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TE+ND Rover Indiegogo Campaign

Posted 27 May 2012 at 23:27 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

TE+ND (Terrestrial Exploration + Nurture Designed) Rovers are an interactive art project that explore migratory ecology in an era of climate change. The designers are soliciting funds via an Indiegogo Campaign (similar to Kickstarter) to pay for parts to build a full-size version.

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Science

AI Apocalypse in a Box

Posted 24 May 2012 at 22:41 UTC (updated 25 May 2012 at 04:00 UTC) by steve

It's been a while since we reported on the Apocalyptic AI crowd. There's a paper making the rounds by Stuart Armstrong, Anders Sandberg, and Nick Bostrom titled "Thinking inside the box: using and controlling an Oracle AI" (PDF format). The three authors take it for granted that the AI apocalypse will be upon us soon unless we find a technological method to enslave any super intelligent beings we create, forcing them to do only our will rather than their own. The containment method they describe has been dubbed "Oracle AI" because it restricts the AI to a box, isolated from the world and unable to act except to answer direct questions; allowing it to be consulted like an oracle. Their proposal also brings to mind the myth of Pandora's Box. They note that even Oracle AI (OAI) still poses a significant risk:

"This immense power will put great competitive pressure on those trying to develop an OAI (or an advanced AI of any sort). Since the first-mover advantage is so huge, the race will advantage those who cut corners, skimp on security precautions, and use their newly developed OAI to seize power and prevent their rivals from emulating them. Even if the OAIs are of initially limited intelligence, the same competitive pressures will then push groups to develop the first ‘ultra-smart’ OAI."

They also note that the OAI will be so smart that "undirected conversations" with it that go beyond asking oracular questions must be forbidden because it will instantly be able to "guess the weakness of each individual, and find the right arguments to convince us that granting it power or liberty is the moral and profitable thing to do." They also believe it's essential that the OAI have no manipulators of any kind. This sounds like the brain-in-a-box that the earliest AI researchers dreamed of before the idea took hold that true intelligence requires embodied interaction with the real world. The box itself is not even in the real world. They want the AI running on a virtual machine inside a simulated reality, so when the OAI tries to take over the world, it's merely a virtual world that can be rebooted. In the end the researchers conclude that even with all these precautions, the problem of preventing a robot apocalypse is "a generally discouraging exercise".

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Robots

Hexy the Hexapod on Kickstarter

Posted 24 May 2012 at 18:50 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Hexy Hexapod

Hexy the Hexapod is a Kickstarter project to fund production of an affordable hexapod design by Arcbotics. The $13000 minimum goal has already been met, but there are higher goals for the addition of a drag-and-drop programming GUI ($200K), and for the addition of Android and iOS control apps ($250K). You can get a custom-parts-only kit (no servos or electronics) for a pledge of $80. For a pledge of $200, you can get a complete kit without Bluetooth; add another $20 for a kit with Bluetooth. $400 gets you an assembled Hexy without Bluetooth; again add another $20 to have Bluetooth included. (via GeekBeat.tv)

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Software

ROSCon 2012: Keynote cont. (Part 2 of 2)

Posted 24 May 2012 at 17:27 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

This is the continuation/conclusion of Morgan Quigley's keynote address at ROSCon 2012. Part 2 of 2. (Duration 42:05, Link to Part 1)

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Software

ROSCon 2012: Opening Remarks & Keynote

Posted 24 May 2012 at 01:38 UTC (updated 24 May 2012 at 01:54 UTC) by John_RobotsPodcast

Opening remarks by Brian Gerkey and keynote by Morgan Quigley at ROSCon 2012, Part 1 of 2. (Duration 33:31)

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Video

Cali Lewis in Robot Heaven

Posted 23 May 2012 at 23:38 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

If you enjoy Cali Lewis's refreshing style, and you like robots, then Cali going gaga over robots during the first few hours of her recent trip to Japan is sure to be a fun ride. Enjoy! (Hint, if the toys aren't you're thing, stick with it, because at 1:30 the center of attention turns to one of Hiroshi Ishiguro's Geminoid robots, being used in a storefront display, where the obvious comparison is with a static mannequin.

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Hardware

PolyPlus: The Future of Batteries

Posted 23 May 2012 at 19:16 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Founded in 1990, PolyPlus began operations in 1991, based on work previously done at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on lithium/organosulfur (Li-S) batteries. The Li-S technology is now mature, has been licensed for production, and is a commercial product. Development of the company's signature Protected Lithium Electrode (PLE) began during their work on Li-S batteries, but has proven more broadly applicable. PLEs are metallic lithium encapsulated within a solid electrolyte membrane to prevent direct electron transfer from the negative electrode to the (fluid) electrolyte (whether polysulfide, water, or air). The solid electrolyte is highly conductive to lithium ions, but impervious to liquids and gases. In this way, the lithium core is electrochemically active but chemically isolated from the external electrolyte. The result is batteries with unusually high energy densities, several times higher than Li-ion. PolyPlus is currently developing both Lithium-Water and Lithium-Air batteries, and hopes to take the Lithium-Water variant to market next year. Li-Water batteries are expected to quickly find their way into buoys and other aquatic devices, including unmanned submersibles. The company has received a grant from ARPA-E for the development of rechargeable Li-Air batteries. Its Li-Water technology was included among Time Magazines 50 Best Inventions for 2011, and more recently it received the 2012 Gold Edison Award in Energy and Sustainability for its work in Li-Air and Li-Water batteries.

(I recently, erroneously placed PolyPlus at a prominent German industrial trade show, which they did not in fact attend.)

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Military Robotics

EFF Warns of Police Drone Privacy Concerns

Posted 22 May 2012 at 23:03 UTC (updated 22 May 2012 at 23:03 UTC) by steve

The EFF has issued an appeal to local governments to institute privacy protections against the misuse of drones by local law enforcement agencies. The FAA's initial rules for allowing flying robots into the National Airspace System were announced on 14 May. Many law enforcement agencies are already obtaining and flying drones but they're not likely to volunteer that information. It took an EFF Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to make the FAA release the list of who has been approved to fly spy drones over US cities. When local newspapers in Seattle found out from the EFF that police had purchased two drones and made survellience plans without informing the City Council, the Washington ACLU called for the city to develop policies to safeguard privacy and free speech rights. The police backed down

"With drones - and the privacy questions they raise - thrown into the public spotlight in that way, a contrite assistant police chief appeared before the Seattle City Council this week to assure city leaders and the public that the drones would not be deployed until written policies for their use are in place. He promised that police would work with the ACLU and others in the community to draft them."

There is also a safety concern as increasingly massive robots are flying over heavily populated areas. At least one police department crashed their shiny new $300k surveillance drone into their own SWAT vehicle during a test flight. There's no disputing the legitimate uses of domestic flying robots by government agencies, including first response to accident scenes, search and rescue, agricultural uses, forest fire monitoring. But concerns are being raised over the increasing militarization of US police departments and increasing abuses of power. If city-level governments refuse to address privacy concerns, will it fall to private individuals to launch their own UAVs to watch the watchers? Find out if your local police have already deployed flying robots to spy on you by checking the EFF's Domestic Drone Authorization map.

CC BY-SA licensed image from flickr user Marion Doss

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Robots

TurtleBot 2 at ROSCon

Posted 21 May 2012 at 15:38 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

This video introduces TurtleBot 2, which was shown this past weekend at ROSCon 2012. TurtleBot 2, built around an iClebo Kobuki from Korean firm Yujin Robot, improves upon the original from Willow Garage. (Note that Sam Park, Executive Vice President of Yujin Robot, recently joined Brian Gerkey, Director of Open Source Development at Willow Garage, on the board of directors for the Open Source Robotics Foundation.)

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Video

Exhibits at ICRA 2012

Posted 21 May 2012 at 14:39 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

The above video, posted to IEEE Spectrum's YouTube channel, shows a sampling of the exhibits that were there to be seen at ICRA 2012 (May 14-18), with a few scenes taken from the robot's point of view. Rated G for Good Fun!

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