How a Robot Evokes Real Human Emotion

November 2, 2009

Get excited robot junkies and futurists, this video out of Boston Dynamics showcases a new four-legged transport “dog” designed for the military. Surprisingly enough, the most illuminating part of it isn’t the technology itself – which is pretty amazing – but people’s reactions at the :35 and 1:27 marks.  

Go ahead and watch.

Now did you feel yourself cringe at those parts? Did you feel even the slightest pang of feeling for the thing? That, my friends, is empathy. Empathy towards a real-life robot. Now what does that tell you?


Eyes On The Future

September 30, 2009

Not your average contact lens.

Not your average contact lens.

This is a busy time of year for robotics. Recent research being conducted out of the University of Washington gives a glimpse into the future of assistive technology for the very organs you’re using to read this text.

Techies, biomedical people, and health professionals will find this article fascinating. They’ll be glued to their monitors as they slowly scroll down the page in disbelief, I kid you not. As for the rest of you, here are some highlights:

“These lenses don’t need to be very complex to be useful… a lens with a single pixel could aid people with impaired hearing.”

“With basic image processing and Internet access, a contact-lens display could unlock whole new worlds of visual information, unfettered by the constraints of a physical display.”

“Rabbits wore lenses containing metal circuit structures for 20 minutes at a time with no adverse effects.”


Another Day Another Robot

August 27, 2009
I'm starting to see the resemblance.
Starting to see the resemblance?

Finally, squishy robots! Now while “Cronos” is no Terminator, he is modeled after human anatomy – bones, muscles, tendons and all. So I’m calling this a significant yet inevitable step in quest to create robots as human as humans. But we’re not there quite yet. Not quite yet.


Check it out! Innovation at a (real) Library

October 14, 2008
Checking out books is now fun!

Look kids! Checking out books is now fun!

I’ll admit it had been a while since I’d been to a library.  No excuse, public libraries are still tremendous places full of free knowledge, despite the ease of accessing all types of information in this digital age.  (Plus they’re always so quiet, still amazes me…)

So you can imagine my surprise upon noticing the self-checkout machines, another monumental step in the growing trend towards an automated world.  The friendly looking desk-sized devices displayed graphics-aided instructions and were simple enough to figure out.  You first scan the bar code on your library card.  Then you are prompted to scan the book.  Then it prints a receipt while telling you if you have any other books checked out.  Then you walk out with your head down, book in hand, and the alarm doesn’t beep.  So easy I’ve even been back since.

A good experience, well worth the awkwardness of having several bored librarians glaring at me throughout the endeavor… though now that I think about it, maybe they were glaring at the machines.  But don’t worry librarians, like so many machines, there’s still so much they can’t do.  Like collecting my late fee (all $1.10 for 11 days of tardiness – I’m a slow reader, okay?).  And chasing down book thieves, pretty sure they can’t do that yet.