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Progress on Self-Aware Robots

Posted 19 May 2007 at 14:42 UTC by steve

We reported on Christope Menant's proposal for achieving machine consciousness by building on self-consciousness and self-representation. We've also reported in the past on Black Starfish, an experimental robot that is self-aware. With perfect timing, a Burlington Free Press article on Josh Bongard and his Black Starfish robot appeared today. Black Starfish's self-awareness is somewhere between basic self-representation and true self-awareness. Bongard believes getting from there to consciousness is theoretically possible but notes, "I'm not sure of the practical value". Philosphers and scientists have long pondered the purpose of our own consciousness which seems to them to have neither a functional purpose in our behavior nor an evolutionary benefit. New Scientist got in on the fun as well by posting an update on Nico (article intro only). Nico is another robot with rudimentary self-representation capabilities that we've mentioned before. To understand how it may be possible to get from self-representation to consciousness with the help of a little anxiety, see Menat's 2006 poster on the evolution of consciousness (PDF format).

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Random Robot News Roundup

Posted 18 May 2007 at 15:53 UTC (updated 8 Jun 2007 at 20:24 UTC) by steve

Here's your weekly dump of random robot news that has been collecting in our inbox. CNET posted a new interview with Rodney Brooks. Yes, another one. You can never have too many Rodney Brooks interviews. Roland Piquepaille emailed three recent robot stories from his blog, one about a new robotic cable inspection system, one about a predictive SLAM algorithm being developed at Purdue University, and one about a Japanese effort to develop a 2 cm robot that can swim within the human gastrointestinal tract. Roger F. Gay wrote to tell us about a somewhat optimsitic essay he wrote on new proprietary genetic programming software designed to give robots an imagination. John Palmisano of the Society of Robots website wrote to let us know about his new step-by-step tutorial for building a robot with a budget of less than $50. He's also created a contest for the cardboard-wheeled robots and is offering two $100 prizes for the winners. Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report here? Send 'em our way please.

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Transformers Movie Trailers

Posted 17 May 2007 at 19:55 UTC by Rog-a-matic

Trailers for the soon-to-be-released Transformers movie are now available on Yahoo and it looks AWESOME! "It's a robot, you know, like a super advanced robot.....it's probably Japanese."
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Artificial Consciousness from Self-Consciousness

Posted 17 May 2007 at 16:02 UTC by steve

Christophe Menant writes, "Let me inform you about a submission I just made to AAAI fall 2007 Symposium on AI and Consciousness. Title is Proposal for an Approach to Artificial Consciousness Based on Self-Consciousness (PDF format). It is close to [robots.net] posts made last year on Robot anxiety and consciousness. Feel free to comment." For those not familiar with Menant's research, he proposes that consciousness (in the phenomenal sense) evolved from self-consciousness, which in turn evolved from self-representation. He believes using self-consciousness rather than phenomenal consciousness as a reference model will be a more productive route to developing artificial consciousness. This could also lead to interesting new ideas for robot perception and behavior.
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2007 Robot Hall of Fame inductees

Posted 17 May 2007 at 10:38 UTC (updated 17 May 2007 at 10:45 UTC) by mwaibel

CMU has inducted four more robots into their Robot Hall of Fame. The jury of international scholars, researchers, writers, and designers selected the one-legged Raibert Hopper, the NavLab 5 self-steering vehicle, the LEGO Mindstorms kit and Lieutenant Commander Data as the new inductees. Matt Mason, the director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon: "For the first time, the jury selected more robots from science in fact than science fiction. Perhaps it's a trend that we are finally beginning to fulfill expectations..."

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BioRobotic Concoctions

Posted 16 May 2007 at 14:21 UTC by Rog-a-matic

An interesting array of fanciful images combining biology and robotics can be had at A Thrilling Wonder. My favorite is the Beetle working on his friend's carburetor. Also worth mentioning is the gallery of robots from Japan.

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Is Consciousness Computable?

Posted 15 May 2007 at 20:56 UTC by steve

A new paper by Daegene Song titled, "Non-Computability of Consciousness" (PDF format), suggests consciousness may not be a computable process. The paper is heavy on math and light on explanation but it appears there is an assumption in the proof that consciousness is a quantum phenomenon. Based on his assumptions, the author believes he has proved a limited case in which this theorized quantum consciousness is not computable. But he allows that a more complete mathematically analysis may produce different results. Even if he is correct, the phenomenon in question is fully representable on a quantum computer, so all is not lost for those who hope to build conscious machines. The connection between consciousness and quantum phenomena has been proposed before, notably by Penrose, but with very little evidence so far to back up the idea. Their reasoning appears to be, as Philosopher David Chalmers has noted, that "consciousness is mysterious and quantum mechanics is mysterious, so maybe the two mysteries have a common source".

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Robotic Car Progress

Posted 15 May 2007 at 14:43 UTC by Rog-a-matic

Professor Jurgen Schmidhuber from (IDSIA) gives us a short overview of robotic automobile progress starting with Stanford's Shakey and finishing up with vehicles from DARPA's Grand Challenge.

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Cornell Microcontroller Design Final Projects

Posted 14 May 2007 at 14:37 UTC by Rog-a-matic

Final projects for Cornell's Microcontroller Design class this year includes many that should prove instructive and inspirational to the robot builder such as: an artificial retina with color tracking, robot navigation via audio triangulation, a simple ultrasonic ranging system, speech recognition., and a Mega32-based CCD imaging system.

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Military Robotics

Skynet Goes Live in the UK

Posted 13 May 2007 at 14:31 UTC (updated 13 May 2007 at 14:45 UTC) by steve

When the British military developed hunter-killer UAVs knowns as MQ-9 Reapers, reminiscent of those seen in the Terminator series of movies, you knew it wouldn't be long. According to a UK government IT news site, Skynet has gone live with the launch of Skynet 5A, the first of three satellites that will make up the Skynet miltary communications network. Skynet 5B will be launched later this year and 5C in 2008. Skynet will be used to control the UK miltary at home and abroad. According to NORAD, the Skynet satellites are hardened against impacts and capable of repelling jamming attacks. And what about those flying hunter-killer robots? They carry 3,750 lbs of laser-guided missles, smart bombs, and JDAM munitions. The Register notes that several of those munitions have already been used to target individual humans. Don't forget to brush up on your surivial techniques. For more, see the Register's story on Skynet.

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