A lot of robots in development are able to perform amazing feats in a laboratory setting when they’ve got plenty of tethers and cables keeping them perpetually powered and safe. The real test of their capabilities is when they’re forced to explore and interact in a real-world environment, like the robot cheetah that researchers at MIT are developing, which recently took its first untethered steps outside.
The developers admit the current version is limited to 10MPH, but that they aren’t far off from developing a high-speed robot cheetah.
I smell a Hollywood blockbuster.
For decades Japan has been the world’s playground for design innovation. But now it may become ground zero for the future of something far more hostile: military drones.
The country has positioned itself as one of the unlikely players in the escalating global race for military drones, a move that’s controversial both at home and abroad.
Controversial? Sure, given Japan’s history and Article 9 of its constitution. Unlikely? Not really. Drones play on Japan’s strengths in aerospace and miniaturization, while sidestepping her major manpower weakness. I once had a daydream of a future Japan, barely populated by septuagenarians and up, protected by fully automated swarms of lightning fast and extremely deadly robots and missiles. Think of a retirement home in a dangerous neighborhood, defended by The Matrix.
Isn’t that the way Japan is already going?
President Obama’s new initiative is a higher minimum wage, and if he is successful the result will not be higher-paid employees heading off to work every day. Instead their jobs will be filled by an entirely new sort of worker: Robots.
Robots, unlike humans, don’t require pay or sick time or vacations. If they break they’re thrown out and recycled. Robots are expensive, but the threat of a higher minimum wage is now making a robotic worker more cost-effective than hiring a real person.
Across Japan the noodle-making chefs are now made of metal, and when you order a Big Mac at a MacDonald’s in Europe you do it by touch screen. A company called Momentum Machines in southern California has developed a robot that cranks out 400 perfectly-prepared burgers every hour. (Note: Robots do not sneeze. Ever. Think about that for a bit.)
Where is this going? Are we heading for a future where slinky femme fatale robots plot the destruction of mankind while wearing the perfect red dress?
60 Minutes previewed the future last night. Amazon is planning to use drone aircraft to enable 30-minute delivery of many products that we order online.
Charlie Rose: This is?
Jeff Bezos:…is…these are octocopters.
Charlie Rose: Yeah?
Jeff Bezos: These are effectively drones but there’s no reason that they can’t be used as delivery vehicles. Take a look up here so I can show you how it works.
Charlie Rose: All right. We’re talking about delivery here?
Jeff Bezos: We’re talking about delivery. There’s an item going into the vehicle. I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not.
Charlie Rose: Wow!
Jeff Bezos: This is early. This is still…years away. It drops the package.
Charlie Rose: And there’s the package.
Jeff Bezos: You come and get your package. And we can do half hour delivery.
Charlie Rose: Half hour delivery?
Jeff Bezos: Half hour delivery/and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.
Charlie Rose: And what is the range between the fulfillment center and where you can do this within…
Jeff Bezos: These…this…this…these gener…
Charlie Rose: 30 minutes?
Jeff Bezos: These generations of vehicles, it could be a 10-mile radius from a fulfillment center. So, in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population. And so, it won’t work for everything; you know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way. These are electric motors, so this is all electric; it’s very green, it’s better than driving trucks around. This is…this is all an R&D project.
Charlie Rose: With drones, there’s somebody sitting somewhere in front of a screen.
Jeff Bezos: Not these; these are autonomous. So you give ‘em instructions of which GPS coordinates to go to, and they take off and they fly to those GPS coordinates.
Charlie Rose: What’s the hardest challenge in making this happen?
Jeff Bezos: The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say, ‘Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood’…
Charlie Rose doesn’t know what a drone is? Sheesh.
This idea seems cool until you think it through for a bit. Amazon’s drones will be eyesores in the air and electromagnets for lawyers when one of them goes haywire and crashes in someone’s yard or in the middle of a street or, heaven forbid, kills a guy. Human nature can be a nasty thing. Lawfare is strangling innovation in America. Watch octocopter-chasing lawyers have a heyday over Amazon’s drones and its fat wallet. Watch the newspaper Amazon owns defend whatever the company does. And watch environmentalists slow this whole thing down in court.
The hardest part technologically probably isn’t building in redundancy. The hardest part is making sure these things don’t become magnets for thieves (other than the aforementioned lawyers). Where you have valuable product moving, you have the potential for heists. These drones could and probably will become targets, especially if they’re in operation at night. So game that out, and Amazon will end up working with the FAA to either create sky lanes through which its drones will have special permission to travel, which would be protected either from the air or the ground against theft, or they’ll have to arm the drones with countermeasures.
When Amazon merges with Google to perfect the drones’ accuracy, it’s all heading toward SkyNet.
Hey, kids! Here comes another franchise reboot no one wanted. Robocop returns in 2014 taking new form played by The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman.
The new take looks to resume the original’s political satire by leveraging concern over domestic spying and the use of drone technology by law enforcement. In retrospect, the original film deserves a lot of credit for anticipating the modern convergence of military technology and domestic law enforcement. The Verge reports:
“We are more and more in a country where Robocop is relevant. You will see robots in wars,” said Jose Padilha, the film’s director. “The first film saw it way back then. Now we have more knowledge and we know it’s coming true. First we are going to use machines abroad, then we are going to use machines at home.”
Despite retaining many of the themes established in the 1987 film, the reboot will depart from the original on many key plot points. IGN shares the details:
In this RoboCop, police officer Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) isn’t killed by a ruthless outlaw and his henchmen, In fact, he’s not killed at all. He’s gravely injured by a car bomb that leaves him massively burned all over his body. In order to “save ” him — and give OmniCorp their cyborg lawman they’ve been desiring — Omni scientist Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman) essentially amputates Alex’s body from the neck down and rebuilds him as, yes, RoboCop. (They keep Alex’s right hand as a humanizing element for when RoboCop shakes hands with people.)
There were several scenes with OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Keaton), a believer in his products and what they can do for the world who makes his decisions not so much out of being a villain as because he’s decided it’s simply the best option available for his business and what he thinks it can provide. Keaton described Sellars as an antagonist rather than as a villain.
Readers may recall that Omni Consumer Products senior president Dick Jones, played with relish by the irrepressible Ronnie Cox, was the ultimate villain in the original. As he and director Paul Verhoeven also did in Total Recall, Cox created one of the greatest caricatures of corporate villainy put to film.
We have a new rivalry: the Google self-driving car vs. the General Motors “Super Cruise.” The tech world is all revved up about autonomous cars; it’s like Minority Report meets Back to the Future! But before we start singing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, we need to take a step back and evaluate the feasibility of the implementation of the technology.
Cars are already available with semi-autonomous features: cruise control, automatic breaking (for objects that enter the car’s sensor fields), parallel park assist, and new features that guide cars back into their lane if they veer too much. The new Cadillac “Super Cruise” is attempting to one-up these features: it can steer the car within the lane, and will make the driver’s seat vibrate if the car veers out of bounds. It can also brake and accelerate to maintain a “selectable distance” between the car and those in front of it. Proponents of semi-autonomous, and future (fully) autonomous, cars argue that this technology will lead to safer roads, less accidents, better gas mileage, and less need for mistake-prone humans to be driving. I disagree. What about the imperfect nature of our new chauffeurs: computers?
SXSW Monday: I’m here today to check more sessions and events out. Most that I’m interested in are in the afternoon. In the morning, a man needs his coffee, and as I’m walking from my parked car — wherever that is, somewhere blocks away from the action — to the convention center, a man asks me out of the clear blue sky:= “Hey, would you like some free coffee?”
Um, yeah. I would. Very much. He ushers me over to this trailer, which it turns out belongs to GE.
Those two white arms are robots. The barista attaches a syringe to to what, I guess, is its hand. The syringe is full of condensed coffee. She doesn’t start you on a coffee IV, which is a pity.
They snap a photo of you, or a logo that you’re wearing or have handy.
I happened to be wearing my PJTV shirt…
So, after a few seconds, the robot gets the image and passably writes it onto the foam on top of the coffee.
Thanks to Vivian at RetailMeNot for letting me snap pics while the robot was making her coffee. Click on the next page to see the holographic tour guide.
Chinese hospitals are introducing a new machine which can extract sperm for donors.
According to China’s Weibo social platform the automatic sperm extractors are being introduced in a Nanjing hospital, capital of Jiangsu province.
The pink, grey and white machine has a massage pipe at the front which apparently can be adjusted according to the height of its user.
Speed, frequency, amplitude and temperature are also controllable.
It has a small screen on the top which plays films for the user to help them with the extraction process.
The director of the urology department at Zhengzhou Central Hospital said the machine was being used by infertility patients who are finding it difficult to retrieve sperm the old fashioned way.
A website which is selling the machine for $2,800 promoting it stating ‘it can give patients very comfortable feeling.’
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
In the recent debates here at PJ Lifestyle about what swimsuit styles were acceptable for women trying to look sexy but inappropriate for little girls heading for a fun day at the beach, one of the commenters wanted to know why I thought more in terms of a future daughter rather than a son (he also assumed I was a reincarnation of Andrea Dworkin):
You are very persistant in wanting people to “show me a swimsuit that you find objectionable and would not want your daughter wearing”. I’ve told you what my daughters liked. Now I must tell you what I wouldn’t get them? Why? Why is knowing that so important?
Finally, are you planning on raising your children(you keep saying ‘daughter’–you’re very focused on the notion that your child will be a girl, why?) in the San Fernando Valley? Do you think your one man crusade on PJM will change the Valley in the next ten or fifteen years?
How should our defense strategy evolve in a world of easily accessible mini-drones, lethal nanobots, and DIY warfare?
You walk into your shower and find a spider.
You are not an arachnologist. You do, however, know that one of the following options is possible: The spider is real and harmless. The spider is real and venomous.
Your next-door neighbor, who dislikes your noisy dog, has turned her personal surveillance spider purchased from “Drones ‘R Us” for $49.95 loose and is monitoring it on her iPhone from her seat at a sports bar downtown. The pictures of you, undressed, are now being relayed on several screens during the break of an NFL game, to the mirth of the entire neighborhood.
Your business competitor has sent his drone assassin spider, which he purchased from a bankrupt military contractor, to take you out. Upon spotting you with its sensors, and before you have any time to weigh your options, the spider shoots an infinitesimal needle into a vein in your left leg and takes a blood sample. As you beat a retreat out of the shower, your blood sample is being run on your competitor’s smartphone for a DNA match. The match is made against a DNA sample of you that is already on file at EVER.com Everything about Everybody, an international DNA database with access available for $179.99.
Once the match is confirmed a matter of seconds, the assassin spider outruns you with incredible speed into your bedroom, pausing only long enough to dart another needle, this time containing a lethal dose of a synthetically produced, undetectable poison, into your bloodstream. Your assassin, who is on a summer vacation in Provence, then withdraws his spider under the crack of your bedroom door and out of the house, and presses its self-destruct button. No trace of the spider or the poison it carried will ever be found by law enforcement authorities.Smaller, Cheaper Weapons & DIY Drones
This is the future. According to some uncertain estimates, insect-sized drones will become operational by 2030. These drones will be able to not only conduct surveillance, but to act on it with lethal effect. Over time, it is likely that miniaturized weapons platforms will evolve to be able to carry not merely the quantum of lethal material needed to execute individuals, but also weapons of mass destruction sufficient to kill thousands. Political scientist James Fearon has even speculated that at some more distant point in time, individuals will be able to carry something akin to a nuclear device in their pockets.
Related futurism and robots at PJ Lifestyle: