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[VIDEO] Advanced Robotic Bat Can Fly Like the Real Thing 

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In Era of Journalism Cutbacks, a Chinese ‘Robot Reporter’ 

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More Chinese newsrooms are starting to use so-called “robot reporters,” but developers say their capabilities remain limited.

Te-Ping Chen reports: China has found itself in the midst of a full-blown robot obsession in recent years, with everything from robot monks to robot waiters grabbing headlines.

Now, the robots are writing the actual headlines, too — in certain newsrooms, anyway.

Last week, the Southern Metropolis Daily published its first-ever report written by what the newspaper describes as a “robot reporter.” The story, clocking in at just over 300 words, summarizes what train tickets are most in demand bn-rt602_robot_cv_20170124041448over the Lunar New Year holiday, during which millions of Chinese workers travel home to see their families. It discusses which routes are selling out fast and advises travelers to buy tickets soon, cautioning that for certain routes, all seats are sold out.

“You’ll have to stand the whole way, the route will be more exhausting,” it advises. The Southern Metropolis Daily story is bylined “Xiao Nan Robot,” or ‘Little South’ robot and accompanied with a picture of a white, rotund robot riding atop a thick black pen.

So far, though, the scope of robot reporters is limited, says Wan Xiaojun, a computer-science professor at Peking University who worked to develop the newspaper’s program.

Mr. Wan explains that Xiao Nan is currently programmed only to analyze train-ticket sales, which accounts for the somewhat monotonous nature of its reporting. “There Are Still High-Speed Rail Tickets From Guangzhou to Numerous Destinations for Lunar New Year’s Eve,” ran one robot-produced headline today. “Hard-Seat Tickets on the 26th From Guangzhou to Zhengzhou Are Still Available,” ran another yesterday.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

Sports are another fertile area for robot coverage: another robot-reporter program Mr. Wan worked on was used by news publisher Toutiao during the Rio Olympics last year, producing more than 400 news briefs, he said. Those briefs were built off published game statistics or summarized the transcribed narration of sports broadcasters, seeking out keywords such as “goal,” “red card” and more. Read the rest of this entry »


Will Machines Ever Become Human?

What does “human” mean? Humans are conscious and intelligent — although it’s curiously easy to imagine one attribute without the other. An intelligent but unconscious being is a “zombie” in science fiction — and to philosophers and technologists too. We can also imagine a conscious non-intelligence. It would experience its environment as a flow of unidentified, meaningless sensations engendering no mental activity beyond mere passive awareness.

Some day, digital computers will almost certainly be intelligent. But they will never be conscious. One day we are likely to face a world full of real zombies and the moral and philosophical problems they pose. I’ll return to these hard questions.

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The possibility of intelligent computers has obsessed mankind since Alan Turing first raised it formally in 1950. Turing was vague about consciousness, which he thought unnecessary to machine intelligence. Many others have been vague since. But artificial consciousness is surely as fascinating as artificial intelligence.

Digital computers won’t ever be conscious; they are made of the wrong stuff (as the philosopher John Searle first argued in 1980). A scientist, Searle noted, naturally assumes that consciousness results from the chemical and physical structure of humans and animals — as photosynthesis results from the chemistry of plants. (We assume that animals have a sort of intelligence, a sort of consciousness, to the extent they seem human-like.) You can’t program your laptop to transform carbon dioxide into sugar; computers are made of the wrong stuff for photosynthesis — and for consciousness too.

No serious thinker argues that computers today are conscious. Suppose you tell one computer and one man to imagine a rose and then describe it. You might get two similar descriptions, and be unable to tell which is which. But behind these similar statements, a crucial difference. The man can see and sense an imaginary rose in his mind. The computer can put on a good performance, can describe an imaginary rose in detail — but can’t actually see or sense anything. It has no internal mental world; no consciousness; only a blank.

[Read the full text here, at BQO]

Bur some thinkers reject the wrong-stuff argument and believe that, once computers and software grow powerful and sophisticated enough, they will be conscious as well as intelligent.

They point to a similarity between neurons, the brain’s basic component, and transistors, the basic component of computers. Both neurons and transistors transform incoming electrical signals to outgoing signals. Now a single neuron by itself is not conscious, not intelligent. But gather lots together in just the right way and you get the brain of a conscious and intelligent human. A single transistor seems likewise unpromising. But gather lots together, hook them up right and you will get consciousness, just as you do with neurons.

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But this argument makes no sense. One type of unconscious thing (neurons) can create consciousness in the right kind of ensemble. Why should the same hold for other unconscious things? In every other known case, it does not hold. No ensemble of soda cans or grapefruit rinds is likely to yield consciousness. Yes but transistors, according to this argument, resemble neurons in just the right way; therefore they will act like neurons in creating consciousness. But this “exactly right resemblance” is just an assertion, to be taken on trust. Neurons resemble heart cells more closely than they do transistors, but hearts are not conscious. Read the rest of this entry »


Barack Obama’s Imperial Presidency

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Read more…

Source: National Review 


[VIDEO] iSpace: One Giant Leap for Japan 

Japan is leaping into space resources, agreeing to work with a robotic-exploration company to create a blueprint for an industry to extract resources from the moon that would enable more extensive space exploration.

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[VIDEO] Scientists Work to Perfect Robotic Arm Controlled by Thought 

The battery operated remote controlled Astroman Robot, complete with red antenna and padded hands.

 


[VIDEO] JetPacks Are Finally Real

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It can reach an altitude of over 6,500 feet and travel at over 65 miles per hour.


Japan: Novelist Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) Returns in Robot Form

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Novelist Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) is back in Tokyo — as an android.

Nishogakusha University in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, and Osaka University Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro unveiled the final product of their joint project at a press conference on Thursday, a day before the 100th anniversary of the writer’s death.

The humanoid robot sits 130 centimeters high and was made based on pictures taken when the writer was 45 years old and his death mask, among other materials. Read the rest of this entry »


Forget Drones: Google Explores Robot Delivery

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Legged robots from Boston Dynamics can navigate a home, and even deliver a parcel, using advances in manipulation and vision.

Will Knight writes: The nimble-legged robots under development at a secretive Google subsidiary are getting ever more capable and clever.

At a conference in Barcelona this week, Marc Raibert, the CEO of Boston Dynamics, which specializes in dynamically balancing legged machines, demonstrated some of the progress his researchers have been making.

CAPTION: CAMBRIDGE, MASS.--9/11/2004--BostonDynamics president Marc Raibert with the robot "Big Dog". CREDIT: JODI HILTON FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

“Many people are talking about drone delivery. So why not just plain legged robots?”

— Marc Raibert, the CEO of Boston Dynamics

Raibert demonstrated Spot Mini, the company’s latest four-legged robot, which is about the size of a large dog. Boston Dynamics has previously shown videos of Spot Mini operating in a mocked-up home—climbing stairs, opening doors, and even emptying a dishwasher using its gripper. The robot features a neck-like appendage and gripper that enables it to do simple, but potentially useful, manipulation tasks.

The robot is partially automated. A Boston Dynamics engineer steered a Spot Mini onto the stage during Raibert’s talk at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference. But the robot figured out for itself how to perceive and navigate the steps up to the stage, and then, once given the command, located and picked up a can from a table.

Legged robots could potentially be better than wheeled bots at navigating messy human environments, although the research robots under development at Boston Dynamics remain prohibitively expensive for now, some costing more than $1 million.

Boston Dynamics has built a reputation for developing robots capable of walking and running, even across treacherous ground using dynamic balance; that is, by constantly moving to maintain stability. The company has honed the technique over many decades to produce several stunning machines  (see “The Robots Running This Way”). It makes a much larger quadruped, called Big Dog, which has been tested as a military pack mule, as well as a humanoid, Atlas, which took part in a robot rescue contest organized recently by the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (see “Why Robots and Humans Struggled with DARPA’s Challenge”).

As Boston Dynamics explores potential applications, it’s clear that manipulating objects while balancing this way will be a key focus. “Mobile manipulation is our next grand challenge,” Raibert said during his talk. Read the rest of this entry »


New journal Science Robotics is Established to Chronicle the Rise of the Robots

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Devin Coldewey reports: Robots have been a major focus in the technology world for decades and decades, but they and basic science, and for that matter everyday life, have largely been non-overlapping magisteria. That’s changed over the last few years, as robotics and every other field have come to inform and improve each other, and robots have begun to infiltrate and affect our lives in countless ways. So the only surprise in the news that the prestigious journal group Science has established a discrete Robotics imprint is that they didn’t do it earlier.

Editor Guang-Zhong Yang and president of the National Academy of Sciences Marcia McNutt introduce the journal:

In a mere 50 years, robots have gone from being a topic of science fiction to becoming an integral part of modern society. They now are ubiquitous on factory floors, build complex deep-sea installations, explore icy worlds beyond the reach of humans, and assist in precision surgeries… Read the rest of this entry »


Rocket Men: Why Tech’s Biggest Billionaires Want their Place in Space

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Forget gilded mansions and super yachts. Among the tech elite, space exploration is now the ultimate status symbol.

On board was a $200m, 12,000lb communications satellite – part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org project to deliver broadband access to sub-Saharan Africa.

Zuckerberg wrote, with a note of bitterness, on his Facebook page that he was “deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite”. SpaceX founder Elon Musk told CNN it was the “most difficult and complex failure” the 14-year-old company had ever experienced.

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It was also the second dramatic explosion in nine months for SpaceX, following a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” of a booster rocket as it attempted to land after a successful mission to the International Space Station.

Later that day, Nasa’s official Twitter account responded: “Today’s @SpaceX incident – while not a Nasa launch – reminds us that spaceflight is challenging.”

Yet despite those challenges, a small band of billionaire technocrats have spent the past few years investing hundreds of millions of dollars into space ventures. Forget gilded mansions and super yachts; among the tech elite, space exploration is the ultimate status symbol.

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Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002, is arguably the most visible billionaire in the new space race. The apparent inspiration for Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark character in Iron Man, Musk has become a god-like figure for engineers, making his fortune at PayPal and then as CEO of luxury electric car firm Tesla and clean energy company Solar City. Yet it is his galactic ambitions, insiders say, that really motivate him. “His passion is settling Mars,” says one.

[Read the full story here, at The Guardian]

SpaceX has completed 32 successful launches since 2006, delivered cargo to the International Space Station and secured more than $10bn in contracts with Nasa and other clients. Musk has much grander ambitions, though, saying he plans to create a “plan B” for humanity in case Earth ultimately fails. He once famously joked that he hoped to die on Mars – just not on impact. Read the rest of this entry »


Rise of the Robot Music Industry

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AI is transforming music streaming, talent spotting, promotion and even composition.

Robotic is not an adjective that many musicians would want applied to their songs but the industry has been fast to embrace data analytics and artificial intelligence to help tailor its services to the increasingly fickle listener.

Algorithms are seeping into the music business to help with talent spotting, promotion and even composition in an industry that has been historically resistant to change and was one of the first to feel the effects of “disruption” through piracy and music sharing.

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Streaming services have already ushered in an era of “hyper personalisation” for music lovers. Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, launched in July 2015, had racked up 40m listeners around the world and 5bn track streams by May this year, according to a report from the BPI prepared by Music Ally. These playlists monitor what a person is listening to, and cross-references that data with other users with similar tastes to recommend new songs and artists.

Apple Music has opted to use human curators such as Zane Lowe, the radio DJ, for its playlists, but Spotify has doubled down on its robotic recommenders with new services such as Release Radar and the Daily Mix to tempt its subscribers down different paths.

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Yet discovery is only the equivalent of a debut album for streaming services, and can be a blunt tool. Users of Spotify Discover complain that it is hit and miss — often suggesting the same artists and songs repeatedly, and failing to adapt to the often random whims of the listener.

The industry is now hoping that the use of artificial intelligence will bring better analytics, and even predictive technology.

A listener’s location, mood and even the weather conditions are now being built into some recommendation engines. Google Play is, for example, working on such adaptive functions.

“A bot will be able to recognise guilty pleasures . . . see that I’ve been to the pub and serve me a Little Mix record when I’m on the way home,” says Luke Ferrar, head of digital at Polydor, pointing to the use of algorithms to understand how people listen to music. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] The Atlas Robot is Getting Better at Chasing You Down


How VR Has the Power To Make You Care

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Thanksgiving Weekend Primatologist Browser Tabocalpyse

Across The Line‘ is the latest example of VR attempting to evoke empathy.

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Alice Bonasio

Alice Bonasio writes: There’s an iconic scene in Blade Runner where Harrison Ford’s character Deckard meets the replicant Rachel for the first time, but he doesn’t know she’s not human. He then uses a test called Voight-Kampff  to determine whether or not she’s a real person. The test consists of a series of questions designed to elicit emotion. The idea – which is beautifully challenged later on in the film – is that machines are incapable of such empathetic responses.

Empathy, in other words, is what makes us human.

With an emerging consensus that the immersive nature of VR is particularly effective in triggering those empathetic responses, we’re seeing artists throughout the creative industries exploring new possibilities for storytelling – with a purpose. Chris Milk’s UN-Commissioned Clouds Over Sidra showed the plight of refugees through the eyes of a 12-year old Syrian girl, while the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio production HOME/AAMIR transported viewers to the infamous Calais ‘Jungle’ camp.

VR can even make people feel more empathetic toward more abstract things like the environment, as was recently shown with the Crystal Reef project – showcased this year at the Tribeca Film Festival by researchers from the Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford. The simulation, where you watched the devastating effects of ocean acidification caused by man, served to connect people to the consequences of their own actions in a much more tangible way.

[Read the full story here, at uploadvr.com]

Journalist and Filmmaker Nonny de la Peña – Co-Founder of the Emblematic Group and affectionately known as the “Godmother of VR” – has long explored the power of Virtual Reality experiences to break through viewer apathy. Her pioneering work often transports viewers into uncomfortable situations – such as a line for food handouts outside a shelter in LA, where you see a man collapsing from hunger next to you – and makes them re-think their outlook on often controversial issues.

The latest of those projects is Across The Line, an experience which tells the story of a young woman going to an abortion clinic. I viewed it recently at London’s Raindance Film Festival – where it was selected for this year’s VR showcase Arcade – and spoke to la Peña and their partners at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) to find out more about how the project developed and what the reaction to it has been like so far. Read the rest of this entry »


What Will Become of White House Tech’s Juicebox Mafia? 

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Obama-era techies weigh staying under Trump

An impassioned debate is raging among software engineers, designers and other techies as to whether they want to stay in Washington under Donald Trump.

While some high-ranking tech staffers in the federal ranks say they’re not going anywhere, others worry that staying could put them in a tough spot, especially if the new administration asks them to work on projects at odds with their values.

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It’s “a brutal line for some of us to walk,” said one senior tech specialist in the federal government, who would only speak without being named. The specialist said staffers are caught between “serving the public in ways that are obviously still very much needed,” versus “serving a person — and a ‘regime’ — who, for some of us, is fundamentally disrespectful of our existence.”

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“The arguments are really clear,” says Anil Dash, a New York City entrepreneur whose commentary is widely followed in the tech industry. “The one side is, ‘You came to serve and there’s still a need.’ The other is, ‘Do we legitimize this administration?'”

[Read the full story here, at POLITICO]

Dash says he has stopped recommending that people in tech join the U.S. Digital Service, but that he also sees little upside to those already on the federal payroll leaving now.

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People open to staying include Rob Cook, a former Pixar executive who just three weeks ago began a three-year appointment as the head of the Technology Transformation Service, a branch of the General Services Administration created this summer to reinvent how the federal government buys and builds technology. “If it’s important, it’s important for all administrations,” Cook says.

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Cook’s view that civil servants serve regardless of who occupies the Oval Office has its adherents. But among the rank and file in the federal tech service, conversations are swirling. They’re weighing whether those who joined the Obama administration to apply the thinking of the so-called civic tech movement — the idea that modern digital tools can create a government more responsive to citizens — would be guilty of aiding a president whose policies and politics many of them utterly oppose.

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Obama created the Digital Service as what he called a tech “SWAT team” after being burned by the failed launch of HealthCare.gov. He has tapped that team of technology experts to execute some of his policy priorities, such as making it easier for would-be immigrants to the U.S. to track their applications online. Read the rest of this entry »


COMPUTOPIA Magazine: ‘School Without Teachers, Humanless Factories, Digital Calculation is the Future of Humanity’

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[VIDEO] An AR-15 in Every Home: 3D Gun Printer Cody Wilson on Resistance, Trump, the Media, & More

 

“It doesn’t matter what the origins of the Second Amendment were,” says Cody Wilson, creator of the first 3D-printed gun and author of the new book, Come and Take It: The Gun Printer’s Guide to Thinking Free. “With the internet, we can transform this thing into right to resistance on a global scale. If it’s just a fact that the government serves guns519nzpvwfvl-_sl250_ now, this is just a point of political life.”

CORRECTION: The Ghost Gunner sells for $1,500 not $250. The deposit is $250.

[Order Cody’s book “Come and Take It: The Gun Printer’s Guide to Thinking Free” from Amazon.com]

The full transcript of this interview is available here.

Reason is the planet’s leading source of news, politics, and culture from a libertarian perspective. Go to reason.com for a point of view you won’t get from legacy media and old left-right opinion magazines. Read the rest of this entry »


Science & Fiction: 10 Technologies That Are Changing the Game


The Mechanics of Mechanophilia: Why Men Find Siri Sexy

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We all have relationships with tech. The question is: how far do you go?

How would you feel if you walked in on your flatmate pouring his iPhone a glass of Cristal and remarking on her exceptional ‘wallpaper’? Open mouthed and curious, right? Well, welcome to the future. For some technophiles at least.

Apart from neo-Luddites, we all have relationships with tech. The question is: how far do you go?

A survey from 2012 revealed the extreme level of attachment many of us feel towards our gadgets. It found that three-quarters of the 2,500 people polled said losing a personal device would give them more anxiety than losing a wedding ring. Another from 2016 discloses that nearly 40pc of millennials say they interact more with their smartphones than their co-workers, parents, children or friends.

Of course, such interactions could be simply checking the time – and if you started calling your friends to do that they’d think you’d gone batty – but what these stats betray is the shaping of an emotional bond between man and machine that seems to be growing year on year.

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“People use things in a sexual way all the time. You could name any object, from a radiator to a tin can, and there’s someone out there that gets sexually aroused by it.”

–Professor Mark Griffiths

Sci-fi programmes like Humans, depicting the trouble caused when overly lifelike AI get mixed in with the rest of society, may be fictional, yet our relationship with tech still gets closer and closer. Quite alarmingly close.

Virtual assistants (VA for short), also known as personal assistant A.I.s, are digital secretaries that can schedule meetings, order meals, play audio and visual files, and assess online accounts. Not to be confused with ‘virtual assistants’ that work remotely and are actual people, current VAs on the market include Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and, of course, Apple’s Siri.

“Most new technology seems to turn to porn eventually. Webcams, virtual reality, Internet etc. I see no reason why A.I won’t be included in this. It’ll certainly be cheaper to run phone sex lines with an army of bots instead of having to pay women to answer the phones.”

— Steve Worswick, an expert in the field of digital A.I

Last month, in an interview with The Times, Illy Eckstein, chief executive of Robin Labs, creators of a virtual assistant and satnav known as ‘Robin’, said that 5pc of interactions in their database are classified as “clearly sexually explicit”.

Trawling the Internet for evidence of the above I discovered a Reddit forum titled: ‘I masturbate to Siri and I feel disgusting’. The poster says he’s a 20 year old male, who started talking to Siri sexually as a joke before realising that “it really turned me on.”

The phenomenon clearly has farther reaches than one sole forum post. VA creators and chatbot companies predict such interactions and put algorithmic safeguards in place to deter feelings of emotional and sexual attachment from costumers.

[Read the full story here, at telegraph.uk]

Earlier this year one of the key writers for Microsoft’s Cortana, Deborah Harrison, revealed at the Virtual Assistant Summit in San Francisco that “a good chunk of the volume of early-on inquiries” regarded Cortana’s ‘sex life’ adding, “That’s not the kind of interaction we want to encourage.”

Steve Worswick is an expert in the field of digital A.I. He’s also the leading developer of Mitsuku, a family-friendly online chatbot.

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“Mechanophilia: love or sexual attraction to computers, cars, robots or androids, washing machines, lawnmowers and other mechanized gardening equipment, sexual relations between living organisms and machines.”

He told Telegraph Men that he used to have a banning system (five strikes and you’re out) for anyone who attempted to have sexually explicit conversations with Mitsuku. However, he received so many emails from people who wanted to treat the bot sexually, that he removed the strike system and instead programmed Mitsuku to either ignore sexual requests, say something to steer the conversation to other topics, or simply insult the user.

Worswick believes men are using Mitsuku in this way and seeing bots as “sex objects” simply because they cannot fight back, have no legal rights, and are not going to judge them or contact the authorities or their wives or girlfriends.

Read the rest of this entry »


‘Mars’: National Geographic Network’s Moonshot

National Geographic is releasing “Mars,” a six-part series that follows a dramatized mission to Mars while real scientists and thinkers discuss the challenges of such a journey.

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WSJ‘s Lee Hawkins and John Jurgensen discuss “Mars” and the rise of the “premium nonfiction” genre on television. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Watch Hillary Clinton and Her Staff Do the ‘Mannequin Challenge’

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Charlie Rose Interviews a Robot

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Charlie Rose attempts to interview a robot named “Sophia” for his 60 Minutes report on artificial intelligence.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” Sophia tells 60 Minutes correspondent Charlie Rose. They’re mid-interview, and Rose reacts with surprise.

“Waiting for me?” he asks.

“Not really,” she responds. “But it makes a good pickup line.”

Sophia managed to get a laugh out of Charlie Rose. Not bad for a robot.

Rose interviewed the human-like machine for this week’s two-part 60 Minutes piece on artificial intelligence, or A.I. In their exchange, excerpted in the clip above, Rose seems to approach the conversation with the same seriousness and curiosity he would bring to any interview.

[Read the full story here, at CBSnews]

“You put your head where you want to test the possibility,” Rose tells 60 Minutes Overtime. “You’re not simply saying, ‘Why am I going through this exercise of talking to a machine?’ You’re saying, ‘I want to talk to this machine as if it was a human to see how it comprehends.’”

Sophia’s creator, David Hanson, believes that if A.I. technology looks and sounds human, people will be more willing to engage with it in meaningful ways.

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“I think it’s essential that at least some robots be very human-like in appearance in order to inspire humans to relate to them the way that humans relate to each other,” Hanson says. “Then the A.I. can zero in on what it means to be human.”

“Through his company Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong, Hanson has created twenty human-like robots, even developing artificial skin that simulates the physics of facial flesh. Sophia is his latest design, modeled after Audrey Hepburn and Hanson’s wife.”

He envisions robots as companions for people who would otherwise be socially isolated, such as the elderly. “If you have a robot that can communicate in a very human-like way and help somebody who otherwise doesn’t know how to use a computer, put them in touch with their relatives,” Hanson explains, “put them in touch with their healthcare provider in a way that is natural for them, then that could provide a critical difference of connectivity for that person with the world.”

Through his company Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong, Hanson has created twenty human-like robots, even developing artificial skin that simulates the physics of facial flesh. Sophia is his latest design, modeled after Audrey Hepburn and Hanson’s wife.

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CBS News

“I think it’s essential that at least some robots be very human-like in appearance in order to inspire humans to relate to them the way that humans relate to each other. Then the A.I. can zero in on what it means to be human.”

“Sophia means wisdom,” Hanson explains, “and she is intended to evolve eventually to human-level wisdom and beyond.”

She still has a long way to go. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTOS] NASA 1965 Space Suit Test Robot


[VIDEO] ‘Sex, Drugs, & Robots’: Reason’s Katherine Mangu-Ward on the Future of the Magazine

Reason‘s new editor in chief Katherine Mangu-Ward sat down with former Reason editor and author Virginia Postrel (now a columnist at Bloomberg View) at Reason’s Los Angeles headquarters to talk about the future of the magazine as it nears its 50th anniversary.

Nick Gillespie—and to some extent Matt Welch—their version of Reason was sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Mine is more like sex, drugs, and robots,” says Mangu-Ward.

« The News Mausoleum Commentary Magazine

You may know Mangu-Ward’s work already as Reason’s managing editor or from her insightful cover stories covering everything from defending plastic bags to why your vote doesn’t count.

Approximately 48 minutes.

boys-magazine Read the rest of this entry »


Japanese Robot Makes Sushi in Seconds 

Kawasaki's sushi-making robot. Kazumichi Moriyama/YouTube

Kawasaki’s sushi-making robot. Kazumichi Moriyama/YouTube

The Japanese robotics manufacturer Kawasaki has created a bot that can prepare nigiri sushi in under a minute.

As robots get more advanced, they will likely take over many jobs in the future — including those of sushi chefs.

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For a sneak peak at this impending automation, look no further than a new creation from robotics manufacturer Kawasaki. The robot can make sushi in under a minute.

First spotted by Gizmodo, the video shows a miraculous bot that assembles nigiri, the traditional type of sushi in which a piece of raw fish sits on a little ball of rice.

giphy (77) Read the rest of this entry »


Meet The Army’s New Pocket-Sized Drone

Jennings Brown reports: A recent glimpse at the future of robotic warfare proves tank robots aren’t ready for the battlefield just yet—but soldiers are enthusiastic about tiny drones that can be mistaken for birds.

“We need to be making sure we’re fielding new technology as quickly as we can. It doesn’t do any good if we’re just investing in great technology if we don’t actually get it into the field for soldiers.”

— Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning

Unites States soldiers based in Hawaii spent half of last month testing out cutting-edge robotic prototypes in exercises as a part of Pacific Manned-Unmanned Initiative (PACMAN-I). Members of the 25th Infantry Division controlled air and land drones to determine what technology could actually benefit soldiers. It was the third time in history human that soldiers have collaborated with robot counterparts in a simulated war zone.

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Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning visited the exercise on July 26, a sign of the interest the Army is taking in the battlefield applications of unmanned vehicles. “We need to be making sure we’re fielding new technology as quickly as we can,” Fanning said, in a statement. “It doesn’t do any good if we’re just investing in great technology if we don’t actually get it into the field for soldiers.” Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] SwagBot: First Robot Cowboy

SwagBot can herd cattle, pull heavy loads and traverse rough terrain. Soon it could be monitoring cattle in remote farms in the Australian outback. Read more


Military Robotics Makers See a Future for Armed Police Robots

As military-grade robotics get cheaper and more capable, someone will arm them and put them on American streets.

Patrick Tucker reports: Robot-maker Sean Bielat says he’s fine with the Dallas Police Department’s apparently unprecedented use of a police bomb-disposal robot to kill a gunman on Thursday. “A robot was used to keep people out of harm’s way in an extreme situation,” said Bielat, the CEO of Endeavor Robotics, a spinoff of iRobot’s military division. “That’s how robots are intended to be used.”

“The chief had two options and he went with this one. I supported him completely because it was the safest way to approach it”

Joergen Pedersen, the CEO of RE2 robotics and the chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association’s robotics division concurred. “If these robots are used in manners for which they were unintended, we would expect that the officers who are there to keep citizens and themselves safe would use good judgment where the application of lethal force is a last resort,” he said.

On Sunday, speaking to Face the Nation, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings blessed the operation. “The chief had two options and he went with this one. I supported him completely because it was the safest way to approach it,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »


Knock Knock: Dallas Police Used Robot With Bomb to Kill Ambush Suspect

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Erik Ortiz reports: Police in Dallas used a robot with an explosive device to kill a suspect involved in a coordinated ambush against officers.

“We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was. Other options would have exposed our officers in grave danger.”

— Mayor Mike Rawlings

The suspect was holed up inside the El Centro College parking garage for several hours overnight Thursday before police moved to “blast him out,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said Friday. The negotiations with the unidentified suspect had stalled.

“We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was,” Rawlings told reporters. “Other options would have exposed our officers in grave danger.”

The mayor said the suspect was killed by the device, and disputed earlier reports that he might have shot himself.

At least three other suspects were involved in the attack on officers during a protest Thursday night about police-involved shootings elsewhere in the country. Five officers were killed and seven others were injured, as well as two civilians.

Typically, police forces have bomb squads that employ remote-controlled robots for dismantling explosive devices.

But using robots with explosives or munitions to root out or even kill suspects appears far less routine…(more)

Source: NBC News

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The first suspect in the Dallas police shooting was identified as Micah X. Johnson, 25, the Los Angeles Times reported. Johnson was a resident of the Dallas area who had no ties to terror groups or a criminal history. Law enforcement said he has relatives in Mesquite, Texas.

Five police officers were killed late Thursday by shooters during a peaceful protest over the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile earlier this week. Dallas Police Chief David Brown said negotiations with one suspect broke down early Friday and a bomb robot was used to kill the suspect. Read the rest of this entry »


A.I. Downs Expert Human Fighter Pilot In Dogfight Simulation

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In the military world, fighter pilots have long been described as the best of the best. As Tom Wolfe famously wrote, only those with the “right stuff” can handle the job. Now, it seems, the right stuff may no longer be the sole purview of human pilots.

A pilot A.I. developed by a doctoral graduate from the University of Cincinnati has shown that it can not only beat other A.I.s, but also a professional fighter pilot with decades of experience. In a series of flight combat simulations, the A.I. successfully evaded retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gene “Geno” Lee, and shot him down every time. In a statement, Lee called it “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible A.I. I’ve seen to date.”

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And “Geno” is no slouch. He’s a former Air Force Battle Manager and adversary tactics instructor. He’s controlled or flown in thousands of air-to-air intercepts as mission commander or pilot. In short, the guy knows what he’s doing. Plus he’s been fighting A.I. opponents in flight simulators for decades.

[read the full story here, at Popular Science]

But he says this one is different. “I was surprised at how aware and reactive it was. It seemed to be aware of my intentions and reacting instantly to my changes in flight and my missile deployment. It knew how to defeat the shot I was taking. It moved instantly between defensive and offensive actions as needed.” Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] This Lady Robot Speaks Her Mind 

The WSJ quizzed Hanson Robotics’s lifelike creation Sophia on topics from U.S.presidential candidates to a robot’s place in the bedroom. Photo/Video: Menglin Huang/The Wall Street Journal


Mr. Mercury Box Art, 1950s

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Source: 

 


China Is Building a Robot Army of Model Workers

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Can China reboot its manufacturing industry—and the global economy—by replacing millions of workers with machines?

Will Knight writes: Inside a large, windowless room in an electronics factory in south Shanghai, about 15 workers are eyeing a small robot arm with frustration. Near the end of the production line where optical networking equipment is being packed into boxes for shipping, the robot sits motionless.

“The system is down,” explains Nie Juan, a woman in her early 20s who is responsible for quality control. Her team has been testing the robot for the past week. The machine is meant to place stickers on the boxes containing new routers, and it seemed to have mastered the task quite nicely. But then it suddenly stoppedworking. “The robot does save labor,” Nie tells me, her brow furrowed, “but it is difficult to maintain.”

The hitch reflects a much bigger technological challenge facing China’s manufacturers today. Wages in Shanghai have more than doubled in the past seven years, and the company that owns the factory, Cambridge Industries Group, faces fierce competition from increasingly high-tech operations in Germany, Japan, and the United States. To address both of these problems, CIG wants to replace two-thirds of its 3,000 workers with machines this year. Within a few more years, it wants the operation to be almost entirely automated, creating a so-called “dark factory.” The idea is that with so few people around, you could switch the lights off and leave the place to the machines.

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But as the idle robot arm on CIG’s packaging line suggests, replacing humans with machines is not an easy task. Most industrial robots have to be extensively programmed, and they will perform a job properly only if everything is positioned just so. Much of the production work done in Chinese factories requires dexterity, flexibility, and common sense. If a box comes down the line at an odd angle, for instance, a worker has to adjust his or her hand before affixing the label. A few hours later, the same worker might be tasked with affixing a new label to a different kind of box. And the following day he or she might be moved to another part of the line entirely.

Despite the huge challenges, countless manufacturers in China are planning to transform their production processes using robotics and automation at an unprecedented scale. In some ways, they don’t really have a choice. Human labor in China is no longer as cheap as it once was, especially compared with labor in rival manufacturing hubs growing quickly in Asia. In Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, factory wages can be less than a third of what they are in the urban centers of China. One solution, many manufacturers—and government officials—believe, is to replace human workers with machines

Gerald Wong, CEO of CIG, is developing an automated electronics factory.

The results of this effort will be felt globally. Almost a quarter of the world’s products are made in China today. If China can use robots and other advanced technologies to retool types of production never before automated, that might turn the country, now the world’s sweatshop, into a hub of high-tech innovation. Less clear, however, is how that would affect the millions of workers recruited to China’s booming factories.

[Read the full story here, at technologyreview.com]

There are still plenty of workers around now as I tour CIG’s factory with the company’s CEO, Gerald Wong, a compact man who earned degrees from MIT in the 1980s. We watch a team of people performing delicate soldering on circuit boards, and another group clicking circuit boards into plastic casings. Wong stops to demonstrate a task that is proving especially hard to automate: attaching a flexible wire to a circuit board. “It’s always curled differently,” he says with annoyance.

But there are some impressive examples of automation creeping through Wong’s factory, too. As we walk by a row of machines that stamp chips into circuit boards, a wheeled robot roughly the size of a mini-fridge rolls by ferrying components in the other direction. Wong steps in front of the machine to show me how it will detect him and stop. In another part of the factory, we watch a robot arm grab finished circuit boards from a conveyor belt and place them into a machine that automatically checks their software. Wong explains that his company is testing a robot that does the soldering work we saw earlier more quickly and reliably than a person.

After we finish the tour, he says, “It is very clear in China: people will either go into automation or they will go out of the manufacturing business.”

Automate or bust

China’s economic miracle is directly attributable to its manufacturing industry. Approximately 100 million people are employed in manufacturing in China (in the U.S., the number is around 12 million), and the sector accounts for almost 36 percent of China’s gross domestic product. During the last few decades, manufacturing empires were forged around the Yangtze River Delta, Bohai Bay outside Beijing, and the Pearl River Delta in the south. Millions of low-skilled migrant workers found employment in gigantic factories, producing an unimaginable range of products, from socks to servers. China accounted for just 3 percent of global manufacturing output in 1990. Today it produces almost a quarter, including 80 percent of all air conditioners, 71 percent of all mobile phones, and 63 percent of the world’s shoes. For consumers around the world, this manufacturing boom has meant many low-cost products, from affordable iPhones to flat-screen televisions.

Workers at CIG retrieve items from one of several mobile robots that ferry materials around the facility.

In recent years, though, China’s manufacturing engine has started to stall. Wages have increased at a crippling 12 percent per year on average since 2001. Chinese exports fell last year for the first time since the financial crisis of 2009. And toward the end of 2015 the Caixin Purchasing Managers’ Index, a widely used indicator of manufacturing activity, showed that the sector had contracted for the 10th month in a row. Just as China’s manufacturing boom fed the global economy, the prospect of its decline has already started to spook the world’s financial markets.

Automation appears to offer an enticing technological solution. China already imports a huge number of industrial robots, but the country lags far behind competitors in the ratio of robots to workers. In South Korea, for instance, there are 478 robots per 10,000 workers; in Japan the figure is 315; in Germany, 292; in the United States it is 164. In China that number is only 36. Read the rest of this entry »