If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We'll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next two months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!): Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos. This is the FX-2 Giant Human Riding Robot from KAIST HuboLab and Rainbow Robotics, and that's all I know about it. Yuichiro Katsumoto, a "gadget creator" based in Singapore, wrote in to share this video of the robotic kinetic typography that he's been working on for the last year.
Remember back when you could fly drones without having to pay the government money first, and when the only thing you had to worry about was a midair takedown by an anti-drone hit squad made up of highly-trained Dutch eagles? We're sad to have to report that we probably won't be seeing compelling videos of eagles handling rogue drones anymore, and also that the United States government has flexed its muscles and mandatory drone registration is now back on. You probably remember how the FAA finalized its mandatory drone registration rules just in time for the holiday season in 2015. Any drone that weighed more than 0.55 pounds was required to be registered before being flown outdoors, a process that involved providing your complete name, physical address, mailing address, email address, and a credit card that was charged a one-time fee of US $5. In exchange, you got a unique registration number that had to be visible on all of your drones.
Last month, the ScanPyramids project, led by a team of researchers from the University of Cairo's Faculty of Engineering in Egypt and the HIP Institute in France, announced that they'd used muon imaging to discover a large void hidden deep inside the Khufu's Pyramid (also known as the Great Pyramid of Giza, since it's the big one). Nobody knows what's inside, or if there's anything inside at all, or even if maybe that's where the Stargate is stashed. Obviously there's a lot of interest in what may or may not be hiding out in here, and it could help solve mysteries like how and why exactly the pyramids were built. The problem is that (understandably) we're not going to just start blowing holes in the Great Pyramid to see what's going on. In 2002, Egyptologists used a custom exploration robot (made by iRobot, in fact) to explore a small shaft leading out of the Queen's Chamber in the Great Pyramid that was sealed by a door.
Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We'll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next two months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!): Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos. In case you weren't keeping track, Monday, December 4, was National Cookie Day in the United Sttes, so here's a throwback to MIT's PR2 baking a cookie (they say it's called a "Chocolate Afghan," whatever that is). We've been waiting TEN YEARS for this: It's the official ROS 10 year montage!
Most telepresence robots are designed for business use. They're expensive, but the argument is that they work significantly better than a phone call and they pay for themselves since you don't have to spend so much time and money traveling instead. OhmniLabs, a Silicon Valley robotics startup with CMU roots (they're advised by Manuela Veloso) wants to make telepresence robots easy and affordable enough that people start using them to stay connected with their families. In order for that to work, their telepresence robot (called Ohmni) is designed to be as independent as possible--you can send it to someone who isn't at all comfortable with tech, and they can take it out of the box, turn it on, and it'll just work. It's potentially ideal for family members who you don't live close to, or elderly family members who you like to talk to (and check up on) regularly.
As drones and their components get smaller, more efficient, and more capable, we've seen an increasing amount of research towards getting these things flying by themselves in semi-structured environments without relying on external localization. The University of Pennsylvania has done some amazing work in this area, as has DARPA's Fast Lightweight Autonomy program. At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, they've been working on small drone autonomy for the past few years as part of a Google-funded project. The focus is on high-speed dynamic maneuvering, in the context of flying a drone as fast as possible around an indoor race course using only on-board hardware. For the project's final demo, JPL raced their autonomous drones through an obstacle course against a professional human racing drone pilot.
As part of the IEEE RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots in Birmingham, U.K., last month, the awards committee decided to organize a fun photo contest. Participants submitted 39 photos showing off their humanoids in all kinds of poses and places. I was happy to be one of the judges, along with Sabine Hauert from the University of Bristol and Robohub, and with Giorgio Metta, the conference's awards chair, overseeing our selection. All photos were posted on Facebook and Twitter, and users were invited to vote on them. Sabine and I then looked at the photos with the most votes and scored them for originality, creativity, photo structure, and tech or fun factor.
By thinking of atoms as letters and molecules as words, artificial intelligence software from IBM is now employing the same methods computers use to translate languages to predict outcomes of organic chemical reactions, which could speed the development of new drugs. In the past 50 years, scientists have tried to teach computers how chemistry works so that computers can help predict the results of organic chemical reactions. However, organic chemicals can be extraordinarily complex, and simulations of their behavior can prove time-consuming and inaccurate. Instead, researchers at IBM took the kind of AI program normally used to translate languages and applied it toward organic chemistry. "Instead of translating English into German or Chinese, we had the same artificial intelligence technology look at hundreds of thousands or millions of chemical reactions and had it learn the basic structure of the'language' of organic chemistry, and then had it try to predict the outcomes of possible organic chemical reactions," says study co-author Teodoro Laino at IBM Research in Zurich.
Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We'll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next two months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!): Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos. We're not at IREX in Japan this year, sadly, but we're starting to see some videos showing up from the show. Here's a nice long demo of Toyota's new T-HR3, showing how flexible it is.
Any time of year is the perfect time to buy a robot for yourself or someone who needs more robots in their life, but this particular time of year is even perfecter than most: The holidays are approaching, all kinds of things are on sale, and nobody will ask questions if a whole bunch of new robots suddenly show up in your house. To help you decide which robots to buy for yourself and which to buy for yourself and for other people, we've put together a brand new edition of our annual Robots Gift Guide. It's stuffed with giftable robots ranging from affordable to ridiculous, and we promise that if you don't find something you like, we'll feel bad about it and be sad. Also, don't forget that we've got robot gift guides going back like five years (here: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012), and since we try to mix them up every year, they're great places for even more ideas for robots that are probably way cheaper now than when we first posted about them. And remember: While we provide prices and links to places where you can buy these items, we're not endorsing any in particular, and a little bit of searching may result in better deals (all prices are in U.S. dollars).