Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

African Robotics Network Challenge Spurs Rash of $10 Robots

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the isn't-rash-a-good-plural-for-robot? dept.

Education 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."

cancel ×

60 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

ideas of what a robot is (4, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#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"

Re:ideas of what a robot is (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#41507421)

You're not thinking about the possible applications of this technology. You're suppose to fill your pockets with Harvard-spawned three-legged, vibrating, swarming robots, and then enjoy your commute to and from work more.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (0)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 2 years ago | (#41507505)

I was thinking more dangerously.....Robotic Somalian Pirates...

Then again...guess it could be more benign....robotic fly swatters, seems they need a bunch of those in all the pics I see coming from Africa.

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

Re:ideas of what a robot is (5, Insightful)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1, Flamebait)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 2 years ago | (#41507829)

The main problem is that each time you dump free food on them, they produce more children.

Overpopulation (1)

gay358 (770596) | about 2 years ago | (#41511917)

Even though the parent has been modded flamebait, I think population explosion is a huge problem which should be put under control as soon as possible. It makes malnutrition situations even worse and it will be difficult to create enough jobs, build homes, educate the children etc -- if the population is growing very fast. And at some point the population growth will hit a wall, because we live in world of limited resources.And even before hitting the wall, life will be quite miserable, because so many people are sharing the same limited resources.

And even though overpopulation is at the moment mainly problem of developing countries, if we run out of oil (or some other essential resource) soon, it could affect western countries as well -- even though we have little population growth nowadays. Modern farming technologies require cheap oil for fertilizers, shipping food etc -- and without cheap oil, we may face serious problems feeding the population. Without modern farming technologies we cannot produce as much food as we are growing at the moment.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (3, Insightful)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

ChatHuant (801522) | about 2 years ago | (#41509493)

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.

Of course not - why pay for something when you can get it free? But what you seem to say is that somehow everybody owes the farmer you mention a living? That the world should not donate or the African people should not choose the free food because the farmer can't compete? That sounds wrong, not to mention borderline patronizing. Why should the African farmer's effort be wasted on low productivity agricultural work? Why not take the opportunity to switch to something more productive which would allow him to build capital and know-how, and later compete directly with the West? Also, how would the lives of non-farming Africans be improved by forcing them to pay a potentially large percentage of their income on food grown expensively on low productivity local farms? And since Africa doesn't have yet the same level of social/governmental control mechanisms the West has painfully developed over centuries, wouldn't extensive local farming have a larger negative impact on the environment than it could?

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.

Duh, and what exactly would you expect? China or Europe, or the US to build Africa's infrastructure as a Christmas gift? Of course they do it to advance their own interests - and that should be a very valuable lesson! It's the responsibility of the Africans to defend their interests - if the Chinese want the resources, the African leaders should make sure they get as good a bargain as possible, and they should plan for the future - use the income from whatever resources they sell now to build the human capital and the infrastructure which will allow them to prosper even after the resources are depleted.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

kubernet3s (1954672) | about 2 years ago | (#41510367)

Yeah that's right, driving local industry out of business is the best thing for an economy. Free food has the same effect that undersold goods pushed into banana republics: it makes the population dependent on imports. Dependent on imports = your shit is all fucked. lrn2economics

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

Miseph (979059) | about 2 years ago | (#41510719)

"Why should the African farmer's effort be wasted on low productivity agricultural work?"

Because when all is said and done, it doesn't matter what else you have if you don't have food. IT professionals are worth shit if they starve to death.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

ChatHuant (801522) | about 2 years ago | (#41510875)

Because when all is said and done, it doesn't matter what else you have if you don't have food.

Of course that's true, if you don't have food. But if there was a shortage of food, local farmers wouldn't have a problem. The grand-parent's complaint was precisely the opposite: an abundance of free/low cost food driving the small farmer out of business - as the GP says, free food is a staple. If I were an African leader I'd see this as a chance: the biggest problem, (is providing for the population) is at least partially solved; that gives the country a window of opportunity where the freed resources should be concentrated on improving the education and infrastructure.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41510669)

This has been always the case when donor's do not go back to the root and ask them how they can be helped. You are right, building roads, water provision and skill set teaching with surplus tools thrown out in the west will be very helpful. Ask local to cooperate and give them food and shelter while working and they will be stack holders and take responsibility to maintain the resulting artifacts. Solar power and wind mills - small type will be useful. Carpentry, construction technology, drip irrigation, modern toilets and birth control and safe sex methods are all needed there. But in the West people expect the Africa to come back to the 21 century without any foundation. Colonisers left Africa without building any infrastructure. Chinese know how to exploit others that include their own people. So, they are showing that African rich minerals could be exploited for the betterment of Africa. But when corruption is pervasive the poor suffer.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41516553)

I too grew up in Africa, but then buggered off to better opportunities.

Until Africa stops ascribing failure to everything, but themselves there will always be problems: colonialism, whites, aid, no aid, AIDS, the Chinese, blah, blah, blah and so it goes. Always another excuse.

Until Africans say "OK, enough is enough. We don't care what the reason and problem is we are now ourselves going to fix things. Improve our lot. Make our own business and most of all stop blaming others for our own failings". Then Africa will have grown up.

Reminds me of the old joke (told to me by a senior man in the ANC)

When God made whites he asked them what they wanted to do. "We'll make great cities and technology and even go into space". So be it said God.

Then he asked the Chinese. "We'll create an ordered society, copy everything and eventually get our act together becoming excellent businessmen". Again God said so be it.

Then it was the Indian's turn: "We'll great great religions, build temples and make delicious food". This you will have God said.

Then he came to the Africans. "What do you want to do when you get to earth", God Asked. The Africans replied, "We'll help them".

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

TheSync (5291) | about 2 years ago | (#41516913)

With 7.2% 5-year compound annual growth, Mozambique is actually doing OK for sub-saharan Africa, but is starting from a low level (~$1000 per capita GDP).

Here is what the Index of Economic Freedom [heritage.org] says about Mozambique:

Mozambique held its first democratic elections in 1994 and since then has been a model for development and post-war recovery. President Armando Guebuza was re-elected in 2009. Economic growth has been generally strong since the mid-1990s, but the country remains poor and burdened by state-sanctioned monopolies and inefficient public services.

Property rights are not strongly respected, and law enforcement is inefficient and uneven. The judicial system is not fully independent and remains vulnerable to political influence and corruption. In the absence of an efficient legal framework, court rulings can be arbitrary and inconsistent.

The trade weighted average tariff rate is 4.5 percent, with complex non-tariff barriers further restricting freedom to trade. Despite some progress in enhancing the investment framework, layers of bureaucratic procedures continue to hamper more vibrant growth in new investment. The financial sector is growing but remains hindered by weak infrastructure and state controls. Most citizens still lack adequate access to financial services.

Although progress has been gradual, Mozambique has been implementing much-needed reforms in its regulatory and investment frameworks. Private-sector economic activity has increased, but privatization of state-owned enterprises has slowed. Foreign and domestic capital are treated similarly in most cases, and trade liberalization has progressed despite the persistence of non-tariff barriers.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#41517387)

From the time I've spent there, and the friends attempting to start businesses there, I have to agree with that analysis. I would add, however, that the police are still very heavily armed: a typical roadblock for checking licenses will typically have two police with AK47s. There is a lot of low-level corruption - particularly police - which needs to be stamped out as the country becomes stronger if their democracy is going to survive.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41509329)

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,

Haha, implying that China imposes sanctions on any African country it trades with. China's explicit foreign policy is one of non-interference. Why do you think it always (uually alongside Russia) votes against intervention in countries like Syria etc. You can view China as a profit-making business. I am not qualified to speak on the outlook of the effects of Chinese investment in Africa, but I do know that they are perfectly willing and sctually do business with presidents that have ICC arrest warrants out on them (Al-Bashir).

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

fyi101 (2715891) | about 2 years ago | (#41508541)

I was under the impression that 1st World subsidized food production was a much bigger problem for African farmers, by way of the Western World dumping millions of tons of cheap food into the markets and making it impossible for them to compete; you make it sound as if the "good intentions" of the 1st World is what's causing the damage, I think it's a bit more depressing/sinister/insert-cynical-consideration-of-the-way-the-world-works. Perhaps you can correct me on this.

The worst part is that the subsidies don't even help the small-to-medium 1st World farmers anymore, if I'm informed correctly. Most of the money goes to farming Megacorps.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#41511469)

I'm not going to second guess intentions. All I know is that I can see the results.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

fyi101 (2715891) | about 2 years ago | (#41511667)

I wasn't commenting on the intentions, I was refering to the food aid that you pointed out as the presumed culprit of African woes. I was saying that the results you see may have a lot more to do with unfair market competition than with food aid, and that removing food aid while ignoring the flooding of markets with subsidized food from the 1st World could mean starving populations, without actually solving anything.

Having to compete with cheaper is just as bad as having to compete with free, farmers can't sustain themselves, employ others, and no one can pay for food.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#41511815)

Ah, yes, absolutely. And even without the subsidies, competing with Big Agri is hard enough for the little guy when customers are very conscious of the price they are paying for food, and aren't very fussy about it being "organic" or "local".

As for the subsidies, as an example, I know it's cheaper here to get Italian tomato sauce than local, which makes absolutely no sense. The only way for that to be possible, given wage disparity and shipping costs, is for the Italians to be selling their sauce for below cost. Anything to get their trade deficit down, I guess.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

TheSync (5291) | about 2 years ago | (#41517063)

I know it's cheaper here to get Italian tomato sauce than local, which makes absolutely no sense. The only way for that to be possible, given wage disparity and shipping costs, is for the Italians to be selling their sauce for below cost.

Unlikely. More likely is that the Italian tomato sauce is experiencing tremendous economies of scale, rather than local farmers who are only making small batches of the stuff instead of ten-thousand gallons of sauce at a time, automated jarring lines rather than hand-jarring, transporting them in cargo containers on efficient ships and 18-wheelers rather than someone's pick-up truck, more efficiently marketing and distributing it, etc. It is also possible that labor costs are slightly lower in Italy, and that they may have better environmental situation (sun/soil/etc.) for more efficiently producing more tomatoes.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#41517699)

This is South Africa I'm talking about, not the jungle. We have all of the economies of scale that you're ever going to benefit from with tomato sauce. We have industrial fruit picking machines, 18 wheeler transportation, mechanised bottling, local glass jar moulding facilities, large cold-storage facilities, the works. We export huge quantities of fruit (particularly apples and oranges) to both the EU and the US, so I don't expect the Italians to have better environmental conditions or they would be exporting their own fruit and undercutting us. We export a lot of wine which is competitive with (and often undercuts) the rest of the world, so I don't see how our tomato situation would be so different.

Apparently Italians use migrant labour, so they're about even on that. But they're still down on shipping. They get around this by getting the EU to subsidize their tomato exports - here's an article from Australia complaining about the Italian canned tomatoes putting the locals out of business:
http://www.smh.com.au/national/canned-why-local-tomatoes-cop-a-pasting-20120526-1zc2q.html [smh.com.au]

Re:ideas of what a robot is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41508965)

save africa seems to be a rather modern thing, what about the other few thousand years they have been starving without outside influence?

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

kubernet3s (1954672) | about 2 years ago | (#41510387)

Historically, Africa has at various times done better or worse than other regions. However, colonialism seriously fucked them up. "Save Africa" is recent because "starving Africa" is recent

Re:ideas of what a robot is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41511079)

If they'd not been so fucking useless they wouldn't have been colonised.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

gay358 (770596) | about 2 years ago | (#41511787)

I have often wondered, how much climate explains the development of societies. In some climates it is easier to live without much infrastructure and planning ahead, because the climate allows farming around the year and you will survive living outdoors.

In countries with cold winter, you will have severe mortality, if you haven't planned and prepared well for the winter as the climate is quite unforgiving. For example, in Finland, about a third of the population died because of famine between 1695â"1697 [wikipedia.org] and about 15 % of population died between 1866â"1868 [wikipedia.org] . This has created an evolutionary pressure for development of society, because the alternative for deveploment has been quick death.

Luckily in some ways the climate in Finland is also forgiving. We don't usually have lack of rain and harsh climate has helped to keep many dangerous diseases away.

Geography and wealth (1)

gay358 (770596) | about 2 years ago | (#41511851)

This Wikipedia article contains some information about this subject:

Geography and wealth [wikipedia.org]

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

kubernet3s (1954672) | about 2 years ago | (#41562101)

Good, except this doesn't explain ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Persia, Arabia, Carthage, Ethiopia, the Central America empires, or any number of extremely sophisticated government structures originating and thriving in climates much warmer than northern countries (which have historically been populated by tribal raiders who at various points had nearly destroyed themselves wtih infighting) Nor does it explain the issues faced by South African regions.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 2 years ago | (#41509571)

You're right, dumping lowers demand for local farmers driving them out of business. This is why you give them some way of having demand such as money or food stamps. They then buy from local farmers, and it encourages a local farming industry. In times of famine and crisis, you can import foods, but for lasting change, you need to be able to give the poorest of the poor some way to exercise market demand of their own.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

rthille (8526) | about 2 years ago | (#41515541)

We really should be dumping "appropriate tech" on them instead. Low cost (low or high tech) well drilling and water pumping systems, crop rotation and such.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (2)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#41507599)

If you could control the direction it walked, then why would it be any different from something with wheels?

Full disclosure: my MSc supervisor was involved in judging the competition.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41507603)

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"

Many robots are, indeed, deeply pointless; but the 'swarmbot' thing is actually an arguably genuine category and one with some interesting work being done: The idea is, cribbing shamelessly from organisms like ants and termites, to examine the behavior and capabilities of multiple(generally low-capability) robots collaborating on a task with limited or no central command-and-control.

The robots people build for this research tend to be pretty trivial(because it needs to be cheap for the lab dozens of them bumping around as test subjects); but the task of designing rulesets for individual agents that, when dumped into a test area with a bunch of identical peers, result in the desired outcome is hardly a simple problem. The people working on individual highly capable robots certainly do get the cooler hardware, though.

Re:ideas of what a robot is (1)

Larryish (1215510) | about 2 years ago | (#41508747)

"Suckerbot" has to be tethered to a laptop to work. The guidance system is part of the robot's system, and IMO should therefore be included in the price.

"Kilobot" is a nice design and seems to be an actual programmable autonomous self-contained unit.

They are both a tall step up from "BattleBots" styled offerings, in that Suckerbot and Kilobot are actually robots, and not fancy RC cars mislabeled "robot".

Just Think (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 2 years ago | (#41507395)

Real progress toward edible electronics.

This article is very interesting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41507413)

A bit sad I'll never be able to read it because there is a FUCKING VIDEO AD ACROSS THE WHOLE FUCKING SITE.

I wish browsers came with an de-bookmark function, where if by accident I were to return here a pop up would tell me "This site is a piece of shit. You marked it as shit. Do you really want to waste your time again?"

Re:This article is very interesting. (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41508895)

there is a FUCKING VIDEO AD ACROSS THE WHOLE FUCKING SITE

Firefox+Adblock Plus is YOUR FUCKING FRIEND. ;)

Sign me up (4, Funny)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about 2 years ago | (#41507427)

I'm intrigued by this $10 Suckbot.

What? Oh. Once again, misread the summary and disappointed by the actual article.

Re:Sign me up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41507705)

You should have read headline. "Spurs rash". Do not want.

Great Recycling (3, Interesting)

epSos-de (2741969) | about 2 years ago | (#41507437)

Most of the robots appear to be build from up-cycled trash that gets dumped in Africa. Imagine the potential, if they had real access to cheap processing units and cheap sensors. Imagine, if they could get an Arduino board for 3 dollars from China.

Re:Great Recycling (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41507757)

Imagine, if they could get an Arduino board for 3 dollars from China.

Imagine if I could get an Arduino board for 3 dollars from China. Arduino is pretty steep for what you're getting if you compare it to a lot of finished products. I don't mind paying it because it's still better for what I want than hacking one of those finished products, and it's still cheaper, but it doesn't look as cheap when you compare it to a $50 android tablet.

Re:Great Recycling (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#41508995)

your comparing cars to engines

android tablets are great when you want small computing power, not so much when you need to interface with the physical world. for example I am working on a project right now that has a machine on one end, a core 2 duo on the other end and guess whats in the middle bridging the two together

it sure as fuck isnt a android tablet

Re:Great Recycling (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | about 2 years ago | (#41518763)

I think the point was that if an Android tablet can be built and sold at a profit for $50 then it is likely that an Arduino board could be built and sold at a profit for less than the current price(s). I agree.

Re:Great Recycling (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#41519323)

3 bucks for a clone is hard to beat considering the chip in single quantities cost more than that

Re:Great Recycling (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | about 2 years ago | (#41520115)

I think you are being a bit literal.

Re:Great Recycling (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#41521715)

yes, I am

I would love to see you produce a arduino for less than three bucks for public sales

I think your being a bit idealistic, its all about quantity ... chico spends 40$ making a crap arm tablet and sells tens of millions of them for a 10$ profit each, then you should be able to sell tens of thousands of arduino's for less than 3 bucks

electronics prices is a total quanties game, you buy one chip its 4 bucks, you buy 100 its slightly cheaper, you have a fab dedicating a significant portion of its line to just you its silly cheap.

So everything is a robot now? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#41507749)

The definition of "robot" is pretty useless now. Because my cellphone meets the definition of a robot, my video camera does, a RC car seems to be a highly advanced "robot".

I learned that a robot is a mechanical device that can perform tasks automatically. It may – but need not – be humanoid in appearance. Some robots require some minor degree of guidance, which may be done using a remote control, or with a computer interface.

All of these need Major guidance, as in "remote control car".

But, let's call them robots as it makes people feel better.

Re:So everything is a robot now? (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about 2 years ago | (#41509889)

The definition of "robot" is pretty useless now. Because my cellphone meets the definition of a robot, my video camera does, a RC car seems to be a highly advanced "robot".

Your cellphone nor your video camera accomplishes manual tasks. And an RC car only accomplishes the task that the person tells it what to do.
A robot is a mechanical device that can perform manual tasks automatically. The definition of robot is not useless. Although there are some things that might qualify as a robot, that we wouldn't normally associate "robot" with, like your CD drawer that pops out automatically.
There are two essential pieces to a robot. It needs to be autonomous (an RC car is not) and it needs to perform a manual task.

after watching the kilobots, I have questions (1)

Artifex (18308) | about 2 years ago | (#41508659)

Is it too late for me to change careers to be a robot designer, and how do I go about doing it? :)
No, seriously, do I need to go back to school and get an EE degree, or what?

Re:after watching the kilobots, I have questions (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#41509015)

no, just start reading and doing, especially today where you can get lego block modules, plug them in and slap some libraries together without knowing much of anything with just a click from one of the many overpriced hobby "maker" shops.

no you will not be an expert doing it that way, but its a way to dive in and see if you really want to, while learning a ton at the same time

Not needed. (3, Insightful)

goodmanj (234846) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not needed. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41509107)

Africa had all of those things until the white man left and the Africans took over.

Re:Not needed. (1)

kubernet3s (1954672) | about 2 years ago | (#41510403)

Not for Africans it didn't

Re:Not needed. (2)

rolfwind (528248) | about 2 years ago | (#41509873)

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.

First off, why should Africa build highways? China and India built the classical western-style consumption oriented infrastructure... in the 90s and today, lots of places and roads empty -- and peak oil is looming. Railroad (which they have) is good but the car may be hammer in a time when a screwdriver is needed.

And second, just because a nation/continent hasn't solve all of it's problems doesn't mean it should make a full-stop until everyone is caught up. Poverty is still a problem in the US, but somehow I doubt we'd be better off if we never had NASA, or work on transistor and later microchip. With so many people, we can concentrate on more than 1 problem at a time, and sometimes, solving some in a seemingly unrelated domain will open solutions in another one.

Re:Not needed. (1)

goodmanj (234846) | about 2 years ago | (#41510731)

First off, why should Africa build highways? ... peak oil is looming. Railroad (which they have) is good but the car may be hammer in a time when a screwdriver is needed.

It's not about cars. It's about *trucks*. Sub-Saharan Africa represents the biggest pool of cheap labor on the planet. Its coastal cities have the potential to become the next Shanghai; its inland cities have the potential to become the next Chengdu a decade later. With wages across the Far East skyrocketing, why aren't manufacturers falling over themselves to build factories in African cities where they can pay their workers 10 cents a day? Because they can't be sure they'll be able to get their raw materials to the factory, get their finished goods out, and keep the lights on.

I'm worried about peak oil too. I don't care if Africa runs its trucks on diesel, biofuel, electricity, or broken promises: what it needs is a reliable technology to get individual cargo containers to any point on the map. And that means trucks of some kind, on reliable paved roads.

And second, just because a nation/continent hasn't solve all of it's problems doesn't mean it should make a full-stop until everyone is caught up. Poverty is still a problem in the US, but somehow I doubt we'd be better off if we never had NASA, or work on transistor and later microchip. With so many people, we can concentrate on more than 1 problem at a time, and sometimes, solving some in a seemingly unrelated domain will open solutions in another one.

The problem I have is that everyone treats Africa as the place to turn their personal interests into a humanitarian project. If I'm a doctor, and I'm in a helping mood, I'll support people building medical clinics in Africa. And when those clinics shut down because they can't get supplies, I never hear about it. If I'm a religious man, I say that what Africa really needs is more churches. And when those churches do what churches have always done, namely provide solace rather than solving problems, I feel like I've done a good deed. And when nerds get in the mood to do good, they decide that what Africa needs is one laptop per child, or robots for learning. And when those high-tech gadgets break down and can't be fixed because nobody can get the parts and tools, the nerds are off playing WoW with a warm glow in their hearts.

By all means, design some robots for Africa. Maybe you'll help some kid learn something. But just remember that when you think first of your personal interests, and second of what Africa needs, you're being selfish. "Selfish humanitariansm" seems like it should be a contradiction in terms, but sadly isn't.

Re:Not needed. (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | about 2 years ago | (#41550383)

Moron. They need to form scientists and engineers as much as the next guy.

African Robotics (1)

nischal360 (2713011) | about 2 years ago | (#41511161)

African Robotics comment

Re:African Robotics (1)

nischal360 (2713011) | about 2 years ago | (#41511165)

Reply on comment

African Engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41513409)

Every time I have heard this term it was referring to somebody taping speakers to a wall or something similar.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>