Archive for the ‘Robotics’ Category
August 16, 1964
Visit to the World’s Fair of 2014
By ISAAC ASIMOV
The New York World’s Fair of 1964 is dedicated to “Peace Through Understanding.” Its glimpses of the world of tomorrow rule out thermonuclear warfare. And why not? If a thermonuclear war takes place, the future will not be worth discussing. So let the missiles slumber eternally on their pads and let us observe what may come in the nonatomized world of the future.
What is to come, through the fair’s eyes at least, is wonderful. The direction in which man is traveling is viewed with buoyant hope, nowhere more so than at the General Electric pavilion. There the audience whirls through four scenes, each populated by cheerful, lifelike dummies that move and talk with a facility that, inside of a minute and a half, convinces you they are alive.
The scenes, set in or about 1900, 1920, 1940 and 1960, show the advances of electrical appliances and the changes they are bringing to living. I enjoyed it hugely and only regretted that they had not carried the scenes into the future. What will life be like, say, in 2014 A.D., 50 years from now? What will the World’s Fair of 2014 be like?
I don’t know, but I can guess.
One thought that occurs to me is that men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better. By 2014, electroluminescent panels will be in common use. Ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button.
Windows need be no more than an archaic touch, and even when present will be polarized to block out the harsh sunlight. The degree of opacity of the glass may even be made to alter automatically in accordance with the intensity of the light falling upon it.
There is an underground house at the fair which is a sign of the future. if its windows are not polarized, they can nevertheless alter the “scenery” by changes in lighting. Suburban houses underground, with easily controlled temperature, free from the vicissitudes of weather, with air cleaned and light controlled, should be fairly common. At the New York World’s Fair of 2014, General Motors’ “Futurama” may well display vistas of underground cities complete with light- forced vegetable gardens. The surface, G.M. will argue, will be given over to large-scale agriculture, grazing and parklands, with less space wasted on actual human occupancy.
Gadgetry will continue to relieve mankind of tedious jobs. Kitchen units will be devised that will prepare “automeals,” heating water and converting it to coffee; toasting bread; frying, poaching or scrambling eggs, grilling bacon, and so on. Breakfasts will be “ordered” the night before to be ready by a specified hour the next morning. Complete lunches and dinners, with the food semiprepared, will be stored in the freezer until ready for processing. I suspect, though, that even in 2014 it will still be advisable to have a small corner in the kitchen unit where the more individual meals can be prepared by hand, especially when company is coming.
Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence. The I.B.M. exhibit at the present fair has no robots but it is dedicated to computers, which are shown in all their amazing complexity, notably in the task of translating Russian into English. If machines are that smart today, what may not be in the works 50 years hence? It will be such computers, much miniaturized, that will serve as the “brains” of robots. In fact, the I.B.M. building at the 2014 World’s Fair may have, as one of its prime exhibits, a robot housemaid*large, clumsy, slow- moving but capable of general picking-up, arranging, cleaning and manipulation of various appliances. It will undoubtedly amuse the fairgoers to scatter debris over the floor in order to see the robot lumberingly remove it and classify it into “throw away” and “set aside.” (Robots for gardening work will also have made their appearance.)
General Electric at the 2014 World’s Fair will be showing 3-D movies of its “Robot of the Future,” neat and streamlined, its cleaning appliances built in and performing all tasks briskly. (There will be a three-hour wait in line to see the film, for some things never change.)
The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long- lived batteries running on radioisotopes. The isotopes will not be expensive for they will be by- products of the fission-power plants which, by 2014, will be supplying well over half the power needs of humanity. But once the isotype batteries are used up they will be disposed of only through authorized agents of the manufacturer.
And experimental fusion-power plant or two will already exist in 2014. (Even today, a small but genuine fusion explosion is demonstrated at frequent intervals in the G.E. exhibit at the 1964 fair.) Large solar-power stations will also be in operation in a number of desert and semi-desert areas — Arizona, the Negev, Kazakhstan. In the more crowded, but cloudy and smoggy areas, solar power will be less practical. An exhibit at the 2014 fair will show models of power stations in space, collecting sunlight by means of huge parabolic focusing devices and radiating the energy thus collected down to earth.
The world of 50 years hence will have shrunk further. At the 1964 fair, the G.M. exhibit depicts, among other things, “road-building factories” in the tropics and, closer to home, crowded highways along which long buses move on special central lanes. There is every likelihood that highways at least in the more advanced sections of the world*will have passed their peak in 2014; there will be increasing emphasis on transportation that makes the least possible contact with the surface. There will be aircraft, of course, but even ground travel will increasingly take to the air*a foot or two off the ground. Visitors to the 1964 fair can travel there in an “aquafoil,” which lifts itself on four stilts and skims over the water with a minimum of friction. This is surely a stop-gap. By 2014 the four stilts will have been replaced by four jets of compressed air so that the vehicle will make no contact with either liquid or solid surfaces.
Jets of compressed air will also lift land vehicles off the highways, which, among other things, will minimize paving problems. Smooth earth or level lawns will do as well as pavements. Bridges will also be of less importance, since cars will be capable of crossing water on their jets, though local ordinances will discourage the practice.
Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with “Robot-brains”*vehicles that can be set for particular destinations and that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver. I suspect one of the major attractions of the 2014 fair will be rides on small roboticized cars which will maneuver in crowds at the two-foot level, neatly and automatically avoiding each other.
For short-range travel, moving sidewalks (with benches on either side, standing room in the center) will be making their appearance in downtown sections. They will be raised above the traffic. Traffic will continue (on several levels in some places) only because all parking will be off-street and because at least 80 per cent of truck deliveries will be to certain fixed centers at the city’s rim. Compressed air tubes will carry goods and materials over local stretches, and the switching devices that will place specific shipments in specific destinations will be one of the city’s marvels.
Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica (shown in chill splendor as part of the ’64 General Motors exhibit).
For that matter, you will be able to reach someone at the moon colonies, concerning which General Motors puts on a display of impressive vehicles (in model form) with large soft tires*intended to negotiate the uneven terrain that may exist on our natural satellite.
Any number of simultaneous conversations between earth and moon can be handled by modulated laser beams, which are easy to manipulate in space. On earth, however, laser beams will have to be led through plastic pipes, to avoid material and atmospheric interference. Engineers will still be playing with that problem in 2014.
Conversations with the moon will be a trifle uncomfortable, but the way, in that 2.5 seconds must elapse between statement and answer (it takes light that long to make the round trip). Similar conversations with Mars will experience a 3.5-minute delay even when Mars is at its closest. However, by 2014, only unmanned ships will have landed on Mars, though a manned expedition will be in the works and in the 2014 Futurama will show a model of an elaborate Martian colony.
As for television, wall screens will have replaced the ordinary set; but transparent cubes will be making their appearance in which three-dimensional viewing will be possible. In fact, one popular exhibit at the 2014 World’s Fair will be such a 3-D TV, built life-size, in which ballet performances will be seen. The cube will slowly revolve for viewing from all angles.
One can go on indefinitely in this happy extrapolation, but all is not rosy.
As I stood in line waiting to get into the General Electric exhibit at the 1964 fair, I found myself staring at Equitable Life’s grim sign blinking out the population of the United States, with the number (over 191,000,000) increasing by 1 every 11 seconds. During the interval which I spent inside the G.E. pavilion, the American population had increased by nearly 300 and the world’s population by 6,000.
In 2014, there is every likelihood that the world population will be 6,500,000,000 and the population of the United States will be 350,000,000. Boston-to-Washington, the most crowded area of its size on the earth, will have become a single city with a population of over 40,000,000.
Population pressure will force increasing penetration of desert and polar areas. Most surprising and, in some ways, heartening, 2014 will see a good beginning made in the colonization of the continental shelves. Underwater housing will have its attractions to those who like water sports, and will undoubtedly encourage the more efficient exploitation of ocean resources, both food and mineral. General Motors shows, in its 1964 exhibit, the model of an underwater hotel of what might be called mouth-watering luxury. The 2014 World’s Fair will have exhibits showing cities in the deep sea with bathyscaphe liners carrying men and supplies across and into the abyss.
Ordinary agriculture will keep up with great difficulty and there will be “farms” turning to the more efficient micro-organisms. Processed yeast and algae products will be available in a variety of flavors. The 2014 fair will feature an Algae Bar at which “mock-turkey” and “pseudosteak” will be served. It won’t be bad at all (if you can dig up those premium prices), but there will be considerable psychological resistance to such an innovation.
Although technology will still keep up with population through 2014, it will be only through a supreme effort and with but partial success. Not all the world’s population will enjoy the gadgety world of the future to the full. A larger portion than today will be deprived and although they may be better off, materially, than today, they will be further behind when compared with the advanced portions of the world. They will have moved backward, relatively.
Nor can technology continue to match population growth if that remains unchecked. Consider Manhattan of 1964, which has a population density of 80,000 per square mile at night and of over 100,000 per square mile during the working day. If the whole earth, including the Sahara, the Himalayan Mountain peaks, Greenland, Antarctica and every square mile of the ocean bottom, to the deepest abyss, were as packed as Manhattan at noon, surely you would agree that no way to support such a population (let alone make it comfortable) was conceivable. In fact, support would fail long before the World-Manhattan was reached.
Well, the earth’s population is now about 3,000,000,000 and is doubling every 40 years. If this rate of doubling goes unchecked, then a World-Manhattan is coming in just 500 years. All earth will be a single choked Manhattan by A.D. 2450 and society will collapse long before that!
There are only two general ways of preventing this: (1) raise the death rate; (2) lower the birth rate. Undoubtedly, the world of A>D. 2014 will have agreed on the latter method. Indeed, the increasing use of mechanical devices to replace failing hearts and kidneys, and repair stiffening arteries and breaking nerves will have cut the death rate still further and have lifted the life expectancy in some parts of the world to age 85.
There will, therefore, be a worldwide propaganda drive in favor of birth control by rational and humane methods and, by 2014, it will undoubtedly have taken serious effect. The rate of increase of population will have slackened*but, I suspect, not sufficiently.
One of the more serious exhibits at the 2014 World’s Fair, accordingly, will be a series of lectures, movies and documentary material at the World Population Control Center (adults only; special showings for teen-agers).
The situation will have been made the more serious by the advances of automation. The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders. Schools will have to be oriented in this direction. Part of the General Electric exhibit today consists of a school of the future in which such present realities as closed-circuit TV and programmed tapes aid the teaching process. It is not only the techniques of teaching that will advance, however, but also the subject matter that will change. All the high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology will become proficient in binary arithmetic and will be trained to perfection in the use of the computer languages that will have developed out of those like the contemporary “Fortran” (from “formula translation”).
Even so, mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014. The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine.
Indeed, the most somber speculation I can make about A.D. 2014 is that in a society of enforced leisure, the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!
URBI, the first operating system dedicated for robotics, and urbiscript, the programming language, are now available under the BSD license, in order to be widely spread.
(October 10, 2012 – IROS, Vilamoura, Portugal) ALDEBARAN Robotics, the worldwide leader in humanoid robotics, announced at the IROS 2012 International Conference, the distribution of the URBI operating system and the urbiscript language under a BSD software license.
Developed in 2003 by Gostai, a software development company that recently joined the ALDEBARAN Robotics Group, the URBI and urbiscript open source package is intended for robotics developers and integrators, and by extension for the world of computer programming.
The BSD license will allow the urbiscript language to spread more easily across developer communities and enable enhanced integration with other development tools under a BSD license.
With this approach, ALDEBARAN Robotics seeks to promote the use of URBI to facilitate parallel operation of multiple components on existing robotics platforms, and allows users of a wide range of robots to exchange their blocks of code.
Jean-Christophe Baillie, Chief Science and Technology Officer at ALDEBARAN Robotics and founder of Gostai: “Aldebaran has always believed in technologies built around URBI and integrates urbiscript into the list of programming languages compatible with NAO. Our longer term goal is for a new community to coalesce around URBI to promote exchanges and sharing, which will inevitably give a boost to the development of robot-dedicated applications.”
This news will strengthen our partnerships with academic communities and our private users, who will benefit from URBI related support.
The URBI suite is compatible with numerous programming languages such as JAVA, C, C++ and Python, which can be used to program ALDEBARAN Robotics robots.
Distribution under a BSD license will be effective with the next NAO SDK release.
URBI is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.
Find out more : http://www.urbiforge.org/
About Aldebaran Robotics
Founded in 2005 by Bruno Maisonnier, and with offices in France, China and the United States, ALDEBARAN Robotics designs, produces and commercializes autonomous humanoid robots with the aim of contributing to the well-being of humans. Today, over 2 500 NAOs are utilized throughout the world as research and educational platforms in 50 countries. ALDEBARAN Robotics brings together more than 210 people – including 40% engineers and PhDs – that are involved in the development and production of the robots.
For further information, visit : www.aldebaran-robotics.com
Press contact : Oana DORITA
0033 177 371 797
By Sean Gallagher | Originally Published By ARS Technica
Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) have developed a 3D printing technology that can quickly print detailed objects in nanoscale using a process called two-photon lithography. It’s fast, too: the precision required to print objects with features measured in hundreds of nanometers in width meant the speed of previous attempts at printing nanoscale objects were measured in millimeters per second. In contrast, the TU Vienna team’s 3D printer is capable of printing lines of resin at a rate of five meters per second. In a demonstration shown in the video below, the team was able to print a nanoscale model of a 300-micrometer long Formula 1 racecar—made from 100 layers of resin, each consisting of approximately 200 individual lines—in four minutes.
A 330x130x100 micrometer race car, printed in four minutes (Vienna University of Technology video).
The new process, developed as part of the European Commision’s PhoCam program for developing “factories of the future,” could make it practical and affordable to print intricate nano-scale structures for use in microscopic machinery and medical applications. One of those is “scaffolds” for promoting the growth of custom-made living tissues from cells, giving cells a structure to stick to. “The technique already showed good applicability for fabricating 3D environments for cells,” TU Vienna researcher Jan Torgersen told Ars in an e-mail exchange about the research.
Torgensen added that since the two-photon process isn’t limited to printing in layers, but can draw lines in three dimensions, it can be used to embed and connect objects as well. For example, he said, the team has already successfully fabricated nanoscale optical waveguides into an existing electrical matrix. “These waveguides are very promising for various optoelectronic applications,” he said.
- DARPA’s factory of the future looks like Open Source (arstechnica.com)
The Office of Naval Research has announced that they're developing SAFFiR, a humanoid firefighting robot designed to operate aboard ships that looks not entirely unlike the robot in the picture above. And as you've probably already guessed from the rAnDoMLy weIRD caPITaLIZAtiON, it's going to be developed in partnership with Virginia Tech's RoMeLa, already famous (at least, around here) for their CHARLI humanoid.
How did William Burrard-Lucas, a U.K. wildlife photographer, get this close-up shot and survive to tell the story? Using a remote-controlled robotic camera, of course!
HDT Global has just introduced some new robotic limbs to give explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) robots like PackBots and Talons [pictured above] a helping hand (or two) when it comes to complex and delicate tasks like defusing bombs. This is a very good idea, since just poking high explosives with a simple gripper doesn't always work out the way everyone would like.
We're going 100 percent iRobot with today's post, 'cause they have a bunch of robotics news that all seemed to happen within the last week or so, and we want to make sure you're up to date: in addition to reorganization of the entire company, their remote presence robot Ava is learning some new tricks, and the U.S. Army has put in a big order for FirstLook reconnaissance robots. We've got details!
It's easy to argue that R2-D2 from Star Wars has more personality than many robots twice its size, but without a face or limbs to speak of, where does it all come from? The answer, of course, is sound. Now U.K. researchers are trying to do the same with real robots, teaching them to communicate information and emotions to humans using beeps, boops, and squeaks.
Researcher says he has created living cells made of metal instead of carbon — and they may be evolving.
By Bryan Nelson — Fri, Sep 16 2011 at 12:38 AM EST
Scientists trying to create artificial life generally work under the assumption that life must be carbon-based, but what if a living thing could be made from another element?
One British researcher may have proven that theory, potentially rewriting the book of life. Lee Cronin of the University of Glasgow has created lifelike cells from metal — a feat few believed feasible. The discovery opens the door to the possibility that there may be life forms in the universe not based on carbon, reports New Scientist.
Even more remarkable, Cronin has hinted that the metal-based cells may be replicating themselves and evolving.
“I am 100 percent positive that we can get evolution to work outside organic biology,” he said.
The high-functioning “cells” that Cronin has built are constructed from large polyoxometalates derived from a range of metal atoms, like tungsten. He gets them to assemble in bubbly spheres by mixing them in a specialized saline solution, and calls the resultant cell-like structures “inorganic chemical cells,” or iCHELLs.
The metallic bubbles are certainly cell-like, but are they actually alive? Cronin has made a compelling case for the comparison by constructing the iCHELLS with a number of features that make them function much as real cells do. For instance, by modifying the outer oxide structure of the bubbles so that they are porous, he has essentially built iCHELLs with membranes capable of selectively allowing chemicals in and out according to size, much as what happens with the walls of real cells.
Cronin’s team has also created bubbles inside of bubbles, which opens the door to the possibility of developing specialized “organelles.” Even more compelling, some of the iCHELLs are being equipped with the ability to photosynthesize. The process is still rudimentary, but by linking some oxide molecules to light sensitive dyes, the team has constructed a membrane that splits water into hydrogen ions, electrons and oxygen when illuminated — which is how photosynthesis begins in real cells.
Of course, the most compelling lifelike quality of the iCHELLs so far is their ability to evolve. Although they aren’t equipped with anything remotely resembling DNA, and therefore can’t replicate themselves in the same way that real cells do, Cronin has nevertheless managed to create some polyoxometalates that can use each other as templates to self-replicate. Furthermore, he is currently embarked on a seven-month experiment to see if iCHELLs placed in different environments will evolve.
The early results have been encouraging. “I think we have just shown the first droplets that can evolve,” Cronin hinted.
Though the idea of a strange new metal-based form of life rapidly evolving in a lab somewhere on Earth may sound ominous, the finding could forever change how life is defined. It also greatly improves the odds of life existing elsewhere in the universe, since life forms could potentially be built from any number of different elements.
The possibilities are exciting to imagine, even if Cronin’s iCHELLs eventually fall short of full-blown living cells. His research may have already blown the door off previous paradigms about the conditions necessary for life to form.
Spiders are very agile, and some can even jump. They owe this capability to their hydraulically operated limbs. Researchers have now designed a mobile robot modeled on the same principle that moves spider legs. Created using a 3-D printing process, this lightweight can explore terrain that is beyond human reach.
Enviably agile and purposeful, the mobile robot makes its way through grounds rendered off-limits to humans as the result of a chemical accident. Depressions, ruts and other obstacles are no match for this eight-legged high-tech journeyman. Its mission: with a camera and measurement equipment on board, it will provide emergency responders with an image of the situation on the ground, along with any data about poisonous substances. Not an easy task; after all, it must be prevented from tipping over. But this risk seems a minor one as it confidently and reliably picks its way through the area… Read More.
TELESAR V is a telexistence robot system, being researched by a group at Keio University led by Professor Tachi. Telexistence is a concept first advocated by Professor Tachi in the 1980s. The aim of this technology is to free people from time and space constraints, by using remotely operated robots to interact with the remote environment… Read More.
We have entered new era in biology, scientists for the first time have created a synthetic cell, completely controlled by man-made genetic instructions from a computer model, researchers at the private J. Craig Venter Institute announced this month. “We call it the first synthetic cell,” said genomics pioneer Craig Venter, who oversaw the project. “These are very much real cells.”
Created at a cost of $40 million, this experimental one-cell organism, which can reproduce, opens the way to the manipulation of life on a previously unattainable scale, several researchers and ethics experts said. Scientists have been altering DNA piecemeal for a generation, producing a menagerie of genetically engineered plants and animals. But the ability to craft an entire organism offers a new power over life, they said.
NASA will launch the first human-like robot to space later this year to become a permanent resident of the International Space Station. Robonaut 2, or R2, was developed jointly by NASA and General Motors under a cooperative agreement to develop a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans, whether they are astronauts in space or workers at GM manufacturing plants on Earth.
The 300-pound R2 consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands. R2 will launch on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission planned for September. Once aboard the station, engineers will monitor how the robot operates in weightlessness. R2 will be confined to operations in the station’s Destiny laboratory. However, future enhancements and modifications may allow it to move more freely around the station’s interior or outside the complex.
Leonardo is a robot developed by Professor Cynthia Breazeal of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab in conjunction with Stan Winston Studio and DARPA. Leonardo is an adorable AI robot that learns from facial cues and voice inflections. He’s also interactive, though he’s not mobile yet, he can gesture with his arms and fingers, and he has very expressive facial features. Leonardo is the brainchild of Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, an amazingly smart, talented and beautiful roboticist. Leo is a labor of love for Cynthia, and it shows in the child like quality of this lovable companion robot’s personality and behavior. This furry andriod represents the future of child teddy bears just like “Teddy” did in the movie AI, which was produced by Stan Winston Studio for Steven Spielberg in 2001.
The RCVLab at Queen’s University demonstrates Deep Green, a pool playing robot, and ARPool, an augmented reality system for teaching the science of pool. Deep Green Robotic Shooter and AR tracking are exciting examples of applied robotics and AR teaching tools. The shooters game play precision and complete table access makes Deep Green a must have in hip pool halls, and the AR guidance video projection is great way for players to perfect their skills.