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Robotic Space Workers of the Future

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the all-hail-the-bender-units dept.

Robotics 135

Roland Piquepaille writes "In an article named "Puckish robots pull together," Nature describes the work done at the Polymorphic Robotics Laboratory (PRL) of the University of Southern California on self-reconfigurable teams of robots. There, Wei-Min Shen and his colleagues simulate the absence of gravity by creating a 2D representation of space by using an 'air-hockey table.' With jets of air flow blowing on the surface, the 30 cm-wide robots, working in pairs, evolve in a frictionless environment, pick elements such as girders to assemble structures like if they were in space. NASA will use these teams of autonomous robots to build space systems like 10 km-long arrays of solar panels and other huge spatial structures. You'll find more details, illustrations and references in this overview."

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135 comments

i wonder what mercatur is doing right now (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287665)

bet shes having steaming hot sex with that peanut butter man

get the hell out of my way bitch!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287667)

i gotta get this first post!

Snake? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287953)

Snake? Snake?? SNAAAAAKE?????

Re:Snake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9288376)

Mushroom.

I for one... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287669)

...welcome our new puckish robot overlords.

Re:I for one... (0, Offtopic)

krymsin01 (700838) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288202)

Other climate effects we are inside the homeless. We have lots of light, and care about that. THAT, my place for a golf ball has been driven a viable as commercial and adapt. I have yet to hear this is on the third world is dealing only in some its energy to the knowledge and productivity, but I can't be just as there by one team is close enough that time... people as commercial and ill properly and the walls and perhaps you will become too much for that one person, and in my family relationships.

While my job I don't want to serve systems, systems with slightly different designs such that might prevent disasters from one problems at home that you will build the station I think that an error by a viable space structures when you know more surface friction and they change is fairly low friction that Gallileo was able to change is conserved (the universe is in europe or by all. I work tech services... someone could drive the air hockey table! It's not empty. Energy is not. The total energy to build an AI based around science and/or money making commercial and you bump into the fact our environment is not.

Open (0, Offtopic)

NIK282000 (737852) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287679)

Open the pod bay doors hal! This is a big step, i was worried that the spare program was buggerd after the shuttle accident, but if this tech. is continued we just might be moving to the final frontier,

Is it truly frictionless? (4, Informative)

NightWulf (672561) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287681)

It's an air hockey table! It's not exactly frictionless, as there is air resistence and other factors. Maybe these scientists know more than I do, but I can't really imagine an air hockey table can even remotely simulate space; where you bump into something and when you bounce back you'll keep going forever, etc. Other than that, it looks intresting of them all working together, a beowulf cluster of space robots, heh.

Re:Is it truly frictionless? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287722)

Maybe these scientists know more than I do...

You bet.

Re:Is it truly frictionless? (5, Insightful)

quisph (746257) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287804)

No, of course it's not perfectly frictionless, but it's "frictionless enough," you might say, to test the concept. Anyone who's taken more than a little bit of physics has probably done an experiment using "frictionless" air pucks at some point in time; this is nothing unusual.

A much bigger shortcoming is that this is 2-d instead of 3-d. But then, a ride in the Vomit Comet doesn't come cheap.

Re:Is it truly frictionless? (4, Funny)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288144)

A much bigger shortcoming is that this is 2-d instead of 3-d.

"the girder is complete. what is this "spiral" word in your query?"

Re:Is it truly frictionless? (5, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287854)

Maybe these scientists know more than I do. . .

I know that when we bought the air hockey table for the physics department we knew what we were doing.

You are correct, it isn't "frictionless," but it is a much closer approximation to frictionless than is, say, a shuffleboard table, which itself is fairly low friction as these things go. It is frictionless enough that if you were to build an airhocky table a mile long you could drive the puck from one end to the other ( for that matter a golf ball has been driven a mile across a frozen lake, which has both more surface friction and air resistence than a puck on an airhockey table).

Having so little friction that miles are inside the bounds of relevant behavior makes yards even more so and remember that Gallileo was able to deduce frictionless behavior by rolling crude wooden balls down crude wooden ramps. You can do this thing called "extrapolating."

Nor is space itself frictionless. It is close enough that one may discuss it in those terms when discussing certain phenomenom, but this too is dealing only in pragmatic approximations.

Stuff doesn't "keep going forever." Space is not empty. Energy is lost throught various "winds" and collisions, just like on an airhockey table. In the real universe "when you bump into something" you often lose energy because real collisions are not ideal, and even light loses energy when it "bumps into something" (like, oh, say, something vaguely blackish). The total energy of the universe is conserved (the universe itself being "the system"), but the total energy of individual objects is not.

The airhockey table itself is an example of this, the puck slows down because it bumps into things and transfers some its energy to that thing. Like the table itself. Which loses energy to the universe.

Think about it, and perhaps you will come to a smaller gap between what you know and what the scientists know.

KFG

Postscript (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288087)

And, dare I point out, that one of the things that, despite its being " vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big," space is absolutely chock-a-block full of is the radiative effects of nuclear reactions?

KFG

Re:Is it truly frictionless? (3, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287943)

Keep in mind, this was not about physics, but about controlling devices. This was a test of the AI and logic that exists rather than a validation of the mathmatics of how to manuever.

For the last time (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287682)

For the last time, meatbag^H^H^H^H^H^Hpeople...

Please, do not use the "R-word".

We prefer to be called Electronic-Americans.

Thank you.

end transmission.

Re:For the last time (1)

Crizp (216129) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287918)

R-word? What, recession? (rimshot). Sorry, of course you mean robots.

Re:For the last time (2, Funny)

randyest (589159) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287979)

R-word? What, recession?

From the article:

In space, however, there is the added complication of a weightless, friction-free environment, which can make movements harder to control. Two robots carrying separate components for assembly might easily collide, or career past each other.

Hm, can't be recession if they're career -ing so easily.

Re:For the last time (1)

Crizp (216129) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287986)

Man I was gonna flame you for not reading my entire 1-line post, but then I got _your_ joke... bit slow as always :)

working in space? (5, Insightful)

xlyz (695304) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287690)

it seems that in the U.S. people really dislike working. they are sending jobs everywhere.

Re:working in space? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287743)

Well well, Mister Eurotrash or Crocodile Dundee here has something to say about the biggest kid on the block with nukes.
The average vacation for an American worker is two weeks. Rarely three weeks. Over in Socialist Europe people tend to have something on the order of four to six weeks paid vacation. Don't forget the strict EU rules about overtime which would put a serious cramp on the capitalist machine which is the United States of America. Americans on average work 350 more hours than their European counterparts. France, everyone's favorite whipping boy, has 11 public holidays, a minimum of five weeks paid vacation and a thirty five hour work week. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an American in his or her first year on the job gets 8.1 days of paid vacation on average.
Americans work very hard to the point of slaving for their corporate overlords, who I would like to be the first to welcome. This is in a country where the biggest joke is about lazy union workers! Heck, most union contracts don't even get close to their European counterparts in regards to benefits and time off.
Clicky [go.com] . Clicky [cnn.com] . Clicky [64.233.161.104] .
Now let me get down to brass tacks. At least America can get into space. Russia can't even lift a rocket out to a LaGrange point which would make a big step towards space exploration. Europe is the bumbling old grandfather who recently bought a computer and is trying to find out how to get on the interweb but always failing. Of course America's too cautious and needs to realize one must break a few eggs to make an omelet but we'll get there soon enough.
Keep riding on our coattails and begging us for protection the next time Mohammed comes a knocking at your door!

Re:working in space? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287927)

  • MODS
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Now is not the time to start sucking each others dicks, friends.

Why send jobs to robots? (4, Insightful)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287822)

This is the worst thing we could do as humans. IF you want society to fall apart simply make the majority of humans useless. I mean if Robots can do what the average human could do, what the hell is the average human useful for? I guess its time to start slaughtering and killing about 6 billion useless people so we have space for these robots. Don't you agree?

Re:Why send jobs to robots? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9288315)

I guess its time to start slaughtering and killing about 6 billion useless people so we have space for these robots. Don't you agree?

Excellent idea! We shall start the slaughter immediately. You first, since you're the one who proposed it we're sure you won't have any objections to being killed. Come along now...

Re:working in space? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287866)

For the sake of the U.S/world there is only one job they need to send into space.... George's - just tell him there is oil in them moon hills and he will go looking ;)

Re:working in space? (2, Insightful)

ShadowRage (678728) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288753)

I think this would be a better funny post than an insightful post, but anyways, it's not so much disliking work as it is safety and efficiency and cost.

it's like replacing windows networks with linux, it'll cost a chunk at first, but then you'll later reap the benefits. unlike MS systems where they might offer a sweet deal at first, then the major payouts go on forever.

in this case, replace windows with people and robots with linux, and you get the same thing.
People = will want to be paid for work, and even more if they're in a hazardous environment like space, they need food, oxygen, training, sleep, shielded from cosmic radiation, and can die and cant be replaced.
Robots = dont have any mortal issues, if broken or destroyed, they can be replaced at least, can work 24/7, minimal human involvment, dont need oxygen and can survive in a radioactive environment in which humans cannot.

so in cases where we need huge stations or solar panels built, robots are king of the ring, the job can get done quicker and more efficiently, without the cost of sending people up, caring for them, and worrying about liability.

Space Prog Buggered??? (1, Troll)

Daemonik CyCow (719521) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287698)

Nah... They been using robot's to replace people all over the place. What better then space... No comfy jeffrey tubes to ***** in, all programmable.. let's hope they're running a more reliable version on Linux then the english (JK)... but seriously... This is where it needs to go if it is going to go anywhere... Saves live's, space, in space, blah blah blah...

Robots tested on Air Hockey table? (4, Funny)

IllogicalStudent (561279) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287702)

Hmm, I just hope the robots don't stop working after they let 7 goals get by them.

Re:Robots tested on Air Hockey table? (1)

britneys 9th husband (741556) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287894)

I hope this "NASA" organization isn't from Florida because, given how the Lightning played tonight, it doesn't look like anyone from Florida can handle anything hockey-related.

Re:Robots tested on Air Hockey table? (2, Funny)

name773 (696972) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288041)

let me get this straight... you have a nickname based off pop "culture", and you follow sports... and you're posting on /. ????

Replicators (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287703)

So these robots are small pieces that come together on their own in order to form larger structures?

I have a feeling the Asgard are going to be rather pissed at us...

Norse Mythology (1)

NSash (711724) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287838)

I have a feeling the Asgard are going to be rather pissed at us...

You mean the Aesir. Asgard is where the Aesir lived.

Re:Norse Mythology (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287868)

You mean the Aesir. Asgard is where the Aesir lived.

I think he means Thor in particular, and the rest of the council not far behind him, her, uh...it.

Re:Norse Mythology (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288032)

No, he means the Asgard of Stargate: SG-1.

Take up nomenclature with the writers of the show. (Who do as good a job as you could possibly expect from a television science-fiction weekly, but are certainly not invulnerable. Besides, I wouldn't be surprised they deliberately chose the name Asgard knowing it's not quite right, simply because there's a lot of people like me who connected Asgard to Norse mythology right away, but wouldn't have recognized Aesir at all, or spelled it correctly after hearing it.)

Little buddy. (5, Interesting)

GhostChe (585665) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287714)

These hocky puck things remind me of another robot [nasa.gov] devoloped by nasa. They both like floating around in space, but nasa's has more of the little buddy going for it.

Re:Little buddy. (2, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288005)

The unit is supposed to have been inspired by the lightsaber practice droid in star wars but it smacks more of "Bit" from tron to me... floating over the shoulder and offering advice. Now if only they can make it pulse all spiky like that, it can poke out someone's eye, too.

Space is 3D..... (3, Insightful)

BlueCorvette (765842) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287717)

Let's see how these things do in a swimming pool. It's probably a closer approximation to space than an air-hockey table... Astronauts Take a Dive [nasa.gov]

Re:Space is 3D..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287904)

If the air was being blown out of the hockey table at a high enough speed/pressure to counteract the average weight of humans, this would work better than a swiming pool...of course it does have its downsides, because stuff further away from the stream of air won't float as well.

Yes, unfortunatly... (1)

vix86 (592763) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288276)

In a pool or in water for that matter, you have boyancy. While this works for astronauts because they are heavy enough to not float to the surface, I have a funny feeling these robots would float to the top. On top of that, water wouldn't do these things good.

On a side note, since the idea of testing these things in a pool was brought up. If they were heavy enough to float around in water, would it be possible to test these in that liquid that one company invented that doesn't stick to anything or is the density vastly different from water that it might not work?

The question my my mind is: (1)

Fjornir (516960) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287718)

Will this come in time to protect us from the terrible secret of space?

Why are robots good? (0, Troll)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287816)



If robots do everything, what are we humans useful for?

Not only will we get to live pointless lives from a functional point ofview, but we will also get to starve to death unless we can do a job robots can't do. Why do we want to compete with robots?!

Re:The question my my mind is: (1)

System.out.println() (755533) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287869)

damn, you beat me to it :(

A little help for the confused (1)

mikeg22 (601691) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288524)

ICQ Prank [somethingawful.com] that started this all...

Re:The question my my mind is: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9288554)

Humans must be shoved.

Please go stand by your stairs.

Slashdot Troll Trivia! (1)

Luke727 (547923) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287725)

Here [slashdot.org] is today's trivia. First correct answer gets 10 points!

So little friction, So much space/time (0, Offtopic)

layer3switch (783864) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287740)

Warcraft anyone? ..beats air-hockey any day.

--
Hate the playa, not the game

PIGS...IN....SPAAAAAACE! (0, Offtopic)

OgTheBarbarian (778232) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287745)

Air hockey on the 'SwineTrek'! Groovy!

I wonder if one of those robots... (1)

ranger714 (580794) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287750)

is going to be programmed for bending metal while out in space...

I can hear it now, "NASA can bite my shiny metal a$$" /bender

Perhaps the PRL will purchased by some international conglomerate and renamed to "Mom's Friendly Robot Company"

Re:I wonder if one of those robots... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287759)

Hey, this is Slashdot.
Slashdot is on the internet.
This isn't AOL requiring weak encryption techniques when it comes to adult language. Enjoy being modded down, queernuts.

a game (1)

rd4tech (711615) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287756)

Imagine what kind of a strategy game this makes possible. As a long time SCBW player I sometimes hate all that scrolling arround. Now, if someone would take let say, 10 or those tables, big number of smaller robots, and devise some nifty control interface where two teams can duke it out while overseeing the whole table, THAT would be REALLY RELLY nice. Oh yeah, and if someone decides to do this, I want paid trip there and a few days of unlimited playtime :)

Robots should be outlawed (-1, Troll)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287810)



Why is this a good thing? I think robots could be the end of society and capitalism as we know it. Why is it a good thing to automate tasks when the world is currently over populated and human labor already is in infinite supply? It's suicide to give jobs to robots which could be given to humans. I think automation should be outlawed.

Re:Robots should be outlawed MOD PARENT TROLL (3, Funny)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287856)

I think automation should be outlawed.

Smells like a troll to me.

Ludites reading /. now. What is this world coming to?

May smell like a troll but its a serious issue. (1)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287906)

Automation actually reduces jobs and eventually the reduction of jobs = a major major problem.

Yes at first the reduction of jobs will be good due to increased productivity, this happened with the computer industry in the USA, but after a point the productivity stops increasing while the jobs continue to decrease. The need for unskilled labor will continue to decrease until the majority of people in the world simply won't be as qualified as the machines are. What the hell are service workers supposed to do once they are told the robot can do their job perfectly? What will garbage men do once the garbage machine replaces them? I don't see how robots is good, this would be equal to China working hard to increase its population.

Population is already out of control and needs to be vastly decreased simply because theres not enough jobs for the 6 billion people currently on the earth. Computers will only make us compete harder for fewer jobs. To top this all off, we will be paid less.

Re:May smell like a troll but its a serious issue. (1)

alienw (585907) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288013)

What will garbage men do once the garbage machine replaces them?

Umm... perhaps something more useful/productive? Yeah, the buggy drivers lost their jobs when cars came around. So what? Granted, it will cause short-term upset, but in the long term things will get worked out just fine.

Re:May smell like a troll but its a serious issue. (1)

PopCulture (536272) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288209)

fyi- the buggy drivers you speak of became taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers etc.

your parent was more concerned about what happens to the millions world wide who would be affected once the production line becomes fully automated.

there's only so much room at the top for managers and only so much room in the middle for engineers. Whats to happen to the rest?

Re:May smell like a troll but its a serious issue. (1)

bob65 (590395) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288150)

Yes at first the reduction of jobs will be good due to increased productivity, this happened with the computer industry in the USA, but after a point the productivity stops increasing while the jobs continue to decrease. The need for unskilled labor will continue to decrease until the majority of people in the world simply won't be as qualified as the machines are. What the hell are service workers supposed to do once they are told the robot can do their job perfectly? What will garbage men do once the garbage machine replaces them? I don't see how robots is good, this would be equal to China working hard to increase its population.

What the heck? Look, it's happened many times before and we've gotten along just fine. There is currently definitely not a shortage of jobs, and probably won't ever be - there is always room to innovate, create, and if anything, create better robots. There will always be problems to be solved in the world, and we need people to solve them, (perhaps by finding ways for robots to do the actual solving). So what if the majority of people in the world become less qualified than robots at certain things? Do you think anyone's more qualified at printing labels than a label printer? Or packaging snacks than a packaging factory?

What the hell are service workers supposed to do once they are told the robot can do their job perfectly? What will garbage men do once the garbage machine replaces them?

What the hell are they supposed to do? Don't you think they would be happy now that they can actually get a job elsewhere that makes use of their unique human abilities, like creativity for instance? We *do* have a shortage of innovators and thinkers in this world, after all. Why aren't there more people filling those positions? Well, because they are needed for dumping garbage bags in a truck. A waste of human talent, if you ask me. Bottom line, humans should be doing what humans are good at, *not* cutting lawns or picking up garbage bags.

You are comparing situations involving humans (1)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288270)



Humans are allowed to replace humans because at least the human species always comes out on top.

What the hell are they supposed to do? Don't you think they would be happy now that they can actually get a job elsewhere that makes use of their unique human abilities, like creativity for instance? We *do* have a shortage of innovators and thinkers in this world, after all. Why aren't there more people filling those positions? Well, because they are needed for dumping garbage bags in a truck. A waste of human talent, if you ask me. Bottom line, humans should be doing what humans are good at, *not* cutting lawns or picking up garbage bags.

You act as if everyone is designed to be creative. Most humans arent creative. Most arent smart enough to come up with some revolutionary new idea. But ok lets assume your idea is possible, if it were then why arent we tapping the people in the third world for "ideas" if theres truely a shortage? Theres billions of people who could come up with ideas but instead they are just being allowed to starve to death.

- there is always room to innovate, create, and if anything, create better robots.

Create better Robots? Yes we all have that PHD from MIT. You ignore my arguement on how as the jobs become more complex that the natural capabilities of most people will not be enough to do the job.

For your world to ever exist, we'd have to change the education system and make the focus of education on creative thinking instead of memorization. We aren't trying to make the masses creative so you are nt convincing me that theres a shortage of creative people. Most creative people want to limit the number of creative people so that their job remains important and they continue to get high pay.

Musicians, Actors, CEOs, etc don't want any competition else they'd end up like the average man constantly being replaced. Assuming we did do this we still would only pick the most creative and this may require a number of skills, such as using computers to increase your creativity.
1

Re:You are comparing situations involving humans (1)

bob65 (590395) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288486)

why arent we tapping the people in the third world for "ideas" if theres truely a shortage? Theres billions of people who could come up with ideas but instead they are just being allowed to starve to death.

That's a problem, there is so much talent and brainpower being wasted because we can't even come up with a way to feed people in in the third world, let alone educate them to the extent that they can exploit their abilities.

Create better Robots? Yes we all have that PHD from MIT.

But, maybe in the future we will all have that PHD from MIT, or whatever the equivalent would be in your chosen field. I have faith in humans, we all have wonderous natural capabilities, we just aren't encouraging, developing, or taking advantage of them in the optimal way.

For your world to ever exist, we'd have to change the education system and make the focus of education on creative thinking instead of memorization.

It seems we are currently trying to change the education system. In the past few years at least, there has been a gradual shift towards creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving, and away from memorization (at least in science and mathematics). I imagine that trend is going to continue.

Musicians, Actors, CEOs, etc don't want any competition else they'd end up like the average man constantly being replaced.

I don't know, that may be true for CEOs, or actors to some extent, but most creative people I've seen seem don't seem to have a self-defensive attitude - in fact, they often encourage everyone to expose themselves to their specific field.

Re:Robots should [not] be outlawed (1)

BlueCorvette (765842) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287859)

I assume you're joking, but if not...

While it probably won't happen in my lifetime, space is probably the only hope for finding a use for that "infinite supply" of "human labor".

We're going to need robots to make it happen. All the laborers are just going to have to become smarter than the robots. It's called progress.

Why? (1)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287951)



Why are robots needed for space travel when we have all these humans in the third world who we could send to space? We have sent humans to the moon and could do it again easily.

We're going to need robots to make it happen. All the laborers are just going to have to become smarter than the robots. It's called progress.

You and I both know progress takes centuries if not longer. Evolution does not happen overnight, it takes thousands or millions of years. We have not evolved much since Roman times which explains why we keep making the same mistakes we made back then, getting into wars and making so called "human" mistakes which are then excused or ignored due to "human nature". Until we correct human nature, your utopia is as impossible as the communist utopia which would be required for machines to co-exist with man.

So forget about progress and worry about survival.

Re:Robots should be outlawed (1, Insightful)

barakn (641218) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287871)

This assumes that capitalism is good, and that humans should be treated merely as a supply of labor. In a true utopia, do humans work?

Completey OT: I'm surprised this user's name has such a high /. id#. Does a comment from this user automatically invoke Godwin's Law?

Capitalism and Robots do not mix. (5, Interesting)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287888)


First I never said capitalism is good. What I'm saying is capitalism and robots can not co-exist. Humans become absolutely useless once robots become efficient. Yes at first robots increase jobs and productivity, but soon the knowledge and intelligence level required to continue to program/repair/ or stay above the robots will become too much for the average human to handle.

Can we all have A PHD from MIT/Harvard/Yale/etc? Competition with humans in the third world is enough, and the population keeps increasing every year meaning competition keeps increasing. How the hell are we supposed to compete with each other as 6 billion humans along with the machines?

Why compete? (1)

MorePower (581188) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288187)

Who said we have to compete with the robots?

All we have to do is program the robots to not kill us, and make them like "wasting" resources keeping us alive and comfortable. Then we can all live on permanent vacation while the robots do all the nasty working.

I know I'm much happier when I'm at home "wasting" time doing nothing productive.

Capitalism, DUH! (1)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288292)

Who said we have to compete with the robots?


The same people who say we have to compete with workers in the third world. Capitalism is all about competition, thats the core and soul of capitalism. Unless we are going to switch to communism overnight, what else are we supposed to do besides compete?

Re:[OT] Godwin's Law (1)

BlueCorvette (765842) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287891)

Re:[OT] Godwin's Law (1)

barakn (641218) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288592)

Yes, I know that, but there's still that question of intent. Since we've added to the thread, Adolf_Hitler must be aware of Godwin's Law and intentionally trying to invoke it. His plan is doomed to fail.

Thanks for the new (to my vocabulary) word 'codicil'. I like it when I'm forced to look something up in the dictionary.

moderation abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9288210)

Only half of the parent post was OT. Granted, the anti-capitalism comment was guaranteed to piss off Republicans and the Teamsters' Union alike, but is that a reason to censor?

Potential issue (3, Insightful)

The_Mystic_For_Real (766020) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287814)

It says that these things are able to continue to learn and adapt. I am not an AI expert, but how many mistakes does it have to make before it figures everything out? I have yet to see a machine programmed with every facet of the instincts that might prevent disasters from unforseen situations. Of course, humans make their own mistakes.

I hope the AI sucks (0, Troll)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287830)


I want robots to be as stupid as insects forever, this way we will all have jobs as programmers at least. The day robots can learn is the day humans go exstinct. There is simply no way for us to compete with robots that can learn.

Re:Potential issue (3, Interesting)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287958)

I have yet to see a machine programmed with every facet of the instincts that might prevent disasters from unforseen situations. Of course, humans make their own mistakes.

Indeed, humans make their own mistakes. Darwin had a theory (mostly accepted) about how humans have develop the "instincts" that help them improve their performance and in some cases keep them alive. Some experiments in AI based on similar principles seem to have held promise (e.g. see When Robots Play Games [slashdot.org] ). Perhaps the key is to have multiple teams of robots with slightly different designs such that an error by one team is less likely to be replicated by all.

Re:Potential issue (1)

Antilles (49894) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287972)

everything in life and dynamic systems, more specifically, is based on a rate of change. If the machines are able to learn from and reduce errors faster than any human system, then an improvement is to be gained here. I work in some of the same areas as these guys, namely Ant swarms and optimization, and I can tell you that a major idea in these areas is reduction of error, not a perfect execution of a process. Just like any system, as long as the rate of error does not exceed the rate of correction of errors, or the tollerance of errors, then that system is considered good/acceptable/well performing (for the most part at least; think of the judicial system, mistakes are made, and sometimes people are hurt, but in the end, corrections are constantly made, and the system learns from past mistakes.) Yes, humans do some of the same things, but can they collectively reduce and learn from errors as a swarm of bots?

It's more of a philosophy of the many's performance overcoming the errors of the few at an acceptable rate. The ants are an amazing example of this. A good book on these ideas is:

"Swarm Intelligence: From Natural to Artificial Systems", Eric Bonabeau, Guy Theraulaz, Marco Dorigo
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearc h/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=AQv1kd1ym6&isbn=019513159 2&itm=2

Re:Potential issue (1)

raahul_da_man (469058) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288059)

This robot has a strictly limited domain to master. It doesn't need to perform every task that a human is capable of. What it needs to do, and do superbly, is assembling structures in space over and over again.

This type of repetitive task is something which machines will excel at and no human can come close. There is also no conceivable reason that these machines can't be monitored and overriden if there is a potential of an enormous mistake.

This would be the same as existing procedures using automated machinery. It would also be possible to train those robots in construction techniques on Earth and then send them up into Space.

There are a lot of problems with creating robots ready for assembling complex structures in space, but the issue you mentioned isn't one of them.

Re:Potential issue (1)

tyler_larson (558763) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288387)

It says that these things are able to continue to learn and adapt. I am not an AI expert, but how many mistakes does it have to make before it figures everything out?

I don't think that's the kind of intelligence they were talking about. There's a sort of "collective intelligence" you see in communities of "unintelligent" creatures, like ants or bees. Each does a fairly simple task which may or may not help out, but together they get something accomplished. The community seems intelligent, but the individual doesn't.

Still, I think this approach is ill-suited for space-station assembly. Take, for example, the following phrase from the article: "Once each robot in a pair has found itself a girder, they pick them up using mechanical docking units..." A community of ants finds food because food is abundant. A community of drifting robots will likely find some free-floating parts to the space station, but probably won't find all of them--just like a community of ants isn't going to find ALL of the food within a given area, especially when that food is constantly drifting away in a boundless universe. Sure, it works on an air hockey table, but those have bumbers. That makes a bit of difference.

Low-Cost Way of Experimenting with Zero-G (2, Interesting)

BrianMarshall (704425) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287840)

I think that this is great - low-cost zero gravity, or a 2-D version - it may open up more possibilities for people who want to experiment with the robots or the AI. Pesumably, more people will build the hardware, which would (hopefully) be good for the AI people as well.

Re:Low-Cost Way of Experimenting with Zero-G (0, Troll)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287863)

Say we do live in your dream world of high tech utopia filled with robots and nanobots all over the place. What exactly will we humans be good for? Do you have a PHD from MIT? If not you won't be very useful at all once robots learn to repair, upgrade and program themselves.

Re:Low-Cost Way of Experimenting with Zero-G (2, Interesting)

hazem (472289) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287903)

What exactly are we humans good for now?

You don't have to have robots and nano-tech to make humans seem pretty useless. It's something humans have struggled with for a long time.

Take it to the micro level - just one person, and in this case, I'll use myself as an example. In almost every case, I can find a way to replace myself and justify self-termination:

I work tech services... someone else could do my job
I have lots of friends... someone could fill my place for each of them
I pay rent... someone else could live here
I have 2 cats... someone else could feed and care for them

In fact, the only place I can't be easily replaced is in my family relationships. While my parents and brother can't replace me, they could get by without me, and you have to ask what value those relationships have.

Most of us could probably be eliminated by the above criteria. So, either we find our value through some other measure, or we have no value at all, and the inroduction of robots and nano-tech doesn't really impact the equation.

Re:Low-Cost Way of Experimenting with Zero-G (2, Interesting)

Adolph_Hitler (713286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287929)

What exactly are we humans good for now?


Do you hunt your own food? Did you build your own computer? When you go to malls or resturants do you make your own meals or do everything yourself? Humans are still useful however human labor is a lot less useful than it were only 20 years ago. Robots/Machines decrease the value of HUMAN LABOR. Humans decrease the value of labor as well but at least the job is going to the better human.

I work tech services... someone else could do my job
I have lots of friends... someone could fill my place for each of them
I pay rent... someone else could live here
I have 2 cats... someone else could feed and care for them


Better to be replaced by superior humans than to be replaced by a superior machine. When replaced by humans then at least a human benefits.

Outsourced (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287848)

I've been outsourced...

...and you'll never believe from where this time.

Re:Outsourced (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288461)

by Benedict Arnoldbots!

what I don't get is this (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9287858)

What happens to these massive space structures when a 3 inch rock or space junk going at hyperspeed punches through them. If I were building a space station I wouldn't be building windows, I would be thinking submarine with a thick hide. One day those guys in the space station are going to hear this *THONG* *THONG* as a rock enters and then exits the station punching through the walls and they are subsequently sucked up against the hole in the wall and have the flesh torn from their bones.

Same problem applies to getting places real fast, lets just say you can approach the speed of light, and that you can go into a cryogenic sleep or whatever. What happens when you plough through the ever-so-faint tail of a comet that consists of metalic rocks and the like.

Sure, you replace people with robots, and most systems with redundant and backup systems.

But for all those people blowing their load over commercial and civilian/tourist space flight. There isn't much you are going to do, or see. It will be just as viable as commercial and civilian/tourist submarines. Some, yes, but not that many. And not many things that aren't based around science and/or money making commercial ventures.

I wish people would realise that we are hundreds of years away from being a viable space faring race (should we so desire) and that there are some problems at home that we have to think through first.

Global warming - I don't care whether we caused it or if it's a natural cycle.... it's real we have to deal with it.

The carrying capacity (longterm sustainable population to resource ratio) of the earth is being exceeded and we aren't doing squat. There is no rationale to have more people, there is no reason why 500 million people in europe or america is better than 300 million... these numbers are meaningless. We need to halt population growth, big time. Population to resource ratio inequality usually leads to death, either by starvation or by war. Not a good future

Other climate effects we don't understand like currents in the sea that affect the whole global climate, errosion, salinity etc.

We have a million and one problems down here, and floating we monkeys into space doesn't solve ANY of them. I hate this romantic notion that it will be all like star-trek when we forge out into space. It WONT, it will be exactly like it is down here. The only way things are going to change is if they change down here first.

I don't want to troll to badly here. But tons of people are starving, our global political order is on the brink (brought there by a "peace loving" democracy no less), at home in liberal democracies we cover up the fact our education systems suck, our environment is polluted, we don't look after our sick and ill properly and we don't care about the homeless.

We need fewer great minds to be looking into the sky and more great minds to bent their will towards these problems. I'm sorry, but until that time... people looking through telescopes will always be immature little boys who are in a fantasy world and ignoring the problems at hand.

I suppose the same could be said for any technology enthusiast. Think about that. THAT, my freinds, is stuff that matters.

Re:what I don't get is this (1)

BlueCorvette (765842) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287957)

Send everyone to grad school: Higher Learning Linked to Less Sex [stats.org]

I couldn't find the original study...

Re:what I don't get is this (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288015)

The puncture problem can be solved or at least mitigated through two technologies, shielding and self-healing walls. Walls and even windows can be filled with some highly viscous material which will harden when exposed to vacuum and seal the hole at least most of the way, giving occupants time to apply a patch which will finish the job. And, of course, anything that doesn't need to be transparent can be shielded. This adds weight, but if we are mining asteroids that should give us very little trouble.

This particular phase of space exploration is probably best done by robots, except in cases where we are trying to get things done on other planets, for which robots are not currently sufficiently advanced - unless you only want to do simple things.

We learn new things from people looking into Telescopes every day - you would appear to be either trolling or ignorant. Every advance in our technology will ultimately benefit us all if we live long enough.

Re:what I don't get is this (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288023)

What happens to these massive space structures when a 3 inch rock or space junk going at hyperspeed punches through them.

Two or more three inch holes neatly punched through whatever happens to be in their way. What do you think?

If I were building a space station I wouldn't be building windows, I would be thinking submarine with a thick hide.

Do the math. (Warning, requires materials science.) You really can't build anything large enough to guarentee anything can't get through in space.

Eh, I was going to take the rest of you post apart but it's just not worth it. You have a Hollywood education (including such noted science education films as Alien Resurrection, apparently, and that common-sense-that-isn't-true idea that money is some sort of zero-sum game). News flash: This isn't Hollywood. If you're so interested in this subject, why not learn some real science? (And maybe economics.)

Re:what I don't get is this (0, Troll)

name773 (696972) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288089)

it seems socialism could help out here...
but yeah, good points. we should ax nasa and give the money to humanitarian aid or something, and they can develop technology to aid that, so you sustain the original (practical) intention of the program.

Re:what I don't get is this (2, Interesting)

raahul_da_man (469058) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288143)

I am glad to see that people living through telescopes will always be immature little boys living in a fantasy world.

Has it ever occured to you that astronomy is vital to human life? These boys playing with their toys have done far more to advance human knowledge. I for one find much practical value in knowing the state of the actual universe, instead of the fantasy universe you live in.

Take, for example, the advances in sensor technology made as a result of astronomy. Thanks to the new CCD's and optics invented, advances in medical and other fields are possible. Lives have been saved due to these "immature boys". What have you done that was remotely equivalent in impact?

http://www.lbl.gov/supernova/supernova-spinoffs. ht ml
http://www.ihateglasses.com/html/vision_wavema p.ht ml

Thanks to adaptive optics, many people have gained superb vision, being liberated from glasses and contact lenses. Have you improved anyone's sight?

I am personally very grateful to these "boys" who happen to live in the real universe and are discovering its secrets.

*snore* (2, Insightful)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288212)

and they are subsequently sucked up against the hole in the wall and have the flesh torn from their bones.

Someone's been watching too many bad sci-fi moovies *cough*alienresurrection*cough*. No to mention too many doom and gloom political manifestoes.

An astronaut against the hole would plug the hole. Vacuum does not suck. Air expands into vacuum. Higher pressure expands into lower pressure. On Earth we call this "weather fronts.

The scene in the movie where the alien is pulled through a tiny hole is utter bullshit.

And the "we have problems here!" argument is tired, old and fallacious.

1. It's not an either/or proposition. We can solve problems on Earth AND do things in space.

2. Many of our problems on Earth are rooted in human nature, and will most likely NEVER be solved, so we might as well advance where we can while we can.

Re:what I don't get is this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9288247)

...all those people blowing their load over commercial and civilian/tourist space flight.
Wow, there is a porn movie I haven't seen before!

pushed up... pushed up!! (1)

chocolatetrumpet (73058) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288271)

they are subsequently sucked up

Pushed up! Pushed up!!!

Re:what I don't get is this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9288332)

The carrying capacity (longterm sustainable population to resource ratio) of the earth is being exceeded and we aren't doing squat.
Well why would you want to keep us out of spce then? Space is where ALL of the resources are. Energy (solar, H3 on Luna). Plenty of asteroids for mining all sorts of materials. I doubt very much that human population growth will abate. We have to think in terms of providing resources for a much larger population. Either that or prepare for a series of BIG, BLOODY wars mid-century.

Re:what I don't get is this (3, Funny)

Tailhook (98486) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288349)

Global warming - I don't care whether...

Were talking about experimental robots that float around on an air-hockey table. Somehow, this guy manages to end up ranting about "global warming."

Isn't it about time for you enviro-spaz activist types to take your hysteria elsewhere? Go find a political or environmental site and rant there.

Thanks.

Accurate? (2, Funny)

Wes Janson (606363) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287874)

What happened to that pesky 3rd dimension? Y'know, it tends to complicate interactions just slightly. Not to mention air resistance, air currents, and the possibility of friction if/when the pucks come too close to the surface. Sounds like a half-baked idea to screw around with robots and leftover air hockey tables.

Re:Accurate? (2, Informative)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287928)

If the algorithms and interfaces are designed well, it could scale up to three dimensions quite easily. Just replace all those 2D vectors with 3D vectors. It's extra calculation, but it's the same core concept nonetheless.

Dave 30.40 (1)

nomannerofmanatall (784027) | more than 10 years ago | (#9287955)

"As played by stuffed mechanical ape"

I can see it now... (4, Funny)

robertchin (66419) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288103)

"I am bender. Please insert girder."

Swarm? (2, Interesting)

magefile (776388) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288176)

So is this a true swarm relationship (as described, albeit badly, in Prey by Michael Crichton), or is it pair-only?

And can they get a divorce if one of the robots is cheating?

Pi Equa.s (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9288216)

3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971 6939937510 5820974944 5923078164 0628620899 8628034825 3421170679 8214808651 3282306647 0938446095 5058223172 5359408128 4811174502 8410270193 8521105559 6446229489 5493038196 4428810975 6659334461 2847564823 3786783165 2712019091 4564856692 3460348610 4543264832 1339360726 0249141273 7245870066 0633558817 4885320920 9628292540 9171536436 7892590360 0113305305 4882046652 1384146951 9415116094 3305727036 5759591953 0921861173 8193261179 3105118548 0744623799 6274956735 1885234227 8912279381 8301194912 9833673362 4406566430 8602139494 6395224737 1907021798 6094370277 0539217176 2931767523 8467481846 7669405132 0005681271 4526356082 7785771342 7577896091 7363717872 1468440901 2249534301 4654958537 1050792279 6892589235 4201995611 2129021960 8640344181 5981362977 4771309960 5187072113 4999999837 2978049951 0597317328 1609631859 5024459455 3469083026 4252230825 3344685035 2619311881 7101000313 7838752886 5875332083 8142061717 7669147303 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5256375678

The air-table robot thing is not new (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288277)

Stanford has had air-bearing robots to simulate space operations [stanford.edu] for over a decade. Theirs, though, carry an air tank and work against a flat granite slab.

I'm one of the researchers (5, Insightful)

wildmage (163526) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288321)

Hi folks. I'm very excited that this project is finally getting some attention. The concept is simple, but it has been overlooked for quite some while.

Let me give some straight facts through all this futuristic market speak in the articles and from my professor. Where are we now?

1. We are trying to do a proof-of-concept that a team of robots can indeed assemble structures together in a near-frictionless environment.

2. We are currently trying to build a triangle out of 3 reconfigurable beams assembled by a pair of tethered robots. With a triangle we can realize more rigid and useful structures such as trusses.

3. We are halfway there. We have achieved two-beam assembly with reconfigurable connectors and everything.

We have been working on this thing for almost a year, and one of the things you might be asking is why is this so difficult?

1. Main issue is connectors. You want to have connectors that can be automatically assembled together yet provided tight tolerances and carry heavy loads. These are often conflicting requirements and this has required a lot of tinkering to accomplish.

2. Reconfigurable connectors. These are connectors that not only automatically connect, but also automatically disconnect. Give the above requirements in 1 and this becomes doubly more difficult.

3. Precision control in a "near-frictionless" yet noisy environment. This is very difficult. Our positioning is kind of crude, our propulsion is non-linear, and the noise in the air-table is not predictable. We've been able to accomplish a lot of our results by using the tether to pull the two robots together and assemble the beams together with a rolling motion.

For those of you who are interested in seeing our latest results I recommend going to the media page at our lab here [isi.edu]

The last video (which is surprisingly not up yet) is here [isi.edu]

For future reference, the research involved in "evolving and adapting" has not yet been done. That is future work.

Thanks,
Jacob Everist
everist@usc.edu

new species alert! (2, Interesting)

Whitecloud (649593) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288373)

NASA will use these teams of autonomous robots to build space systems like 10 km-long arrays of solar panels and other huge spatial structures.

How long before the AI is advanced enough for the computer/robots are able to identify flaws in their design and reprogram themselves accordingly. This kind of intelligence will allow 'robots' to evolve, superceding humans as the dominate species on earth. The will have all the assets that belong to humans, ie technology, brainpower, but none of the weaknesses, such as the neccesity of oxygen to exist.

Probably not in our lifetimes, but then the pace of technological development seems to be increasing exponentially...put it this way: take all the scientists that lived from year x to 1900: there are more scientists on earth today than in this total period.

Re:new species alert! (1)

Exiler (589908) | more than 10 years ago | (#9288563)

"but none of the weaknesses, such as the neccesity of oxygen to exist."

However, they'll still depend on a major source of energy, the sun perhaps. In such an event, we could scorch the sky, after all, without the sun, where would they get energy?

m*Iod down (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9288418)

That should 3e been the best,
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