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African Robotics Network Challenge Spurs Rash of $10 Robots 60

An anonymous reader writes with this story from Wired: "When the African Robotics Network announced their $10 robot design challenge this summer, co-founder Ken Goldberg was careful not to share too many expectations, lest he influence contestants' designs. But he never imagined one of the winning entries would prominently feature a pair of Spanish lollipops. The challenge, hosted by AFRON co-founders Goldberg and Ayorkor Korsah, emphasized inexpensive designs to help bring robotics education to African classrooms." Winners include "the lollipop-laden Suckerbot and traditional (roaming) category first prize winner Kilobot, a Harvard-spawned three-legged, vibrating, swarming robot."
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African Robotics Network Challenge Spurs Rash of $10 Robots

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  • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @02:17PM (#41507375)

    seems to be loosening. I could take my old pager, stand it on end and watch it walk on the table, but I never considered it a "swarmbot" ... and it had more brains packed inside.

    I know that's not the point of the exercise, but it just seems like any gizmo that wiggles around gets classified as a "robot"

  • by jkflying ( 2190798 ) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @03:01PM (#41507587)

    Maybe robotic farmers.....maybe they could figure how to feed themselves for a change....

    You realise one of the reasons Africa has famine is because westerners keep dumping free food on them, putting the local farmers out of business? It's a bit of a vicious cycle - you can't just ignore millions of starving people - but every time free food gets given out it upsets market prices as well.

    It's a bit like the H1B situation in the states keeping skilled professionals' wages low.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2012 @03:47PM (#41507911)

    What a bunch of bullshit.

    Has it maybe crossed your mind that the people responsible for arranging all this food delivery may be as much if not much more clued up on the local economics than you?

    Local farmers are very rarely driven "out of business" - you speak as if most of Africa has a massive food surplus which just goes to waste while Europeans dump meat and potatoes on their shores.

    When apeople starve, it's never because each person has too much food - however that food is supplied. It's either because there's not enough food or that food is not getting to them - either because they can't afford it or, when it's "free", because someone else is swiping it before it gets to them. And that will continue happening as long as the West's main interest is maintaining exploitative businesses in Africa.

    You want to stop exploitation in Africa? Sanctions. Tell them you're not trading with them until they stop treating their people like shit, but tell them that you will assist them when they start making an effort at running a civilised country. This is exactly how China invests in Africa, and I expect that China will produce more advancement in Africa over the next 30 years than we ("we" being fat white Europeans) have in the past 300.

  • by jkflying ( 2190798 ) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @04:37PM (#41508229)

    Interesting how, from your point of view as a white European, I'm so very very wrong. I live in Africa, so I think I'm a bit more qualified on this topic than you are. And no, I never said anything about a surplus. But there's no incentive for a farmer to plant if he knows that he'll have to compete with 'free' by the time his crop is ready for harvest. For example, in Mozambique the UN-donated flour is a staple, meaning that it's almost impossible to locally produce any carbohydrate food source because it isn't profitable. People are poor, and they're not going to pay for food when there is a free alternative.

    How the hell are sanctions going to help with disease, no tarred roads and no houses? What really needs to happen is the EU/US needs to export skills and education, while ensuring the children they're teaching are properly fed and have the infrastructure to use their newly acquired skills. Ever tried learning on an empty stomach? Ever tried doing IT when your electricity is unreliable? Ever tried delivering perishable food when there aren't reliable roads? How useful would your skills be in a rural village in Uganda?

    What the Chinese are doing is using local labour with Chinese foremen to build roads and bridges, but that's just so that they can extract as much mineral-wealth as efficiently as possible. Any positive change they're making in the region is just a lucky side effect.

  • Not needed. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @07:19PM (#41509053)

    Africa doesn't need robots for its kids. It needs highways, and trucks, and rails, and trains, it needs stable electrical power, it needs industrial water treatment networks. Starting in its coastal cities, and building into the interior. That's how China got where it is today: infrastructure.

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle