge to name but a few of the current robotic proving grounds, added something to the Olympics, even if it is just a gimmick to a certain extent, could be a great way of providing a more public gallery for many robotics developers to really show off their work to a wider audience. Abe also hopes that pushing these developments could help bring economic benefits.

What they didn’t say is what kind of events they could hold for the robots, but I’m sure our readers have a few suggestions, right? Let us know in the comments section below.

Thank you Dailydot for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Dailydot.


Forget the T-800, MIT and Google’s Boston Dynamics Are Said To Work on T-1000 Robots

There have been talk of future robots resembling the T-800 model from the Terminator series for some time now. Yet, no company has even arrived close to a design, yet alone a prototype of such a robot. While we won’t see any T-800’s running around anytime soon, we might see some versions similar to the T-1000. At least that is what MIT and Google’s Boston Dynamics are aiming to build.

Reports say that a team at MIT has discovered how to make a phase-changing material composed out of a mixture of wax and foam, having it change states from hard to soft at any given time. The researchers even state that thanks to the cheap materials and easy-to-make mixture, it can be used in a variety of robotics, spanning from common autonomous vacuum cleaners to high-tech advanced and complex robots.

The material has been stated to be the work of Anette Hosoi, a mechanical engineer and applied mathematics professor. She and her team, including her former graduate student Nadia Cheng, stated that the material could be used in a variety of fields, such as medical robots that can deform and change shape in order to navigate internal organs and vessels to perform delicate surgery. Other uses include rescue robots, having to navigate through collapsed structures in order to find and rescue survivors.

While the MIT has developed the material, it is said that Boston Dynamics is in charge of making the entire project, having it initially designed to contribute to Darpa’s Chemical Robots program aimed at developing robots with octopus-like abilities that are able to squeeze into small spaces. Therefore, the engineering team came up with the wax and foam idea, having the wax heated up with current running through a wire in the structure in order to make it malleable. A bonus to this technique is the material’s ability to ‘repair’ itself.

Having the wax material heated up, all deformations suffered while in the hardened state are said to repair themselves when in the soft state, just like the T-1000 robot from the Terminator movies, having the material recover from surface and even deeper damage. The researchers are said to now focus on finding a new material to replace the wax, having solder as a strong candidate. If the latter will prove to be true, then T-1000 models are not far away.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of TechCrunch

Robots Being Taught to Play Angry Birds by Kids… And Dance if They Beat the High Score!

While technology advances, we see it being used in all sorts of situations. However, researchers from Georgia Tech appear to have used the innovation in a new and unique way of helping out kids. They apparently have built a robot which kids can teach to play the popular mobile game, Angry Birds, and in the process help the kids regain muscle movement and control.

The activity is described as being fairly simple. The robot is said to sit and watch the kids play, keeping its focus on the score and even recreating when the kids do. After that, the robot is said to start and get the same score as the kids do, following their example. The robot is said to be interactive as well, having it be sad and upset when they do not beat the score, or do a little dance when they succeed in passing the high-score.



The main value from all of this is the ability for therapists to use the robots to rain and help kids cope with their disabilities. The robots are not just some toys playing around with the kids, they are said to be able to give cues and make requests as well. It is said that the therapist can then tell the robot to ask the child to play a variety of games and watch them improve. The kids even have the possibility of taking the robots home and maintain their training out of the office. This might sound childish and useless to some, but it is said to really help kids combine fun with actual proven treatment.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information
Videos courtesy of TechCrunch and image courtesy of BBC

Robots Are Expected To “Work” In Supermarkets In The Next 2 years

Robots have always been in the research benches, as we try to figure out the best way in using their abilities and in the process figure out how to build them in order to suit our needs. Not long ago, Google has also bought Boston Dynamics for their robotics development, and now it seems that even the supermarkets are going to get one.

Researchers at Cornell University are developing a robot to be used as a cashier in supermarkets all around the world. It’s name is PR2, or Baxter as a more common name, and it is currently learning how to handle different product categories you normally find in supermarkets. What makes Baxter different from, let’s say robots found in factories, is that he is quite smart. And getting even smarter each day, thanks to researchers who are working on teaching him how to handle and anticipate human behaviour.

What he is being taught is handling dangerous items, such as kitchen knives, not to harm anyone when manoeuvring them around. As well, he is taught how to handle fragile objects, such as eggs, so as not to break them. When Baxter makes a mistake, his arm is corrected and pointed in a direction more suitable for moving the object around and not poking or stabbing anyone with it.

The researchers at Cornell University are using anticipation to teach Baxter how to do and interact with things. For a human, anticipation comes naturally, but for robots, it takes a load of calculations and process power. The result had a 75% success rate for Baxter to anticipate human interaction for the first 3 seconds, but the success rate dropped drastically if prolonged longer than 3 seconds.

The researchers predict that in two years, we will have robots working in supermarkets, having the robot researching prices drop year after year. The current cost of the PR2 robot is around $300,000 for each unit.

Thank you BBC UK for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Gizmag

Google’s New SCHAFT Robot Dominates At The DARPA Robotics Challenge

Team SCHAFT posing with their winning robot

With the DARPA Robotics Challenge, or more simply put DRC ending yesterday one clear winner was crowned. This being Google’s newly acquired SCHAFT Robot form Team SCHAFT, which started off at a Tokyo University before becoming a private company and then being bought by Google.  Which Google confirmed the purchase along with that of Boston Dynamics (the company that built the Atlas robot) a week before the DRC started. Team SCHAFT was crowned the clear winner with 27 points followed by Team IHMC robotics which were using Google’s other acquisition, the Boston Dynamics designed Atlas Robot.

Team SCHAFT’s 1.65 meter tall, 94 kilogram blue bipedal machine moved with uncanny grace through the challenges set before it. All of the top 8 finishers out of the starting group of 16 teams will be eligible to receive$1 million in funding from DARPA to continue honing and upgrading their robots before the final next year. With most teams more likely to put more time and effort into improving the software for controlling their machines. Also time will most likely be spent on improving the code that allows the robots to perform their tasks with supervised autonomy. However the Team SCHAFT robot offered a glimpse into what could be the future to come, with its fast movement through the rough terrain course and it’s ability to without hesitation move up two flights of steps at a time whilst the other robots moved a lot slower and with more care.

Could we be on the verge of seeing robots like that from the Terminator movies? We’ll have to wait for the finals next year to see, but with Google now owning two of the companies that are producing the smartest robots out there it could be a possibility. Only time will tell.

Thanks to Gizmodo for the information provided.

Images courtesy of Gizmodo 

Boston Dynamics Acquired By Google

According to an article by The New York Times, Google has acquired Boston Dynamics, builder of terrifying walking robots DARPA-related projects like WildCat/Cheetah, Atlas, Petman and Big Dog. Andy Rubin has moved over from leading Android to directing Google’s robotics efforts and tweeted a link to the story, commenting that “The future is looking awesome!”. Now that it’s out, don’t think that a company specializing in building state of the art robots and a company that knows everything there is to know can start building “Terminators” anytime soon. It is just a big step and an area worth pursuing, there is still a long way until we meet robots capable of comprehension.

There’s no word on how much Google spent to snap up the robotics company, but its founder Marc Raibert is quoted by the Times saying “I am excited by Andy and Google’s ability to think very, very big, with the resources to make it happen.” Raibert stated in an interview during Expand, he specifically highlighted his company’s recent growth and the possibility of building consumer-focused robots in the future.


Google apparently does not plan to proceed as a military contractor itself, although according to the article, Boston Dynamics will honor its existing military contracts. Raibert confirmed the acquisition, but so far neither side has commented further or explained how search ties into robots that walk on two or four legs, jump, climb and crawl.

Thank you Endgadget for providing us with this information
Image and video courtesy of Endgadget