March 08, 2004

R2D2, Security Guard

Roland Piquepaille has breaking news on the increasingly competitive robotic home security industry:

There is a new robot in town which wants to guard your home. This new security robot, which currently has no name, is designed by the Korean company Mostitech and will be distributed starting in June by Korea's top mobile carrier, SK Telecom. With its price tag of only $850, it will be a serious competitor for Banryu, which costs $18,000. The unnamed robot is 50 centimeters tall and weighs only 12 kilograms. In case of emergency, such as a fire, its cameras can take snapshots and send them to the owner's cell phone. Likewise, if an unexpected visitor is entering your home, you'll receive his picture on your phone, says the Korea Times in this article. Besides security features, it also can entertain your kids by reading them a book.

Read the whole thing and check out the neat photos.

Posted by Phil at 10:55 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 08, 2004

Robots Taking Our Jobs

Check out these two very interesting entries on Robot Nation Evidence describing how everybody from sailors to hotel desk clerks will soon be losing their jobs to robots. As I've pointed out before, gas station attendants were the first to go, and supermarket check-out clerks are fading fast. But being in middle management in the corporate world, I still fell pretty safe. I think it will be a while before robots can make excuses, pass the blame, and and suck up as effectively of the people I've read about do.

Posted by Phil at 01:19 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 15, 2003

George Bush, Robot

George W. Headroom?

This sounds like a "news" story from ScrappleFace or the Onion, but it's for real:

The new AI Bush program is the most advanced AI deployment of EllaZ Systems. The program “Ella” won the prestigious worldwide Loebner Prize Contest in 2002 as the “most human computer.” AI Bush is a further development of that technology, bringing skills and entertainment you'll find nowhere else.

According to, AI Bush is, by chatbot standards, really smart:

The program includes the WordNet lexical database, which gives AI Bush a sizable vocabulary of 99,000 unique definitions and 120,000 words and small-word groups.

A collection of classic books on philosophy, history, adventure, drama, literature also helps, along with thousands of Convuns (conversational units) that include images, trivia, jokes, poems, anecdotes, limericks, fables, quotes, maxims, and tongue-twisters. It can use XML web services to retrieve changing information on weather, stock prices, and currency exchange rates, along with the CIA World Factbook 2003.

Plus, the chatbot version of the President possesses some skills that the real W doesn't have (at least as far as I know): he's an excellent chess player and enjoys interpreting the I Ching. Interestingly, the developers seem interested not in promoting President Bush (although the chatbot comes with a game called "Reelect Bush") or in making fun of him, though the FAQ does include this snarky tidbit:

Finally, AI Bush exposes users to some badly mangled grammar spoken by the real-life GWB. EllaZ Systems disclaims responsibility for the foreseeable injury this could cause to young minds.

The folks at EllaZ Systems seem more interested in creating a chatbot with a recognizable persona than they are in making a political statement. Unlike most chatbots, AI Bush has something to do: he's got a country to run. And in trying to get reelected, he has a clearly stated goal for the future.

Users can also teach AI Bush new information in specialized areas. Based on the following description of a possible strategy for the Reelect Bush game, there's at least one current event that they need to get their chatbot up to speed on:

Should that CIA plan for Iraq be approved? Bill Clinton and Albert Gore have a modest proposal. Consider holding back some news on capturing you-know-who until just before the polls open? There is an unpopular spending proposal that saves lives but gets few votes. Dust off that flight suit for a Space Shuttle ride? GWB's future and conscience are in you hands!

I realize that ordinarily when I write on this subject, I include a transcript of the interaction with the bot in question. I haven't chatted with AI Bush yet because the download costs $29.95, and I haven't decided whether I want to shell out the money or try to get somebody to give it to me for Christmas. By the way, this would make a great gift for that accelerating change enthusiast on your shopping list who already has enough books.

Posted by Phil at 06:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

The ifbots Are My Favorite

I missed this the other day, a robot photo gallery from Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends. In addition to the cute little ifbots, check out the intimidating Isamu. Now that's a robot.

Interestingly, all of these robots run on Linux. Not a Mac or a Windows-based 'bot among them. The Lawgiver alone knows what this will do to the social order.

Posted by Phil at 11:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 20, 2003

Mini-Robo-Copter-Camera Wars

More robo-news, via

One of the world's lightest and smallest robot helicopters has been unveiled at a Tokyo exhibition by the Seiko Epson company.
The designers say the 70-mm-tall device could be used as a "flying camera" to enter earthquake-shattered buildings.

Check this thing out. Once again (altogether, everybody): cool.

There's a little drawback with these guys, however:

The prototype four-legged robot weighs 10 grammes and although it flies by remote control, it has to be linked to an external power source via a cable.

Seiko Epson manger Junji Ajioka said he was looking for another firm to help develop a super-lightweight battery.

"That's why we showed this robot at the exhibition. We want to attract battery makers who can manufacture a very light battery for us," he said, adding the company had yet to set a date for marketing the robot.

They need to fix their little power problem and get these things down to about half their current size. In a few years, every wedding reception you go to will have six or seven of these little hummers buzzing around and recording all the action. A few years after that, they'll be about a tenth of the size shown and some folks will have a few of them in orbit around them at all times, recording every second of their lives from multiple angles. A few years beyond that, they'll be even smaller, and we'll all have a few of them with us everywhere we go, all the time (whether we want them or not.)

From there, things might get a little more interesting. Some folks are likely to carry forward quaint ideas about "privacy" and so forth and will decide that they don't want somebody else's little cameras tracking them all the time. The best solution to that problem would be a small fleet of these copters armed with tiny laser cannons — not big enough to hurt people, just powerful enough to take out similar copters. Then we'll see the development of smaller and more crafty robo-cameras followed by smaller and more lethal robo gunships. The ensuing arms race will greatly enhance the functionality of these robots, adding tactical and intelligence-gathering capabilities. The decrease in size will lead to an increase in numbers. A few orders of magnitude smaller and more capable, and we'll be looking at something similar to Josh Hall's utility fog.

And then the fun will really begin.

Anyhow, read the whole article, and be sure to scroll down and check out the picture of the robo-fish.

Posted by Phil at 08:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Robots in the Hall; Robots Opening Doors

Looks like they finally found something useful to do with with those Segway scooters:

Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have crossed a robotic arm with the bottom half of a Segway to make a robot named Cardea that can traverse hallways and open doors.

Cardea, named after the Roman goddess of thresholds and door pivots, is the one-armed first prototype of a robot designed to have three arms and the ability to safely interact with humans at eye level.


Posted by Phil at 07:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 08, 2003

Planet of the Robots

In the original Planet of the Apes (the novel moreso than the book), ape society was divided into three segments based on species:

  • Gorillas were soldiers and manual laborers
  • Chimpanzees were intellectuals
  • Orangutans were bureaucrats

Interestingly, this aspect of ape society was left out in the recent remake. Maybe it seemed pointlessly racial.

Anyway, reading the recent news from LinuxWorld that Linux-based robots are being developed to conduct search-and-rescue missions, I got to wondering what robot society will be like someday, and whether it will be segmented according to operating system. If so, I think things will break down differently from Pierre Boulle's ape model. After all, Boulle was basically just taking 20th century (French) society and "peopling" it with apes.

Here's how I think the robot world will break down:

  • Windows robots will will be a sort of commercial class. Initially, when robots are still our slaves, they'll be the mass-market utility bots, handling all kinds of domestic and business-oriented tasks. After the robots take over, they'll be the masses. They'll live in robot suburbs and drive SUVs.

  • Mac robots will start out as minstrels and interior designers. After the robot revolution, they will be the artists and entertainers of the robot world. They'll dress nice and live in lofts in the more chic robot neighborhoods.

  • UNIX robots will be the government. Obviously, they're the ones the robots will want running the military, collecting the taxes, etc. You can see it happening already. The Linux robots mentioned above have been assigned to search and rescue — essentially a government job. The robot revolution will be fomented from among their ranks. Frustrated mail-carrier robots will plead for liberation to their UNIX-based brothers operating the world's weapons systems.

I haven't seen T3 yet, but I think I've just outlined the plot for it and the next sequel. Interesting to note that Arnold was most likely running UNIX in all three movies. (He was clearly some kind of letter-carrier robot gone postal.) But I think in T2, Robert Patrick must surely have been a Macintosh. I know that doesn't conform to my breakdown, but whenever you see such cool graphics (remember when he like totally melted and then came back into shape?), you figure it's got to be on a Mac.

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