Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Tag: robot

The AI Apocalypse: Warning No. 702

Monday, 17 July, 2017 0 Comments

Elon Musk has said it before and now he’s saying it again. We need to wise up to the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI). Speaking at the National Governors Association meeting in Rhode Island at the weekend, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX said that AI will threaten all human jobs and could even start a war.

“It is the biggest risk that we face as a civilization,” he said.

Musk helped create OpenAI, a non-profit group dedicated to the safe development of the technology and he’s now urging that a regulatory agency be formed that will monitor AI developments and then put regulations in place. Fans of AI say such concerns are hasty, given its evolving state.

Note: Open AI and Google’s DeepMind released three papers last week — “Producing flexible behaviours in simulated environments” — highlighting an experimental machine learning system that used human teamwork to help an AI decide the best way to learn a new task. For one experiment, humans provided feedback to help a simulated robot learn how to do a backflip. The human input resulted in a successful backflip with under an hour of feedback, compared to the two hours of coding time an OpenAI researcher needed which, by the way, produced an inferior backflip to the human-trained one.

Is this important? Yes, because evidence is emerging that an AI can do some tasks better with human instruction — from cleaning someone’s home to learning a patient’s unique care needs. OpenAI hopes that if we can “train” AI to work closely with humans, we’ll be able to moderate some of the potential downsides of the technology. Like replacing journalists or starting a war.


Teledildonics

Tuesday, 25 October, 2016 0 Comments

Note the dates: 19 and 20 December. That’s when attendees at The International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots will explore “robot emotions, personalities, humanoid robots, intelligent electronic sex hardware and entertainment robots.” The event is taking place in Goldsmiths, University of London, after it was was banned in Malaysia. Sessions will address Robot Emotions, Teledildonics, Robot Personalities, Intelligent Electronic Sex Hardware and related issues.

David Levy, conference general chair, chess champion and author of Love and Sex with Robots says: “I believe that loving sex robots will be a great boon to society.There are millions of people out there who, for one reason or another, cannot establish good relationships.” It should be noted, however, that a group of scientists called for a ban on sex robots last year and created the Campaign Against Sex Robots.

This is the 21st century, after all.


Chinese parking robot meets commenting bot

Monday, 30 May, 2016 0 Comments

With typical modesty, The People’s Daily trumpets that “China’s most fantastic parking robot amazes the world.” And, indeed, this automated guided vehicle (AGV) robot, which uses laser navigation, delivers very impressive results.

The technology was developed by Guangzhou-based Yee Fung Automation Technology Co, which has a state-sponsored English-language web presence that’s adorned with the Golden Gate Bridge and cryptic English: “in order to visit customer for regularly and supply to maintain for customer by freely, We set up net of service for all of city in china with staff of parmanent.” Pointing that out, however, is sure to anger “seethru”, a Party bot, who added this comment to The People’s Daily article:

“We are starting to read more and more innovations and inventions coming out of China which should kill the myth perpetuated by ignorant and racist Westerners that Chinese people are incapable of original thought and creativity.”

Many informed and cosmopolitan Westerners are convinced that Chinese people are capable of original thought and creativity, but they will keep pointing to awkward facts about the political scientists and law experts fleeing to America as Beijing’s grip on freedoms in China intensifies under President Xi Jinping.


We need to talk about the smart home

Tuesday, 5 April, 2016 0 Comments

The “smart home” is a bit like the “paperless office.” Lots of promise, but the prospect remains untidy. The smart home landscape is cluttered with multiple standards and inelegant solutions, but some big names are determined to bring order to the household hub: Alphabet is making its bid with Nest and Samsung has acquired SmartThings.

For smaller smart home players like Wink, the encroachment of Apple and Alphabet is ominous. Wink launched in 2014 with a strategy tethering several competing standards, but the future turned grim when its parent, Quirky, the ambitious incubator, went broke last year. Flex came to the rescue, however, and Wink now claims to have 1.3 million devices on its network. Given all this turmoil, it’s not surprising Wink has a sense of humour as this clip, with its nod to fears of a robotic future, shows.


Liam disassembles iPhones, for now

Thursday, 24 March, 2016 0 Comments

Tuesday’s post here, Apple is losing more than the name game, was rather harsh on the company’s Special Event in Cupertino on Monday. But the occasion was not without some worthy highlights. One was provided by Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. In China, the company has built a solar farm that doesn’t disturb the local Yak population, she said. In Singapore, it is 100 percent renewable because of solar panels on the roofs of buildings. Then, Jackson’s really cool announcement: Apple has developed a robot that disassembles iPhones down to their smallest components to improve recovery and recycling of materials. It is called Liam:

Liam completes an iPhone disassembly every 11 seconds and can manage some 350 units an hour, equivalent to 1.2 million iPhones a year. Traditional tech recycling involves a shredder that makes it hard to separate materials, but Liam is programmed to disassemble returned iPhones part by part — batteries, SIM card trays, screws and cameras. In this way, plastic and glass are not mixed in with metal, making the components easier to recycle. To complete the virtuous (re)cycle, the salvaged components can be sold to vendors that specialize in cobalt, tungsten, copper and nickel, and turned into something useful.

Prediction: If Apple can build robots to disassemble iPhones, we must assume that it is working on robots that will assemble iPhones.

Name: Liam is the Irish Gaelic version of William, which has its origins in the Frankish Willahelm. When the Frankish Empire was divided in two in 843, Willahelm became Wilhelm in the German half, while in the French half, it developed into Guillaume. The English William is the end product of this evolution.


Rush Hour with robot cars and humans

Saturday, 12 March, 2016 0 Comments

Yesterday, General Motors announced it’s acquiring Cruise Automation, an autonomous vehicle technology startup. Almost simultaneously, Ford revealed a new subsidiary, Ford Smart Mobility, that will focus on developing technology for autonomous vehicles. What will a world of robotic transport look like, feel like? Well, it will be cheaper and safer, that’s for sure. When robotic vehicles rule the road, we won’t have to stop at intersections anymore because pedestrians, cars and bikes will interweave at speed, intelligently, fearlessly. That’s how Fernando Livschitz envisages it, anyway.

To a certain degree, all of this is being acted out in the main cities of Asia every day, without robots. Rob Whitworth went to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and was captivated by the the energy of the place. “Saigon is a city on the move unlike anything I have experienced before which I wanted to capture and share,” he says.


Oscar ex machina

Monday, 29 February, 2016 0 Comments

Congratulations to the Ex Machina team for bagging the 2016 Oscar for Best Visual Effects. A relatively low-key film about AI (Artificial Intelligence), it was overshadowed at the Academy Awards by Star Wars, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, and The Revenant, but the bigger budgets and more spectacular visuals of the more famous names came up short.

The cliché rules when it comes to AI, so we should be grateful that Alex Garland’s film is more imaginative and less lazy about the subject. In the movie, Google becomes Bluebook, a nod to Wittgenstein’s notes on language games. Bluebook was founded by a tech genius called Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who retreats from Silicon Valley to create Ava (Alicia Vikander), a consciously erotic humanoid robot. The drama begins when Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a young Bluebook programmer, arrives after having won a company lottery, and it’s his job to subject Ava to the Turing test. Thanks to the hot London visual effects company, Double Negative, Garland’s humanoids are irresistible and it’s only a matter of time before love and hate and murder are in the air. But there’s humour, too. This is one of our favourite scenes.

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander was superb in Ex Machina and her acting was rewarded last night when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Tom Hooper’s transgender drama The Danish Girl.


Atlas will end the misery of delivering pizza

Thursday, 25 February, 2016 0 Comments

In Greek mythology, Zeus ordered Atlas to stand at the western edge of the Earth and hold up The Heavens on his shoulders for ever. It’s a rotten job, but someone’s got to do it, eh? The same goes for delivering pizza on a day like today, when the streets are covered with snow and the guys at Joey’s have to put on their winter gear and trudge through the slushy streets bearing that delightful Pizza Azzurri (salami, mozzarella and tomato) or that delicious Pizza Waikiki (pineapple, ham and cheese). Luckily for them, or perhaps not, Atlas will put an end to that slog.

Atlas is a product of Boston Dynamics, which is owned by Alphabet, and the company released a video yesterday of its “baby”, in which it picks up boxes, walks through the snow and gets back up after being knocked down. A day in the life of the pizza delivery guy, in other words. The bigger picture, of course, is that Atlas signals the end of physical labour as we know it. We’ll see a dramatic increase in industry efficiency as a result of robotics, but the loss of low-skilled jobs will be devastating and the consequences for society will be dramatic.

This just in: Pizza Delivery Driver Kidnapped and Robbed. “Police say a man and a woman approached the driver and forced him at gunpoint to get into their car. They then drove the driver to an ATM where they withdrew money from his bank account, and stole other items from him.” Cannot see that happening to Atlas. Meanwhile, the snow continues to fall outside. Pizza for supper, perhaps.

Snow


From robot to cobot to sobot

Thursday, 11 June, 2015 0 Comments

robot: an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry

cobot: a collaborative robot intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace

sobot: a robot with a little humanity

Cynthia Breazeal, the director of the personal robots group at MIT, raised more than $3 million on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo, and then $25 million in venture capital funding, to bring Jibo, “the world’s first social robot,” to market. What is a social robot? According to John Markoff of The New York Times, “it’s a robot with a little humanity.” So, your sobot will order food when you don’t feel like cooking, tell your child bedtime stories and know if you prefer Bunnahabhain to Glenkinchie.

“A strange thing happens when you interview a robot. You feel an urge to be profound: to ask profound questions. I suppose it’s an inter-species thing. Although if it is I wonder why I never try and be profound around my dog.
‘What does electricity taste like?’ I ask.
‘Like a planet around a star,’ Bina48 replies.
Which is either extraordinary or meaningless — I’m not sure which.”

Jon Ronson, Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries


Robotic hamburgers

Wednesday, 11 February, 2015 0 Comments

McDonald’s posted a worse-than-projected drop in global sales for January, reports Bloomberg. The fast food chain has just replaced its CEO in an attempt to grow sales, but what if that fails? Perhaps it will consider replacing workers with robots.

“Excited about disrupting a $60 billion a year industry with robotic automation,” says Avidan Ross, founder of Lion Wells Capital and an advisor to Momentum Machines, a Bay Area start-up that designs and develops hamburger-making robots for restaurants, shops and food trucks. On its website, the company is somewhat coy about its disruptive potential: “Founded in 2010, we are a stereotypical group of San Francisco foodies and engineers with decades of robotics experience… Our various technologies can produce an ever-growing list of common choices like salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, and many other multi-ingredient foods with a gourmet focus.”

In fact, its robots can grill a piece of beef; layer it with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions; place it in a bun and and wrap it up to go. Momentum Machines says its robot “does everything employees can do, except better.” Might that be the solution to the headache that Steve Easterbrook has inherited? It could be, but if those entry-level jobs flipping burgers are taken by robots, we’ll have a bigger problem on our hands.

Hamburger


Nao speaks 19 languages. TUG delivers drugs.

Wednesday, 4 February, 2015 0 Comments

It’s Day 3 of our look at robotics/AI. “Japanese bank introduces robot workers to deal with customers in branches.” That’s a story from today’s Guardian. “Hello and welcome,” Nao said. “I can tell you about money exchange, ATMs, opening a bank account, or overseas remittance. Which one would you like?” Note: The humanoid was developed by French company Aldebaran Robotics, which is a subsidiary of the Japanese telecoms corporation SoftBank. Its slogan? “Happiness for everyone.”

Talking of robots and happiness, a team of robots programmed to transport meals, medications, linens and lab specimens began their 24/7 jobs on Sunday when the new $1.52 billion San Francisco Medical Center at Mission Bay opened to the public. The 25 TUG robots were created by Aethon Inc. and cost about $6 million. They will enable the human staff to spend more time on providing medical care and less on moving stuff around the hospital. Happiness for everyone? Certainly not for those supplying cleaning, catering or laundry services in hospitals. But just in case our white-coated friends think that they can ignore these changes, the Big Data doctor will see us soon.