When Intelligent Systems Surprise Us

SONY AIBO playing with kidsWith the complexity of modern AI systems, they sometimes come up with solutions we don’t expect … when we least expect it. Here’s a great video example of this; an AIBO robot is presented with a problem that seems to have only one possible solution. Can you figure out more than one? The AIBO can.

Robotic Desk Lamp Knows Where Light’s Needed

Picture of AUR, the robotic desk lamp
Robotic home appliances. That’s where we’re headed, and AUR is definitely one I’d like for my home. Created at MIT, AUR is a robotic desk lamp that watches your movements and shines light where it’s needed.
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The Ugliest Robots in the Universe

Muu Socia 3.0 robotsAs brilliant as many successful AI & robotics developers are, robots often lack aesthetic value. A recent robot debut revealed such a hideous design that I felt compelled to write up a summary of the world’s ugliest robots. So in short, this post has nothing to do with the brilliant technologies behind some of these robots — just their pretty (or not) little faces.

The Happiest Robot in the World

Keepon the RobotLadies and gentlemen, I’m officially announcing a new titleholder of ‘Happiest Robot in the World‘ (formerly held by Plen)! Now here’s a dancing can of Coke done right, to say the least! Keepon is a little, yellow-but-snowman-like robot that dances to music and reacts to sights and sounds. The idea might sound stale, but I gurantee Keepon will make you smile. Seriously, if he doesn’t make you smile I’m tempted to think you’re dead inside!

AI War Machines March On

Predator UAV sketchAs most of us know, and shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who don’t, the military has a fervent eye on applications of AI in wars. While most modern military robots are remote controlled by humans, there are around 4,000 robots currently in Iraq, and governments don’t intend to stop at that. The goal is full autonomy, and we’re getting there. A recent article on increased autonomy of war machines mentions a few real life examples of current semi-autonomy, such as the use of the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, and DARPA’s intentions to explore systems that make life-and-death decisions on their own.

Fastest Biped Robot in the World

Runbot's bodyToday’s robots are too slow. Here’s a hypothetical recap of what’s going on in my mind when I’m watching some humanoid robots: “Yes, yes … you’re moving the leg… still moving the leg… wow! Totally awesome maneuver over that threshold!”. Given some time, that tends to get boring quite quickly. Well, thankfully technology advances and robots get faster: Runbot is a small robot that walks only slightly slower than humans.

From 1996 Comes a Retro-futuristic Telepresence Robot

The monitor of the Sparky chassisI came across this video in the tubes today. A telepresence platform built in 1996 — primarily using off-the-shelf, simple technologies. Like the remains of an electronic weelchair after a nuclear holocaust, retrofitted with a tube-screen, wheels and accompanying wireworks — the chassis screams retrofuturism galore.

World’s First Nano-Scale Soccer Game

Nanosoccer ball Once again news from the forefront of the artificial: Last saturday, on Georgia Tech’s campus at Robocup, the first nano-scaled soccer tournament took place! Microscopic robots — six times smaller than amoebas — competed on a soccer field barely the size of a grain of rice. Image on the side here is the ball!

Elephant Inspired Robotic Arm

ISELLA robotic arm thumbnailIt’s not every day that elephants inspire technological advances, let alone make existing technologies safer. Robotic arms can be quite dangerous, a single malfunction can cause frantic motion that could easily cause severe damage to us poor biological creatures. But the robotic arm ISELLA is built to minimize potential of such malfunction, and it’s design is inspired by an elephant’s trunk.

The Humanoid Robot Minority Report

Robosapien flexing his motorsIn my post on what makes a robot look feminine, a friend of mine posed an interesting observation in the comments. He felt too much time was being spent on humanoid development. He’d rather have development focus on non-humanoids that are useful now, at his home, than watching prototype humanoid robots through a glass window at the lab (not his words, I’m adding a bit of color). While this is a very understandable opinion, it’s based on a false assumption: Time spent on humanoids is miniscule in comparison to the entire range of robotics.

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