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This Boston Dynamics Designed Robot Is One Step Closer To Learning Karate

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In science fiction it’s a rather well established fact that robots and artificial intelligence are going to take over the world and either wipe us off the face of the Earth or enslave us and use us for some nefarious purposes. Those evil bastards. And now, as you can see in this video, they can do karate, or at least a damn fine impression of the crane technique from Karate Kid. The balance is impressive. And terrifying. But no robot will ever replace Ralph Macchio.

Just a heads up, there’s a super shrill, obnoxious mechanical whine in the background of this footage, so you might want to watch it with the sound off, or at least pre-turn it down. This guy is not particularly stealthy, at least not yet, and isn’t going to be sneaking up on anyone anytime soon.

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This Autonomous Robot Creates Interpretive Works Of Art

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robot paulOne of the abilities that distinguishes humans from animals is the ability to create art. Sure, animals do some cool stuff, but there’s usually a practical reason, rather than an aesthetic one (with the exception of the Kraken). Until fairly recently, humans figured that the desire and ability to create art separated us from robots too, but robotic musicians and other art-generating robots call this once-unique ability into question. Still, most of those robots are programmed to play, and it’s not as though they’re mechanical Beethovens, applying what they’ve learned about musical theory to their own skills to create unique scores. Recently, artist and roboticist Patrick Tresset decided to create a robot that can autonomously create artwork inspired by its own interpretation of its environment.

Tresset has been making robots for a while—namely, upgraded versions of a robot he calls Paul, which he calls a “creative prosthetic,” originally designed when he had a terrible case of painter’s block. A few years ago he created Paul and Pete (I have to wonder if there’s a Mary on the way), robots that sketched human faces using facial recognition technology and showed off their stuff at London’s Tenderpixel gallery. Now, many iterations later, Tresset has developed Paul-IX in an attempt to explore the question of whether robots can autonomously create “artifacts that stand as artworks”—specifically, artworks that comment on the human condition.

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This Kickstarter Aims To Bring Robotic Combat Back To The Masses

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robogamesRemember Robot Wars from back in the day? Actually, there were a few—the 1994 U.S. series in San Francisco, a British game show first broadcast on BBC in 1998, and then a Nickelodeon version featuring kids driving the robots in 2002. All of these shows gave rise to SyFy’s Robot Combat League (which features humanoid, mecha-ish robots, and is by far the weakest of them all). Anyway, robots have been fighting each other for human entertainment for a while now, but unless Robot Combat League gets another season, there’s a dearth of these shows available at the moment. But all that’s about to change—RoboGames is coming to a computer near you.

RoboGames, created by the Robotics Society of America in 2004, bills itself as the “Olympics of Robots.” Competitors from all over the world compete in over 50 different robot fighting events, including Kung-Fu, Lego robots (including Lego bowling!), bartending, painting, and weight lifting—basically, if it’s something a robot can do, it’s an event. The games are held every year, and have aired on the Science Channel and on Discovery, but thanks to a successful Kickstarter, we’ll soon have access to a bunch of new mech combat, this time, in the form of a new independent web series.

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A Robot Comes Of Age And Gets Firebombed In This Chappie Trailer

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After District 9, South African director Neill Blomkamp stumbled with his sophomore picture, Elysium. You’ll notice something in all the marketing for his next film, Chappie, including this new trailer, it only ever notes his first outing. His next offering looks promising, and though there are some aesthetic similarities, this is markedly different from his previous work.

Voiced by frequent Blomkamp collaborator Sharlto Copley, Chappie revolves around the titular robot “born” into a South African slum, and it looks to add a sci-fi twist to your typical coming of age story. Created by Dev Patel’s character, Chappie is a machine that can think and feel (there’s also a sweet RoboCop POV nod in this trailer), and he has all of the standard learning-the-world growing pains everyone else has, which are all accentuated because he’s mechanical.

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Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie Plays With Blocks In This Poster, First Trailer Drops Soon

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ChappieWith features District 9 and Elysium under his belt, Neill Blomkamp is one of the rising young visionary directors in science fiction (even if his last outing did leave some flat, it’s a gorgeous picture to look at). Using the genre as social allegory is key to his approach and aesthetic, and that’s sure to figure into his next film, Chappie. Now we’ve got a banner poster, a one sheet that gives us our best look at the title robot, and be sure to stay tuned tomorrow, as the first trailer is slated to drop into our laps.

Tonally, Chappie is going to be something of a departure for Blomkamp. His previous two films are both rather serious affairs, but his next reportedly has more of a comedic streak, though it is still sure to feature much of the director’s celebrated action chops. Just expect more laughs, which, aside from some moments with Sharlto Copley in District 9, haven’t figured very prominently in his body of work.

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Virtual Reality Helps Scientists Read Robots’ Minds, Here’s How

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robot thoughts

photo courtesy of Melanie Gonick, MIT

A few weeks ago, GFR reported on a robot that had trouble figuring out how to “save” robots representing humans during a study. The automaton was often unable to figure out whether to save one human-bot or the other, often resulting in it being stymied into a state of paralysis, resulting in the “death” of both. While it was clear that the robot was having an Asimovian breakdown because it couldn’t save everyone, researchers couldn’t tell what the reasoning was—or how exactly the programming functioned (or didn’t, as the case may be). But now, thanks to another advancement at MIT, we may be able to read robots’ minds, or at the very least, gain some insight into their intentions.

The scientists used a simpler task than the one that stymied the robot before—this time, instead of saving a human, they only had to reach the other side of the room without crashing into the “pedestrian.” Thus, what the robot has to “think” about is the best route, the one that will both minimize an encounters with the pedestrian while getting it across the room as quickly as possible. Thanks to a new visualization system, called “measurable virtual reality” (MVR) by its creators, scientists can see the robots “thoughts,” or at least their process.

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