Don’t fear the future. Technology all through the ages has brought both good things and bad, but most of us wouldn’t give up our electricity, or the motor just because of the losses along the way. Those societies which have survived and thrived haven’t done so by avoiding progress. The same can be said for fields like genetics and robotics. These fields will progress. It is our choice whether we guide their path, or some place like China does, but either way, technology is advancing, and it is doing so faster than any time in history. The changing face of war is hopefully leading us away from mutually assured destruction. The more intelligent machines get, the more the human condition improves, not in every way, but in general. In the above video, Jon Stewart speaks with P.W. Singer about our rapid move towards a robotic military. Below, Singers more in depth talk at TED.
In this Ted Talk video, Bonnie Bassler speaks about the inter and intra species communications between bacteria and how central they are to life and death on a greater scale. Bacteria were the designers of cellular communication, organization, and cooperation that are used throughout life on the planet. After unimaginable generations of evolution, they have achieved some very effective methods; methods which could be applied to anything from communication and cooperation between tiny swarms of robots, to replicationg and self regulating software routines, traffic regulation, automated disaster response….
She is focusing on Quorum sensing, which essentially refers to chemical hormones, both general and species specific, released by the bacteria in order to give them information about things like their population density and diversity. She has been working on synthetic false signals that will either inhibit or assist in quorum sensing in order to create a new class of antibiotic and probiotic treatments.
Pengiuns sure do seem to be getting a lot of play in recent years. Festo has now targeted them for their latest aquatic and lighter than air robotics. They seem to be doing two versions of these, just like they did with their Robotic Jelly Fish. in their latest promotional video, they show off aquatic penguin robots which use sonar to navigate and communicate, some Mylar, lighter than air penguins reminiscent of that awesome Fin-Fish by LaChLuVe last year, and several other projects involving biomimicry and affordable rapid prototyping.
Update: And more footage of the robotic sea penguins:
I’ve always had a great admiration for crows. While other animals retreat from society, or scuttle around at night, crows embrace it and take an interest in finding ways to make the system work for them. I’ve witnessed them just down the street from my home using cars to crack walnuts. Most of the ways they have adapted society to their needs weren’t taught to them by people, they figured it out and taught their friends.
Joshua Klein has shown himself to be smarter than the average crow, and if this works, the average person, by taking things one step further. He designed a vending machine for crows. They put in a coin, it spits out a peanut. He calls it mutually beneficial synanthropy. In the video (another great TED Talk) Klein explains how the system trains the crows. I don’t think this will be necessary. Once the first few learn how to use it, the whole continent will know in short order. Sure, it starts with picking up loose change they find lying around, but pretty soon you have murders of crows mugging people in dark alleys for their change so they can get their peanut fix.
The crazy thing about crows is they are smart enough not only to figure out how this works, but also to teach their friends. They are natural pack rats and are attracted to coins anyway. There are a lot of crows in the world, and a lot of loose change. Klein professes an interest in advancing the project to teach crows how to pick up trash or other beneficial tasks, but I’m still back at the vending machine concept. The idea really is brilliant. I wonder what else we could teach them to do?
Yessss….everything will go according to plan…*cackle*
I’ve stated before that Theo Jansen is my favorite artist. This group of University of Louisiana students do him proud. They have taken his specifications for leg design and built them into a way to travel in style. The device was tested and carried a 325 pound rider, and runs off of two 18V hand drill motors, which have a good amount of torque and are convenient to wire in.
I really think the Robot Games need to make this an event. The many legged robot races.
This is a way to make three dimensional holograms without lasers or special equipment. It uses stuff you already own, and the results are astounding. Bill Beaty shows us some examples in the video above. Here is a great page with pictures about how he stumbled upon the phenomenon one day out on a walk and pioneered the technique, and another page with detailed instructions. The technique relies upon the effect you see in very fine circular scratches on a shiny material (like car paint), where the reflection appears to form a straight line. By varying the location of the circles, you set the locations of the lines, and by varying their diameter, you vary their apparent depth.
Update: Reader Lali has noted that the above links aren’t working, so I’ll post a summary of the process:
- Start with a material that can be scratched in a way that will create shiny scratches. A CD jewel case is a good first project.
- Down at the very bottom of the material (or on something below and attached) do a small sketch of the object you want to make a hologram of. Something simple. I started with a cube and it was a bit tough for a first try, but it taught me what I needed to know. I’ll use it as an example.
- using an adjustable circle drawing compass or something similar, put one point at the top point of your cube sketch and drag the other across near the top of the CD case to create a scratch arc. When you turn it near a point source of light, you should see a reflected point of light in the scratch that moves when you tilt the jewel case.
- The 3D depth of the final hologram corresponds to the spacing between the compass points. repeat the above scratch process for the other points of the cube, setting the compass spacing closer for the closer portions of the cube, and farther for the more distant.
- Set the bottom point at regular intervals along any lines that are going to be at the same 3D depth in the final hologram and continue making scratch arcs. For lines angling into the distance, you can just set your lower compass point at the midway point of the line in the sketch and set the spacing to fall between the lines you scratched for the endpoints. Continue this at regular intervals down the line. Your reflected points will now become reflected lines, complete with depth.
Legos may have lost some of that box of blocks charm over the years, but they have become a toy that, rather than being left behind as a child, will continue to grow with you. The Mindstorm series of Legos is a serious step into the world of robotics and computer programming.
SimerLab Physicist Janick Simeray (Ph.D. degrees in electronics and mechanical engineering ) has created the worlds most awesome coaster. The coaster will levitate objects up to two pounds!
It doesn’t just push an object up, it holds an object in place like a tractor beam.
This has huge potential for product placement. Notice too how the laces are lifted by the device.
If Rubik’s Cubes decided to take up sports, this is what you would get. The rules of the game specify a maximum size for the bots and set some ground rules for fair play. If they could simplify the programming interface, add some players, and sell these as a set I think they would make for a great upgrade for the old Foosball table.
He obviously needs a couple more robots in order to be able to walk at a reasonable pace, but I love the concept and the execution, although I’d coat the top of mine with moss and walk barefoot everywhere I went. I can’t help but think of Magneto in the X-Men movie, making himself a walkway out of the iron he he stole from the blood of his captors.
I see potential applications as tour guides. If the bots knew the way, they could provide directions and information, or split off as people change their destinations, all the while conveying people at their own pace. Follow the yellow brick road.
The CirculaFloor was originally designed for use in those virtual reality headsets, so you could be in a small room and walk around a large environment. The stones track your feet and counter your movement. I would imagine this would screw with your balance though, especially when you are essentially blindfolded.