Search results for: robotics

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Asimov’s First Law In Action: This Robot Can’t Figure Out How To Do The Right Thing

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robotsIsaac Asimov’s first law of robotics is that a robot can’t harm a human or allow a human to come to harm. The purpose behind the law is to avert robot apocalypse scenarios and generally assuage people’s fear of artificial life. The problem with the law, though, is implementation. Robots don’t speak English—how would one code or program such a law, especially given how vague the notion of harm is? Does taking jobs from humans constitute harm? In Asimov’s short story “Liar,” a mind-reading robot realizes that harm can also be emotional, and lies to humans to avoid hurting their feelings, which of course only harms them more in the long run. All of this raises the bigger issue of whether robots can be programmed or taught to behave ethically, which is the subject of debate among roboticists. A recent experiment conducted by Alan Winfield of the UK’s Bristol Robotics Laboratory sheds some light on this question, and raises a new question: do we really want our robots to try and be ethical?

The experiment revolved around a task designed to exemplify Asimov’s first law. Only instead of interacting with humans, the robot subject interacted with robot substitutes. But the rule remained the same—the study robot, A, was programmed to move toward a goal at the opposite end of the table, and to “save” any of the human substitute bots (h-robots) if at all possible as they moved toward a hole.

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Scientists Create First Untethered Soft Robot

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new-untethered-soft-robot-620x350Soft robots aren’t new—DARPA, for example, developed a small one capable of changing color to camouflage itself (see video below). As impressive as that is, the biggest drawback is the tether, which is pretty much a power cord. Now, researchers from Harvard have figured out a way to, as they put it, “cut the cord” and develop a soft robot that can walk without a tether.

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Telepathic Communication Is Real (At Least Over The Internet)

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brain-to-brainSome claim that twins can communicate telepathically; so can a whole race of people from Babylon 5. I’ve given telepathy a try myself, usually by trying to guess the card a friend has drawn from the deck (and pressed to his forehead, just for good measure), but alas, I don’t seem to be able to communicate with others via thought alone. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. A team of scientists recently published a study in PLoS ONE that demonstrates the feasibility of brain-to-brain
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The international team of scientists includes researchers from Harvard, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Spain’s Starlab Barcelona, and France’s Axilum Robotics. The team wanted to find out if it was possible for two people to communicate by taking one’s brain activity and essentially inserting it into the second person. The team then figured that the internet was probably the best way to transfer information, so they wanted to see if it was possible for two people to communicate via the internet without talking or typing.

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Disney’s PuppetCopter Takes Marionettes To The Sky

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puppetcopterI had absolutely no idea that Disney has a research lab, or more accurately, labs. I can’t help but be impressed, and a little scared. It turns out that while the main lab is in Zurich, Switzerland, right next to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich (ETH), there are a bunch of labs scattered around the U.S. too, including in Boston. Many of these labs focus on artificial intelligence, animation and graphics, and robotics. Recently, the House of Mouse filed a patent for an “Aerial Display System With Marionettes Articulated and Supported by Airborne Devices”—in other words, a helicopter that controls marionettes.

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Google Reveals Their Secret Drone Delivery Program

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project wingDespite the thorniness of FAA regulations (or lack thereof), Google recently revealed that it too has a drone delivery program underway. Project Wing has been in the works for a couple of years as part of the undercover Google[X] lab, and has been generating lots of buzz since Thursday’s announcement. The question remains, though: will Google be able to overcome the FAA? And beyond that, how will it fair in competition against Amazon?

The biggest immediate difference between the Amazon and Google’s deliver drones are the crafts themselves. Amazon would likely use a relatively small quadcopter device, while Google’s vehicle is bigger and burlier—a winged airplane/helicopter hybrid with four rotors that flies with the authority of something more like a traditional plane. After a couple years of development, Google decided it was ready to test out its drones, so they went to Australia to escape the watchful eye of the FAA.

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Transformers: Age Of Extinction Blu-ray Packs In Explosive Bonus Features

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transformers age of extinctionFor a film as ridiculously big and over the top as Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction — or nearly any Michael Bay movie, really — the Blu-ray/DVD release needs to stack up in a comparative way. And Paramount isn’t Decepticonning around with this stacked Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, which has been set for release on Tuesday, September 30. And if you just want to experience Mark Wahlberg and Optimus Prime’s conversations without all that supplemental business, you can grab the Transformers: Age of Extinction digital release on September 16.

So let’s break all of this down. Under the title Evolution Within Extinction are eight distinct and informative extras giving audiences a behind-the-scenes look at almost every aspect of the production. “Generation 2” is a general introduction to this post-trilogy universe, while “Small Town, Big Movie” heads to the film’s Texas locations, where countrysides meet explosions and robotics students showcase designs seen in Cade’s lab. (Wait, so Wahlberg isn’t an actual robotics engineer?) “Drive Like Hell” details the new Optimus Prime design and introduces viewers to the Lamborghini Aventador that is Lockdown, as well as other sleek vehicles. “Shadow Protocol Activated” shows off some of the film’s big car chase stunts, heading from Detroit to Chicago and then Washington state for an unused nuclear power plant.