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Robotics Hardware Technology

Team Aims To Build Robot Toddler In Nine Months 114

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-a-robot dept.
Zothecula writes "If robots are going to be part of our everyday lives, they'll need to fit into our homes rather than the factory floor. Few people would be comfortable living with a metal spider on tank treads, so the University of Zurich's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory is building a robot toddler called 'Roboy.' Using 'soft robotics' technology that mimics the human body, the 1.2 meter (3 ft, 11 in) tall humanoid robot is part of an effort to make robots that people are more comfortable with in day-to-day situations."
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Team Aims To Build Robot Toddler In Nine Months

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  • by ashshy (40594) <poohNO@SPAMpoetic.com> on Monday December 31, 2012 @11:45AM (#42433451) Homepage Journal

    Give me nine female robotic engineers -- I need that baby in a month!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Don't forget the robot diapers! That oil discharge has to go somewhere.

  • toddler? (Score:4, Funny)

    by C0R1D4N (970153) on Monday December 31, 2012 @11:46AM (#42433459)
    Or a Robbit?
  • by HaZardman27 (1521119) on Monday December 31, 2012 @11:46AM (#42433461)
    That thing looks far more terrifying than a metal spider on tank treads.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      And, according to their diagrams, it's connected to Facebook. Why don't they just pack it full of C4 and have it continuously say "remote detonators are your friends"?

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      but you can punt it! that's way better than some intimidating 6 foot android

    • If they want it to fit in, they'll need to focus on the drug-addled freak market.

      For me, I'll take the treads, topped by a miniature refrigerator w/ice dispenser, small bookshelf, gaming console, and a dispenser of toilet paper

    • What's so wrong with a metal spider on tank treads anyway? If anyone doesn't want a tachikoma I'll gladly take it off their hands.

  • Robot invaders (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WaffleMonster (969671) on Monday December 31, 2012 @11:47AM (#42433469)

    Making robots that look like humans do not make people more comfortable... It freaks them out.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31, 2012 @12:24PM (#42433805)

      "Sir, the Uncanny Valley isn't deep enough!"
      "Then start digging!"

    • Seriously, where did these guys get this idea in their head? Do they honestly believe what they're saying or are they just fooling with people saying these things with the eventual goal of really screwing with people when they actually create the thing. I mean, if I could do it, I would too, just to mess with people. But I would have no allusions that it would be beneficial in the least towards the ends they're talking about.
      • by icebike (68054)

        Agreed, this has to be aimed at the toy market, or the self centered parent market looking for a playmate for their real child, or to substitute for that real child they haven't got time to actually have.

        Childless couples are already unable to distinguish their dogs from children. This will go further to enhance that psychosis.

        • As someone with one child who wishes he could have another, that whole "My dog is my child" thing effing creeps me out. Seriously, that is jacked. Perhaps you're right, the type of folks who are emotionally lost enough to attribute their dog as their child would also be happy to attribute it to a robot... Though for the rest of us, the uncanny valley is a trainwreck.
          • by Nethead (1563)

            But most dogs don't live long enough to need collage tuition. They may be on to something there.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Exactly, if they want to make robots that people feel comfortable about, they should make ones that are actually useful. I haven't heard about anybody freaking out because of a roomba or a robot lawnmower.

  • More what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@cGINSBERGarpanet.net minus poet> on Monday December 31, 2012 @11:47AM (#42433475) Homepage

    In what way excactly do we need to become MORE comfortable with machines than we are now?

    Has driving a car, warming food in a microwave, and allowing a roomba to vacuume my floors not enough? None of these make me uncomfortable, despite their lack of human interface. Why should other forms of purpose built machines, or even general purpose, suddenly need to be humanoid?

    Don't get me wrong, its cool research, and it could yield some interesting results but... as something required to make us more comfortable with machines? Nah, not unless you mean having sex with machines or something.... even that we already have people quite comfortable with some rather non-human form mimicing products.

    • ...unless you mean having sex with machines or something....

      In which case, the suggestion of modelling robots on toddlers is even more discomforting!

    • by aicrules (819392)
      there are a lot of people who will continue to react towards technology in general with a skeptical and very negative attitude. There are still people today who think a microwave is scary. However, as the devices become more prevalent, and as more of them assume more autonomous capabilities, each new generation will be less and less likely to hold prejudice against robotic humanoids. Prejudice as has been explored in such science fictional characters as Data and iRobot also helps society understand t
      • by icebike (68054)

        Prejudice as has been explored in such science fictional characters...

        Prejudice is a odd choice of words, and suggests you've already equated (non-existent) robots with humans in your mind.

        That is exactly what sane people fear. That tech-enthusiast will decide that robots are people too. Laws will be passed. And when a human no longer serves any purpose to anyone else, they will be "decommissioned" and "parts-ed out".

        Once you decide machines are the same as you, you've disavowed your own human-ness, and accepted the fact that you are just another purpose built device which no

        • I'd say you have the wrong fear here. At the moment our robots can even conceive "decomissioning" people, we'd have already lost. If people accept they as equals or not won't change a thing.

          But then, yes, those people that think about robots the same way they think about live beings disturb me too... And there are lots of people that are able to program a computer, but won't see why it's different from an animal.

          • by icebike (68054)

            In general, I agree, but robots don't have to "conceive" of decommissioning people in order to be dangerous.

            The default state in robots is that they have no concept of saving human life. You virtually never see humans working near robots [hyperwrite.com] in industry, its just too dangerous.

            So we have the opposite of "conception" as the default, and nobody seems to worry about mandating safety of life as the starting point, or even recognizing it as a need, except when reading science fiction, where is is merely hand-waved

            • Re:More what? (Score:4, Interesting)

              by bmo (77928) on Monday December 31, 2012 @04:00PM (#42435897)

              >The default state in robots is that they have no concept of saving human life. You virtually never see humans working near robots [hyperwrite.com] in industry, its just too dangerous.

              Bullshit.

              Not everything is an industrial welding cell.

              People use robots all the time, but we don't call them robots. We call them CNC machine tools, which is just semantics. They are as robotic as anything colloquially called a "robot." Turret presses are robots too. Nearly every industrial tool is a robot these days, That's not to say that there aren't interlocks and guards, but we don't give machinery the wide berth that you imply. You just have to keep hands out of the work envelope and this is typically done with light curtains.

              In the old days of using single stage manually operated punch presses, before my time, there would be literally leashes on one's wrists that took your hands out the of the work envelope once the switch was pressed. Indeed, I will certainly say that today's robotics are a lot safer than the cam-driven stuff of yester-year. In the old days, light curtains were science fiction, and you couldn't just instantly halt a machine tool like you can today.

              But not only that, I saw a program last week about a Frito Lay plant (I believe it was in KC), and the warehouse floor was full of robotic pallet transports mingling among humans (that did surprise me)

              If everything needed a "This shall not hurt humans" directive, we wouldn't even have automobiles or even bicycles.

              --
              BMO

              • by bmo (77928)

                Edit:

                done with light curtains

                Or doors.

                --
                BMO

              • by icebike (68054)

                You just have to keep hands out of the work envelope

                there would be literally leashes on one's wrists that took your hands out the of the work envelope

                Thanks for proving my point.

                I reiterate: Industrial systems today rely on humans shutting off the robots when there is a need to approach them, not the other way around.

        • One can grasp one's hand tighter, to more securely hold one's own rights that are so dear. Or one can extend one's hand out and security the rights of others to yet again reaffirm that their rights and yours are real and not merely nice sounding words spoken by those who would readily ignore them in fear or convenience.

          The true essence of what has changed humanity today is recognizing how many people are actually human and deserving of many rights and protections that some would otherwise take for granted

        • by TheCarp (96830)

          > Once you decide machines are the same as you, you've disavowed your own human-ness, and
          > accepted the fact that you are just another purpose built device which no intrinsic or unique value.

          Is this what happened when we accepted dark skinned people as the same as us? Or women?

          How does recognizing the value and individuality of one, negate those in another?

          We cartainly have a long way to go, I don't think we are even near the point where we have to start discussing exactly at what point a machine stop

  • Uncanny Valley (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If the point is to make people more comfortable, I think they may have forgotten the uncanny valley effect.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

    Honestly.. would you rather have a robot that looks like a robot, or a robot that looks like a CREEPY pseudo-child?

  • by danlip (737336) on Monday December 31, 2012 @11:56AM (#42433551)

    that's scary in and of itself

  • by Esion Modnar (632431) on Monday December 31, 2012 @12:01PM (#42433587)
    Where's Ratchet? And will there be an option for a heli-lifter or jetpack?
  • This sounds like a reasonable goal. If my upstairs neighbors' kid is any indication, all this toddler-bot needs to be able to do is stomp around, slam into walls, and scream at random intervals.
  • The world's first baby robot has chosen it's name: Skynet.

  • This thing's going right into the Uncanny Valley for me. What an awful and ridiculous idea... yeah, because everyone was terrified of their Roomba.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley [wikipedia.org]

  • The average 2-year-old is about 34 inches tall, plus or minus 3 inches or so. This will be the world's tallest toddler.

  • but I think I'd be more comfortable with the metal spider on treads.

  • WTF does a spider on tank tracks look like? I suspect it would be less creepy than a robot toddler.

  • someone hasn't read their Asimov.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It looks like a Terminator Mini-Me.

  • > Team Aims To Build Robot Toddler...building a robot toddler
    > called 'Roboy.' Using 'soft robotics' technology that mimics
    > the human body, the 1.2 meter (3 ft, 11 in) tall humanoid robot
    > is part of an effort to make robots that people are more
    > comfortable with in day-to-day situations.

    I'm going to guess one of it's first uses will be a situation that people are less comfortable with.

  • I see two ways this could go wrong (assuming it works at all) -- the toddler robot could fall into the uncanny valley and cause revulsion. Or, it could mimic a toddler well enough to cause the normal reactions people have to toddlers not their own -- annoyance, irritation, revulsion, anger, etc.

    • Or, it could mimic a toddler well enough to cause the normal reactions people have to toddlers not their own -- annoyance, irritation, revulsion, anger, etc.

      Maybe it's just the dad in me, but after having kids my reaction to other peoples' toddler is "how cute", "awwww", or (if they are misbehaving) an understanding nod and "boy, have I been there!"

  • Don't understand this part - there should be no more effort involved to scale the size up really. The world has been moulded around the adult body, this robot would have the same amount of hassle in it as somebody suffering from dwarfism.

  • Robots only get creepy when they look like us. No one finds an auto vacuum freaky or uncomfortable to live with. But if it looked like a toddler and went around saying "Hello, Dave", it would be very freaky and uncomfortable.

  • I think a familiar - abstracted - animal form - aka a pet -- would be a better idea. The human toddler is physically awkward and vulnerable. It needs constant attention. That is not the image you want to project with a household robot.

    The clockwork pet has been a staple of science fiction and fantasy for generations.

    "Bleeker, The Rechargeable Dog," for example, is a web comic that went into global print circulation through KIng Features, along with Beetle Bailey and a hundred or so other strips that have

    • I guess they are trying to get a confortable shape for a robot with arms. That would exclude most animal forms, except for human, spider, crab or octopus-like ones. Base on our reaction to the actual animals that hold those forms, human-like is the most likely to succeed.

      I think the best bet is a completely artificial shape.

  • If they make an artificial boy lifelike enough they might get some orders from the Vatican.
  • He looks more like a cross between something from "Leprechaun" [imdb.com] and "Hardware" [imdb.com].
  • "We're building a robot. Send money.".

    Contributing doesn't mean you get a robot. They're only building one, not gearing up for production. There are currently at least 13 humanoid robots available for sale. The NAO NextGen [aldebaran-robotics.com] is roughly comparable to what the Zurich group is proposing. They've sold about 2000 robots.

    This seems to be all about building a powered skeleton. There's no indication that they have any new ideas on how to control the thing. Tendon-driven systems are less popular than they used to

  • I'd rather them look like aliens or animals than humans myself.
  • ... there are predictions that robots will take most peoples' job in the not-to-distant future? Now they want to take little Johnny's job as well?

  • Better not let it see your porn collection, or you'll be brought up on charges.

  • A few days ago, the Daily Slashdot Quote said "Toddlers are the stormtroopers of the Lord of Entropy".

    (I totally agree with that quote BTW)
    Can anyone say where that quote was from and whether robotic toddlers are the stormtroopers of the Robot Lord of Entropy, too?? Inquiring minds want to know...
  • As a parent of a 2 year old human todder, I question how common toddler features like periodic temper tantrums when things don't work out as expected will somehow be the golden sauce that "make robots that people are more comfortable with in day-to-day situations."

    Perhaps they should be trying to just build "small" people rather than toddlers ;^)

  • See Hanson Robokind [hansonrobokind.com].

  • I swear some of their prototypes look like the Geth:

    http://images.gizmag.com/gallery_lrg/roboy-34.jpg [gizmag.com]

  • by Greyfox (87712)
    Why do I look at that and feel compelled to mount a chain gun on it? *sigh* I'm a bad person...
  • Just have two people with Asperger's have unprotected sex...make sure one of them is a woman...

    • by cellocgw (617879)

      Just have two people with Asperger's have unprotected sex...make sure one of them is a woman...

      You may have missed Biology 101, but you better make sure one of them is *not* a woman as well.

  • ... you'll have a robot teenager.

  • We should never forget that robots should be designed to help people...not replace them.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

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