Evolution Robotics releases v3.0

Version 3.0 of Evolution Robotics Software Platform (ERSP) is now available for both Windows and Linux. From the press release:More information on the capabilites of ESRP 3.0 is available here. See also more info on Aibo.


Throwable Surveillance robots

Remote-Controlled, Throwable Robots Developed At Carnegie Mellon In Conjunction With U.S. Marine Corps Are Being Sent To Iraq For Testing

From the article: It is easy to imagine hundreds of these robots providing coverage for large urban areas, using group techniques pioneered by the Centibots.



The effect of robots on employment

Why 1.4 million new jobs haven't ended the jobless recovery

The article opens with this:1.4 million new jobs does sound good, doesn't it? But think about this:Why is this happening? The article's conclusion is this:And this:What we are seeing today is the tip of the iceberg. We are at the very leading edge of the robotic revolution, with kiosks and self-checkout lines being the first harbingers of things to come in the American workforce. See Robotic Nation for details.



Air Force robotic guards

Air Force testing robot guard vehicles

From the article:Also:See also this post on robotic murder.


Surgeons to be close behind pilots

This post points out that robotic pilots will replace humans in the cockpit as quickly as possible because human error is such a big problem (also, human pilots are incredibly expensive and they have a nasty habit of striking).

Human Surgeons will not be far behind the pilots in the unemployment line, because they are making mistakes as fast as they can. Look at this:

Not that leg - rules aim to stop surgery mix-ups

From the article:Robotic surgery is accelerating rapidly -- see this post, this post and this post. Because of human error and the cost of human surgeons, there will be a big push to remove humans from the operating room. Patients, insurers and hospital lawyers will all want human surgeons eliminated as fast as humanly possible. What will all these pilots and surgeons do once they are unemployed? Click here.


Nice postscript on pilots

Yesterday's post on the pilots landing at the wrong airport deserves this follow-up:

Plane Landing Catches Runway Painters By Surprise

From the article:Of course, in the near future the three men will be unemployed -- robots will be painting navigational stripes instead of people. Those robotic painters won't have to worry about human pilots making mistakes because robots will soon be flying all the planes.


Farms and robots

Wireless technology could soon help farms

From the article:Also:See also this post and this post.



Israel to build robotic borders

Israel sees 'remote control' border with Gaza

From the article:What we are talking about is a giant robotic cage. Stay inside the cage or you are killed by robots.

This technology is discussed in Manna. In that case, robotic cages keep unemployed people locked inside welfare concentration camps. The main difference in Manna is that the robots do not use lethal force. Instead, they inject offenders to render them unconscious and carry them back to their beds.

Two things make this technology so enticing:
  1. It is far easier and cheaper to deploy robots than people. Imagine the cost and discipline/morale problems that come with deploying soldiers every 50 feet along a 100 mile border, 24x7. With robots, it is far easier.

  2. There are no ethical problems when a machine kills someone who tries to break through the perimeter. Think about it this way -- if you put up a highly electrified chain link fence, and a person dies when he walks up and touches it, did the fence kill the person? No. But position a soldier there and have that soldier shoot the person when he touches a fence and there are all sorts of ethical problems both for the soldier personally and for the nation who deploys him. There is no difference in the outcome, but we treat the causes of death completely differently.
In the future, I believe we will also begin seeing larger and larger robotic bubbles. A crude form of bubble can be see in the "gated communities" found in wealthy suburbs. Using secret service agents, we also build a bubble around the president of the United States wherever he goes. Fisher Island is another such bubble. The trend toward robotic bubbles is already starting. One example: Florida Town to Use Surveillance Cameras.

Imagine where this trend takes us in the near future. Wealthy people buy land and build larger and larger bubbles. Eventually these bubbles are as big as small towns, and then cities. Imagine this happening to New York, where only wealthy and "desirable" people are allowed into the city. People fly between the bubbles on their jets. The "unwashed masses" -- what are today known as middle class and low-income people -- are completely locked out.

I predict that Washington DC will be the first city-scale robotic bubble. Small, completely enclosed "tourist zones" will be left open along The Mall to preserve a "feeling" that people can still "visit the capitol", but the rest of the city will be completely protected by a robotic bubble, with no one entering or leaving without proper authorization and clearance. Robotic sentries will protect the entire perimeter with "shoot to kill" instructions for any intruder. The airspace will be protected, the sub-orbital and orbital space will be protected, the waterways will be protected, and ground vehicles will neither enter nor leave without clearance and inspection. This level of lock-down is impossible to consider today, but within 20 years will be easy with robots.



Korean start-up rocks fledgling robotics industry

Korean start-up rocks fledgling robotics industry

From the article:A number of good links at the bottom of the article.


Why robots will replace pilots sooner rather than later

Airliner lands at wrong airport

From the article:Oops. The pilot landed at the wrong airport.

Pilot error is a big problem in today's aviation industry, just as human drivers are the leading cause of death on our highways. As soon as robotic intelligence is available to replace pilots, truck drivers, taxi drivers, Fedex drivers and postal workers, those jobs will be automated out of existance and 5 million people will be out of work. It will happen sooner rather than later, for both economic and safety reasons. Pilots and truck drivers are incredibly expensive. 40,000 deaths per year on our highways will be eliminated once human's are removed from the driver's seat.

What will those 5 million workers do when their jobs evaporate? See this post, this post and Robotic Nation for details.



Robots and college

The "conventional wisdom" says that, as more and more robots enter the American economy and eliminate millions of jobs at every level (from pilots and truck drivers to burger flippers and janitors), what workers need to do is to constantly upgrade their skills to stay ahead of the robots. A big part of that upgrade process is "going to college". Most people agree that the only way to get a "good job" in America today is to go to college, and that pressure to go to college will only increase as robots start to invade the economy.

Therefore, this quote from this article on the GI Bill is fascinating:The article also states the reason why college is important in today's economy:Here is something to consider: If it took us 60 years to go from 5 percent college attendance to 25 percent college attendance, and if it will take only 30 to 40 years for robots to take half of the jobs in our economy, how, exactly, are we going to suddenly start providing college educations for the majority of Americans? What, exactly, is going to get us to 50 percent college attendance, or more realistically 75 percent, in the matter of two to three decades?

Getting to 75 percent college attendance represents a massive societal shift, as well as a massive investment. Yet, at this moment, public universities and community colleges are being hammered by declining state support because of the concentration of wealth occuring in America today. Tuitions at both public and private universities are rising rapidly. We are heading in the wrong direction.

See Robotic Nation and Robotic Freedom for details. See also this post on the percentage of non-wealthy people going to college.

[Postscript -- This post was originally published on Saturday morning. By Sunday morning I had received several emails saying, approximately, "There are lots of old people in the population who do not have degrees. Far more than 25% of today's students are going to college." I investigated, and here is what I found.

According to the 2004 World Almanac, 67.3% of today's students graduate from high school. That is, 67.3% of today's ninth graders make it to graduation. It is probably not the case that 100% of students make it from Kindergarten to 9th grade, but let's assume it is and go with that 67% number.

An article entitled Immediate Transition From High School to College published by Educational Statistics Quarterly indicates that 65 percent of "high school completers" go to college.

A CNN article entitled College graduation rate below 50 percent says that "Less than 50 percent of U.S. college students entering four-year colleges or universities actually graduate."

So, if 100 students enter 9th grade, only 67 of them will graduate from high school. 65 percent of the 67, or 44 students, will start college. Half of them drop out of college -- either they cannot handle the work, or they run out of money, or they get side-tracked. Only 22 students out of the original 100 ninth graders actually graduate from college.

22% of today's students are earning college degrees. That's what the statistics seem to indicate.]

Postscript 2 - By lunch on Sunday several people had sent in this article by Ariana Huffington: Graduation 2004: Pomp and Crummy Circumstances. It offers another perspective on the college situation.

Postscript 3 - One other thing that is important to keep in mind is the fact that the people losing their jobs to robots in the coming years are not going to be "kids" who are just getting out of high school. They are going to be pilots, truck drivers, pharmacists, and so on. Millions of people. Real people. They will have spouses, children and mortgages.

While these people are spending two years retraining, they are going to need a minimum of $40,000 per year to keep the family afloat, plus the money for tuition. It is a large national investment to retrain one milion workers displaced by robots, never mind 10 million or 50 million.



Kiosks coming to a McDonalds near you

McDonald's cuts out the middle man

From the article:Also:The article notes several benefits:The article Robotic Nation opens with a discussion of Kiosks. Kiosks represent the leading edge of the robotic revolution.



Controlling video games with thought

This article discusses a first step toward the Vertebrane system:

Mind over video game

From the article:Also:This is nice, but it has its limits. The human body has hundreds of muscles that the brain controls, and it will not be possible to replicate that type of intricacy with electrodes on the surface of the brain. By tapping right into the spinal cord, the Vertebrane system gets all the data heading for the muscles. In addition, the Vertebrane system allows for data input as well -- touch, smell, vision, hearing, etc.

Once people are controlling video games with their thoughts, they will like it. They will want a richer and richer experience. Eventually they will want a completely seamless experience with the Vertebrane system, where it is impossible to differentiate the game world from real life.

[Power implant aims to run on body heat -- a new way to power implanted devices like Vertebrane.]


Future processors

The super-fast future of computing

From the article:This article mentions: "Teleportation between atoms could someday lie at the heart of powerful quantum computers, which are probably at least a decade away from development." It also says: "Basically, researchers can use lab techniques to create a weird relationship between pairs of tiny particles. After that, the fate of one particle instantly affects the other; if one particle is made to take on a certain set of properties, the other immediately takes on identical or opposite properties, no matter how far away it is and without any apparent physical connection to the first particle." This sounds like an excellent communication technique for interstellar distances.


Unemployment benefits by credit card

Here's an easy way to give people the money described in the Robotic Freedom article: Give everyone a debit card that accesses the Central Account.

Oregon offers unemployment benefits via prepaid card

From the article:One thing to note: If 80,000 people are receiving $16 million per week, that's $200 per week per person. That's slightly less than minimum wage. And that's the average -- many people would be receiving less than that.

Unless you want to become homeless, you do not want to become unemployed in today's economy. Unfortunately, robots put large numbers of people in jeoprody of becoming unemployed. That is exactly the problem that Robotic Freedom is trying to solve.



Robots and Medicine

Several articles recently on robots and medicine:

1) NANOMEDICINE: It's in your blood. From the article:
2) Spinal repair robot gets FDA nod. From the article:
3) Robot Speeds Embryonic Stem Cell Work. From the article:
There is so much happening on the medical front -- see also this post on the robotic invasion in hospitals. It simply will not be that long before robots handle all health care.



The state of chips today

This article is interesting simply because of the complexity it describes in a single chip:

Cisco and IBM tout world's most complex chip

From the article: 47 billion instructions per second is about 80 times faster than a typical microporcessor today.

Something like Intel's Pentium chip contains a single general-purpose microprocessor and dedicates all of the transistors to it. For example, the Prescott version of the Pentium contains 125 million transistors, but a majority of them are tied up in highly standardized structures like the cache RAM.

IBM's chip contains about 50% more transistors and distributes them in a very different way. That is why it is possible to fit in 188 RISC processors and lots of other stuff.

It will be fascinating to see this level of customization and performance applied to application-specific robotic functions like vision, touch, speech processing, etc. As robots become more widespread, application-specific chips will become far more common, just like customized graphics processors are now standard equipment on today's PCs.


Robots taking your place

Robots taking your place

From the article:This would seem like a logical extension to television. You get a feed that provides binocular hearing and binocular vision from the concert hall, sporting event, etc. You could get the "standard feed", or a personal feed where you control the head yourself.

The other way to do this is to reconstruct virtual images of the sporting event from any angle in real time. It is made possible by using dozens of cameras, processing all of the images and figuring out where everything is so that any viewpoint can be created computationally. This article and this one describe the process in some detail. Instead of a robot sitting in a specific (not necessarily good) seat and providing you with a view from there, you can choose any viewpoint (including on the field, in the huddle, etc.) at any time.



Robots and NASA

There are several NASA robotics projects getting recycled into the news feed right now because of all of the discussion about the Hubble repair robot.

For example, the NASA info droid was announced as early as July 2001 and is now being discussed again in this Wired story because it is just about ready for deployment. From the article:See also this page.

Of course, you don't really need to provide astronauts with PSAs if all the astronauts have been replaced by robots. The Hubble repair robot is a great example of that trend. So is NASA's Robonaut.

NASA offers this page summarizing the Robonaut idea:An "astronaut equivalent" is, of course, an "astronaut replacement". Imagine how much simpler, smaller and lighter the space shuttle or the space station would be if it did not need to house human astronauts or provide them with life support. See Robotic Nation for details.


Robots programming computers

This article sounds slightly ahead of its time, although inevitable. If it is true in 2004, however, then it is fascinating because it has come so early:From the article:Also:See Robotic Nation for details.


Robots and cattle

Virtual fences to herd Wi-Fi cattle

From the article:




A new word is entering the vocabulary: Neurobotics. It means: ’The Fusion of Neuroscience and Robotics for Augmenting Human Capabilities’.

For example, see this article: IST-FET launches Integrated Project:’Neurobotics’

From the article:Let's hope that Vertebrane and body-free living are on the menu.


Robotic repair call to Hubble taking shape

USATODAY.com - Robotic repair call to Hubble taking shape

From the article:Right in line with Robotic Nation. One would hope and expect that NASA would be a bit ahead of the curve. In a year or two robots are repairing Hubble, and then 20 years later robots are repairing your car, your house, your other robots, etc. Several million people lose their jobs in the process.


DARPA Grand Challenge 2005

DARPA has upgraded its web site with details of the 2005 Grand Challenge. The new date is October 8, 2005, and the new prize is $2 million.

Here's an example of one of the teams planning to compete: OASIS Autonomous Racing.



Robots controlled by a human brain circuit

Brain-mimicking circuits to run navy robot

From the article:Over the next 20 to 30 years, scientists will figure out more and more cicuits in the brains of animals and humans: vision circuits, balance circuits, memory circuits, reasoning circuits, association circuits and so on. The pace of this kind of research is accelerating. This means that robots will be able to borrow circuits from nature and then improve on them very quickly.


Robots and hotels

Hotels of the future

From the article:And:In both timeframe and predicted impact, this fits exactly with the predictions in Robotic Nation.



Artificial muscles

Albuquerque inventor revolutionizes the field of robotics

From the article:Also:That horse image is interesting. Imagine riding to the store on an artificial horse when you want to try something a little different...


The effects of Moore's law

There were several articles this week taking a look at the effects of Moores law. For example:

Thirty years with computers

from the article:
Deloitte & Touche Predicts Electronic Game Devices To Increase Five-Fold To 2.6 Billion By 2010

From the article:See Robotic Nation for details.



Robots performing biopsies

S'pore team invents prostate biopsy robot

From the articleAlso:There are three trends visible here:See this post for more details on robots in hospitals.


Robotic sensors in the road

In a Road That's All Eyes, the Driver Finds an Ally

From the article:What this article points out is that robotic surveillance will be able to take many different forms in the near future. It will be far less expensive, and far less obvious, to drill small holes in the pavement to install in-road cameras at every intersection.


Robots tracking space launches

Robot tracks rocket in space

From the article:


Robotic airplanes flying in friendly skies

NASA working on integrating robot craft into nation's airspace

From the article:See also this article

$360 million is a lot of money to spend, and 2008 is a very agressive goal considering that there are no robotic planes flying in commercial airspace right now.

Predictably, the article mentions nothing about robots flying passenger aircraft. Having "robot planes and conventional piloted aircraft routinely and safely sharing civil airspace by 2008" is a necessary step, however, if we are going to eliminate human pilots from airplanes.

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