Kinect@home Needs Your Help Identifying Objects: Science Fiction in the News


Kinect@home is a Swedish program that encourages humans to help robots in identifying common household objects. The intent is to build a library of objects that robots can consult as they maneuver around your house.

Robot bears are coming for your grandparents


Indeed, some 13 percent of the American population is now 65 or older, though a recent report from the Pew Research Center suggests that figure will nearly double by midcentury. Last year, the company introduced a "self-reliance support robot" -- essentially a smart walker that recognizes when the user's weight shifts, enabling it to support and guide her as she stands or sits. It's a heavy-lift robot designed to gently scoop elderly folks from their beds and deposit them into a wheelchair. The unfortunately acronym-ed HAL (hybrid assistive limb) system from the dubiously named Cyberdyne Corp., on the other hand, is already being tested at Haneda airport in Tokyo.

Blossom: A Handmade Approach to Social Robotics from Cornell and Google

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Guy Hoffman, who is well known for the fascinating creativity of his robot designs, has been working on a completely new kind of social robot in a collaboration between his lab at Cornell and Google ZOO's creative technology team in APAC. Guy Hoffman: Looking at the design of the huge number of social robots revealed in recent years, there are a lot of repetitive features: white shiny plastic with metal or black accents, glass screens and smooth, rounded lines and edges. The soft components give the robot a physical compliance which make Blossom move in an imperfect, lifelike way, and would be impossible to recreate with rigid components. The Blossom project is a collaboration between Hoffman's lab at Cornell and the team at Google ZOO's creative technology team in APAC.

The future of funerals? Robot priest launched to undercut human-led rites

The Guardian

In Japan robots can serve as companions, helpers for the elderly, entertainment bots and even sexual partners, but now SoftBank's humanoid robot Pepper has put itself up for hire as a Buddhist priest for funerals. Taking the German blessing bot's idea and running with it, Pepper's new code will let it chant sutras in a computerised voice while tapping a drum, providing a cheaper alternative to a human priest to see your loved ones off into the eternal sleep. The robot was on display on Wednesday at a funeral industry fair, the Life Ending Industry Expo, in Tokyo, shown off by plastic molding maker Nissei Eco. With the average cost of a funeral in Japan reaching in excess of £20,000, according to data from Japan's Consumer Association in 2008, and human priests costing £1,700, Nissei Eco is looking to undercut the market with Pepper available for just £350 per funeral.

Custom robots in a matter of minutes

MIT News

In a new paper, they present a system called "Interactive Robogami" that lets you design a robot in minutes, and then 3-D print and assemble it in as little as four hours. Despite these developments, current design tools still have space and motion limitations, and there's a steep learning curve to understanding the various nuances. "3-D printing lets you print complex, rigid structures, while 2-D fabrication gives you lightweight but strong structures that can be produced quickly," Sung says. "By 3-D printing 2-D patterns, we can leverage these advantages to develop strong, complex designs with lightweight materials."

Robot Funeral: Human-Like Bot 'Pepper' Can Perform Last Rites

International Business Times

Japanese plastic molding maker Nissei Eco Co. created software for Pepper The Robot enabling the humanoid to chant Buddhist mantras and recite sutras typically performed by monks at funerals. The robot displayed its funeral rite capabilities – including sutras chanted in a computerized voice and a drum ritual -- at a Wednesday funeral industry event in Tokyo, the Life Ending Industry Expo. Pepper's two 2D cameras, 4 microphones, 2 speakers, and engaging hi-res tablet allow it to engage with you in seamless interactions #robots Softbank Robotics' various worldwide branches have touted Pepper for being able to "engage with you in seamless interactions." Buddhist priest Tetsugi Matsuo told Reuters he visited the Life Ending Industry Expo to see if Pepper was up to the task for bringing the "heart aspect to a machine because I believe that the'heart' is the foundation of religion."

The 7 Best Sci-Fi Movies You Can Stream Right Now, From 'E.T.' to 'Ex Machina'


While investigating a disturbance in his own backyard, a young boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) discovers E.T.--a strange little creature who was mistakenly left behind by his fellow glowing-finger alien friends. If ever there were a movie that stood as proof that style over substance is not necessarily a bad thing, it would be Dark City, Alex Proyas' Metropolis-inspired follow-up to The Crow. But the real shocker comes when a monster attacks the city, and puts a quick end to their revelry (and some of the partygoers' lives). But if the Coen brothers' Oscar-winning 2007 film No Country for Old Men proved one thing, it's that--in the right director's hands--McCarthy's deft understanding of the human mind (both good and bad) can make for one hell of a movie.

MIT makes it easy for beginners to design robots


CSAIL's Interactive Robogami system makes it possible to conjure up a robot design in minutes and to put it together in an hour or two. This print-and-fold method apparently reduces the amount of materials needed by 70 percent and the printing time by 73 percent. It still took 3 to 7 hours to print all the components needed for each robot during the team's tests, but the whole process still didn't take a lot of time overall. Their subjects, all of whom only went through 20 minutes of training, were able to design robotic cars within 10 to 15 minutes and assemble their creations within half an hour to an hour-and-a-half.

Flipboard on Flipboard


The researchers analyzed how computers interpreted words from Google News and a 840 billion-word dataset used by computer scientists, and they found that machines linked "male" and "man" with STEM fields and "woman" and "female" with chores. Another study published last summer found that when software based on Google News was asked "Man is to computer programmer as woman is to X," it responded, "homemaker." The way artificial intelligence identifies words and images is based on the way people use them, so in order to promote a more egalitarian world, engineers would have to intervene in the creation of the software. Eric Horvitz, director of Microsoft Research, told Wired that Microsoft has a committee for this.

AI Demystified: Shaping the future for positive change


And while it is executing tasks that "require human intelligence," the tasks themselves – like mass data analysis or translation, complex calculations or immediate responsiveness – are rarely those which people are otherwise capable of or willing to perform. It requires humans to help AI understand language and make subjective decisions for a business. At a recent Stanford University conference, Andy Slavitt, former acting director, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said that the expansion of AI in healthcare is designed to address productivity concerns. As the healthcare industry undergoes several paradigm shifts – from fee-for-service to value-based care, impersonal to precision medicine, traditional to digital healthcare delivery – AI is becoming essential.