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Halting Problem Proves That Lethal Robots Cannot Correctly Decide To Kill Humans 307

Posted by Soulskill
from the guess-we're-back-to-coinflips dept.
KentuckyFC writes: The halting problem is to determine whether an arbitrary computer program, once started, will ever finish running or whether it will continue forever. In 1936, Alan Turing famously showed that there is no general algorithm that can solve this problem. Now a group of computer scientists and ethicists have used the halting problem to tackle the question of how a weaponized robot could decide to kill a human. Their trick is to reformulate the problem in algorithmic terms by considering an evil computer programmer who writes a piece of software on which human lives depend.

The question is whether the software is entirely benign or whether it can ever operate in a way that ends up killing people. In general, a robot could never decide the answer to this question. As a result, autonomous robots should never be designed to kill or harm humans, say the authors, even though various lethal autonomous robots are already available. One curious corollary is that if the human brain is a Turing machine, then humans can never decide this issue either, a point that the authors deliberately steer well clear of.

Robots Put To Work On E-Waste 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the robots-disassembling-robots dept.
aesoteric writes: Australian researchers have programmed industrial robots to tackle the vast array of e-waste thrown out every year. The research shows robots can learn and memorize how various electronic products — such as LCD screens — are designed, enabling those products to be disassembled for recycling faster and faster. The end goal is less than five minutes to dismantle a product.

A Worm's Mind In a Lego Body 200

Posted by timothy
from the with-very-few-exceptions-is-not-a-worm dept.
mikejuk writes The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is tiny and only has 302 neurons. These have been completely mapped, and one of the founders of the OpenWorm project, Timothy Busbice, has taken the connectome and implemented an object oriented neuron program. The neurons communicate by sending UDP packets across the network. The software works with sensors and effectors provided by a simple LEGO robot. The sensors are sampled every 100ms. For example, the sonar sensor on the robot is wired as the worm's nose. If anything comes within 20cm of the 'nose' then UDP packets are sent to the sensory neurons in the network. The motor neurons are wired up to the left and right motors of the robot. It is claimed that the robot behaved in ways that are similar to observed C. elegans. Stimulation of the nose stopped forward motion. Touching the anterior and posterior touch sensors made the robot move forward and back accordingly. Stimulating the food sensor made the robot move forward. The key point is that there was no programming or learning involved to create the behaviors. The connectome of the worm was mapped and implemented as a software system and the behaviors emerge. Is the robot a C. elegans in a different body or is it something quite new? Is it alive? These are questions for philosophers, but it does suggest that the ghost in the machine is just the machine. The important question is does it scale?

Low Cost Ground Robot Chassis That Can Traverse Challenging Obstacles 38

Posted by timothy
from the how-does-it-fare-against-angry-toddlers? dept.
Hallie Siegel writes In order for a robot to be useful in our world, it must be able to traverse unpredictable obstacles, including stairs. But currently available robot chassis tend to be either too small or extremely expensive, and most platform kits cannot leave a controlled environment – a huge problem for makers who want to get outside the lab or workshop. This has been an extremely hard problem for roboticists to solve, but the Ground Drone Project wants to change all that with its low-cost ground robot chassis. Check out this innovative design. (Currently, the project is raising money through Kickstarter; if it succeeds, "the instructions and bill of materials will be available for all.")

Window Washing a Skyscraper Is Beyond a Robot's Reach 203

Posted by samzenpus
from the does-not-compute dept. writes "Patrick McGeehan writes in the NYT that the image of a pair of window washers clinging to a scaffold dangling outside the 68th floor of 1 World Trade Center have left many wondering why robots can't rub soapy water on glass and wipe it off with a squeegee relieving humans of the risk of injury, or death, from a plunge to the sidewalk? The simple answer, several experts say, is that washing windows is something that machines still cannot do as well as people can. "Building are starting to look like huge sculptures in the sky," says Craig Caulkins. "A robot can't maneuver to get around those curves to get into the facets of the building." According to Caulkins robotic cleaning systems tend to leave dirt in the corners of the glass walls that are designed to provide panoramic views from high floors. "If you are a fastidious owner wanting clean, clean windows so you can take advantage of that very expensive view that you bought, the last thing you want to see is that gray area around the rim of the window."

Another reason for the sparse use of robots is that buildings require a lot more maintenance than just window cleaning. Equipment is needed to lower people to repair facades and broken windows, like the one that rescue workers had to cut through with diamond cutters to rescue the window washers. For many years, being a window cleaner in Manhattan was regarded as one of the most dangerous occupations in the world: by 1932, an average of one in every two hundred window cleaners in New York was killed each year. Now all new union window cleaners now take two hundred and sixteen hours of classroom instruction, three thousand hours of accredited time with an employer and their union makes sure workers follow rigorous safety protocols. In all, there are about 700 scaffolds for window washing on buildings in New York City, says union representative Gerard McEneaney. His members are willing to do the work because it pays well: as much $26.89 an hour plus benefits. Many of the window cleaners are immigrants from South America. "They're fearless guys, fearless workers."

Comet Probe Philae Unanchored But Stable — And Sending Back Images 132

Posted by timothy
from the overengineering-is-the-best-kind dept.
An anonymous reader writes with an update to the successful landing of the ESA's comet probe Philae, which (as mentioned yesterday) had problems attaching to the surface of the comet's Rosetta: "BBC now reports that Philae is stable on the surface. Although no source claims so, we can all imagine a faint humming of 'Still Alive' coming from the probe." Not just stable, but sending pictures while it can. From the article: The probe left Rosetta with 60-plus hours of battery life, and will need at some point to charge up with its solar panels. But early reports indicate that in its present position, the robot is receiving only one-and-a-half hours of sunlight during every 12-hour rotation of the comet. This will not be enough to sustain operations. As a consequence, controllers here are discussing using one of Philae's deployable instruments to try to launch the probe upwards and away to a better location. But this would be a last-resort option. New submitter Thanshin notes that the persistent Philae bounced a few times, and actually performed 3 landings, at 15:33, 17:26 & 17:33 UTC.Thanshin adds links to a handful of relevant Twitter feeds, if you want to follow in something close to real time: Philae2014; esa_rosetta; and Philae_MUPUS (MUlti PUrpose Sensor One).

Robot Makes People Feel Like a Ghost Is Nearby 140

Posted by Soulskill
from the g-g-g-g-ghost?!?! dept.
sciencehabit writes: In 2006, cognitive neuroscientist Olaf Blanke of the University of Geneva in Switzerland was testing a patient's brain functions before her epilepsy surgery when he noticed something strange. Every time he electrically stimulated the region of her brain responsible for integrating different sensory signals from the body, the patient would look behind her back as if a person was there, even when she knew full well that no one was actually present. Now, with the help of robots, Blanke and colleagues have not only found a neurological explanation for this illusion, but also tricked healthy people into sensing "ghosts," they report online in Current Biology (abstract). The study could help explain why schizophrenia patients sometimes hallucinate that aliens control their movements.

Pacific Northwest Lab's Sensor-Packed Fish Gauges Hydropower Facilities 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the release-the-swimbot dept.
coondoggie writes Sometimes it takes a fish to do a man's job. Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a sensor-laden, synthetic Sensor Fish that can be used to swim into hydropower facilities like dams to evaluate structures and other environmental systems. Using Sensor Fish, PNNL researchers say they can measure the various forces juvenile salmon experience as they pass through dams. The Sensor Fish initially was designed to evaluate dams equipped with a common type of turbine along the Columbia River, the Kaplan turbine. The pressure change, they found, is akin to traveling from sea level to the top of Mount Everest in blink of an eye.

China Plans To Build a Domestic Robotics Industry 67

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-your-robots-are-belong-to-us dept.
jfruh writes China is known as a manufacturing export powerhouse, but it imports much of one particularly important kind of manufacturing tool: robots. Now the country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is developing a "robotics technology roadmap," with a goal of owning over 45 percent of the high-end robotics market by 2020.

Android Co-Founder Andy Rubin Leaving Google 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-droids dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Wall Street Journal reports that Andy Rubin is leaving Google. Rubin co-founded Android in 2003 and stayed on when the company was acquired by Google in 2005. Rubin led Android through the acquisition of over a billion users, until 2013 when he moved to Google's robotics division. He was replaced in the Android division by Sundar Pichai, who continues in charge of that, Chrome, Google+, and many other products. Rubin's robotics role will be filled by James Kuffner. "Mr. Rubin's departure is a blow to Google's robotics efforts. However, Mr. Kuffner is experienced in the sector, having worked on human-like robot technology for over two decades, including seven years at Carnegie Mellon University and five years on Google's self-driving car project."

A Low Cost, Open Source Geiger Counter (Video) 46

Posted by Roblimo
from the be-sure-to-take-one-of-these-on-your-next-trip-to-chernobyl dept.
Sawaiz Syed's LinkedIn page says he's a "Hardware Developer at GSU [Georgia State University], Department of Physics." That's a great workplace for someone who designs low cost radiation detectors that can be air-dropped into an area where there has been a nuclear accident (or a nuclear attack; or a nuclear terrorist act) and read remotely by a flying drone or a robot ground vehicle. This isn't Sawaiz's only project; it's just the one Timothy asked him about most at the recent Maker Faire Atlanta. (Alternate Video Link)

Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes 720

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-compliments-to-the-chefbot dept.
dcblogs writes: McDonald's this week told financial analysts of its plans to install self-ordering kiosks and mobile ordering at its restaurants. This news prompted the Wall Street Journal to editorialize, in " Minimum Wage Backfire," that while it may be true for McDonald's to say that its tech plans will improve customer experience, the move is also "a convenient justify a reduction in the chain's global workforce." Minimum wage increase advocates, the Journal argued, are speeding along an automation backlash. But banks have long relied on ATMs, and grocery stores, including Walmart, have deployed self-service checkouts. In contrast, McDonald's hasn't changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a research group focused on the restaurant industry. While mobile, kiosks and table ordering systems may help reduce labor costs, the automated self-serve technology is seen as an essential. It will take the stress out of ordering (lines) at fast food restaurants, and the wait for checks at more casual restaurants. It also helps with upselling and membership to loyalty programs. People who can order a drink refill off a tablet, instead of waving down waitstaff, may be more inclined to do so. Moreover, analysts say younger customers want self-service options.

Robot SmackDowns Wants To Bring Robot Death Matches To an Arena Near You 82

Posted by timothy
from the only-if-I-get-to-drive dept.
Business Insider profiles Andrew Stroup, Gui Cavalcanti and Matt Oehrlein, who are trying to get off the ground a robot competition league, called Robot SmackDowns. The idea, as you might guess from the name, is to showcase violence and drama to draw on the crowd-appeal of wrestling, NASCAR, and monster truck rallies: this is definitely not Dean Kamen's FIRST — it's giant mechanical beasts shooting at and otherwise trying to destroy each other. And it's not quite right to call them robots in the usual sense; they're more like mecha: "In a MegaBots battle, a two-member team sits inside the bot's upper torso, where the controls systems are housed. Although the co-founders assure me that the pilot and gunner are well protected inside, the situation presents a heightened suspense. Each 15,000-pound robot is equipped with six-inch cannons inside its arms that fire paint-filled missiles and cannon balls at 120 miles per hour. Good aim can cause enough damage to jam its opponent's weapons system or shoot off a limb." They'll be launching a Kickstarter campaign soon; according to the article, "Assuming it raises enough money to build a fleet, [the company's] plan is to take the bots on the road. They will tour the country, face off in epic battles against other MegaBots, and build a fan base. Stroup says (without giving specifics) networks have reached out and will closely watch how MegaBot, Inc.'s upcoming Kickstarter campaign performs. The possibilities for distribution seem endless, though the team is tight-lipped about the exact direction it's headed."

Researchers Scrambling To Build Ebola-Fighting Robots 87

Posted by timothy
from the at-one-remove dept.
Lucas123 (935744) writes U.S. robotics researchers from around the country are collaborating on a project to build autonomous vehicles that could deliver food and medicine, and telepresence robots that could safely decontaminate equipment and help bury the victims of Ebola. Organizers of Safety Robotics for Ebola Workers are planning a workshop on Nov. 7. that will be co-hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Texas A&M, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of California, Berkeley. "We are trying to identify the technologies that can help human workers minimize their contact with Ebola. Whatever technology we deploy, there will be a human in the loop. We are not trying to replace human caregivers. We are trying to minimize contact," said Taskin Padir, an assistant professor of robotics engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Amazon Robot Picking Challenge 2015 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the better-picking dept.
mikejuk writes The Amazon Picking Challenge at ICRA (IEEE Robotics and Automation) 2015 is about getting a robot to perform the picking task. All the robot has to do is pick a list of items from the automated shelves that Amazon uses and place the items into another automated tray ready for delivery. The prizes are $20,000 for the winner, $5000 for second place and $1000 for third place. In addition each team can be awarded up to $6000 to get them and their robot to the conference so that they can participate in the challenge. Amazon is even offering to try to act as matchmaker between robot companies and teams not having the robot hardware they need. A Baxter Research Robot will be made available at the contest.

One In Three Jobs Will Be Taken By Software Or Robots By 2025, Says Gartner 405

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-took-our-jobs! dept.
dcblogs writes: "Gartner predicts one in three jobs will be converted to software, robots and smart machines by 2025," said Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's research director at its big Orlando conference. "New digital businesses require less labor; machines will make sense of data faster than humans can," he said. Smart machines are an emerging "super class" of technologies that perform a wide variety of work, both the physical and the intellectual kind. Machines, for instance, have been grading multiple choice test for years, but now they are grading essays and unstructured text. This cognitive capability in software will extend to other areas, including financial analysis, medical diagnostics and data analytic jobs of all sorts, says Gartner. "Knowledge work will be automated."
The Military

US Navy Develops Robot Boat Swarm To Overwhelm Enemies 142

Posted by samzenpus
from the angry-bees dept. writes "Jeremy Hsu reports that the U.S. Navy has been testing a large-scale swarm of autonomous boats designed to overwhelm enemies. In the test, a large ship that the Navy sometimes calls a high-value unit, HVU, is making its way down the river's thalweg, escorted by 13 small guard boats. Between them, they carry a variety of payloads, loud speakers and flashing lights, a .50-caliber machine gun and a microwave direct energy weapon or heat ray. Detecting the enemy vessel with radar and infrared sensors, they perform a series of maneuvers to encircle the craft, coming close enough to the boat to engage it and near enough to one another to seal off any potential escape or access to the ship they are guarding. They blast warnings via loudspeaker and flash their lights. The HVU is now free to safely move away.

Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of the Office of Naval Research, points out that a maneuver that required 40 people had just dropped down to just one. "Think about it as replicating the functions that a human boat pilot would do. We've taken that capability and extended it to multiple [unmanned surface vehicles] operating together within that, we've designed team behaviors," says Robert Brizzolara. The timing of the briefing happens to coincide with the 14-year anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen that killed 17 sailors. It's an anniversary that Klunder observes with a unique sense of responsibility. "If we had this capability there on that day. We could have saved that ship. I never want to see the USS Cole happen again."

Robot Arm Will Install New Earth-Facing Cameras On Space Station 40

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-see-you-with dept.
SternisheFan writes Canada's robotic Canadarm2 will install the next two Urthecast cameras on the International Space Station, removing the need for astronauts to go outside to do the work themselves. Urthecast plans to place two Earth-facing cameras on the United States side of the station (on Node 3) to add to the two they already have on the Russian Zvezda module. Technical problems with the cameras forced the Russians to do an extra spacewalk to complete the work earlier this year.

Robotic Taster Will Judge 'Real Thai Food' 103

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-best-barbecue? dept. (3830033) writes The NYT reports that Thailand's former prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra repeatedly encountered a distressing problem while traveling the world: bad Thai food. Too often, she found, the meals she sampled at Thai restaurants abroad were unworthy of the name, too bland to be called genuine Thai cooking. The problem bothered her enough to raise it at a cabinet meeting. Even though her political party has since been thrown out of office, in a May military coup, the Thai government is unveiling its project to standardize the art of Thai food using a robot. The government-financed Thai Delicious Committee, which oversaw the development of the machine, describes it as "an intelligent robot that measures smell and taste in food ingredients through sensor technology in order to measure taste like a food critic." Thailand's National Innovation Agency has spent about $100,000 to develop the e-delicious machine. The e-delicious machine has 10 sensors that measure smell and taste, generating a unique fingerprint (signature) for each sample of food that passes its digital maw. Generally with electronic tasting, there are electronic sensors that work just like the taste buds on your tongue, measuring the quantity of various taste-giving compounds, acidity, etc. While these electronic sensors can't actually tell you how something tastes — that's a very subjective, human thing — they are very good at comparing two foods scientifically. Meanwhile at a tiny food stall along one of Bangkok's traffic-clogged boulevards, Thaweekiat Nimmalairatana, questioned the necessity of a robatic taster. "I use my tongue to test if it's delicious or not," said Nimmalairatana. "I think the government should consider using a human to gauge authenticity."

Octopus-Inspired Robot Matches Real Octopus For Speed 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-skynet-needs-to-rule-the-seas-too dept.
KentuckyFC writes: Underwater vehicles have never matched the extraordinary agility of marine creatures. While many types of fish can travel at speeds of up to 10 body lengths per second, a nuclear sub can manage a less than half a body length per second. Now a team of researchers has copied a trick used by octopuses to build an underwater robot capable of matching the agility of marine creatures. This trick is the way an octopus expands the size of its head as it fills with water and then squirts it out to generate propulsion. The team copied this by building a robot with a flexible membrane that also expands as it fills with water.

The fluid then squirts out through a rear-facing nozzle as the membrane contracts. To the team's surprise, the robot reached speeds of 10 body lengths per second with a peak acceleration of 14 body lengths per second squared. That's unprecedented in an underwater vehicle of this kind. What's more, the peak force experienced by the robot was 30 per cent greater than the thrust generated by the jet. The team think they know why and say the new technique could be used to design bigger subs capable of even more impressive octopus-like feats.

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.