Category Archives: AI Robotics

iRobot and Raytheon’s All-in-One Robot Fabricator: Hide Your Kids, The Robocalypse Is Nigh

irobot_robot_machine

technabob.com | Feb 1, 2013

by: Range

OK, so basically, self-replicating robots are a no-no when it comes to robotics, because you don’t want them to start taking over the planet and exterminating humans. I for one, don’t welcome our robotic overlords.  iRobot and Raytheon recently filed a patent which could be the source of something scarily robotic. Thankfully, this isn’t exactly what they’re after, but it wouldn’t take much to make so-called “von Neumann machines” a reality with this device in hand.

The patent for the Robot Fabricator is for a machine that would allow products of all sorts to be autonomously constructed. Its capabilites would range from the creation of seed components to the assembly of finished products without any direct human involvement.

While we’re still quite far from the scenario of what happened in the Dune novels by Frank Herbert, in which machines enslaved humanity, things could still go very wrong very quickly. If such a device got into the wrong hands grippers, robots could be popping up everywhere. Scary, huh?

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“Cost-effective, hygienic” robots to replace humans at fast-food joints

Honda_s_Asimo_r
Its creators believe their patty-flipping Alpha robot could save the fast-food industry in the United States about US$9 billion (Dh33.05bn) a year. Designed to entirely replace two to three full-time kitchen staff, it can grill a beef patty, layer it with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions, put it in a bun, and wrap it up to go – no less than 360 times an hour. Momentum believes kitchen robots are not only more cost-effective than human staff, they are also more hygienic.

California’s Silicon Valley is in the throes of giving birth to its next world-changing technology – robotics.

thenational.ae | Sep 30, 2012

by Tony Glover

Start-up companies are scrambling to develop humanoid-stye robots to cater for a growing demand from both businesses and consumers.

Silicon Valley Robotics, which represents 40 organisations, reports a boom in robotics start-ups in San Francisco in addition to more established companies elsewhere in the area concentrating on industrial robotics.

The start-up robot firm Momentum Machines is one. Funded by San Francisco’s Lemnos Labs, it has developed a robot designed to take the place of humans in burger restaurants. Its creators believe their patty-flipping Alpha robot could save the fast-food industry in the United States about US$9 billion (Dh33.05bn) a year. Designed to entirely replace two to three full-time kitchen staff, it can grill a beef patty, layer it with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions, put it in a bun, and wrap it up to go – no less than 360 times an hour. Momentum believes kitchen robots are not only more cost-effective than human staff, they are also more hygienic.

Silicon Valley technology industry watchers believe businesses will be early adopters of 21st-Century robotics technology.

“Like PCs, we’ll likely see the first wave in business because it can handle the costs more readily and then move to the high end of the consumer market,” says the Rob Enderle, the principal analyst at the Enderle Group, based in Silicon Valley.

He adds the robotics industry is at about the same early stage in its evolution as the personal computing industry was in the 1980s but believes it will mature more quickly.

“Up until now we’ve had large industrial robots at one end and limited toys at the other. But suddenly we are starting to see designs that start to explore the true potential of increasingly autonomous devices,” says Mr Enderle.

“Technology is cycling far more quickly now than it did in the 1980s, so I expect that we’ll see a much faster ramp once the first truly viable large-volume products hit the market.”

Many of the big technology investors are, however, awaiting the arrival of another Bill Gates or Steve Jobs before fully committing themselves.

“Apple was the firm that sparked personal computing, where there had been a lot of activity but no successful large-scale production prior to them. We are in the same space, just waiting for that break-out firm to light the fire that will make this market hot,” says Mr Enderle.

But he adds there is an increasing number of firms involved in the race to dominate robotics.

“We are close; we are just waiting for a good spark and this market should move very quickly,” he says

Coincidentally, Apple itself is about to become increasingly reliant on robotics. Foxconn, based in Taiwan, which manufactures Apple iPhones and iPads, is reported to be replacing many of its 1.2 million human staff with robots. Foxconn is said to be planning to spend billions on deploying a worldwide workforce of one million robots.

While this may come as a relief to Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook, who is recoiling after a barrage of bad publicity surrounding allegedly poor working conditions at Foxconn, it poses another potential publicity problem. In times of high unemployment, an attempt to replace human workers is problematic.

Just as industrialisation once resulted in mass unemployment among skilled traditional tradesmen in western economies, the coming widespread use of robots in working environments such as factories and restaurants is likely to spark political controversy. Many blue-collar and low-paid so-called “McJobs” in places such as fast-food restaurants are the only work option for millions of people in the US and in other struggling economies.

Silicon Valley companies are not the only contenders to become the Apple of robotics. Although Silicon Valley is trailblazing the robotics industry in the US, there are also other robotics industries springing up around the world. Competition is rapidly emerging from Asia and Europe.

In Japan, Honda’s Asimo robot, standing 130cm in height, not only serves tea but has also been designed to gather and process enough information to generate autonomous behaviour without being controlled by an operator.

Similarly in France, Aldebaran Robotics’ 60cm high Nao is already being used in some classrooms internationally.

Once synergies start to appear between the world’s nascent robotics industries, the speed of innovation is likely to accelerate.

Just as with personal computing, Silicon Valley is set play a crucial role in the development of this industry. In addition to groundbreaking work being done in robotics design, the area has a history of being able to turn cutting-edge but often abstract technology into shiny and desirable mass-produced products. Within the next decade, consumers buying their next PC may opt for one with arms and legs.

“I think this will be the decade of robotics,” predicts Mr Enderle.

DARPA’s Deep-Sea Sleeper Drones Fly Out of the Ocean

LMSW Cormorant launch
LMSW Cormorant launch. Concept: Lockheed Martin

aviationweek.com | Jan 11, 2013

by Graham Warwick

Arguing it is costly and complex to send large numbers of warships to forward operating areas – and that the energy and logistics needed to deploy lower-cost unmanned systems over oceanic distances limits their usefulness – DARPA has come with another idea.

That idea is to pre-deploy “deep-ocean nodes” in forward areas years in advance. These would be commanded from a safe stand-off distance to launch to the surface and release waterborne or airborne unmanned systems to disperse and provide ISR or “non-lethal effects” over a wide area in contested environments.

The program is called Upward Falling Payload (UFP), and DARPA plans to brief industry at a proposers’ day on Jan 25 in Washington, DC.

The UFP system would, the notice says, comprise three elements: “The ‘payload’ which executes waterborne or airborne applications after being deployed to the surface; the UFP ‘riser’ which provides pressure-tolerant encapsulation and launch (ascent) of the payload; and the communications which triggers the UFP riser to launch.”

DARPA plans a multi-phase effort to demonstrate the UFP systems. Details are sparse, but the program sounds like it could build on previous efforts such as Lockheed Martin Skunk Work’s Cormorant submarine-launched UAV (pictured above), which was cancelled in 2008. Cormorant was to be a high-performance UAV, but there has been other work on the encapsulated, underwater launch of small UAVs.

The research agency has looked at other ways of forward-deploying unmanned systems. One was Rapid Eye, which was a concept to deploy the UAV a long distance at short notice by rocket, releasing it to unfold and power up in the upper atmosphere. Another was Vulture, a large solar-electric UAV designed to stay aloft and ready in the stratosphere almost indefinitely, Neither got to the flying stage.

Lockheed Cormorant unmanned aircraft

In Prison for Protesting Drones

huffingtonpost.com | Jan 8, 2013

By John Dear

RQ-9_PredatorThis week, the president nominated the head of the U.S. drones program, responsible for killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to be his new head of the C.I.A. That is appropriate, because the C.I.A. runs the U.S. torture, rendition, assassination and mass murder program in conjunction with the Pentagon. Of course, all of this pure evil goes contrary to everything the nonviolent Jesus taught. What do we do? We protest the ongoing killings by these evil U.S. drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, continue to call for nonviolent conflict resolution, try to build a movement of nonviolence and take nonviolent risks to stop the killings.

My friend Brian Terrell has taken many nonviolent risks to say No to a future of drones and permanent war. A long time peace activist, a member of the Creech14, and a founder of the “Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm” in Maloy, Iowa, he is currently serving six months in the federal prison in Yankton, South Dakota for protesting our evil U.S. drones program.

On April 15, 2012, Brian and two other friends walked onto the Whiteman Air Force Base in central Missouri to present a letter to the base commander calling for an end to the U.S. drone warfare. They tried to make the case that dropping bombs on women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan will not lead to peace, much less improve our own security, but in fact, inspire thousands of people to join the violent movements against the United States. Of course, they were immediately arrested, tried, and sentenced in Federal Court. While our recent government war criminals, Wall Street criminals, and torturers go free, Brian is holed up in a cell in South Dakota.

His wife Betsy told me on the phone yesterday that she had a good New Year’s Day visit with Brian, and he recently wrote me an upbeat letter. He hopes to be released in late May. This is Brian’s third arrest for protesting drones. In an article for their newsletter, Brian described their action:

At the Whiteman base, Ron, Mark and I attempted, on behalf of a larger group of protestors, to deliver an “indictment” to Brigadier General Scott A. Vander Hamm, the base’s commander. Our indictment charged the chain of command, from President Obama to General Vander Hamm to the drone crews at Whiteman “with the following crimes: extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation of national sovereignty, and the killing of innocent civilians.” It noted the fact that “extrajudicial targeted killings by the use of unmanned air-craft drones by the United States of America are intentional, premeditated and deliberate use of lethal force in violation of U.S. and international human rights law” and demanded that these crimes immediately cease. Our polite request to the base sentries for directions to headquarters to deliver the indictment was denied and our way blocked by military police who handcuffed us and took us away. Our thirty or so companions, clearly exercising the constitutionally-protected right to peaceably assemble for the redress of grievances, were chased off the property by about fifty Air Force personnel in full riot gear who performed a carefully if grotesquely choreographed drill routine, complete with goosesteps and synchronized grunts and beating of clubs on shields.

The notorious Whiteman AFB used to launch B-2 Stealth bombers that flew directly to Iraq, where they dropped their bombs, killed thousands of children, and then turned around and flew home to Missouri, just in time for their Air Force pilots to have dinner with their families. They were also used at the beginning of our war on Afghanistan. These days, Whiteman AFB is building up its Drones program, so that the killing can be done by remote control and robotic fighter bombers.

In his sentencing statement before the judge on October 11, 2012, Brian tried to make the case that the drones should be put on trial. Here’s an excerpt:

Each of the government’s witnesses, all of them Air Force police personnel, testified that participants in this protest were nonviolent, respectful and peaceable in assembling at Whiteman Air Force Base, a government installation, to petition that government for redress of a grievance, demanding that the remote control killing carried out daily from Whiteman cease. They testified that at no time, before or during our protest, did they perceive us as a threat. Our expert witnesses testified that our behavior was consistent with the activities that the drafters of the First Amendment intended to be protected, not persecuted, by the government. The order and security of the base would not have been compromised had the security police allowed us to proceed to the headquarters to deliver our petition. No testimony to the contrary was offered this court.

Instead of planning to accommodate a constitutionally protected peaceable assembly, however, the Air Force chose intimidation and conspired to deprive us of the rights they are sworn to protect. We learned from government witnesses that that the phalanx of goose-stepping riot police is a “Confrontation Management Team,” deployed only in the case of preannounced events. Whiteman security did not call out the Team to defend the base but to intimidate citizens engaged in lawful activities.

The court was mistaken a month ago when it said that our group was “allowed” to assemble on the highway right of way by the Air Force and that this space provided for us met free speech requirements of reasonable time and place. This place in question is not only outside the base’s jurisdiction, it is outside the sight and hearing of anyone on the base. The court’s decision is part of a widening disintegration of civil liberties, where speech is tolerated only in designated and remote “free speech zones” where it cannot be heard by the government, and criminalized in any place where that speech might actually have a chance to be understood. Intended or not, the court’s message is a chilling one- that a citizens’ constitutional right to assemble to petition the government extends only to places outside government facilities and where the government does not have to hear it. The court’s easy dismissal of international law as not “trumping” domestic law has precedents, but is all the more disturbing for this fact.

Last fall, I was on trial for a drone protest in a New York State where, in contrast to this court, former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark was permitted to testify on international law. Judge Gideon, after listening to Ramsey Clark speak of the Nuremburg Principles at length, leaned over the bench and asked him, “This is all interesting, but what is the enforcement mechanism? Who is responsible for enforcing international law?” “They are,” responded Mr. Clark, pointing to us defendants, “and so,” he said to Judge Gideon, “are you!” Every citizen is responsible under international law and every judge more so.

In our trial here last month, as at our protest in April, our intention has been to put the illegally operated predator drones on trial and so we have focused on the machines that are sowing death and terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan by remote control from Whiteman Air Force Base. It was never our intention to address or to protest the weapons system that is the larger mission of Whiteman, namely the B-2 Stealth Bomber. However, Judge Whitworth, both in sentencing Mark Kenney and in our trial, you noted that your commitment to maintain the security of the B-2 weighs heavily in your decisions. For a judge to admit to being swayed by a consideration other than the law, not to mention when that consideration is the security of weapons of mass destruction, raises obvious questions about that judge’s impartiality.

For my part, Judge Whitworth, I am grateful to you for calling our attention to the larger picture. It is not, of course, the technology of robotics that we protest but the murderous and criminal uses the government puts it to. Drones are the weapon of choice in the current administration’s wars of aggression, but it was the B-2s from Whiteman that first violated Afghan airspace eleven years ago this week and began killing the people of Afghanistan. The crimes against humanity that began in October, 2001, with B-2 airstrikes on a defenseless civilian population continue today with drones operated from that very same base. The B-2 Bomber, blasphemously nicknamed the “Spirit Bomber,” is also ready at a moment’s notice to commit the ultimate and unthinkable war crime of delivering a first strike nuclear payload to any place on earth. A cold war boondoggle, the B-2’s stealth capability shields it from radar the Soviets never got around to developing before their own tragic empire finally imploded.

On the official website for Whiteman Air Force Base I found the base’s mission statement. It is as brief as it is vicious: “Skilled and proud Airmen providing full spectrum, expeditionary, B-2 global strike and combat support capabilities to geographic commanders and the Commander, US STRATCOM, while supporting Team Whiteman. We kick down doors and kill targets… Weapons on Target, On Time!”

I have visited Afghanistan and know that eleven years of NATO troops “kicking down doors” has not brought peace there. Often soldiers don’t seem to know whose door they’ve kicked in or whether the “target” they kill is who they are hunting for. B-2 bombers from a great height or even drones with state of the art video feed do no better. We know that even children are sometimes named as targets to be killed by drones. Children regularly are among their “collateral damage.” The targets themselves are often victims of assassination rather than legitimate casualties of war.

Eleven years of kicking down doors has only made the world a more frightening place and has earned our nation more enemies and less security. Whiteman’s mission is not counter-terrorism; it is terrorism. [See the Catholic Worker website: http://www.justpeace.org]

While Brian was settling in to the horrors of the U.S. prison system last month, I was visiting Afghanistan. There, the youth of the Afghan Peace Volunteers told me that no one there knows who is or who is not a member of the Taliban. How do the U.S. soldiers ten thousand miles away back in America know who are members of the Taliban, they asked me? Most of the drone raids end up killing women and children, they said, as they told me their stories of grief and death.

“When Gandhi was talking about the cycle of violence, I think he was talking about something just as provable as the laws of physics,” Brian told the local newspaper the day before entering prison (see “American Drone Strikes Must Stop,” Yankton Press, Nov. 30, http://www.yankton.net). “We’re taking the Golden Rule and turning it inside out. We’ll do unto other people the worst thing we could imagine happening to us so that it won’t happen to us. But you’re not going to stop your neighbor from wanting to hurt you by hurting your neighbor.”

“There is an Arab proverb that says that a true prophet is a person who can love at long distance,” Brian continued. “I think what the American people desperately need is, while we have this technology to kill people who are very far away and strange to us, to be at least as ready and work just as hard to figure out how we can love the people who are so far away. I think our best ethical, moral and religious energy needs to be put toward loving these people. Otherwise, we’re just making the world a much more dangerous and scary place.”

As we begin a new year, I invite us to heed the peace witness of Brian Terrell and consider what more we ourselves can do for peace. Change comes through grassroots movement building, creative nonviolent action, and nonviolent risks for justice and peace.

May Brian’s prison witness touch our hard-hearts and inspire us to do our part to end drones, bombs, torture, and warfare, once and for all.

Letters of support can be sent to: Brian Terrell, #06125-02, FPC Yankton, Fed. Prison Camp, P.O. Box 700, Yankton, South Dakota, 57078.

The National Intelligence Council Predicts a Very Transhuman Future by 2030

exo-skeleton pushups
A soldier testing an exoskeleton prototype

vigilantcitizen.com | Jan 7, 2013

The National Intelligence Council is a high-level agency best known for producing National Intelligence Estimates – forecasts predicting future trends and issues of the next fifteen years. These extensive reports are produced every election year and are directly delivered to the  incoming President between Election Day and Inauguration Day. The latest NIC report released on December 2012 is called Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds (read it here) and discusses several issues such as the decline of the role of the United States as a global policeman and the rise of non-state actors in world politics. It also mentions another key issue: A fast-paced race towards transhumanism.

“Human Augmentation” is indeed considered a key issue in the next 15 years as new technologies will allow all kinds of modifications “ranging from implants and prosthetics to powered exoskeletons, human augmentation enhancing innate human abilities”. These augmentations would be used on soldiers, workers and anyone that can afford them, giving them “super-human” powers and capabilities, whether it be on a physical or a mental level.

Some might say: “That sounds cool VC, what is wrong with that? Why do you always say that it is wrong”. I personally never described transhumanism as being “right” or “wrong”, I do make these kinds of judgement calls. I however do have facts about the issue. First, transhumanism is undeniably being actively pushed by mass media and promoted as something that is necessary and inevitable in the future; Second, it is a logical continuation of the Luciferian philosophy held by the world elite where godhood and immortality is meant to be achieved by humans by their own means. In fact, Max More, a leading transhumanist philosopher considers himself as a “Luciferian”.

“The Devil—Lucifer—is a force for good (where I define ‘good’ simply as that which I value, not wanting to imply any universal validity or necessity to the orientation). ‘Lucifer’ means ‘light-bringer’ and this should begin to clue us in to his symbolic importance. The story is that God threw Lucifer out of Heaven because Lucifer had started to question God and was spreading dissension among the angels. We must remember that this story is told from the point of view of the Godists (if I may coin a term) and not from that of the Luciferians (I will use this term to distinguish us from the official Satanists with whom I have fundamental differences). The truth may just as easily be that Lucifer resigned from heaven.
– Max More, “In Praise of the Devil”.

Lastly, due to the prohibitive cost of “human augmentation”, transhumanism will only be available to the richest and most powerful people and the world (the world elite) and will created an even wider gap between the “masses” and the “elite”. The National Intelligence Council report states:

“The high cost of human augmentation means that it probably will be available in 15-20 years only to those who are able to pay. Such a situation may lead to a two-tiered society.”

Full Story

 

DARPA’s scary-looking Robot Mule has ability to maneuver in an urban environment taking verbal commands

Mule

LS3 Four-Legged Robot Plays Follow the Leader

Testing shows advances in robot’s autonomy, maneuverability and recovery

darpa.mil | Dec 19, 2012

For the past two weeks, in the woods of central Virginia around Fort Pickett, the Legged Squad Support System (LS3) four-legged robot has been showing off its capabilities during field testing. Working with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL), researchers from DARPA’s LS3 program demonstrated new advances in the robot’s control, stability and maneuverability, including “Leader Follow” decision making, enhanced roll recovery, exact foot placement over rough terrain, the ability to maneuver in an urban environment, and verbal command capability.

The LS3 program seeks to demonstrate that a highly mobile, semi-autonomous legged robot can carry 400 lbs of a squad’s equipment, follow squad members through rugged terrain and interact with troops in a natural way similar to a trained animal with its handler. The robot could also be able to maneuver at night and serve as a mobile auxiliary power source to the squad, so troops can recharge batteries for radios and handheld devices while on patrol.

“This was the first time DARPA and MCWL were able to get LS3 out on the testing grounds together to simulate military-relevant training conditions,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Hitt, DARPA program manager. “The robot’s performance in the field expanded on our expectations, demonstrating, for example, how voice commands and “follow the leader” capability would enhance the robot’s ability to interact with warfighters. We were able to put the robot through difficult natural terrain and test its ability to right itself with minimal interaction from humans.”

Video from the testing shows the robot negotiating diverse terrain including ditches, streams, wooded slopes and simulated urban environments. The video also shows the map the LS3 perception system creates to determine the path it takes.

The December testing at Fort Pickett is the first in a series of planned demonstrations that will test the robot’s capabilities across different environments as development continues through the first half of 2014.

The DARPA platform developer for the LS3 system is Boston Dynamics of Waltham, Mass.

Ron Paul’s transhumanist Bilderberg financier Peter Thiel looks forward to a computerized system of robotic justice after “Singularity”

Peter-Thiel-007

Will the Singularity Improve the Legal System? Peter Thiel Seems to Think So

The future of law will be computerized.

betabeat.com |Dec 7, 2012

By Patrick Clark

Here’s a Friday afternoon head-scratcher: What will legal systems look like in 1,000 years? No, really. If our arbiters of right and wrong become more highly automated, will we be smoothing over the imperfections of Lady Justice, or placing our respective fates in the hands of heartless machines. What will sentencing guidelines be like after the singularity?

If it’s not clear yet, we’ve been reading an account of a Peter Thiel guest lecture in a Stanford Law School course on legal technology. This is not for the faint of heart.

“So the set of all intelligent machines would be the superset of all aliens,” write Blake Masters in an essay describing the lecture. “The range and diversity of possible computers is actually much bigger than the range of possible life forms under known rules.”

In other words, who the hell knows. But also, probably we would be better in the hands of computers, and maybe here’s how:

Our human-based legal system is dependent on the arbitrariness of the actors, that’s sometimes bad, and sometimes good. Bad in the case of a biased jury or a pissed off judge. Good because if we all got hauled into court every time we broke the law we’d spend our lives shuttling back-and-forth from jail.

But if automated legal technology means fewer law-breakers escape the long arm, something will have to give:

If uniformly enforcing current laws would land everyone in jail, and transparency is only increasing, we’ll pretty much have to become a more tolerant society.

In which case, we may join Mr. Thiel in looking forward to a Hal of justice.

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