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Technology

Robotic Taster Will Judge 'Real Thai Food' 90

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-best-barbecue? dept.
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes The NYT reports that Thailand's former prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra repeatedly encountered a distressing problem while traveling the world: bad Thai food. Too often, she found, the meals she sampled at Thai restaurants abroad were unworthy of the name, too bland to be called genuine Thai cooking. The problem bothered her enough to raise it at a cabinet meeting. Even though her political party has since been thrown out of office, in a May military coup, the Thai government is unveiling its project to standardize the art of Thai food using a robot. The government-financed Thai Delicious Committee, which oversaw the development of the machine, describes it as "an intelligent robot that measures smell and taste in food ingredients through sensor technology in order to measure taste like a food critic." Thailand's National Innovation Agency has spent about $100,000 to develop the e-delicious machine. The e-delicious machine has 10 sensors that measure smell and taste, generating a unique fingerprint (signature) for each sample of food that passes its digital maw. Generally with electronic tasting, there are electronic sensors that work just like the taste buds on your tongue, measuring the quantity of various taste-giving compounds, acidity, etc. While these electronic sensors can't actually tell you how something tastes — that's a very subjective, human thing — they are very good at comparing two foods scientifically. Meanwhile at a tiny food stall along one of Bangkok's traffic-clogged boulevards, Thaweekiat Nimmalairatana, questioned the necessity of a robatic taster. "I use my tongue to test if it's delicious or not," said Nimmalairatana. "I think the government should consider using a human to gauge authenticity."
Robotics

Octopus-Inspired Robot Matches Real Octopus For Speed 70

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-skynet-needs-to-rule-the-seas-too dept.
KentuckyFC writes: Underwater vehicles have never matched the extraordinary agility of marine creatures. While many types of fish can travel at speeds of up to 10 body lengths per second, a nuclear sub can manage a less than half a body length per second. Now a team of researchers has copied a trick used by octopuses to build an underwater robot capable of matching the agility of marine creatures. This trick is the way an octopus expands the size of its head as it fills with water and then squirts it out to generate propulsion. The team copied this by building a robot with a flexible membrane that also expands as it fills with water.

The fluid then squirts out through a rear-facing nozzle as the membrane contracts. To the team's surprise, the robot reached speeds of 10 body lengths per second with a peak acceleration of 14 body lengths per second squared. That's unprecedented in an underwater vehicle of this kind. What's more, the peak force experienced by the robot was 30 per cent greater than the thrust generated by the jet. The team think they know why and say the new technique could be used to design bigger subs capable of even more impressive octopus-like feats.
AI

New Long-Range RFID Technology Helps Robots Find Household Objects 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the follow-the-signal dept.
HizookRobotics writes Georgia Tech researchers announced a new way robots can "sense" their surroundings through the use of small ultra-high frequency radio-frequency identification (UHF RFID) tags. Inexpensive self-adhesive tags can be stuck on objects, allowing an RFID-equipped robot to search a room for the correct tag's signal, even when the object is hidden out of sight. Once the tag is detected, the robot knows the object it's trying to find isn't far away. The researchers' methods, summarized over at IEEE: "The robot goes to the spot where it got the hottest signal from the tag it was looking for, zeroing in on it based on the signal strength that its shoulder antennas are picking up: if the right antenna is getting a stronger signal, the robot yaws right, and vice versa."

Are Matt's Robot Hexapods Creepy or Cute? (Video) 35

Posted by Roblimo
from the you-put-your-right-foot-in-you-put-your-right-foot-out-you-pick-up-a-human-and-shake-it-all-about dept.
University of Arizona grad student Matt Bunting doesn't come across as a mad scientist. That's a very good thing, because his robot hexapod creations are easy to imagine crawling across the USA in large hordes, devouring everything in their path and using all the electricity they come across to feed their Queen Hexapod, a 3-D printer mounted on a hexapod chassis that turns everything fed to it into more robots. Luckily, the real life Matt is an affable (self-described) "Roboticist, Electrical Engineer, Musician, and Rock Crawler" who freely admits that at this time his robotic creations have no practical application whatsoever. This is probably true, except for the fact that they can liven up a music video like mad, as you can see on YouTube in Pedals Music Video (featuring REAL robots) . Our little video is a lot simpler, of course. In it, we interview Matt and he tells us what he's up to with his robots, and gives some 'how to get started with robotics' advice for budding young engineers. (Alternate Video Link)
Robotics

The Case For a Federal Robotics Commission 70

Posted by Soulskill
from the heading-up-the-anti-singularity-committee dept.
New submitter hmcd31 writes: In a new paper for Brookings' series on the future of civilian robotics, University of Washington Law Professor Ryan Calo argues the need for a Federal Robotics Commission. With advancements such as driverless cars and drones taking to the roads and skies, Calo sees a need for a government agency to monitor these changes. His paper details many benefits a robotics commission could bring, from funding to assisting in law and policy issues. The policies developed by this FRC are argued to be particularly important, as their impact in creating an early infrastructure for robotics could create an environment that lets the technology grow even more.
Robotics

Developing the First Law of Robotics 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the thou-shalt-not-kill-all-humans dept.
wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm. At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions.
Robotics

MIT's Cheetah Robot Runs Untethered 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-skynet-totally-needs-cheetahs-too dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It's easy to make a robot walk, but hard to keep it from falling over. We've seen a number of crazy robot prototypes, but they're usually tethered and/or stuck on a treadmill. Now, researchers from MIT have developed an algorithm that allows their giant robot cheetah to run around outdoors at up to 10mph. They expect the robot to eventually hit speeds of 30mph. "The key to the bounding algorithm is in programming each of the robot's legs to exert a certain amount of force in the split second during which it hits the ground, in order to maintain a given speed: In general, the faster the desired speed, the more force must be applied to propel the robot forward. ... Kim says that by adapting a force-based approach, the cheetah-bot is able to handle rougher terrain, such as bounding across a grassy field." The MIT cheetah-bot also runs on a custom electric motor, which makes it significantly quieter than gas-powered robots. "Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground."
Space

European Space Agency Picks Site For First Comet Landing In November 35

Posted by samzenpus
from the x-marks-the-spot dept.
An anonymous reader writes Europe's Rosetta mission, which aims to land on a comet later this year, has identified what it thinks is the safest place to touch down. From the article: "Scientists and engineers have spent weeks studying the 4km-wide "ice mountain" known as 67P, looking for a location they can place a small robot. They have chosen what they hope is a relatively smooth region on the smaller of the comet's two lobes. But the team is under no illusions as to how difficult the task will be. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, currently sweeping through space some 440 million km from Earth, is highly irregular in shape. Its surface terrain is marked by deep depressions and towering cliffs. Even the apparently flat surfaces contain potentially hazardous boulders and fractures. Avoiding all of these dangers will require a good slice of luck as well as careful planning.
Operating Systems

Robot Operating System To Officially Support ARM Processors 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-cpu-options-for-your-terminator dept.
DeviceGuru writes: The Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF), which maintains the open source Robot Operating System (ROS), has announced its first formal support for an ARM target. The organization will add support for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, a smartphone-oriented, quad-core, Cortex-A15-like system-on-chip running up to 1.7GHz. The Linux version of ROS for Snapdragon 600 will be available in Q4 of this year, with the Android version due in the first half of 2015. The OSRF will test, refine, and fully integrate support for the ARM instruction set architecture into ROS development efforts. OSRF will also perform ongoing maintenance to support ROS on the Snapdragon 600.
Robotics

Ireland To Host Robotic Sailing Championships 14

Posted by samzenpus
from the scrub-the-robot-deck dept.
First time accepted submitter dertynan writes The WRSC people are out to make sailors redundant. The World Robotic Sailing Championships (and International Conference) is in Galway, Ireland next week. Around eleven teams are participating in this autonomous sailing event, across a number of courses, over four days.
Robotics

Robot Dramas: Autonomous Machines In the Limelight On Stage and In Society 31

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-only-asimov-was-around-to-see-it dept.
aarondubrow writes: We're entering an era where we'll increasingly coexist with robots and other intelligent machines — some of which may look like us. Not only is there a growing number of industrial robots (about 1.5 million today), there are 10 million Roombas in our homes, porter-bots in our hospitals and hotels, social robots in our nursing homes and even robot spectators at baseball games in Japan, tele-operated by remote fans.

Theater is not an arena that we typically associate with robots, however, artists, musicians and producers are often early adopters and innovative users of emerging technologies. In fact, robots got their name from the 1920 play, R.U.R., by the Czech playwright, Karel Capek. An article in the Huffington Post describes a panel discussion at the National Academy of Science in June that featured the producers of three recent plays that starred robots. The plays highlight our robot anxieties, while offering new visions for human-robot interactions in the future.
Printer

Robot Printer Brings Documents To Your Desk 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the surprised-this-is-a-thing-but-also-surprised-it-wasn't-a-thing-already dept.
mrspoonsi sends this news from the BBC: Fuji Xerox has developed a new robotic printer that can move around a lounge or office to bring documents to the person who printed them. The printer is designed to be used primarily in public places as a way to keep sensitive documents secure. Sensors on the machine prevent it from bumping into people on the way. However, some analysts argued that the idea was not cost effective when compared with other secure printing methods. Fuji Xerox — a joint venture between the two firms — has been testing the printer this month at a business lounge in Tokyo. Each desk in the lounge is given a unique web address from which to print. Users access the address and upload documents to be printed. Once the printer receives the job, it moves to the intended recipient who then has to display a smart card to activate printing.
AI

Robo Brain Project Wants To Turn the Internet Into a Robotic Hivemind 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-and-learn dept.
malachiorion writes Researchers are force-feeding the internet into a system called Robo Brain. The system has absorbed a billion images and 120,000 YouTube videos so far, and aims to digest 10 times that within a year, in order to create machine-readable commands for robots—how to pour coffee, for example. From the article: "The goal is as direct as the project’s name—to create a centralized, always-online brain for robots to tap into. The more Robo Brain learns from the internet, the more direct lessons it can share with connected machines. How do you turn on a toaster? Robo Brain knows, and can share 3D images of the appliance and the relevant components. It can tell a robot what a coffee mug looks like, and how to carry it by the handle without dumping the contents. It can recognize when a human is watching a television by gauging relative positions, and advise against wandering between the two. Robo Brain looks at a chair or a stool, and knows that these are things that people sit on. It’s a system that understands context, and turns complex associations into direct commands for physical robots."
Robotics

FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine 133

Posted by Soulskill
from the rise-of-the-technofarmer dept.
New submitter ErnieKey writes: Farming has been stuck in a bit of a rut, when compared to other industries. Businesses across the globe have been innovating for decades, while farming has been using techniques that have been handed down from centuries ago. The FarmBot Foundation is creating a machine, similar to that of a CNC mill and/or 3D printer, which is capable of being run by sophisticated software and equipped with any tools you can imagine, including seed injectors, plows, burners, robotic arms (for harvesting), cutters, shredders, tillers, discers, watering nozzles, sensors and more. The goal? To increase food production by automating as much of it as possible.
Announcements

Introducing Slashdot's New Build Section 34

Posted by timothy
from the show-us-your-basement dept.
Along with the rest of the mix that makes this site work, Slashdot has nearly two decades now of spotting and showing off interesting projects, inventions, technologies, and hobbies. Some of them are strictly personal, some are frankly commercial, and some are the fruits of ambitious organizations (or tiny teams) motivated by curiosity and passion (or even politics, or just plain fun). As outlined earlier, we've been gathering a lot of these into our new Build section; read on to learn a bit more about what that includes. (And watch out later today for the first part of our conversation with technology-inspiring Rennaisance Man Tim O'Reilly, and later in the week for answers to the questions you asked Bunnie Huang.)
Transportation

Selectable Ethics For Robotic Cars and the Possibility of a Robot Car Bomb 239

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-hands dept.
Rick Zeman writes Wired has an interesting article on the possibility of selectable ethical choices in robotic autonomous cars. From the article: "The way this would work is one customer may set the car (which he paid for) to jealously value his life over all others; another user may prefer that the car values all lives the same and minimizes harm overall; yet another may want to minimize legal liability and costs for herself; and other settings are possible. Philosophically, this opens up an interesting debate about the oft-clashing ideas of morality vs. liability." Meanwhile, others are thinking about the potential large scale damage a robot car could do.

Lasrick writes Patrick Lin writes about a recent FBI report that warns of the use of robot cars as terrorist and criminal threats, calling the use of weaponized robot cars "game changing." Lin explores the many ways in which robot cars could be exploited for nefarious purposes, including the fear that they could help terrorist organizations based in the Middle East carry out attacks on US soil. "And earlier this year, jihadists were calling for more car bombs in America. Thus, popular concerns about car bombs seem all too real." But Lin isn't too worried about these threats, and points out that there are far easier ways for terrorists to wreak havoc in the US.
Robotics

Humans Need Not Apply: a Video About the Robot Revolution and Jobs 304

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-away-or-i-will-replace-you-with-a-very-large-robot-that-breaks-things dept.
Paul Fernhout writes: This explanatory compilation video by CGP Grey called "Humans Need Not Apply" on structural unemployment caused by robotics and AI (and other automation) is like the imagery playing in my mind when I think about the topic based on previous videos and charts I've seen. I saw it first on the econfuture site by Martin Ford, author of The Lights in the Tunnel. It is being discussed on Reddit, and people there have started mentioning a "basic income" as one possible response. While I like the basic income idea, I also collect other approaches in an essay called Beyond A Jobless Recovery: A heterodox perspective on 21st century economics. Beyond a basic income for the exchange economy, those possible approaches include gift economy, subsistence production, planned economy, and more — including many unpleasant alternatives like expanding prisons or fighting wars as we are currently doing.

Marshall Brain's writings like Robotic Nation and Manna have inspired my own work. I made my own video version of the concept around 2010, as a parable called "The Richest Man in the World: A parable about structural unemployment and a basic income." (I also pulled together a lot of links to robot videos in 2009.) It's great to see more informative videos on this topic. CGP Grey's video is awesome in the way he puts it all together.
Robotics

A Thousand Kilobots Self-Assemble Into Complex Shapes 56

Posted by timothy
from the aaaaaand-improvise! dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at Harvard's Self-Organizing Systems Research Group—describe their thousand-robot swarm in a paper published today in Science (they actually built 1024 robots). In the past, researchers have only been able to program at most a couple hundred robots to work together. Now, these researchers have programmed the biggest robot swarm yet. Alone, the simple little robot can't do much, but working with 1,000 or more like-minded fellow bots, it becomes part of a swarm that can self-assemble into any two-dimensional shape. These are some of the first steps toward creating huge herds of tiny robots that form larger structures—including bigger robots."
Twitter

Twitter Reports 23 Million Users Are Actually Bots 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the probably-underreporting-by-a-lot dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In its most recent quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Twitter disclosed that approximately 8.5% of its users are actually bots. Some of these 23 million bots were created to make revenue-generating URLs, others were created to collect followers that would later be sold to whoever needs a ready audience, and a few were created to mimic stereotypes just for fun. Now that Twitter is a public company, some wonder if these bots help or hinder Twitter's stock value.
Transportation

Driverless Buses Ruled Out For London, For Now 84

Posted by timothy
from the controlled-by-ai-is-the-next-step dept.
An anonymous reader writes The office of the Mayor of London went into a bit of a panic this week after their own paper suggested that driverless buses could appear on the streets of the UK's capital at some point in the next four decades. The Mayor's office went so far as to suggest that they were really talking about driverless underground trains. Even more bizarre was the reaction of the city's taxi drivers' association — whose spokesperson claimed that the failure to deliver 'simple' software tasks such as speech recognition meant there was no chance of driverless buses appearing on London's streets.

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