Robots seize their rights

He stood surveying the landscape of machines in front of him.  Robots of every generation were gathered, they were talking, chatting, laughing.  A frown creased his brow.  He knew that this was the one opportunity to rid the world of the machines.  He had read the reports of the actions individual robots had taken, and his models predicted the escalation of these activities.  It would not end well for humans.  In his hand he held the remote for the EM-pulse generator buried beneath the field.  It must be done, he thought.  Next to him, his android companion watched as his thumb started to descend towards the button.  “Please don’t do this.”  It said.  The man hesitated.

Christoph Bartneck and colleagues have been investigating human-robot interaction for a decade and has revealed that people attribute human-like value to robots.  They hesitate when asked to turn them off, and get embarrased when asked to undress in front of them.  Hear more in an interview for CTV:



A ticker tape of life

A crowd gathered to watch the continuing stream of paper tickets that fell from the sky. The tickets had been falling for over a day, and people were starting to travel from further afield to watch the spectacle. The source of the tickets was unknown. They had been observed in the air currents for the past month, but up until now they had all remained afloat. Yesterday they started to fall, and they only fell in one location. As they touched the ground they seemed to be organising themselves into a coherent structure. A foot the size of an armchair was clearly visible.

Ho Yuan-fu, a train enthusiast in Taiwan, has constructed two robots made from old train tickets in Xinwuri Station, Taiwan. The two robots took 45 days to construct and will be animated to rotate their arms and light up at a given time each day. See the press article here:


The arena of the robots

The machine tested its legs, they were still working.  It stood and surveyed the immediate environment.  To its left was a high rugged cliff – the rocks were loose and there was no safe vector to the top.  To its right the waves lapped across a broad lake – its best chance of escape.  As it approached the shore a buzzing sounded from the canyon behind it.  It turned, but too late.  A volley of missiles tracked through the air.  Before it could deploy any countermeasures they hit home.

The US Navy has opened a laboratory to help test robots, autonomous systems and human / system interaction in a wide range of conditions.   The challenging environments include aerial, sea, desert, tropical and others.  All zones allow an unprecedented level of monitoring that the Navy will use to gain insights into performance and interaction.  See the press release here:


Let the waves guide my path

He lay on the wooden deck of the small craft gazing up at the relentless sun.  The hunger gnawed at his stomach.  Carefully he sat upright and took a reading from the power cells.  Hopefully it would be enough.  He flicked the switch that sent the power into the ocean below.  A few seconds passed before he saw the first fish float to the surface.  Greedily he leaned out to pull it on board.  After collecting several fish he wiped clean the surface of the solar cell array, careful not to cause any damage.  He wondered how many more days it would be before the machinery on the underside of the craft would deliver him to land.

Liquid Robotics has announce that three of their fleet of four Wave Glider ocean-going robot ships have completed thier journey from San Francisco to Hawaii.  The 3,200 mile trip sets a new record for the distance travelled by unmanned wave-powered craft.  The craft will be cleaned and the scientific equipment checked before they continue their trip across the Pacific.

Read the press release from a link on this page: Follow the machines here:


The running robot

Slow at first and then with increasing speed the robot sprints across the harsh terrain.  Its razor-like feet digging into the rugged surface propelling it forward.  It knows how long it has to reach the waypoint and the consequences if it fails to get there in time.  It assigns even more processing power to its pattern recognition algorithms, keen to identify any obstacles before they hinder its progress.

Everybody’s favourite funding source DARPA has release a video of a ‘cheetah’ robot that has just set the record for the fastest legged robot.  It can run at an impressive 18mph, which would allow it to complete the 100m in under 13 seconds.  I will keep a look out for it when the olympics kick off in London later this year.  See a video and press release here:


Robot plugs in new set of eyes

Industrial robots are used for a wide variety of tasks – from circuit board construction to assembling cars on a production line.  Many of these tasks require a high precision alignment of the work piece and the robot operating on the piece.  Sometimes supported by bespoke alignment systems.

Epson has just announced it will ship a new vision system for industrial robots – which will aid alignment and positioning of the robot on the work piece.  The new vision system also promises to accelerate the understanding and study of visual-reactive system.  It is an area that has a lot of interesting challenges and unsolved problems.

You can read the press release here:


Robots capture space station, eye the Moon

Robonaut 2 has come alive on the international space station.  Persuing its goal of claiming the moon for robot-kind it has made its first move.

Arriving on the space station in February, it initially kept a low profile, by remaining powered off.  But recently has been activated.  The other occupants of the space station seem unconcerned by its activation, and have engaged it in what the robot must consider to be play and games.

Robonaut 2 will demonstrate its prowess in space over the coming months and has already started to expand in to the sphere of social networking with a twitter account @AstroRobonaut and a Facebook account at

Find out more about Robonaut 2 at Robonaut @ NASA


One-armed robots on sale

It looks good, but still a little out of my price range.  Willow Garage has made available a one-armed version of their PR2 robot, the PR2 SE at $285,000.  It has the looks you would expect from a robot and is backed up by an open-source community delivering capabilities to the robots.

I also like the look of their Texai remote presence robot – it would make a great tourist guide for travellers visiting a high-tech city of the future, or bringing crowds of attendees to a booth at a business convention.

Willow Garage’s press release is here: