Tag Archives | Robots

Robo-Sabotage Is Surprisingly Common

What kind of person beats up a robot? MIT Technology Review reports that it’s not at all uncommon:

As you probably know by now, HitchBot—a device made of pool noodles, rubber gloves, a bucket, and the computer power needed to talk, smile, and tweet—was deliberately decapitated and dismembered this week, only 300 miles into its hitchhiking journey across the United States. HitchBot had successfully made similar journeys across the Netherlands, Germany, and Canada, relying on bemused strangers for transportation. The geek-o-sphere is up in arms, claiming that this violence reveals something special and awful about America, or at least Philadelphia.

Hitchbot and friends. Photo: YMS (CC)

Hitchbot and friends. Photo: YMS (CC)

 

I think perhaps there’s something else at work here. Beyond building robots to increase productivity and do dangerous, dehumanizing tasks, we have made the technology into a potent symbol of sweeping change in the labor market, increased inequality, and recently the displacement of workers (see “Who Will Own the Robots?

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Warfighting Robots Could Reduce Civilian Casualties, So Calling for a Ban Now Is Premature

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Ronald C. Arken via IEEE Spectrum:

This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. This article contains excerpts from “Lethal Autonomous Systems and the Plight of the Non-combatant,” published in AISB Quarterly, No. 137, July 2013.

I’ve been engaged in the debate over autonomous robotic military systems for almost 10 years. I am not averse to a ban, but I’m convinced we should continue researching this technology for the time being. One reason is that I believe such systems might be capable of reducing civilian casualties and property damage when compared to the performance of human warfighters. Thus, it is a contention that calling for an outright ban on this technology is premature, as some groups already are doing.

It must be noted that past and present trends in human behavior in warfare regarding adhering to legal and ethical requirements are questionable at best.

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Korean Robots Win The DARPA Robotics Challenge

Did you watch the DARPA Robotics Challenge? Maybe not as it was a Saturday night, but the Koreans won it, reports the New York Times:

POMONA, Calif. — A team of roboticists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology claimed a $2 million prize on Saturday that was offered by a Pentagon research agency for developing a mobile robot capable of operating in hazardous environments.

RobotComparison

Twenty-five teams of university and corporate roboticists competed for the prize, which was first given in 2012 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The robots were graded on their ability to complete eight tasks, including driving a vehicle, opening a door, operating a portable drill, turning a valve and climbing stairs, all in the space of an hour.

The Korean victory is a validation of the work of JunHo Oh, the designer of the Hubo family of humanoid robots that he has developed since 2002.

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Robots vs. the Underclass

Justin Morgan (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Justin Morgan (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via John Judis at National Journal:

Ever since General Electric installed the first industrial robot in 1961, Americans have been worrying that automation could destroy the country’s labor force. During the Great Recession and its aftermath, these voices grew even louder. “We’re not going to have a jobless recovery,” business writer Jeff Jarvis predicted in 2011. “We’re going to have a jobless future.” “Smart machines won’t kill us all, but they’ll definitely take our jobs and sooner than you think,” Mother Jones warned in 2013.

But which jobs, exactly, are going to disappear? To hear many pundits tell it, the advance of technology is specifically threatening the middle ranks of the workforce. Automation, warned The Economist last October, will lead to “the further erosion of the middle class.” “Robots won’t destroy jobs, but they may destroy the middle class,” a Vox story was titled. The Associated Press produced a series of articles headlined, “What’s destroying the middle class?

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Sympathy for the Robot

Johnny 5 and CHAPPiE: Heralds of the End Times or cute widdle wobots?

Cute widdle wobots or heralds of human extinction?

[Editor’s Note: This article may contain spoilers.]

Most of the time, I couldn’t care less about a computer’s feelings. I distrust them, frequently cuss at them, and occasionally smash them to pieces. Pretty callous, right?

You’d think a colorful robot on the silver screen would tug at my heartstrings, but no, not really. They usually make me uneasy. I didn’t bat an eye when C-3PO got blasted apart in The Empire Strikes Back. As a kid I thought The Terminator was super-cool, but seriously, it wasn’t a big deal to see half of his face crunched off—he’s tough, he can take it, he’s just a machine!

Things were different with Neill Blomkamp’s CHAPPiE.

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DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals: 25 Teams Compete For $3.5 Million

So what kind of robot is DARPA looking for?

The international robotics community has turned out in force for the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals, a competition of robots and their human supervisors to be held June 5-6, 2015, at Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., outside of Los Angeles. In the competition, human-robot teams will be tested on capabilities that could enable them to provide assistance in future natural and man-made disasters. Fourteen new teams from Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, South Korea, and the United States qualified to join 11 previously announced teams. In total, 25 teams will now vie for a chance to win one of three cash prizes totaling $3.5 million at the DRC Finals.

DARPA robosimian.jpg

“We’re excited to see so much international interest in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals,” said Gill Pratt, program manager for the DRC. “The diverse participation indicates not only a general interest in robotics, but also the priority many governments are placing on furthering robotic technology.

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10 emerging technologies that could change the world in 2015

Hyundai Fuel Cell engine.

Hyundai Fuel Cell engine.

Bernard Meyerson via Business Insider:

Technology is perhaps the greatest agent of change in the modern world. While never without risk, technological breakthroughs promise innovative solutions to the most pressing global challenges of our time.

From zero-emission cars fuelled by hydrogen to computer chips modelled on the human brain, this year’s 10 emerging technologies offer a vivid glimpse of the power of innovation to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard our planet.

To compile this list, the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies, a panel of 18 experts, draws on the collective expertise of the Forum’s communities to identify the most important recent technological trends.

By doing so, the Meta-Council aims to raise awareness of their potential and contribute to closing the gaps in investment, regulation and public understanding that so often thwart progress.

The 2015 list is:

1. Fuel cell vehicles

2. Next-generation robotics

3. 

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As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

Don’t think you can’t be replaced by a robot, because this time you really might be, says the New York Times:

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years – allowing machines to mimic the human mind – are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise.

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MIT Study Says Robot Overlords Could Make for Happier Human Workers

Most of the human bosses I’ve had lead me to find this claim not just possible but probable.

Mat Smith writes at Engadget:

New research from MIT reckons that robots controlling human tasks in manufacturing is not only more efficient than flesh-and-blood middle-management, but preferred by people that do the work too. Automation in the manufacturing process has been around for decades, but the new study aimed to seek out the sweet spot where human workers were “both satisfied and productive.”

“We discovered that the answer is to actually give machines more autonomy, if it helps people to work together more fluently with robot teammates,” said project lead Matthew Gombolay. The study was composed of groups of two humans and one robot, working in three test conditions. One had all tasks allocated by a human, another where all tasks were allocated by the robot and the final scenario had one human allocating tasks to themselves, while the robot allocated tasks to the other meatsack.

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