University of Tokyo researchers last week unveiled a robot that is designed to do just one thing: never lose a game of rock, paper, scissors. Here’s a look at what else is making news in the world of robotics, courtesy of The Courier-Mail
1. Exercise: If your dog can’t be bothered getting off the couch, here’s an alternative for a running mate. RMIT University researchers have developed the “Joggobot”, which flies alongside a jogger as a social companion. Joggobot is a “quadcopter”, which could make you the envy (or the victim of ridicule) of all the other runners.
2. Music: The Georgia Tech’s Centre for Music Technology last week unveiled Shimi, a musical assistant with speakers that bobs its head and taps to the beat. Shimi uses facial recognition to point his speakers in the right direction and recommends your next song. Going on sale next year for an undisclosed price.
3. Companions: A care facility in Osaka, Japan, is using an interactive robot modelled on a three-year-old boy that has a vocabulary of 400 words. The robot is designed to respond to cuddles and pats on the head and the centre director says the robot has proven particularly useful in comforting patients with dementia.
4. Waiters: It sounds like an outtake from Blade Runner. A restaurant in Harbin, China, has a staff of 18 robots that do everything from cook dumplings to serve the food. The greet robot says “Earth Person, Hello, Welcome to the Robot Restaurant” as you walk in the door, while a singing robot entertains you. Robot waiters have featured in novelty restaurants in China and Japan for more than 10 years.
5. Soldiers: ReconRobotics announced last week it had received a $14 million order from the US Government for 1000 miniature, throwable and mobile robots to be used by American soldiers in deployment in Afghanistan. The pocket-sized robots can be thrown 36m and are to be used in video reconnaissance.
6. Health workers: Bandit-II, a robot developed at the University of Southern California, is being used to help motivate paraplegics with their rehabilitation and guide them through exercises. The National Rehabilitation Centre in Los Angeles is conducting a study on the improvement of patients working with robots compared with those working with people.
8. Soccer: When the RoboCup competition was set up in 1997, the aim was to field a team of robots capable of winning against the human soccer World Cup champions by 2050. We’re not there yet, but last month’s RoboCup 2012 in Mexico City attracted thousands of participants, including this German team of programmed Nao robots.
9. Etiquette: Researchers at Silicon Valley robot developer Willow Garage are working with Pixar artists to teach robots good manners, from moving out of a person’s way when walking down a corridor to indicating that they are processing information by a verbal sign, such as scratching their head.
10. Acting: One of the robots at a robot exhibition in Taipei held last month was the humanoid robot RoboThespian. If he can be programmed to wait tables in his down time, he’ll be just like the real thing.
Chris Cunningham x Audi City
Chris Cunningham is a relentlessly experimental creator who defies categorisation. His work is shaped by the sci-fi films and electronic music he devoured in his youth. The frenetic, wildly inventive music videos he made for Aphex Twin ( “Windowlicker”, “Come to Daddy”) and Bjork ( “All Is Full of Love”) redefined the form and has influenced high fashion, advertising, blockbuster movies and low-budget horror flicks alike over the last decade.
In recent years he has moved further away from the music video genre and now creates independent video works, which no longer have their starting point as commissions. His video and sound art has been shown in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Venice Bienalle, the Barbican, the Anthony D’offay gallery amongst others and his live show at The Royal Opera House, The Roundhouse and Royal Festival Hall.
Chris has created his own disturbing visual language, that pits the grotesque imperfections of human anatomy against high technology embodied in robots and hallucinatory motion effects.
Always driven forward by its ethos of Vorsprung durch Technik, Audi City is a new venture that uses technology to create space in the city centre. For five days in Mayfair, Audi reveals a site-specific installation of Chris Cunningham’s latest work. Enormous industrial robots veer around one another in a mysterious room. Their motors are syncopated with the room’s metronome and they embark on a frenetic interchange over a mechanical ‘brain’.
Stay tuned for more information on the installation and how YOU can win tickets to experience this artwork.
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Robots on Being Human
In this surprisingly touching TED talk, Ken Goldberg goes through four different robotics projects that taught him something about being a better human. Goldberg is a professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research in Robotics, Automation and New Media at UC Berkeley. His work reflects the intersection of robotics, social media and art, integrating human action with machine execution.
In 1993, at the same time that the world wide web became available, Goldberg was starting his first robotics lab at USC. He and his colleagues decided to create a universal interface, accessed via the web, that could control a robot in the lab. They built a robot that could garden in the center of a planter and put a camera on its arm to give feedback to users. Anyone in the world could view the garden, water plants, and plant seeds. It ended up in the Ars Electronica Museum in Linz Austria for 9 years and was operated by more people than any other robot in history! This first interactive robot project raised questions in the larger online community, which lead to other inventions.
The fourth project that he outlines here, is a robot that learns from human actions in order to complete delicate tasks, such as cutting and suturing in complex surgeries. Goldberg takes us through the process of development - his studies of human gesture, creation of algorithms, and adapting machinery to create a robot that can successfully mimic and execute actions as nuanced as stitching flesh.
IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, “Telerobots”
Björk’s Gravitational Pull
All artists today must navigate between analog and digital, and make functional decisions about technology that determine aesthetics. Björk is one such artist whose work directly addresses the intersection of technology and raw sound. Andrew Marantz writes, “The most Goldbergian of contemporary pop musicians, the one who most elegantly splits the different between techno-worship and Luddism, is Björk, whose new album, “Biophilia,” is a meditation on creativity, the laws of physics, and how to make simple things complex.”
When Björk went to visit MIT Media Labs, the pre-eminent centre for out of the box, human-machine research, she met Andy Cavatorta. He was a graduate student at the time and they immediately clicked. He was hired to design a robotic instrument for her Biophilia tour that would harness the forces of nature: lightning, gravity and the Earth’s magnetic field.
“I should mention that I’d already quit this business twice before I met Björk. While audiences loved the idea of music and robots together, it contains an aesthetic dead end. If the content of music is emotion, the Jungian unconscious, the deep mystery through which our raw atoms create meaning out of the chaos of the world, then robots possess nothing of what makes us care. I could see little place for them in music beyond fleeting novelty.” Andy Cavatorta
In the end, they focused their energy on the Gravity Harp, that uses pendulums. Pendulums are natural oscillators, that transfer gravitational energy into kinetic energy. The robotic pendulums, each containing a harp with eleven strings. These pendulums hang in the air and swing slowly swing back and forth, in the pattern of a sine wave. A long line of pendulums that each play one note. The rhythm is determined by the energy of the earth’s gravity pulling the wooden instrument.
AIDA: Affective, Intelligent Driving Agent
The AIDA project, a collaboration between Audi’s Electronics Research Lab and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (SENSEable City Lab), is a platform comprising of an intelligent navigation system that aims to bring an innovative driving experience.
They envision a navigation system that becomes familiar with both the driver and the city. Instead of focusing solely on determining routes to a specified waypoint, our system utilizes analysis of driver behaviour in order to identify the set of goals the driver would like to achieve. Furthermore, AIDA involves an understanding of the city beyond what can be seen through the windshield, incorporating information such as business and shopping districts, tourist and residential areas, as well as real-time event information.