Check out this DARPA
prototype of a 4-legged robot that can navigate rugged, complex and
slippery terrain. It is very odd to see something so alive moving
around so normally minus a head, lungs and tail. Expect this
product to soon be adapted for war, entertainment and then
eventually commercial purposes. (Props to mathew ingram for the
awesome and, as he puts it, creepy link.)
For years, entrepreneurs have been trying to create robots to
perform life’s physical drudgeries. Building mechanical bodies has
been easy, but creating artificial minds to control those bodies
has been frustrating.
After countless commercial failures though, things are beginning
to change. Computer power now provides enough thinking ability for
robots to become financially viable.
With the ability to program more intelligence into robots,
tomorrow’s silicon creatures will be able to provide adequate home
maintenance and care for family members when needed. But here’s the
concern; these futuristic ‘bots may be required to make decisions
that could affect our lives, and experts predict that people will
place more trust in robots that express human consciousness than
those that simply act like machines.
Today, we are entering the beginning stages of a society that
many futurists believe will not end until man and machine become
completely integrated into a single being – an enhanced human.
The biotech revolution, from 2010 to 2020, promises to correct
many of our biological flaws including vulnerability to disease and
telltale signs of aging. Doctors will re-grow cells, tissues and
organs to replace aging body parts; and by as early as mid-2020s,
most humans can look forward to an extended healthy lifespan of 200
years or more.
Molecular nanotech marks the next step in our march towards this
futuristic society. From about 2025, we will enjoy home-replicators
that provide food, clothing, and essentials at little cost; and
tiny nanobots that roam through arteries and veins keeping us
forever fit and healthy.
The final stage of achieving this remarkable future lies in
supercomputers and artificial intelligence; powerful robot-like
machines that many predict will outthink humans by 2030. These
silicon marvels will possess reasoning and logic similar to our
own, but can share data and knowledge millions of times faster than
we can with our slow human language; a desirable feature that many
humans will want to incorporate into their bodies, experts say.
If you’re a big Transformers fan, as am I,
then you’re going to dig this video of a new robot that can drive
on wheels one moment, then reconfigure to walk on eight legs the
Seeing this functional version of a bot that can change its form
leads me to believe that multi-function, multi-shape robots are
likely to be the future. I mean, why not cram as many features as
you can into a single robot? We’re already doing that with every
other device ever made.
This video was
posted by one of our favorite future bloggers, juldrich, on his
personal blog Jump the Curve.
We enjoyed it so much that we had to share it with our community
over here as well.
Produced by New Scientist, the video portrays two
different wall-climbing robots currently in development. They both
employ the science behind rock-climbing to inform the robots’
anatomical structure. Imagine the utility and application of such
robots – from rescue missions to construction sites, the technology
being developed here will surely impact a variety of fields and be
put to good use in the coming years.
Ever since I bought an iRobot vacuum Roomba (it works very
well in most rooms), I’d been wondering when someone would build
one that works outside buildings as a window washer. Therefore I
was psyched to discover not one, but two such prototypes during my
latest foray through the wonderful world of YouTube.
The first one is the cooler looking of the two and has been in
testing for a few months. It’s an experimental model created at the
University of Nebraska and actually sticks itself to the glass. See
for yourself (but turn down the volume a little as the sound of the
motor is a bit annoying):
The second robot is a more serious industrial machine that
appears to be much closer to hitting the commercial market.
Personal robots have been a long time coming, but scientists now
say we can expect revolutionary machines that surpass human
physical and intellectual abilities within 22 years.
Today’s robots are mostly industrial types found in factories.
An example would be an arm that inserts a product into a box and
places it on a conveyor belt. Domestic robots in the service area –
vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, and security systems – are just
beginning to find their way into homes. UN statistics show
worldwide robotics sales increasing by double digits every year,
which has encouraged a host of companies to invest aggressively in
Robo-pets like Sony’s Aibo and NEC’s PaPeRo,
priced from $2,000 to $5,000, are pleasing children and providing
companionship for handicapped and elderly people around the globe.
Available soon in the $10,000 to $30,000 range will be human-like
robots such as Sony Qrio, Honda Asimo, and Toyota
These realistic marvels can speak and understand crude language,
recognize family members by sight, and perform many butler, chef,
and maid services.
European scientists, inspired by human biology, have created the
world’s first shape-shifting robot. This amazing machine has the
ability to morph into different shapes. It can start off as a small
car with four wheels. If it approaches an impassible wall, it
searches for a hole or crack and transforms itself into a snake.
After passing through the hole, it might encounter a staircase
where it would transform into a climbing device, go up the stairs,
and then become a car again. (cont.)
Futurist and professor Paul Saffo thinks
that just as Japan will transition to a robotic society, so too
will the United States and the rest of the world. He predicts the
transition over here will be “more messy” and that a booming
robotic manufacturing industry could potentially devastate the
“New technology may destroy old jobs, but it also creates more
jobs than it destroys,” explains Saffo in a recent Fora interview (see below), but
“that may not be the case with the world of ubiquitous
He points out that rapidly advancing robotics are replacing
large manufacturing chunks one industry at a time. “What you see
are industries calving off like icebergs, just a whole industry
drops away, suddenly the human operators disappear,” he says.
When contemplating the future, people need to keep a very open
mind about what might be possible. Consider this article which describes how researchers at UC San
Diego are developing facial recognition technology that can
recognize if a person is having trouble understanding an
educational lesson – say in mathematics or biology.
As the technology continues to improve, one possible implication
is that smart devices and robots will become better and more
effective teachers because they will be able to pace lesson plans
to an individual student’s ability to comprehend the information
which is being presented.
Longer term, it is possible that robots and other smart devices
will become more effective teachers than even human teachers
because the machines will understand each student’s learning
idiosyncrasies and then present material in a manner which is
optimized for that individual student’s learning style.
Now, I understand how discomforting the idea that a robot might
be a better teacher than your old favorite third grade teacher,
Mrs. Hubbard, ever was; but, as that wise American philosopher
Yoggi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
Atop a garbage heap amidst the expansive Westchester Landfill an iRobot Refuse Quantifier (iRQ) deftly went about its lucrative business.
Credit card receipt: inconclusive. Candy wrapper: M&M logo, no fingerprint. Check fragment: inconclusive. Candy wrapper: M&M logo, no fingerprint. Candy wrapper: Almond Joy, smudged fingerprint, image stored to temporary cache. Comb: zoom, hair strand: 92% match. Load level 2 protocols. Letter fragment: stamp fragment, zoom, puncture, contaminated sample. Product box fragment: Nintendo Wii logo, burnt, no data. Shredded tax documents: inconclusive, coordinates tagged in case of reassembly contingent on identity correlation.
The mechanical spider legs pumped and the little scavenger-bot systematically inched left, establishing a better focus point for its frontal laser array. The iRQ began scanning the next set of coordinates.
An identity match for a primary target had been established! Power surged from the tertiary battery outward as the spider maxed both input and broadcast. But something was wrong. The swarm network was not responding. Thus it was highly probable that the iRQ was now invisible to its peers and ultimately its owner.
Re-broadcast for 3 seconds. No ping back. Defensive algorithm, blend. Scan for disruption, risk assessment. Attempt new frequencies. Multiple frequencies inoperable. 84% deliberate disruption, 62% location awareness, evasive algorithm.
A 8.1 magnitude quake rocks the San Francisco Bay Area. The San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge partially collapses, taking some cars returning to the east bay after a night at the bars into the waters below. The new Oakland span, finished less than a year before, weathers the quake with only minor structural damage. The buildings in San Francisco don’t fair as well.
For Harrison Thomas, the only thing he remembered was that the walls were shaking right before the floor of his apartment suddenly disappeared.
Responders on the scene did a quick survey of the scene and deploy snake-like robots to search for survivors. After twelve minutes Harrison Thomas is found wedged between the flooring of the second and third floor. A piece of wood has speared his leg, pinning him in place.
The crew at the scene uses the robots diamond-edged belt saw to carefully saw their way through the wood in order to aid in his removal. A doctor from St. Louis, on call since the disaster, views the proceedings from his local hospital. Seeing Harrison’s body, he determines that a surgery must be made before the rescue crews get to him in order to save his leg.
Morphine is injected into his leg in preparation for the surgery. UV sterilized tools, located inside the snake, are manipulated over a secure wireless connection to repair the neural and vascular damage done to his leg. Hours later, crews finally unearth Harrison and take him to a mobile hospital set up in a warehouse at Pier 5.
Without this technology, he would have lost his leg, possibly even died.