Sunday, February 21, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Minority Report: Gesture-Based Interface Comes to Life

g-speak overview 1828121108 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

HUMAVIPS at a Cocktail Party

The "Humanoids with auditory and visual abilities in populated spaces" (HUMAVIPS) project has the ambitious goal of making humanoid bots just that bit more human by building algorithms that will enable bots to mimic what psychologists call the "cocktail party effect" -– the human ability to focus attention on just one person in the midst of other people, voices and background noise.

If successful, HUMAVIPS will give future humanoid bots something that existing bots don't possess -– the simple social skills necessary to deal with small groups of people, including the basic intelligence to pick out a group of humans and determine which ones want to interact with it. It could also endow bots with the ability to infer meaning from incoming sense data, which would be a rudimentary step towards truly anthropomorphic robot intelligence.

Read the full article from WIRED.CO.UK titled, Humanoid robots to gain advanced social skills.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kevin Warwick on Mixing Man and Machine

BBC on Robo Wars

Chris Bowlby at BBC Radio 4 has been doing shows and articles on robot soldiers. One article, Can battlefield robots take the place of soldier?, is particularly relevant to our concerns about ethical considerations arising from the roboticization of the military.
But the speed of modern warfare can make direct human control difficult, says Peter Singer, author of Wired for War.
Take the automated counter-artillery system deployed in Afghanistan.
"The human reaction time when there's an incoming canon shell is basically we can get to mid-curse word… [This] system reacts and shoots it down in mid-air. We are in the loop. We can turn the system off, we can turn it on, but our power really isn't true decision-making power. It's veto power now," Singer says.

"Robots that are programmed properly are less likely to make errors and kill non-combatants, innocent people, because they're not emotional, they won't be afraid, act irresponsibly in some situations," says Robert Finkelstein.
But Christopher Coker of the London School of Economics, an observer of wars past and present, disagrees.

"We should put our trust in the human factor," he says.
"Unfortunately the military in their reports often see the human factor as what they call the weakest link. I don't think it's the weakest link. I think it's the strongest link."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Astronaut or Robot?

The New York Times has an article titled, Is Manned Space Flight Obsolete?
The Obama administration has scrapped NASA’s plan to return humans to the Moon by 2020, which was behind schedule because of technical and budgetary problems. Instead, the administration will focus on developing new technologies to make long-distance space travel cheaper and faster, with astronaut trips to the Moon, asteroids and Mars possible in the future.

Is this shift of priorities the right path to take? Why go to the expense, effort and risk of using astronauts when unmanned machines can do so much? Or are there benefits to human space exploration that can’t be achieved with robots?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Frontline: Digital Nation

The PBS news program Frontline has an excellent show titled, Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier, about the social impact of digital technology from gaming to flying unmanned UAVs.