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Robotics Science Technology

Terminator Sparrows? 138

Posted by Soulskill
from the they'll-be-back-...-from-the-dead dept.
AstroPhilosopher writes "In a move not far removed from the model T-101, U.S. researchers have succeeded in re-animating a dead sparrow. Duke scientists were studying male behavior aggression among sparrows. They cleverly decided to insert miniaturized robotics into an empty sparrow carcass and operate it like a puppet (abstract). It worked; they noticed wing movements were a primary sign of aggression. Fortunately the living won out this time. The experiment stopped after the real sparrows tore off the robosparrow's head. But there's always a newer model on the assembly-line. Good luck sparrows." Bad Horse has not yet made a decision on the researchers' application.
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Terminator Sparrows?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:06PM (#43017681) Journal
    Awesome research but the last section puzzles me:

    The living male birds were equally aggressive to Robosparrow whether its wing movements were activated or not, the researchers found.

    "It confirmed our hypothesis that the wing-waving behaviour is functioning male aggressive communication," said Dr Anderson.

    Wouldn't the first sentence imply that nothing can be determined? I mean, it sounds like they weren't beating the shit out of robosparrow because of his wing movements but more so because he was going around looking for Sparrow Connor.

    But in all serious does anyone know how they came to that conclusion given the seemingly arbitrary constant aggression?

    • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:14PM (#43017779) Journal

      It certainly looks like a pair of conflicting statements...did they never consider that they'd triggered an "Uncanny Valley" reaction in the sparrows and they were being aggressive towards the cyborg-zombie sparrow?

      • Exactly, I was about to say the same thing. I mean was the Robosparrow attacked because the others thought it looked weird because it had a dead look or something? Is there a full paper that explains their research. That conclusion jump left me wondering!
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:42PM (#43018071)

          Yeah... if this were to happen with humans, I could see that just about anyone would try to take down a random robo-zombie with a baseball bat or shotgun blast to the head!

          There's not going to be any "Oh hey... are you okay, man? You look pale, and your eyes are dull and you move with an unnatural jerky movement... did you eat some bad shellfish?"

          It's going to be screaming and mayhem.

          BEST CAPTCHA EVER: "automata"

          • There's not going to be any "Oh hey... are you okay, man? You look pale, and your eyes are dull and you move with an unnatural jerky movement... did you eat some bad brains?"

          • Actually maybe that's the point. The real conclusion here is "Animals instinctively attack abominations of twisted science and/or necromancy."
        • by operagost (62405)
          Agreed. I greatly hope that this is just a poorly written article, and not a ridiculous conclusion.
      • by Grayhand (2610049) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @04:24PM (#43018473)

        It certainly looks like a pair of conflicting statements...did they never consider that they'd triggered an "Uncanny Valley" reaction in the sparrows and they were being aggressive towards the cyborg-zombie sparrow?

        That was my reaction. The attack seemed disproportionally aggressive. Killing the competition isn't a normal reaction. It seems more like fear than aggression. Curious if that could end up being another intelligence test whether animals also deal with a form of Uncanny Valley reaction. It's not universal since I've seen animals being fairly accepting of robotic animals. Gorillas don't normally have an aggressive reaction to people in gorilla suits, Rick Baker's crew dealt with that first hand on Graystoke by mixing with wild gorillas. Birds are different and look for subtle cues so they may react more strongly to "wrong" behavior. Moving oddly might be perceived as diseased so a dangerous threat to the gene pool.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Gorillas don't normally have an aggressive reaction to people in gorilla suit.

          Apples vs. Oranges.

          How would gorillas react to someone in a suit made out of a dead gorilla? You know: with rotting flesh smell and dead eyes.
          It must have a robotic whirring noise to be a fair comparison.

      • by Livius (318358) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @10:05PM (#43021137)

        You may laugh now, but with their proactive approach sparrows will be the ones surviving the zombie apocalypse.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "...subjects responded more aggressively to the mount during wing waving trials than during stationary trials. A second experiment demonstrated that this effect cannot be attributed simply to increased attention to movement. Less expectedly, subjects did not alter their own display behavior in response to wing waving as compared to a static mount. We conclude that the wing wave display in the context of singing is a signal that functions in male–male aggressive communication. Questions remain, includ

    • > Wouldn't the first sentence imply that nothing can be
      > determined? I mean, it sounds like they weren't beating the
      > shit out of robosparrow because of his wing movements but
      > more so because he was going around looking for Sparrow
      > Connor.

      That was my first thought too.

      Going out on a limb here but... this is the article not the paper. My assumption would be, before going to check the paper out, that the reporter who wrote the article either misunderstood the test or possibly, his editor did, and either worded it badly, or an important statement or two got cut. ....now lets do a quick check,....and the abstract says.... the reporter/editor left shit out:

      As predicted, subjects responded more aggressively to the mount during wing waving trials than during stationary trials. A second experiment demonstrated that this effect cannot be attributed simply to increased attention to movement. Less expectedly, subjects did not alter their own display behavior in response to wing waving as compared to a static mount. We conclude that the wing wave display in the context of singing is a signal that functions in maleâ"male aggressive communication. Questions remain, including whether wing waving functions as a signal in the absence of singing and whether wing waving and song are redundant signals or communicate different information.

      • Possibly the hypothesis connecting wing movement to aggression is not based on the /puppet's/ wing movements, but those of the living sparrows.

        As in, as the /living sparrows/ became more aggressive, they displayed more wing movements.

        You wouldn't to base any conclusions on the manipulated behaviors of the puppet anyway.

        *Why* the living sparrows became increasingly aggressive (the the point of decapitation!) towards the puppet is unknown. Perhaps they were watching too many Romero movies.

        I therefore conclude

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      Awesome research but the last section puzzles me:

      The living male birds were equally aggressive to Robosparrow whether its wing movements were activated or not, the researchers found.

      "It confirmed our hypothesis that the wing-waving behaviour is functioning male aggressive communication," said Dr Anderson.

      Wouldn't the first sentence imply that nothing can be determined? I mean, it sounds like they weren't beating the shit out of robosparrow because of his wing movements but more so because he was going around looking for Sparrow Connor.

      But in all serious does anyone know how they came to that conclusion given the seemingly arbitrary constant aggression?

      Sparrow Connor taught him about Tweetie and Sequester.

      • by a_hanso (1891616)

        Sparrow Connor taught him about Tweetie and Sequester.

        Tweetie and Sequester: How one bird reached across the aisle and averted the budget crisis.

        • by Sulphur (1548251)

          Sparrow Connor taught him about Tweetie and Sequester.

          Tweetie and Sequester: How one bird reached across the aisle and averted the budget crisis.

          And he said, "I think you're ... delicious."

  • Your seeds (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hsien-Ko (1090623) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:10PM (#43017723)
    Give them to me.


    Now
    • by Quakeulf (2650167)
      Mod parent up. Just do it. DO IT
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Apparently, "Come with me if you want to live" was lost in the translation.

      • by telchine (719345)

        Apparently, "Come with me if you want to live" was lost in the translation.

        Tweet, twit-tweet-twit twit-twit-tweeeeeeet!

    • by game kid (805301)

      I can't quite tell if you said that in the tyrant robotic bird in a swamp sense, the Monsanto legal team sense, or the "this experiment is so awesome that I demand the researchers' bukkake all over my body" sense.

      • Re:Your seeds (Score:5, Informative)

        by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @04:45PM (#43018675) Homepage Journal

        I can't quite tell if you said that in the tyrant robotic bird in a swamp sense, the Monsanto legal team sense, or the "this experiment is so awesome that I demand the researchers' bukkake all over my body" sense.

        More like the "reference to a classic sci-fi movie that probably came out before you were but a twinkle in your father's eye" sense.

    • by Billlagr (931034)
      I would have thought that the now-removed robosparrow head's last words would be "I'll be back", as it's one glowing red eye faded out..
  • What has Science done !!??@!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:13PM (#43017755)

    Even sparrows hate the undead. Those zombies are going down.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sometimes I wonder about how researchers justify generalizing their conclusions. If someone put a robot inside a human corpse to study human social behavior they'd probably observe people shooting it with shotguns and trying to light it on fire. You can't say that the arm movements triggered the aggression.

      • If someone put a robot inside a human corpse to study human social behavior they'd probably observe people shooting it with shotguns and trying to light it on fire. You can't say that the arm movements triggered the aggression.

        Well, you could, but you'd probably be gunned down for being one of those damn zombie sympathizers...

        Side Note: Boy, that gives 'bleeding heart' an all new connotation, now doesn't it?

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Sparrows are the carriers of the soul.

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

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

    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      Even sparrows hate the undead. Those zombies are going down.

      "Next on AMC The Sqawking Dead"

    • by Motard (1553251)

      Wait, is this about Robin being killed?

  • O.O (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:15PM (#43017787)

    I am appalled at what science has done...

    That said, I really want to see the YouTube video of this...

    • Re:O.O (Score:5, Informative)

      by reverseengineer (580922) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @04:56PM (#43018829)

      There's video of the sparrow in the supplementary information tab on the abstract page in Quicktime format. The file 265_2013_1478_MOESM2_ESM.m4v is the one with footage of the reanimated sparrow. I'll warn you that it isn't exactly thrilling. No lurid sparrow on cybersparrow violence.

      Of note is that they actually operated the mechanical bird inside a cage. I think the quote "Eventually the head fell off and the wing stopped moving" from the BBC article meant precisely that: the robobird fell apart from exposure to the elements and repeated trials.

      The /. submitter appears to have wrongly inferred that this damage was from other sparrows tearing it apart, when in fact their aggressive behavior was "got close and waved menacingly."

      • Looking again at the BBC article, they do mention physical attacks (and the page picture seems to be depicting one), so I went looking for the researcher's' own page [duke.edu], and it turns out there are some videos [duke.edu] of sparrows attacking a taxidermied sparrow. From the looks of it, they may have used the "robosparrow" with the motorized wing in a cage, since it was fragile and they only had one. This video [youtube.com] from 2011 of a live sparrow attacking a stationary taxidermied sparrow seems to suggest that there's no way the

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:15PM (#43017793)

    an African or European swallow?

  • by n0w0rries (832057) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:16PM (#43017803)
    What would you do if suddenly your uncle bernie was reanimated like a zombie. You'd blow his head off I'm sure! I side with the sparrows! Death to cyborg zombies!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe live sparrows just hate cyborg/zombie sparrows?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nope, Chuck Testa.

  • He's bad.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does putting robotic pieces into a dead bird count as re-animation?

    • The literal kind [wikipedia.org], I suppose. The other kind would probably be instead termed something like resuscitation, revivification or resurrection, depending on whether the subject is a little, mostly or all dead.

      • If Disney had just used corpses in their Hall of Presidents, this story would be dumber than it already was.
    • by Barryke (772876)

      No. Unless you don't know shit and feel creative. Seeing the rest of the article, i guess its actually content sources at The Union News..

  • by Arthur B. (806360) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:23PM (#43017863)

    http://imgur.com/iDdNnNk [imgur.com]

    nope...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:24PM (#43017871)

    I'm no bird, but if they animated a human corpse by what appears to be magic and had it make threatening gestures at me until I freaked out and ripped its head off, I'd probably be very traumatized.

  • Oh, OK... (Score:4, Funny)

    by interval1066 (668936) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:26PM (#43017899) Homepage Journal
    Oh god, I thought they succeeded in doing some kind of Frankenstein's monster thing with electrodes and chemicals... they just stuck some wires and gizmos up the ass of a dead sparrow... big difference. Big relief imo...
    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @04:11PM (#43018353) Journal

      they just stuck some wires and gizmos up the ass of a dead sparrow

      All is fair in the name of science

    • I know right? I thought it was the same thing. It went from being the biggest news I've probably ever heard to a pretty stupid research project in 4 seconds.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Really? This is BETTER then bringing the dead back to life?

      • Ok, you did read/see/are aware of the story in Mary Shelley's classic novel "Frankenstien: The Modern Prometheus"? And yes, I would rather see a dead body animated as a marionette rather than a brain-eating zombie or a Frankenstien's monster. Seriously, everything has to be spelled out to so many /.'rs. Maybe its a language thing...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:27PM (#43017919)

    The researchers, as quoted in the original article, describe the problem I've always had with re-animation:

    "Eventually the head fell off"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:30PM (#43017965)

    This is a terrible summary even by /. standards.

    Both terminator and 'reanimate' have completely different inferred meanings than what the story is actually about.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Apparently, you have forgotten just how low slashdot standards really are.

  • Ex-Parrot (Score:5, Funny)

    by Marillion (33728) <ericbardes.gmail@com> on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:31PM (#43017975)
    Repeat experiment with parrots and ruin a perfectly good Monty Python skit.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm seriously disappointed in Slashdot. Not only did it take a good few minutes for someone to finally make a Monty Python reference, not one person has asked whether or not the Robosparrow ran/still runs Linux.

      It's almost as if you've reddit all before and don't care about the articles.

      • not one person has asked whether or not the Robosparrow ran/still runs Linux.

        ... and whether the python language is so concise that you need to "pad these python files out to 200 lines"...

    • by TeknoHog (164938)

      Repeat experiment with parrots

      African or European?

  • by ethanms (319039) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:41PM (#43018063)

    Oh! That's it! That's IT! I've had it with this dump! We got no food! We got no jobs! Our pets heads are falling off!

    What the hell are we doing here Harry? We gotta get out of this town!

  • Pass me a shovel, I'm going to Graceland.

  • by gtirloni (1531285) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:44PM (#43018083)
    Good job trying to make everybody think researchers actually revived a dead bird.

    This "news" would be as amusing as a 5 year-old "re-animating" his sockpuppet with Lego.
  • I hear it was looking for Sparrow Conner.
  • I for one welcome our new robosparrow overlords.
  • That sparrow was simply incensed that puny humans would dare try to speak to him through such a crude facsimile. Ripping it's head off was the only means he had to communicate that to us in a language we could understand.

  • Bad summarization? Not necessarily. In the Terminator series SkyNet placed living tissue over a robot in order to infiltrate human enclaves. Similarly, researchers placed robotics in a carcass in order to fool living sparrows. Exactly the same? No, but the premise is quite similar. The analogy was drawn simply to give the reader an idea of what happened since readers may be more familiar with the Terminator films than with ornithology, robotics, and taxidermy. Also, there are several meanings of the word re
  • Make a terminator Raven, and teach it to say nevermore. Put it in some Poe fan's house.
  • by sdeath (199845) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @04:25PM (#43018481)

    "... We wrapped a robot in a dead sparrow and decided to see if we could fool the other sparrows into interacting with our creepy, ghoulish automaton! It's *science*!"

    And of course, it was COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED that the grisly abomination stapled to a tree branch triggered aggressive reactions from the other sparrows. Because every living thing JUST LOVES to be confronted with a soulless golem wrapped in the dead flesh of another of its kind. And that never causes pants-shitting terror or anything.

    I can see it now:

    Sparrow 1: "OH MY GOD! IS THAT... *THING* ... WEARING FRANK'S FACE? IS IT?! FRANK??!?!"
    Sparrow 2: "It's not him anymore. IT'S! ...NOT! ...HIM! IT'S A MACHINE! Help me destroy it! Be his egg-layer one last time!"
    Sparrow 1: "*snf* OK... OK... oh God, Frank... God help me..."

    Yup. Science.

    Is there, like, a review board or anything? Maybe that could screen some horror flicks before writing checks for this kind of bullshit? "New rule: If your study is substantially similar to the plot of any one of this library of 100 horror movies, or if it has a plausible chance of producing similar outcomes, we're not going to fund it."

  • "empty sparrow carcass".

  • Am I the only one that's surprised this thing wasn't hooked up to twitter to report its status?

    • by Anomalyst (742352)

      Am I the only one that's surprised this thing wasn't hooked up to twitter to report its status?

      YES!

  • Lead scientist is Walter Bishop ;-)
  • Creds to Seth Green as he already animated a dead bird... :-)
  • Videos are available on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/user/mspiza2010 [youtube.com].

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