One of the cutting-edge cures for chronic muscle tremors is called a thalamic stimulator – it’s a brain implant that delivers current to your thalamus. But it can also cause intensely pleasurable erotic feelings, leading one woman into implant addiction.
“It turns out that the human body may adapt well to Borg-like accessorization,” notes this report on experiments proving that our brain can incorporate “cyborg additions” into our body schema. (Even after using a mechanical grabber, test subjects still behaved as if their arms were longer!)
But what’s even more interesting is that apparently robots can also learn to act human.
Do you really want a deadly robotic chassis being controlled by the brain of a rat? Scientists at University of Reading do. They’ve connected a biological “brain” made of rat neurons to a robot, with a two-way link.
It gets more demented: the robot is controlled via a Bluetooth connection — which means anybody with a cellphone can probably hack its little rat cortex — and the brain is kept inside a bell jar, just like Sylvia Plath’s. The rat neurons can send instructions to the robot body, but they can also get signals back. And it has a personality, say researchers.
Another rover tackles the climbing problem with sheer dexterity. With a typically charming NASA acronym, the Lemur (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robots) was designed to help build things in orbit. It can crawl along a segmented mirror and climb the walls in a rock gym.
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Able to leap small boulders in a single bound, this hopping robot doesn’t waste time on navigation. The prototype is so new it doesn’t have a catchy acronym yet, but it’s the latest in a long line of hopping robots, all designed to save the time and energy lost tiptoeing around obstacles. Most earlier hoppers landed on their heads and needed helmets to survive, which meant they couldn’t make long jumps or carry fragile equipment. This one deftly lands on its six spring-loaded feet. It can jump about a foot in the air on Earth, which would be six feet under lunar gravity. All six legs are also steerable, letting it take off and land at different angles. And it carries a small motorized gyroscope in its underbelly to keep it from tumbling mid-hop.
Named “Lucky Dragon,” the 15-meter (49-ft) long aluminum cruise boat is outfitted with a 7-meter (23-ft) tall mechanical dragon that moves its neck and wings, spits fire and water, and flashes glowing red eyes.
Like his predecessors, Amio’s speech and vision recognition software allow him to guess a person’s emotional state, but his fully anthropomorphic shape is more ideal for human-robot interactions. The strength of the software has been proven in several experiments, where the robots chose an appropriate conversation topic and behaved appropriately in response to human emotions. They could ask you what you are angry about and then make a joke to console you or make you laugh.
Mark wanders through Maker Faire in search of interesting robots. First, we meet Babbling Head (an animatronic skull that sings sea shanties), Froggo (a weird slimy kitschy creature ‘bot with a squid beak for a mouth), and Seeker Robot (GPS-autonomous RoboMagellan contestant), all creations of Eric Lundquist. Then, we stop by Bleeplabs, and listen to strange sounds emanating from a simple (but cute) analog synthesizer.
Here’s an update for those of you who, like me, eagerly await the availability of your cyberpunk implant suite – experiments with using silk as a substrate for miniaturised electronic circuits show that they can integrate with animal body tissue without any adverse effects or biological rejection. Which means we can not only make better neural interfaces, but aesthetic gadgets like LED ‘tattoos’ to live under our skin.
One of NASA’s next great adventures could take place with a raindrop-flecked camera bobbing around on extraterrestrial waves. Or at least, that’s the hope of several researchers who want to sail an unmanned, nuclear-powered capsule on Saturn’s moon Titan.
Just how much of the human body can you replace or augment: seemingly everything apart from the tadpole like remnants of the brain and spinal chord.
Bionic eyes, ears, hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, hands, feets, legs, arms and skin are now real science rather than concept designs. For this list, we have gathered together as many real devices including commercially available products rather than concept designs or imagery that appeal based on gimmick value.
I visited the Frankfurter Musikmesse 2 weeks ago and played with the Yamaha TENORI-ON. I thought, it would be much nicer when the triggered notes would force a wavemap to oscillate. It took me just a few hours to implement. The sound generation is basically a polyphone synthesizer with a simple delay with a variing read-offset to make the tones vibrating in the end. I am already addicted for myself to the cute sequences it always generates.
Ms Vessey’s mermaid tail was created by Wellington-based film industry wizards Weta Workshop after the Auckland woman wrote to them two years ago asking if they could make her a prosthetic tail. She was astounded when they agreed.
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Weta Workshop director Richard Taylor, more used to winning Oscars for visual effects from movies such as Lord of the Rings, was delighted to make it happen.
“She was very patient. We haven’t always been able to fulfil some requests. We were engaged in it pretty quickly because it was a challenge.”
Weta costumer Lee Williams, who worked on the suit between film projects with seven other staff, told Close Up she “wanted [Nadya] to be beautiful and sexy”.
After seeing Ms Vessey test the tail in Kilbirnie pool then frolic in the harbour, Ms Williams was stoked. “It was absolutely amazing. It’s beautiful to watch Nadya swim and to see that dream come true and to be a part of that. I feel quite blessed.”
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Mr Taylor said not only did the tail have to be functional, it was important it looked realistic. “What became apparent was that she actually physically wanted to look like a mermaid.”
I was concentrating on a particularly attractive shell I had found when I spotted her. A few hundred feet away from where I was crouched over was a woman sitting on a rock near the shore. I could only see the back of her, but she had waist-length black hair and pale skin. But as my eyes scanned down her body I saw she had a long fish-like tail. In fairy tales mermaids have pretty-colored tails, but this mermaid’s tail was scaly and silver like a fish!
I was in severe shock by this time and tripped over backwards and made a scuffling sound. The mermaid turned around and stared at me. We held eye-contact for a few long seconds and I could see she was very beautiful with fine features and bright blue eyes which were caught with the rays of the rising sun. Then she dived into the sea and disappeared.
Cupido walked toward the sound. At a nearby low water bridge, he said he saw a figure, “like that of a white woman with long black hair thrashing about in the water.”
Thinking to save her, he waded toward her, but said he stopped in his tracks when he noticed a reddish shine in her eyes. The sight sent “shivers” down his spine, yet he was pulled forward as if hypnotised.”
Apparently there is a need for science to find a way to make puppies/animals glow. For a “good” cause though—the Scientists in South Korea said they created dogs that glow red by using a cloning technique that paves the way for research into human diseases (hmmmm). In the vein of my childhood toy, the ever-beloved, “Glo-Worm”. Now we can have snuggly glow in the dark puppy dogs….What next? I wanna glow, damn it….. Check it
South Korea’s Roboware is close to completing development of their entertainment humanoid robot E3. The robot’s name derives from its function as an Emotional, Entertainment and Educational device. Clearly, Roboware has big plans for this open source robot equipped with sonar, sound, camera, and touch sensors including a touch screen on its chest. The robot moves around using a 3-wheel mechanism.
Aldebaran has big plans for their creation. They want to make it a true companion robot for families. They hope that in the future, Nao will be customizable (they have recruited two Parisian design school designers to give Nao its current form) with the ability to adopt to its environment and learn new skills.
Paro, a human-interactive robotic seal developed by Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), has scientifically demonstrated the ability to elicit emotions, activate the mind and calm nerves in patients at hospitals and nursing homes, earning it the Guinness title of “world’s most therapeutic robot.” Although the well-traveled Paro now resides at welfare institutions in more than 20 nations around the world, the Danish government is the first organization to make a large-scale purchase. Denmark aims to have the Paro robots in their new homes by 2011.
Sylvain Calinon and other researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland have used imitation learning and probabilistic models to teach HOAP to help make omelets. Through direct human guidance, it learns to whip eggs, cut ham and grate cheese, focusing on the most essential part of each task and ignoring irrelevant events. It automatically adapts when a mixing bowl is moved.
Recent discoveries of water and Earth-like soil on Mars have set imaginations running wild that human beings may one day colonise the Red Planet. However, the first inhabitants might not be human in form at all, but rather swarms of tiny robots.
The U.S. Department of Defense has a $2.3 billion program, Small Business Innovation Research, that comes up with projects to fund. Idea OSD09-H03? Develop an AI that fools young children into thinking they are talking to Daddy or Mommy when Daddy or Mommy are off on their 3rd deployment to Iraq and can’t come to the webcam.
This is no ordinary robot control system – a plain old microchip connected to a circuit board. Instead, the controller nestles inside a small pot containing a pink broth of nutrients and antibiotics. Inside that pot, some 300,000 rat neurons have made – and continue to make – connections with each other.
“Since the discovery of a complete Tapejara in Brazil about 10 years ago, we’ve found they could actually sail on the wind for very long periods as they flew over the oceans,” he said. “They spent most of their time hunting for fish. By raising their wings like sails on a boat, they could use the slightest breeze in the same way a catamaran moves across water. They could take off quickly and fly long distances with little effort.”
Similarly, the drone will sail in the same manner.
A Japanese inventor’s latest creation is a robot double of himself.
Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro tells CNN’s Tokyo correspondent Kyung Lah that he sees his creation, dubbed the Geminoid, partly as an opportunity to have a presence when not actually present, essentially being in two places at once, and also as a chance to study human behavior along with furthering his knowledge of androids.
Since Cyber Maid Alice is an Augmented Reality product, the maid is literally on your desktop. If you have a malicious bent, Alice can be made to cry but if you’re benevolent, gifts may be given to her so she’ll rejoice.
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The webcam is used to project an image of Alice on top of the Cyber Cube. She’ll react to external stimuli provided by the Cyber Stick. For example, pouncing the Cyber Stick on her bosom will cause her to react in a convincing way. Alice can also talk, make gestures and show a range of emotions. (Link to Video. A similar Augmented Reality A.I. girl can be seen here and here.)
The US Army and Navy have both hired experts in the ethics of building machines to prevent the creation of an amoral Terminator-style killing machine that murders indiscriminately.
By 2010 the US will have invested $4 billion in a research programme into “autonomous systems”, the military jargon for robots, on the basis that they would not succumb to fear or the desire for vengeance that afflicts frontline soldiers.
I met Tanya at a film festival recently. During our conversation she said she was looking for help in turning her artificial eye into a eye-cam. You know, a mini web cam inside an eyeball. It would capture live video and stream it to a memory somewhere and also perhaps eventually assist her own vision in real time.
Tenori-on is an electronic musical instrument, designed and created by Japanese artist, Toshio Iwai and Yu Nishibori of the Music and Human Interface Group, Yamaha Center for Advanced Sound Technology. It consists of a screen, held in the hands, of a sixteen by sixteen grid of LED switches, any of which can be activated in a number of ways to create an evolving musical soundscape. The LED switches are held within a magnesium frame, which has two built-in speakers located on the top of frame, as well as a dial and buttons that control the type of sound and beats per minute produced. There is also an LCD screen on the bottom edge of the frame. Using the connection function, it is possible to play a synchronized session, or to send and receive songs between two of the devices.
Tenori-on was demonstrated at SIGGRAPH 2005 held in Los Angeles, CA in August, 2005 . A detailed discussion of the design of the Tenori-on is given in a paper presented at NIME 2006 conference held at IRCAM, Centre Pompidou in Paris, France in June, 2006 .
Toshio Iwai has been using the Tenori-on in live performances (such as at Sónar in Barcelona, in June 2006, and Futuresonic in Manchester, in July 2006, the Futuresonic 2006 live show had some good feedback from the audience and that was one of the most important triggers to make it a real product). The instrument was launched in London on September 4th, 2007 for a suggested retail price of $1,200 (£599). To promote this launch, three prominent electronic and experimental musicians — Jim O’Rourke, Atom Heart, and Robert Lippok — were invited to compose “demo” tracks utilizing the device. These tracks have since been released as promotional MP3s from the Tenori-on website.
Iwai’s intention in creating the Tenori-on is to create an electronic instrument of beauty. In his own words:
“In days gone by, a musical instrument had to have a beauty, of shape as well as of sound, and had to fit the player almost organically. [...] Modern electronic instruments don’t have this inevitable relationship between the shape, the sound, and the player. What I have done is to try to bring back these [...] elements and build them in to a true musical instrument for the digital age.”
The instrument builds on Iwai’s previous work, such as his Electroplankton software for the Nintendo DS in the blending of light and sound, as well as the aesthetic elements of the interface.
A World Tour introducing Tenori-on began in Frankfurt, Germany, on March 12th, and finished in Tokyo on 25th April 2008. You can read the rest of the Wikipedia article in it’s entirety here.