0

Cirque du Soleil Embraces The Future With Flying Lampshades

lampshadesOf course the Carnival of the Future features robots, but I don’t necessarily expect the same of Cirque du Soleil. But it’s good to know that the world’s most extravagant circus is capable of surprises—I mean, other than terrifying accidents—and they’re embarking on a new endeavor that brings robotics into their already breathtaking show.

The project starts with ETH Zurich, a university known for being a hub of ground-breaking technology and science. ETH has a Flying Machine Arena (FMA)—a “portable space devoted to autonomous flight.” The FMA houses, records, and facilitates the flight of various objects, though the quadrocopter is the favorite given its maneuverability. Given the FMA’s success, I suppose it was only a matter of time before they developed their own performance studio to display their awesome flying vehicles. Thus, Verity Studios, a place where ETH’s flying robots and Cirque du Soleil’s acrobatic imaginations merge, was born.

Tags: ,

0

Ex-Machina Still Peels The Flesh Away From The Robot Thriller

Ex MachinaWe’ve been keeping tabs on Ex-Machina since we first heard about more than year and a half ago. It sounded promising, and only got more intriguing as we heard additional details and saw the cast they put in place. But we haven’t heard anything since back in April, and we were hoping it might make an appearance at one of the fall festivals (it sounds tailor made for the midnight section of the Toronto International Film Festival or the genre heavy Fantastic Fest). But alas, it was not to be. Still, we did get a cool new still from the film, and it only serves to get us even more excited for this.

Ex-Machina marks the directorial debut of Alex Garland, who, though he hasn’t helmed a feature film before, is definitely an industry veteran. He’s written a number of movies for Danny Boyle, including 28 Days Later, The Beach, and Sunshine, and outside of that partnership, he is even behind the script for Pete Travis’ recent cult fave Dredd.

Tags: ,

0

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

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.

Tags: ,

0

Workers Want Robots In Charge

CSAIL

Photo credit: CSAIL

That’s right. For all our fears of succumbing to robotic overlords, it turns out that we want robots to hold dominion over us — at least, when it comes to the workplace.

Even though many people believe robots and other automated systems will put many out of work (others believe they will usher in a new era of innovation and resourcefulness), research conducted by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) reveals that workers actually prefer for robots to take the lead in manufacturing tasks. The study explores the two sides of robotic workers: on the upside, they free humans from tasks characterized by the “three D’s” — tasks that are dirty, dangerous, and/or dull. Of course, if robots do assume those jobs, what’s left for humans? Oversight? Programming? Perhaps collaboration with the robots?

Tags: ,

0

NASA Funds Tumbling Robotic Cubes

tumbling cubesAs NASA debates whether to send more people to the moon, as well as whether, how, and when to try a manned mission to Mars, it has decided to fund a new kind of robot for space exploration: tumbling cubes.

Self-assembling robots aren’t a new idea, and engineers have already developed a number of different kinds, from robots that assemble in mid-air to small cubes that can assemble on the ground.

Tags: , ,

0

Robots Roam London’s Tate Museum After Dark

robotsEver since I read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which chronicles the adventures of two kids who take up residence in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, I’ve had dreams of thwarting security and bunking in a museum (preferably a museum of science, but I’m not picky). Turns out, I’m not the only one. A bunch of robots are fulfilling this dream right now.

Starting last night, a group of robots are spending five nights in the Tate Britain, examining centuries of British art under the cover of darkness — and on film. The Workers, a design studio that recently won the inaugural IK Prize for their project, developed the idea when one of its members was working on an individual project at the Tate that required him to be there after hours. He found the experience fascinating, just like in the book (okay, maybe not just like in the book, but close enough), and wanted to figure out a way for others to see what it was like.

Tags: ,