Robot Uses Cloud Shapes To Play Piano

cloud pianoToday’s goal: get my mind and yours off Robin Williams. A daunting task, but if anything’s up to it, it’s science and tech. But no aliens, not today. But how about a piano-playing robot? We’ve featured musically inclined robots before, like these headbangers, these Brooklyn hipsters, and this awesome Lego machine. But this robot’s approach to tunes is a bit different — it uses the shapes of clouds to dictate what it plays. That even sounds like something a real musician would do.

Artist David Bowen specializes in kinetic, robotic, and interactive sculpture. He’s made all kinds of awesome stuff, such as a revolver that follows the movement of houseflies and fires at them (it beats using chopsticks), and a device that uses leaves to collect and draw wind. “Cloud Piano” is a more elaborate version of an idea he debuted in a project called “Cloud Tweets” that converts video of clouds to the pressing of keys on a keyboard, up to 140 characters. Bowen is very interested in the union of nature and technology, and often invents devices and machines that either mimic or receive input from natural processes.

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In Robot News: Self-Folding Origami Robots And The Latest Iteration of ASIMO

Self-Folding-Robots-004In June GFR reported on robots that use shape-changing origami wheels to get around, and in the past few weeks, researchers have made even greater strides when it comes to integrating the art of folding into their robots. Scientists from Harvard and MIT (of course) have created an origami robot that can self-assemble from a flat pack and then run away.

As anyone who’s decent at origami knows, you can actually devise a pretty sophisticated structure via folding. The scientists used this potential, along with inspiration from natural systems (flower petals, proteins and amino acids, etc.) to create their robot. They laser-printed flat composites of the design, which can be punched out of paper and folded. They program the composite, basically telling it where, how, and how much to hinge and fold, and then battery power allows it to assemble itself in roughly four minutes. The same research group previously devised robots that could self-assemble from similar materials when heated, but this model delivers heat to the robots’ folding parts via electricity, not an oven.

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Robots Use Actual Human Muscles To Move

biobotI guess DARPA’s not the only agency working on human robots, or robot humans. Usually I think of cyborgs as humans with a machine part or two, rather than the other way around, but that may soon be changing. Researchers at the University of Illinois recently demonstrated the first robot that moves via stimulation of actual living muscle — the aptly named “biobot.”


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Robot Newscasters, So Eventually They Can Report Their Own Domination


Kodomoroid and Ishiguro

After yesterday’s story about the politician who’s accusing his victorious opponent of being a robot lookalike, I’m tempted to write nothing but robot doppleganger posts for at least a week. But then people would probably start to suspect that I’m a robot, and proving that one isn’t a robot can be challenging. So I won’t do it, but I am starting the week with a post about robot newscasters. Because if there’s one area of the media that humans aren’t particularly well suited for, it’s delivering information about what’s going on in the world.

Kodomoroid delivered a newscast in Toyko on Tuesday, in advance of joining Toyko’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Created by Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro, Kodomoroid and Otonaroid are remote-controlled humanoid robots who can talk, display appropriate facial expressions and movements, and who can interact with humans. They have artificial muscles and skin made of silicone. The robots can’t get up and walk around — they remain seated, which likely helps reduce the fear factor, but they can move their hands. They can also change their voices, in case one wants to experience the cognitive dissonance of seeing a demure female robot speaking like a male wrestler. Their vocal articulation is pretty flawless, or so say people who actually can understand the Japanese they’re speaking, because it’s text-input.

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Bitter Politician Claims His Opponent Is A Robot


This dude lost to a robot, or so he says

In Isaac Asimov’s story “Evidence,” a successful lawyer named Stephen Byerley runs for mayor and his opponent, threatened, claims that Byerley isn’t a human at all — that the real Stephen Byerley never recovered from an earlier serious car accident, and that the compelling politician standing before them is actually a humanoid robot. It’s an interesting premise, since it becomes pretty difficult to either prove or disprove the claim. Just because people don’t see Byerley sleep or eat doesn’t prove that he’s a robot; similarly, when he eats an apple, that doesn’t prove he’s human. Of course, the opposition is invested in proving that Byerley is a robot, and as such has no rights and can’t run for office. Asimov came up with this plot in 1946 and now, nearly 70 years later, life is imitating art: Timothy Ray Murray, who recently lost a bid for Congress in the Oklahoma Republican primary, is claiming that the opponent who beat him is actually a robot.

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A Robotic Hitchhiker Plans To Hit The Road Through Canada

hitchbotWhen I started traveling, I had some romantic ideas about hitchhiking instead of taking the bus. It wasn’t long before reality set in—namely, even in the safest places, a solo female traveler probably shouldn’t blindly trust anyone. So I’ve only hitchhiked once, in Guatemala, and that’s because the back of the truck already had a half-dozen kids and chickens in it (this somehow made it safer) and because I was trying to make it back to a bar where I could watch the Germany v. Spain World Cup final. That ride was glorious enough to make up for all the hitchhiking won’t do for the rest of my life, but now I can live vicariously through hitchBOT, the robot that will hitchhike across Canada at the end of July.

Canada is a good choice. As a hitchhiker, only Scandinavia strikes me as safer, but the Great White North doesn’t present the same linguistic difficulties (although most of the Swedes I’ve met speak better English than I do). Researchers at Toronto’s Ryerson University and Hamilton’s McMaster University are currently finishing their work on HitchBOT, which will start bumming rides on July 27, beginning at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and, if all goes well, ending in Victoria, British Columbia. HitchBOT has some developed communications skills, including speech recognition and processing abilities, as well as 3G connectivity that allows it so access information on Wikipedia API in order to be a better conversation partner. It also has GPS capabilities to make sure it continues heading west—more or less.

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