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Science

Political Pundits Discover the Uncanny Valley

Posted 31 Jan 2012 at 20:59 UTC by steve

The Uncanny Valley has been called upon to explain why Mitt Romney's persona disturbs so many people despite general agreement that he's a "successful, good-looking family man". Like Democrat Al Gore in previous races, Republican Mitt Romney creates a strange unease even among his supporters. A recent essay in the Atlantic provides an explanation for this phenomenon based on the Uncanny Valley theory that we are repulsed by slight imperfections in human-like action. The author argues that Romney's personality exhibits traits which put him into an "uncanny valley" for politicians.

"Most politicians tend to be ordinary-looking people who spend their time convincing voters they're office-quality material. Romney is rushing the other way: he's the politician from central casting who is stumbling through an audition for a role of regular human."

There were lots of jokes and comments about Al Gore being a "robot" in earlier races. But here we've got a more detailed attempt at explaining what makes people uncomfortable about this type of politician. This raises interesting questions: 1) is this just an amusing analogy or could there be any real psychology behind claims of a political uncanny valley? 2) does a reference to the uncanny valley by a political pundit mean even relatively obscure robotics and AI science is going mainstream? 3) if even some humans fall into the uncanny valley, is it more important that robots climb the other side or that we adjust our expectations of intelligent behavior?
Diagram based on Mori Uncanny Valley

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Interviews

Robots Podcast: Advances in Bipedal Locomotion

Posted 27 Jan 2012 at 20:31 UTC by IKE_RobotsPodcast








In the new episode of Robots Podcast we talk to Subramanian Ramamoorthy from the University of Edinburgh about the recent progress in walking robotics. We then speak with Felipe Brandão Cavalcanti, an Electrical Engineering student working on bipedal walking at the LARA lab at the University of Brasilia with Professor Geovany Borges. Ramamoorthy tells us about the recent advances in humanoid bipedal walking illustrated by Petman and the latest version of Asimo. In particular, we look at the history of the field with work from Mark RaibertRuss Tedrake andDaniel Koditschek and how different areas, such as machine leaning and motion capture, come together to accelerate progress. Felipe Brandão Cavalcanti's project focuses on the study and implementation of gait generation and stabilization algorithms for small humanoid robots. He tells us how they hacked a humanoid toy to improve its balance and the importance of math in his work.To learn more about walking robotics read on or tune in!

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Video

"My robot is better than your robot."

Posted 23 Jan 2012 at 15:33 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Inspriational video from iamFIRST.com.
(Via Nikolaus Correll)

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Entertainment

SVT's Akta Manniskor begins Sunday, Jan. 22

Posted 22 Jan 2012 at 00:20 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

While this won't matter to most readers of Robots.Net until a version with English subtitles becomes available for download, SVT's Akta Manniskor starts tomorrow, January 22nd. A ten hour series following the stories of a handful of "hubots" - human-like robots we might prefer to call androids - and the humans into whose lives they become entwined, the release of this Swedish production has been preceded by a bit of guerrilla marketing, and there is a making-of video available, also in Swedish of course.

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Robots

Random Robot Roundup

Posted 19 Jan 2012 at 19:41 UTC by steve

Shermine of Universal Robots, a Danish company, writes to tell us about a light-weight robot arm and matching touch-screen controller they've just completed. We also got word of a new robotics and AI blog called NooTriX, check it out. For our LEGO fans, Simon tells us about WorldBricks, a website where you can download LEGO instructions and catalogs dating back to the 1950s. Guy Cefalu sent a link to the Element microcontroller for .NET developers. No specs on memory or CPU type yet but looks like a PIC. (bonus points to the first reader who posts instructions for using an open source compiler like SDCC with this one!) The Swirling Brain spotted an instructable for a tiny robot called the Roule_Robot, just 14g and 39x22mm. Finally, Colin Adamson wrote to tell us about the Kickstarter campaign for his OCULUS Surveillance and Telepresence Netbook Robot (which looks a bit like the old Evolution ER1). Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please. And don't forget to follow us on twitter.

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Commercial Robotics

XYBOT video, by GeekBeat.tv

Posted 16 Jan 2012 at 16:46 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

XYBOT with image of J.Bieber and text

It appears Justin Bieber got around at CES. So did the GeekBeat.tv crew, including to the XYBOTYX booth, where they recorded the XYBOT rolling around on a wooden platform.

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Aquatic Robotics

Robots Podcast #95: David Lane of SeeByte and HWU-OSL

Posted 16 Jan 2012 at 00:16 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

photo of Professor David Lane

In Robots Podcast episode #95 David Lane, Professor of Autonomous Systems Engineering and affiliated with the Heriot-Watt University Ocean Systems Laboratory (Edinburgh), talks with interviewer Per Sjoborg about his journey from research to business and back. He tells about how he got started first in offshore work then in robotics research, developing control software for autonomous underwater vehicles. He also tells how frustration with the lack of utilization of his work led he and his associates to start the company SeeByte, to commercialize it, and how having the U.S. Navy as their first customer proved very helpful towards the company's success. (Dr. Lane has much to say about the value of customer funding and customer focus for a startup.) Finally, he tells about his return to academia after finding the right person to take over the day-to-day details of running SeeByte, and how his experience in industry finds its way into his academic work.
Read On or Tune In

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Commercial Robotics

Catching up with Robots at CES II

Posted 13 Jan 2012 at 18:09 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

photo of SoloWheel on sidewalk

CES is nearly over, but we have a few more items to share. The Inventist SoloWheel, shown above, was panned by The Verge as having zero chance of making it to the mainstream. As may be, pending further development, but the company provides an assortment of videos on its website. Without having tried it myself, I doubt it requires more skill than rollerblades. NEC showed its Communication Robot PaPeRo, a research prototype, not yet for sale, along with an Android app that allows users to control the robot remotely. There were Dancing Cats and Baby Seals, and a robotic vacuum cleaner that entertains while it works, and is itself cleaned out each time it docks. And last, but far from least, TechCrunch interviewed Bre Pettis of Makerbot about their new Replicator model, and the future of 3D printing.

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Commercial Robotics

TOSY Robotics mRobo Ultra Bass

Posted 12 Jan 2012 at 06:14 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

photo of mRobo from TOSY website

You've probably already heard about the event wherein Justin Bieber was enlisted to introduce TOSY's new mRobo at CES, but you may not have learned much about the device itself or the company that makes it. mRobo is a combination music player and dancing robot. It can store 2 gigabytes worth of music in its own memory, or stream it via bluetooth, or simply listen. In any case, when there's music playing, it sprouts a head, arms, and legs and begins to dance in time to the beat. The price is set at $199, and you won't be able to get one until later this year.

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Commercial Robotics

Catching up with Robots at CES

Posted 11 Jan 2012 at 18:09 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

The video above shows iRobot's Ava telepresence platform paying a visit to the crew of The Verge, in their trailer at CES. Other exhibitors of interest include Parrot, showing their AR.Drone 2.0, and Sphero, with their iPhone-controlled ball. More to come.

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