IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel


Experts Bet on First Deepfakes Political Scandal

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

A quiet wager has taken hold among researchers who study artificial intelligence techniques and the societal impacts of such technologies. They're betting whether or not someone will create a so-called Deepfake video about a political candidate that receives more than 2 million views before getting debunked by the end of 2018. The actual stakes in the bet are fairly small: Manhattan cocktails as a reward for the "yes" camp and tropical tiki drinks for the "no" camp. But the implications of the technology behind the bet's premise could potentially reshape governments and undermine societal trust in the idea of having shared facts. It all comes down to when the technology may mature enough to digitally create fake but believable videos of politicians and celebrities saying or doing things that never actually happened in real life.


Video Friday: Robot World Cup, New Co-Bots, and 1000 SpotMinis

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

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 few 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. Robot soccer is getting really, really good. RoboCup (which just concluded in Montreal) is basically exactly the same as human World Cup, just with fewer writhing around on the ground and clutching of ankles.


Flying Dragon Robot Transforms Itself to Squeeze Through Gaps

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

There's been a lot of recent focus on applications for aerial robots, and one of the areas with the most potential is indoors. The thing about indoors is that by definition you have to go through doors to get there, and once you're inside, there are all kinds of things that are horribly dangerous to aerial robots, like more doors, walls, windows, people, furniture, hanging plants, lampshades, and other aerial robots, inevitably followed by still more doors. One solution is to make your robots super small, so that they can fit through small openings without running into something fragile and expensive, but then you're stuck with small robots that can't do a whole heck of a lot. Another solution is to put your robots in protective cages, but then you're stuck with robots that can't as easily interact with their environment, even if they want to. Ideally, you'd want a robot that doesn't need that level of protection, that's somehow large and powerful but also small and nimble at the same time.


Video Friday: Kuka's Home Robot, Nao Upgrade, and Bionic Cuttlefish

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

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 few 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. Kuka, who has a near monopoly on industrial robots that are painted orange, is now getting into consumer robots. Our i-do concept study, that we presented at Hannover Fair 2018, goes a considerable step further, however.


Alphabet's DeepMind Makes a Key Advance in Computer Vision

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Researchers at Alphabet's DeepMind today described a method that they say can construct a three-dimensional layout from just a handful of two-dimensional snapshots. So far the method, based on deep neural networks, has been confined to virtual environments, they write in Science magazine. Natural environments are still too hard for current algorithms and hardware to handle. The article doesn't speculate on commercial applications, and the authors weren't available for interview. That gives me license to speculate: The new method might be useful for any surveillance system that has to reconstruct a crime from a few snapshots.


AI Drone Learns to Detect Brawls

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Drones armed with computer vision software could enable new forms of automated skyborne surveillance to watch for violence below. One glimpse of that future comes from UK and Indian researchers who demonstrated a drone surveillance system that can automatically detect small groups of people fighting each other. The seed idea for researchers to develop such a drone surveillance system was first planted in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured hundreds in 2013. It was not until the Manchester Arena bombing that killed 23 and wounded 139--including many children leaving an Ariana Grande concert--when the researchers made some progress. This time, they harnessed a form of the popular artificial intelligence technique known as deep learning.


Stealthy Startup Aims to Reinvent AI for Manufacturing

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

What exactly is the "future of autonomous manufacturing?" According to venture capitalist and AutoLab AI cofounder Lior Susan, stealth startup AutoLab AI is building it, but isn't defining it yet, at least not publicly. That kind of cryptic chatter doesn't usually get Silicon Valley talking--more likely yawning, or at most mumbling about vaporware. But AutoLab AI, according to Axios, already has 400 employees and some serious funding. It's not clear where those employees are hiding; the Palo Alto address for the company points to a small suite of offices at best.


Verity Studios Raises $18M for Safe Swarming Drone Displays

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Verity Studios, which took precision drone swarm technology from ETH Zurich and turned it into a spectacular live event display system, has announced a round of Series A funding totaling US $18 million from Fontinalis Partners, Airbus Ventures, Sony Innovation Fund, and Kitty Hawk. This is a lot of money for a company that most people may not know exists even if they view a Verity-powered drone show firsthand, but that's part of what makes Verity special: Everything they do is reliable, seamless, and safe, leading to experiences that have a truly mesmerizing effect. The reason we follow companies like Verity so closely, and the reason why we're happy when they get funded, is because they've managed to transition some fairly amazing robotics research into a successful business, which is a very difficult thing to do. The kinds of things that make Verity special come from over a decade of work at the Flying Machine Arena at ETH Zurich, led by Professor Raffaello D'Andrea, a lot of which we've covered in the past. For example, Verity's drones are fully redundant, able to recover from "a failed battery, a failed motor, a failed connector, a failed propeller, a failed sensor, or a failure of any other component ... through the duplication of critical components and the use of proprietary algorithms, which enable safe emergency responses to component failures."


Video Friday: Curiosity Rover, Giant Crab Robot, and Drone Umbrella

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

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 few 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. Since its epic landing on Mars in 2012, rappelling down to the surface like a robot commando, the Curiosity Mars rover has been one of our favorite robots of all time, and space. Not only it's an impressive piece of engineering, it's also an amazing exploration tool to help humanity answer questions we've been asking ourselves for a very long time, including: Are we alone?


Can a Robot Be Divine?

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Robots appear to be in the middle of a gradual but persistent transition from automated tools that perform specific tasks to artificially intelligent entities that we interact with socially and emotionally. It's not at all clear where this is going to end up--people toss around the idea of robot companionship and even robot love with some frequency, for example. What hasn't been explored nearly as much is the idea of robots in a religious context. We've seen a few examples of robots assisting in religious tasks, but what if robots could take things a step farther, and become sacred objects, embodying divinity within a robot itself? At the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction (HRI) in March, Gabriele Trovato from Waseda University in Japan (with colleagues from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú) presented a paper taking a look at whether divine robots might be possible, and why it could be useful to develop such robots in the first place.