Scientists from many disciplines are busy studying the interactions between humans and robots, and trying to discern the impact of such relationships. Whether it’s teaching autistic children, reducing feelings of isolation in space, or using them as proxies, we’re going to be spending more time with robots. Maybe this will lead to Her style scenarios, or perhaps those more reminiscent of Spielberg’s AI. Only time will tell, but that doesn’t stop us from designing studies and trying to predict the effects. Even creationists can’t resist the pull of automatons. aAgroup of fundamentalist Christians has purchased one of those adorable Nao robots and plan to use it to conduct their own study about the effects of robots on humanity.
When you think about Toyota Motor Corporation, what comes to mind? Actually, let me narrow that down for you. When you think about what a Toyota Motor Corporation manufacturing plant looks like, what do you imagine? Probably lots of conveyor belts and industrial robots putting pieces of cars together. Most automotive plants look like that, and most of us know, robots are predicted to continue replacing humans in these types of jobs, among others. But not at Toyota. The world’s biggest car manufacturer has recommitted to a human workforce, even if it means a short-term dip in sales.
Toyota president Akio Toyoda has begun to put humans in jobs recently held by robots, such as metalworking. Having robotic workers devalues craftsmanship, and in Japanese culture, master craftsmen, known as Kami-sama, used to be revered, as it seemed they could make anything. Toyoda wants to revert to that system, enabling his employees to develop skills that will ultimately improve production.
Robots have so many uses. They can carry absurdly heavy loads, perform repetitive tasks, get into situations that are too hazardous to send humans into, and eventually they’re going to take over the world and enslave us all. And then there are robots that seem to serve absolutely no practical utilitarian purpose whatsoever. This robotic kangaroo robot definitely belongs to this second category.
Developed by the German engineers at a firm called Festo, BionicKangaroo is designed to mimic the realistic movements and jump mechanics of a real life kangaroo. As you can see from this video, the creation has definitely accomplished this goal. Kangaroos are able to take the energy from one jump and roll it over into the next one and so on. This makes their movements very efficient, keeping them from growing too tired too quickly, and in this manner they can move incredibly fast for extended lengths of time.
After reading about the Australian triathlon competitor who got clocked in the head by a drone filming the race, I completely understand people who want to shoot the little beasts out of the sky. Incidentally, this is just one of the reasons I’m skeptical that Amazon’s delivery drones will ever come to fruition. A bb gun or a slingshot might do the trick in certain instances, but the United States Navy is thinking bigger, as in a massive laser.
The Navy has been working on its Laser Weapons System for a while now, and is ready to deploy a new prototype on the USS Ponce to test the system in the Persian Gulf. The Laser Weapons System (LaWS) has already undergone successful tests, hitting targets in the air and sending them to the ground in flaming heaps. Recently, the Navy has also experienced success with the LaWS’s tracking and targeting systems. Does anyone else think this is a potentially terrible idea? I still think that maybe cannons are the way to go, or a team of naval pirates.
The shipwreck investigating robot turtle is pretty adorable, but not all robotic sea creatures follow this cute and cuddly model. In fact, the new robo-crab is gigantic and terrifying. Even though it presumably doesn’t have any predatory programming, you can never be sure.
The six-legged Crabster CR200 weighs over 1,000 pounds and is nearly 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide. It was developed by the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology in order to explore the deepest, darkest, and most dangerous depths of all the oceans. Crabster solves two problems with one crustacean. First, human divers can’t go as deep or as long as something that doesn’t need to breathe. Second, propeller-driven submersibles often get pushed off-course by strong tides and currents. So the scientists modeled their creation after lobsters, crabs, and other sea creatures that walk around on the bottom of the ocean despite those feisty waters.
What do you expect to see at a carnival of the future? Maybe someone levitating a heavy object via the power of his mind (with a little help from an EEG)? Or someone with bionic limbs lifting 1000 pounds in each hand? Maybe some kind of alien party tricks? Regardless of what acts might invade the next iteration of Barnum and Bailey’s, one thing I think we can all agree on is that there’s going to be plenty of robots.
Emerge is put on by Arizona State University, and held in Phoenix. The annual event, comprised of performances and interactive exhibits, attracts artists, scientists, geeks, and robots, and is meant to urge attendees to think about their roles in the world of the future. “The future is going to be a strange place,” says co-director Ed Finn, so a carnival seems like the perfect venue to celebrate that weirdness. In addition to robots, this year’s event featured projection mapping, 3D printing, and games, and explored the theme, “The Future of Me.” While it might sound a little egoistic, the creators were trying to get participants to think about how the definition of self changes in a dynamic society, and how we as individuals can use the power we wield.