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The Brief Rise and Long Fall of Russia's Robot Tank

malachiorion Re:Link no longer there. (79 comments)

I mentioned this in another response, but I don't necessarily think the Goliath is in the same league as the Teletank, as far as gun-toting ground bots go. I should have specified that, though, in the piece.

about a month ago
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The Brief Rise and Long Fall of Russia's Robot Tank

malachiorion Re:Perhaps the first but... (79 comments)

I probably should have clarified, but if you read the piece, I was talking about armed the unprecedented—and still unique—use armed UGVs, like ground bots with guns. No one else has done that. The Goliath, on other hand, was a rolling bomb. You could call that an armed UGV, but, to me, that's like calling a Tomahawk an armed UAV.

about a month ago
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The Brief Rise and Long Fall of Russia's Robot Tank

malachiorion Re:In Soviet Russia, (79 comments)

I meant way, way fewer. Like dozens of tanks and over a hundred planes for the Finns, versus thousands of both on the Russian side.

about a month ago
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Apocalypse NAO: College Studies the Theological Ramifications of Robotics

malachiorion Re:Not the right question (176 comments)

Believe it or not, that appears to be a subset of this particular theologian's concern—that we'll develop "exclusive" relationships with bots, including possibly "going to bed with them." The implications are a little strange, mainly that sanctioned sex is, by some law of salacious syllogism, a component of a person's continuing relationship with God.

about 2 months ago
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Apocalypse NAO: College Studies the Theological Ramifications of Robotics

malachiorion Re:God's robot's - humans (176 comments)

Agreed. It's not like biological conception is a miracle—it's biology, presumably set in motion by a higher power (if you're into such things). Why would the creation of an inorganic humanoid be any less under His purview or jurisdiction?

about 2 months ago
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Apocalypse NAO: College Studies the Theological Ramifications of Robotics

malachiorion Re:God's robot's - humans (176 comments)

Well, in Staley's defense, that wasn't necessarily his view. He was trying to describe the reaction he wants to head off.

about 2 months ago
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Apocalypse NAO: College Studies the Theological Ramifications of Robotics

malachiorion Re:The robots aren't the point (176 comments)

I would love to see research related to the potential moral damage, as you put it, resulting from owning (and possibly abusing) an apparently soulless, though somewhat life-like machine. I don't think this college will get there, but it really would be a perfect research area for them. Unfortunately, the sense I got from Staley was that there wouldn't be much actual experimentation going on. Which makes sense, since he's a theologian, not a psychologist (or roboticist), and the robot isn't a super-advanced HRI model. I honestly think that he's open to new conclusions, but that his main emphasis is to explore a religious version of Sherry Turkle's concerns, about the disconnection that can result from interfacing with tech, including bots. He was also very upfront, in the interview, about the fact that this might be a non-issue, since there's no guarantee that we'll get to a point where humanoids can really command a ton of our attention. He also referenced issues like people "going to bed" with robots, something that I wouldn't trust a Christian college to discuss in a useful way. Still, HRI is such a small, nascent field, that any work seems valuable, even if it winds up being devoid of data, and purely anecdotal.

about 2 months ago
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Why Robot Trucks Could Be Headed To Afghanistan (And Everywhere Else)

malachiorion Re:As an ex-trucker let be first to say... (135 comments)

I think the robots are coming for a ton of our jobs, no matter how hard we resist. Politics could (and maybe should) slow things down, but robotic long-haul trucking wouldn't necessarily require a go-ahead from the government, if it simply follows broader autonomous driving regulations. They could start, for example, with requiring a driver to be in the cab, as with Google's cars, but companies might find a way to pay less for those positions. If robo-trucks rack up a better safety record, and, say, news outlets start harping on automated 18-wheelers driving less aggressively, playing to notions of truckers as bullies, then popular support could build, and more autonomy could kick in. Inch by inch, as companies save money and the general populace sees it as a positive, the political resistance could give way. Lots of coulds and what-ifs, I know, but I think money beats politics, in the long run. And as much as people value retaining jobs, lots of them also see tractor trailers as a problem that needs solving.

about 2 months ago
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Why Robot Trucks Could Be Headed To Afghanistan (And Everywhere Else)

malachiorion Re:This uses a velodyne lidar with 64 beams at 15H (135 comments)

Good eye! Lockheed told me that some of the gear used in this demo was relatively high-end, but they think they can downgrade with commercial applications (they might also be hoping for more a priori LIDAR data by the time that's feasible).

about 2 months ago
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Low-Cost Morphing Robotic Hands Could Revolutionize Blue-Collar Bionics

malachiorion Re:I remember the discovery just a few years back (21 comments)

Yeah, they unveiled the research back in 2010, when it was still a combined Cornell/U of Chicago/iRobot project. The parties sort of went their separate ways since. The news here, in theory, is that while iRobot is still in the experimental stage with its own jamming gripper work, Empire Robotics (comprised of some of those original Cornell researchers) have brought it to market, and are actively pursuing prosthetics next.

about 3 months ago
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The Year In Robotics

malachiorion Re:The real big news in robotics. (44 comments)

You're right, I left out a lot of the potentially game-changing manufacturing news, but mostly because I felt like it was iterative, and we haven't seen the full results, yet. Even Baxter (not an iRobot bot, by the way—Rodney Brooks hasn't done anything with iRobot for years) is a great-seeming bot that isn't really doing much at the moment, and that could get eclipsed by what Google comes up with. I was torn, regarding the autonomous driving stuff. I kind of felt like that was, for the most part, just marketing talk. It's true that companies claimed to have demonstrated at least partially autonomous operation on the Autobahn and such, but doesn't it seem like the real news is still to come? Or, at the very least, that none of what happened this year really trumps the 2012 legislation that cleared robot cars for use in Nevada?

about 4 months ago
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The Year In Robotics

malachiorion Re:robot necks (44 comments)

Good point, though a lot of bots, like most of the models in the DRC, also use LIDAR to get a full 360-degree awareness. But check out NASA JPL's RoboSimian. They didn't do this for the first DRC trial, but for the finals next year, they're going to mount cameras around the entire body (it has the mounts already, but the ones in back are empty), so it can reverse direction, go sideways, etc., without having to deal with a neck, or wobbling around to get into a face-forward position.

about 4 months ago
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DARPA-Funded Software Could Usher In the Era of Open-Source Robotics

malachiorion Re: Adult supervision (17 comments)

I'm biased, since I wrote this story, and included the emphasis on cloud computing, but I agree--it's not fair to discount the utility of cloud assets. I think that's the biggest, most exciting news in here, actually. The kinds of über-rigs that Virginia Tech's DRC Track A team was using for simulation would never be within reach for a high school robotics class/teacher. To say its irrelevant is to basically claim that Gazebo's creators at OSRF are flat-out liars. I don't think that's the case.

about 10 months ago
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The Plight of Star Wars Droids

malachiorion Re:Don't diss C-3PO... (245 comments)

Hey now, I did say, in the piece, that I wasn't getting into the EU. But I don't think C-3PO can even lift his arm that high, much less propose an action that might cause his masters the slightest, momentary spot of bother. There's a reason I had originally wanted to call the story "Uncle 3PO's Cabin"...

about 10 months ago
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The Plight of Star Wars Droids

malachiorion Re:Fair Wages? (245 comments)

I wonder if the author paid the computer he wrote this on a fair wage.

Oh c'mon, I upgraded its RAM and everything. What more does it want from me!?!? I also feed it crumbs on what seems to be a daily basis. That counts for something, right?

about 10 months ago

Submissions

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How It Works: The Surgical Snakebot

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  5 days ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "It sounds like the nightmare of all robotic nightmares: A flexible, snake-inspired bot that slides down your throat to snip and burn through your tissue. From there, thing get even more terrifying. If Medrobotics has its way, some version of its FLEX robot will enter patients' bodies through ... other orifices, traveling to nearly anywhere in the abdominal region with a single incision (far fewer than with other surgical robots).
In fact, the surgical snakebot could be a huge leap (slither) forward for robotic surgery, with less of a learning curve for operators and the eventual prospect of surgery with significantly less physical trauma. The potential mental trauma, of course, is another matter. Here's a quick overview of the FLEX system, which is cruising towards clearance in Europe and the U.S., with diagram included, for Popular Science."

Link to Original Source
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The Microscopic Future of Surgical Robotics

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about two weeks ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "I'm not referring to an Inner Space-style nano-scale journey into the patient, but a move towards micro-scale bot-assisted procedures, such as attaching tiny blood vessels only barely visible under a microscope. That's the direction being explored by Intuitive Surgical, makers of the most common (and most embattled) surgical bot, the da Vinci System. Other companies and labs are working towards their own robotic microsurgeons, including a Canadian system that already removed a patient's tumor. But when Intuitive's head of medical research is this excited about zooming in during surgery and creating entirely new treatments, it's a safe bet that microscopic procedures are the direction surgical bots are headed. My story for Popular Science."
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Solve for Standing Ovation: Should AI Researchers Bother Building a TED-Bot?

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about three weeks ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "The AI XPrize would be an amazing competition—to make an AI capable of giving a stirring TED Talk—if it weren't so silly. Is there a point to updating the Turing Test, when it's been so widely abandoned by researchers? And does anyone think that TED Talks are compelling proof of sentience? None of the roboticists I reached out to had even heard of the newly announced contest, and the two AI researchers I spoke to had some suggestions for improving the XPrize. Well, one did. The other didn't buy the concept at all. My post for Popular Science."
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Tale of the Teletank: The Brief Rise and Long fall of Russiaâ(TM)s Military

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about a month and a half ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "From Popular Science: "Seventy-four years ago, Russia accomplished what no country had before, or has sinceâ"it sent armed ground robots into battle. These remote-controlled Teletanks took the field during one of WWIIâ(TM)s earliest and most obscure clashes, as Soviet forces pushed into Eastern Finland for roughly three and a half months, from 1939 to 1940." The workings of those Teletanks were cool, though they were useless against Germany, and Russia proceeded to fall behind the developed world in military robotics."
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Apocalypse NAO: Are Robots Threatening Your Immortal Soul?

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 2 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "Have you heard the one about the Christian college in North Carolina that bought a humanoid robot, to figure out whether bots are going to charm us into damnation (dimming or cutting our spiritual connection to God)? The robot itself is pretty boring, but the reasoning behind its purchase—a religious twist on the standard robo-phobia—is fascinating. My analysis for Popular Science."
Link to Original Source
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Why Robot Trucks Could Be Headed To Afghanistan (And Everywhere Else)

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 2 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "I'm surprised I haven't seen more coverage of Lockheed Martin's autonomous truck convoy demonstration—they sent a group of robotified vehicles through urban and rural environments at Fort Hood, without teleoperation or human intervention. It's an interesting milestone, and sort of a tragic one, since troops could have used robotic vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan. What's fascinating, though, is that Lockheed is hoping to get into Afghanistan just before the U.S. withdraws, to help ferry gear. Plus, they have their sights set on what would be the defense contractor's first real commercial product—kits that turn tractor trailers into autonomous vehicles. Here's my post for Popular Science."
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Google Rumored to be Pulling its Team From the DARPA Robotics Challenge

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 3 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "According to a participant in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, Google is withdrawing Team SCHAFT. This is the only story I've written based on a source who has requested anonymity, but it makes perfect sense. None of the roboticists I've talked to for related pieces have seen it as even remotely good business for Google to be a defense contractor, and this decision, if it plays out as described, might just calm the internet's jokey, jangled nerves for a while."
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Low-Cost Morphing Robotic Hands Could Revolutionize Blue-Collar Bionics

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 3 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "Cornell, MIT and iRobot have all shown off so-called jamming manipulators, rubbery blobs that grip objects by deforming around them. But with the first commercially available version shipping to industrial and manufacturing customers, Cornell spinoff Empire Robotics has a new market in mind: Prosthetics. While impossibly expensive, neuro-controlled bionic hands continue to be a fantasy for most amputees, jamming manipulators could do the job. My post for Popular Science about the merits of a low-tech, self-gripping stump, that could be powered by hooking up to an air compressor."
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Of Her and Humanoids: The Year in Robotics

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 4 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "From Google's emergence as a robotics giant to Gypsy Danger's emergence as a giant robot (we can root for), here's my attempt (for Popular Science) to round up the biggest trends in robotics in 2013. Comments are enabled—they usually aren't, on Pop Sci's site—to point out all the stuff that's more important than my picks."
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The Humanoids Are Here: The Walking, Climbing, Driving Robots of the DRC

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 4 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "Before the inevitable pratfalls, here come the pride of the robotics world. This gallery for Popular Science of the Track A and Track B bots competing in this week’s DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) trials features pretty pictures—the shots of THOR and CHIMP are particularly bracing—as well as some pre-game analysis from me, based on new and old reporting. As luck would have it, the bot that I spent the most time with, Virginia Tech's THOR, is the one that was benched."
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Sympathy For The Metal: Almost Human Is The Pro-Robot Propaganda We Need

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 5 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "Almost Human isn't a realistic vision of the future. It might be something better—the rare mainstream science fiction that imagines robots as innovations, not more of the same Terminator-sourced rebels-in-waiting. This is my analysis for Popular Science, including some insight from Kate Darling, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab who was consulted (however briefly) by the show's producers and writers."
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Cognitive Computing For All: IBM Releases A Legion Of Watsons

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 5 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "The first examples of what developers can do with the new Watson API are pretty lame—health coaching, personal shopping... But the tech behind Watson, and its transition from a single system to a cloud-based species, essentially, of cognitive computing software, is a very big deal. My analysis for Popular Science: http://www.popsci.com/blog-network/zero-moment/cognitive-computing-all-ibm-releases-legion-watsons"
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The First Robot Patent: A Teslapunk Nav System for Airships

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 6 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "In 1936, the USPTO issued the first patent for a "robot." It wasn't much to look at, but Frederick A. Fowler's Robot Navigator was a precursor to today's GPS nav systems—it was intended to find its position on a backlit map, sliding gear-driven crosshairs along it's interior surface, based in incoming radio signals. And it was for airships! It doesn't get much more Teslapunk (actual Tesla inventions notwithstanding).
From my Popular Science robotics blog: http://www.popsci.com/blog-network/zero-moment/first-robot-patent-teslapunk-nav-system-airships"
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The Countdown to Android Brains is Underway

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 6 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "Is the Human Brain Project really the Android Brain Project? With more than $1.6B in funding, some the brightest minds in robotics, and explicitly-stated goals that include linking a simulated brain with a physical bot, here's my take (for Popular Science) on why the world's biggest brain research initiative might also be the biggest robotics story of this, or any year.

http://www.popsci.com/blog-network/zero-moment/countdown-android-brains-underway"
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DARPA-Funded Software Could Usher in the Era of Open-Source Robotics

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 10 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "The best thing to come out of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, so far, isn't the lineup of nifty rescue bots being developed by teams around the world, or even Boston Dynamics' incredible Atlas humanoid. It's the pumped-up version of Gazebo, the free, open-source robotics simulation software whose expansion and further development is being funded by DARPA. Here's a quick look at how the software was used in the recent virtual leg of the competition, as well as how it could change the way robotics R&D is conducted (and create more roboticists, with its low-cost, cloud-based architecture)."
Link to Original Source
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They Deactivate Droids, Don't They?

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about 10 months ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "Does George Lucas hate metal people? I know, sounds like standard click-bait, but I think I present a relatively troll-free argument in the piece I wrote for Slate:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2013/06/droids_in_star_wars_the_plight_of_the_robotic_underclass.html

We stuck to the Star Wars canon, in pointing out the relatively grim state of affairs for droid rights, and the lack of any real sympathy for their plight from the heroes, or, it would seem, George Lucas. C-3PO is more correct than he might realize, when the says that droids "seem to be made to suffer.""
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How to Build a Hero: Inside the DARPA Robotics Challenge

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about a year ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "It doesn't get much cooler, or harder, than the DARPA Robotics Challenge, the Pentagon's competition to create insanely competent humanoid disaster response robots. Even if my breathless prose doesn't do it for you, the opener image that PopSci created—in conjunction with VA Tech's Dennis Hong—is worth the price of admission. This is the cover story for the current issue of Popular Science."
Link to Original Source
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Why Halo—the books, the web series, the game, the DLC, all of it—is

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  about a year and a half ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "I wrote this story for Popular Mechanics about why Halo's full output of content—the current trilogies, the excellent web series, the game, and the downloadable story-based missions that follow—represent the rebirth of pulp. If that sounds familiar, I referenced Marc Bernardin's io9 post, about how video games are the new pulp...but I argue that he's off-base, because game franchises don't come out fast enough, and are closer to Hollywood in terms of budget and output. But when you look at the entire range of narrative coming out of Halo, for example, that's a very different story.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/video-games/how-halo-went-from-video-game-to-pulp-empire-14501064?click=pm_latest

If nothing else, there are some interesting Greg Bear quotes in there."
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Why the Uncanny Valley Doesn't Really Matter

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  more than 4 years ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "Are humanoid bots and CGI characters still crawling their way out of the Uncanny Valley? Maybe, but maybe it doesn't matter. Here's a cold, hard look at a popular robotics theory that might have no legs to stand on, android or otherwise. It's everything that seems wrong and irrelevant about the Uncanny Valley that I wasn't able to fit into this month's Popular Mechanics cover story on social bots."
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Nuke Lab + Supercomputers = Truth Behind Tunguska

malachiorion malachiorion writes  |  more than 6 years ago

malachiorion (1205130) writes "It's no Roswell, but the Tunguska event, a June 30, 1908, explosion that cleared an 800-sq.-mi. swath of Siberian forest, remains a hot topic for the X-Files set. Was it a UFO crash? An alien weapons test? Now, Sandia National Laboratories has released its own explanation for the event. Using supercomputers to create a 3D simulation of the explosion, the Department of Energy-funded nuke lab determined that Tunguska was, indeed, the result of a relatively small asteroid. Even if you don't care in the slightest, the terrifying simulation videos are well worth checking out."
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