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Robot Pole Dancers Gyrate For British PM And German Chancellor

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robot pole dancersMost of us know that robots could, and probably will, put us out of work. From robo-journalists to robot soldiers, to robot bartenders and waitresses, even though we like to think of ourselves as irreplaceable, few of us have guaranteed long-term job security when it comes to an artificially intelligent work force. Even so, I’ll admit I never thought about robots putting exotic dancers out of work. Sex workers and sex partners, sure, but pole dancers? This is a new one.

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Robot Writes Story For The L.A. Times

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LATIMESIt may be counter-productive and self-destructive to write an article about this, as I might just be writing myself out of a job, but what the hell — my love for robots trumps my fear (thus far, anyway). I know robots can do all kinds of things people can do, including taking care of the elderly, acting as emissaries for the disabled, and making coffee, but I thought I’d have some time before robots invaded the world of journalism. Time’s up. A robot wrote a story about Monday’s California earthquake and the L.A. Times published it within three minutes.

If I’m jeopardizing my own job by reporting this, then L.A. Times journalist Ken Schwencke is embarking on an even more dangerous path — he devised an algorithm called Quakebot to write an article whenever an earthquake of a certain magnitude occurs. Schwencke was woken up by the quake at 6:25 a.m. on Monday, and by the time he got on his computer, the story was already waiting in the publication queue. All he had to do was hit and button and presto, the L.A. Times had the first coverage of the quake.

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These Robots Want To Hang Out With Your Grandma

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telepresence robotI’m currently teaching a research seminar on robots and artificial intelligence, and I recently posed a question to my students. Say you have an 85-year-old grandmother who lives in a nursing home. She lives a couple hours away, so neither you nor your family can visit her as much as you’d like. One day, someone from the home calls you and says they’ve just received a couple of robots—androids like the ones in the video below. Would you like one of them to visit your grandmother a couple times a week? The responses ranged from “Sure, why not?” to “absolutely not.” After our discussion, I said something about how it might seem like a silly scenario, but that it’s entirely possible that their grandmas will interact with robots. What I didn’t think about during that conversation is that it’s even more likely they’ll spend time with their grandmas via a robot.

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Manufacturing Robot Baxter Doesn’t Want To Replace Human Workers

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BaxterRethink Robotics, founded by former MIT faculty and CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) director Rodney Brooks, who also invented the Roomba, has developed a robot named Baxter designed to perform various manufacturing duties. Baxter, the first two-armed robot designed for such tasks, may be in the process of revolutionizing the way humans use robots in manufacturing, largely because Rethink Robotics doesn’t intend for Baxter to replace human workers.

Baxter went on the market a year ago and costs $25,000 a pop. That might sound like a lot, but some of the tasks he performs require a number of human employees, and some of those tasks are pretty awful — they involve enough dust and dirt that human workers would have to wear masks, and the jobs are also pretty darn boring. Baxter also can work for long stretches — I’m talking 2,000 hours straight, which is about three months of labor. That’s definitely cheaper than hiring humans to do the same amount of work, which is a plus for the companies that invest in Baxter, though not necessarily for the workers, no matter how dirty and dull the work might be.

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DARPA Is Making Transformer Robots

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ARESIt’s been over a month since we last checked in with DARPA, which means it must be time for an update — those robotics designers at DARPA don’t stay still for long. And it turns out they’ve been working on a particularly cool project: Transformers.

DARPA’s actually been working on the Transformer (TX) program for a few years now, and last year they decided to develop the concept for ARES (Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System). The system was developed in response to a common problem that arises during war: soldiers being stranded in remote and dangerous areas. In the movies, we always see helicopters swoop to the rescue, but there aren’t enough helicopters to go around. But what if there was a machine that was part helicopter, part drone, part transport, and part cargo supplier?

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A Real Life Power Loader From Aliens Isn’t Far Off

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Exosuits are big in sci-fi right now. For all of the movie’s flaws, the metal frame that Matt Damon has bolted into his skeleton in Elysium is totally badass. And sure, the one Tom Cruise wears in the upcoming Edge of Tomorrow is clunky, bulky, and comical looking when he runs, but it makes up for any inherent silliness with ample, alien-fighting firepower. Activelink, a subsidiary of Panasonic, is working on an exoskeleton called the Power Loader that is definitely more science and less fiction.

This device amplifies human strength and will come in handy when you have to do things like move heavy loads, or in clear rubble in the case of an emergencys. Or, you know, in the event that you have to strap in and fight off an armor-plated alien-queen killing machine. This looks and functions almost exactly like the power loader that Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) uses to beat back the big bitch xenomorph in James Cameron’s 1986 film Aliens. It’s even just named the Power Loader, for crying out load. They must have taken one look at this, realized exactly what it is they built, and said, what the hell, why call it anything else?