Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2013-2014

Executive Producers: J. H. Wyman, J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk

Created by: J. H. Wyman

Produced by: Frequency Films, Bad Robot, Warner Brothers Television

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Detective John Kennex: Karl Urban
  • DRN-0167, aka “Dorian”: Michael Ealy
  • Detective Valerie Stah: Minka Kelly
  • Rudy Lom: Mackenzie Crook
  • Detective Richard Paul:Michael Irby
  • Captain Sandra Maldonado: Lili Taylor
  • Rating: 8 out of 10

    Almost Human (Dorian re-awakens)

    Once in a great while a TV show comes along that wake you up. And when it’s a cyberpunk show…

    Overview: Almost missed out on Almost Human, Fox TV’s latest attempt at a cyberpunk/sci-fi show. Really didn’t know about this until mid-Febuary, and then it was almost too late. Mostly because of a similar sounding show on SyFy called Being Human which was more supernatural than sci-fi. Now I need to catch up with the reruns, or try video on demand (even if I have to purchase), or wait until the DVD, or maybe Pirate Bay… only as a last resort (Amazon already has season one for download). But based on what I have seen from the pilot and season finale, this may be one that’s going to stay for a while… but it has some serious past history to overcome, more later.

    At first glance, Almost Human sounds like your typical police-buddy drama with a cyberpunk twist. That might be true, but there’s more to it. Check this:

     

    The Story: The year 2048 sees rapid advances in science and technology; Too rapid for legal and government systems to control. The crime rate has jumped 400%, fueled by organized crime groups quick to exploit the lag. The most successful organization is the Insyndicate group. Desperate to combat these groups, police departments implement a new strategy: Pair human officers with an MX series advanced combat android.

    Detective John Kennex (Urban) leads a raid on an Insyndicate warehouse, only to have his team wiped out in an ambush. Refusing to leave a critically injured partner, he is abandoned by his MX android. While trying to evacuate the scene with his partner, an explosive device goes off, amputating Kennex’s leg and killing his partner.

    Two years later, Kennex is left with a prosthetic leg, damaged memories, psychological problems, and a girlfriend who abandoned him (possibly joining Insyndicate). While seeing an unlicensed “recollectionist” (a doctor who helps people recover lost memories), Kennex is called back to duty when Insyndicate robs an armored transport carrying synthetic, programmable DNA. Unhappy with his MX android partner wanting to report his behavior, and still stinging from the last one abandoning him, Kennex decides to gently “dismiss” his partner:

    Almost Human (GTFO)

    GTFO!

    With no more MX androids available, Kennex is assigned an older android: DRN-0167 (Ealy) who prefers to be called “Dorian”. DRN androids were programmed to have human emotions, but many became “unstable” and were decommissioned and replaced with the highly-logical MX series. Dorian had been “offline” for three years before being reawakened to be Kennex’s partner. Despite their differences, they will need to work together to bring down Insyndicate and stop a mole in the police ranks.

     

    Almost Human (Pilot screencap)

    Any similarities between Almost Human and Blade Runner is somewhat intended.

    The Lighter Side of Cyberpunk? If the above screenshot looks too similar to Blade Runner, that was intended. Creator J.H. Wyman claimed that he “deliberately wanted to create a ‘hopeful’ interpretation of the future” as opposed to the darker visions of cyberpunk we’re accustomed to. Surprisingly, this doesn’t seem to detract from the overall cyberpunk-ness of the series, especially since it’s really about Kennex and Dorian, and their growing “ro-bromance” (The leading term for this budding human-android relationship). Such buddy-ships are often keys to a good cop film or series, and Almost Human takes it to a new level with the emerging android technology. Like any relationship, there are bound to be good times, there are bound to be bad times,…

    “I apologize for scanning your balls.”

    … and there are bound to be times that will totally rustle your jimmes.

     

    History Never Repeats… We Hope. Sounds like Almost Human has what it takes to be a hit series. Unfortunately, the ratings says no and now it looks like the program’s only chance of being renewed is for a bunch of other Fox shows to crap out (Hey, it worked for Family Guy). The problem isn’t due to the show itself; It’s actually quite good… at least it’s better than CBS’s less-than-watchable Intelligence. But the show does have three major strikes against it:

    First strike: Fox itself. The network’s track record with cyberpunk shows has been quite underwhelming. Remember early efforts like Harsh Realm and VR.5? VR.5 did last long enough to see a season… or series… finale; Harsh Realm wasn’t so lucky. More recent shows Dark Angel and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles saw a second season, though some say Connor lasted one season too long. It seems that sci-fi shows I like last only two seasons before they pull the plug. I’m expecting Almost Human to follow suit.

    Strike two: The human-android-cop-buddy concept isn’t exactly original. It’s been tried before… several times, with none lasting beyond season one. Search IMDB for the shows Mann and Machine, Future Cop, Holmes and Yo-Yo, and Total Recall 2070. The syndicated Total Recall 2070 fared the best, lasting 22 episodes before having its plug pulled, but ultimately none lasted beyond season one. I put the blame on the screwball Holmes and Yo-Yo (#33 in TV Guide’s 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time) for poisoning the interest of the human-android-buddy-cops concept. There is humor in Almost Human, but it’s more of a dry, almost British sort laced with dark sarcasm (example: see GIF above).

    Then again, the concept of robots/androids living and working among humans remains a touchy subject to most outside of Japan. Even now, that concept still generates friction amongst the meaty who still have visions of Skynet and robot takeovers burned into their BIOSs. Even with today’s advances, Almost Human may still give some cause for alarm with “robots intent on removing humanity and taking over the world, starting by taking over human jobs.”

    Regardless of why the prior shows failed, Almost Human hopefully learned from their mistakes.

    Strike three: Have you seen what’s on US TV schedules lately? Shoehorned between the reality (lack of) talent shows, the American airwaves are virtually choking on “procedural dramas.” Not that the format is new or unpopular, but it seems that such shows have been on the air since the original Law and Order debuted in 1990, and shows no sign of abating anytime soon. This glut is one reason why I haven’t been watching TV lately. The last thing we need… or I need… is yet another CSI-NCIS-SVU-SUV-DDT-TNT-ACDC-KMFDM-NRBQ-R2D2-C3P0-TMZ-DMZ-DVD-VCR-DVR-USB-ISA-SCSI-SATA-IDE-KKK-XXX-RSVP-LOL-ROFLMAO-ZOMG-WTF-BBQ clogging the networks. Then again, they don’t have futuristic technologies and sarcastic androids, so that may be an advantage.

     

    Conclusion: No word yet on on the fate of Almost Human which may or may not be good news. Hopefully FOX will renew, but it looks more likely that it will be picked up on cable. Hope you have been watching, or at least recording to watch. This is one show that needs to be watched, especially by cyberpunk fans. Only once in a great while does a show come along that has such cyberpunk goodness. Do watch this show, by any means necessary. Then pester FOX until they renew it. And if FOX doesn’t renew…

    Almost Human (GTFO)

    GTFO!

    … Then pester the cable networks to pick it up.

    This post has been filed under TV Episodes, Cyberpunk movies from 2010 - 2019, Made for TV, Dystopic Future Movies, 8 Star Movies, Android Movies by Mr. Roboto.

    February 22, 2014

    RoboCop (2014)

    Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Year: 2014

    Directed by: José Padilha

    Written by: Joshua Zetumer (screenplay), Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner (1987 screenplay)

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Moderate

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Moderate

    Key Cast Members:

  • Alex Murphy / RoboCop: Joel Kinnaman
  • Jack Lewis: Michael K. Williams
  • Dr. Dennett Norton: Gary Oldman
  • Raymond Sellars (OmniCorp CEO): Michael Keaton
  • Pat Novak : Samuel L. Jackson
  • Clara Murphy: Abbie Cornish
  • David Murphy : John Paul Ruttan
  • Rating: 6 out of 10

    RoboCop (2014)

    You’ve been wondering what the new RoboCop is like. Brace yourselves…

    Overview: The original RoboCop has become one of the “must see” cyberpunk films, one that needs to be in everyone’s cyberpunk movie collection. Now, José Padilha has made an updated version of Paul Verhoeven’s masterpiece, leaving many to ask that inevitable question:

    Why would you do that?

    Well, much has changed in the world since Peter Weller first donned the RoboCop suit to rid old Detroit of crime. The original was not only a classic story of a man’s death and rebirth as avenging angel, but there was a statement of American consumerism of the 80s as shown in the built-in “commericals”. The new version deals more with America’s reliance on drones to fight wars, the possibility of autonomous drones being used, and of the radical ultra-conservative elements that have cropped up since the end of the Regan presidency.

     

    The Story: The movie opens with a right-wing TV program called “The Novak Element”, starring Pat Novak (Jackson)

    Novack (Jackson)

    Does he look like a bitch?

    He has corespondents in Tehran, now under US robot control, who report on a “random” (read: FORCED) scan of the people for threats. A couple of insurgents with vest-bombs kill themselves and destroy some of the bots. One of the insurgent’s son appears with a knife in his hand and is blown away by a mech-like ED-209. The feed is cut and Novak espouses how the robots can be used to make America “safer”, but the Dreyfus Act makes such robots illegal. OmniCorp, a division of Omni Consumer Products, made the robots.

    OmniCorp wants the Dreyfus Act terminated so they can sell the robots for American law enforcement use, increasing their profits and achieve world dominance, even though public opinion is against the idea of autonomous drones. Their solution: Create a law enforcement cyborg, a man inside the machine, to sway public opinion, beginning by using a permanently disabled cop.

    Detective Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) and partner Sgt. Lewis (Williams) have been tracking crime lord Antoine Vallon, but Vallon is tipped off and Lewis is seriously injured requiring hospitalization. While visiting his partner, Murphy’s car has a bomb planted on it by one of Vallon’s men. It explodes at his home, nearly killing him. He awakens three months later, in his new cyborg body and software thanks to consent of his wife, Clara (Cornish). Murphy doesn’t want to be RoboCop, but is convinced by Dr. Norton (Oldman) to “be strong for his wife and son” and begins training with Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley) who seriously doubts Murphy will stand up to highly stressful and/or emotional situations where drones would not be so hindered.

     

    Notable differences. As you can tell, there are some major differences between the two RoboCops. First off, Lewis undergoes the Rule 63 (aka “gender swap”) treatment, and is now a Sargent… and black. OCP, the megacorp that privatized the Detroit police, is now a parent company with OmniCorp as the robotics subsidiary. The “news” is now a right-wing propaganda machine run by the brilliant performance of Samuel L. Jackson (again, does he look like a bitch?). The violence has been toned down considerably… well less bloody anyway. The ED-209s are now mecha-sized, there are more of them, and they are often accompanied by human-sized ED-208s (I think that was the model number used).

    Of course, much has changed in the twenty-seven since since the franchise first booted up, so the differences will come as a shock to those who have been watching since those heady early days of cyberpunk. But the biggest shock(s) vets may encounter will definitely be from Robo himself.

    RoboCop (2014) - Noticing his new skin.

    “What the hell did you do to me? “

    Paint it black. Perhaps the most jarring changes were made to Murphy/Robo himself, primarily in his armor. Oh, it starts as the classic silver-and-black scheme, but CEO Sellars (Keaton) wanted him to look more “tactical,” so black is the new… armor. It’s been said to make him look more insect like,

    RoboCop (2014) - New paint scheme and bike
    but it’s actually more of a streamlined borg appearance.

    But the biggest change to Murphy is also where the film tends to fall apart most: The original Murphy died and came back as a robo-revenant to avenge himself. This time around, Murphy doesn’t die. That alone kind of puts a damper on the philosophical discussions of whether a human mind can be put into a robot body and still be like before. Here, his mind (well, his whole head… and lungs… and heart… and windpipe) lives on in the new shell.

    That doesn’t mean he can’t still be treated like a machine; When he fails a simulation, Dr. Norton tries to “reprogram” Murphy to make him think that all his actions are under his conscious control, even though he’s still running a program. Later, when the upload of the police database causes Murphy to overload emotionally, Dr. Norton reduces his dopamine levels to where he becomes an emotionless robot, even ignoring his own wife and son.

    It’s not just OmniCorp that mistreats the new Murphy; It seems everyone involved with getting the Dreyfus act revoked is now using him as their poster boy, their messiah… their “tool” to mechanize America. Even as Murphy “comes to his senses” and goes rogue to solve his own attempted murder the ultra-conservatives and OmniCorp try to spin the events as showing how corruptible humans are and how machines would not be. They even plan to “martyr” Murphy out of fear because his wife went to the press because OmniCorp would not let her see him and might reveal what they did to him. Poor Murph can’t get a break.

    But like I said before, much has changed since the 80s. “Hair metal, glam metal,” or whatever-they-want-to-call-it-these-days metal has long had its party ruined by some coffee-gulping Seattle punks which lead to… whatever they call that shit on the radio now (can’t be music). Conspicuous consumerism has been eroded to conspicuous consumer pessimism while megacorps suck up the wealth like some hybrid octopus/shop-vac. And obviously, that one day… which lead to the NSA’s global panopticon and current planet-sized prison. Naturally, if a reboot needed to be made it would have to show the world in current terms as opposed to past expectations, but you’d think they would keep some of the philosophical aspect of Murphy’s transformation. Well, they do, but not in terms of death and rebirth. Rather, Murphy’s transformation and subsequent treatment is more about the dehumanization of a man, and possibly the whole of humanity, in the name of “security”, “peace”, and PROFITS.

    RoboCop (2014) - Training

    It looks like someone’s been watching Equilibrium.

     

    Conclusion: Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop was certainly the jewel of 80s cyberpunk, and its theme of death and resurection will make this an all-time classic. But you can’t blame José Padilha for wanting to update it to reflect current world events; The times they are a-changin’ (Bob Dylan) and even RoboCop can use an upgrade every so often. The movie works on its own with its theme of corporate dehumanization, so newbies have something to look forward to. As for us veterans… you have been warned.

     

    ONE MORE THING: Samuel L. Jackson… DOES HE LOOK LIKE A BITCH?

    This post has been filed under Cyberpunk movies from 2010 - 2019, Security-Surveillance State, Memory Modification, Man-machine Interface, Android Movies by Mr. Roboto.

    December 23, 2013

    Master Reboot

    Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Release Date: October 29, 2013

    Developed & Published by: Wales Interactive

    Platforms: PC, Macintosh, Steam, Desura, iPhone/iPod, Android, PlayStation 3

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Moderate

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Moderate

    Rating: 6 out of 10

    Master Reboot - Graveyard

    Death is not the end of life anymore. It’s only the beginning…

    Overview: The fighting in Remember Me no longer rages me, though the lack of exploration is still a bit of a pill. Fortunately, Master Rebot more than compensates. Actually, Master Rebot not only invites exploration, it requires it, as exploration is necessary not only to solve the puzzles you will encounter but to solve an even bigger mystery going on in the virtual afterlife. In order to do that, you will need to cross that ultimate barrier… between life and death.

     

    The Story: The Mysteri Corporation is proud to announce the Soul Cloud, a virtual repository where the memories of the deceased can be stored and accessed by loved ones who want to “visit” the dearly departed. Each person uploaded to the Cloud will live in a “Soul Village” where they can accesses their memories. The Soul Village consists of buildings representing important memories in one’s life.

    Master Reboot - Servers

    Our secure severs include “Seren”, the resident security program that keeps unauthorized intruders out of the Cloud.

    You’ve just arrived in the Soul Cloud, dropped on some deserted island surrounded by water (and some type of energy barrier or firewall). You don’t remember how you got here or why. Now you are just looking for a way off the island, and maybe some clue to the “how” and “why”.

     

    Getting into your head.

    Master Reboot - Hospital

    Does this hospital have a mental ward? You might need one while exploring.

    While you explore your memories you will need to solve some puzzles in order to leave and get back to your Soul Village. These puzzles are not too taxing on your brain, ranging from basic exploration to deciphering codes to trying to avoid some nastiness in your path.

    You might also find blue ducks along the way. (Seems to be a lot of duck-related stuff happening lately.) These ducks are clues to the mystery you are trying to solve. The clues are mostly visual like documents or a picture of you and you life. These clues are available in a “scrapbook” found back in the Soul Village when you successfully complete a memory. When you do complete a memory, a short cartoon animation plays that shows what the specific memory is, possibly including the clues you find.

    Like I said, the puzzles shouldn’t be too hard to solve, unless you let the atmosphere get to you. Lots of darkness, shadows, and moonlight abound. Combined with some haze/fog effects, the general look of the scenes, and other general spookiness, and you have a recipe for scariness that gives Scooby-Doo nighmares.

    Master Reboot - BOO!

    BOO!

    As far as action goes, there really isn’t much to find. There are some scenes where you will be chased or have to race for you life. But this game is more for exploration and puzzle-solving… maybe some creepiness if you like that sort of thing.

     

    Conclusion: Comparing Master Reboot to Remember Me is like comparing apples to bananas. Master Reboot is definitely not for button-mashers, or the easily frightened. It’s a mental challenge that will scare you. As 80’s band Dangerous Toys once sang, “Hey man, I think I like being scared and I will you all were there.” Maybe not the most cyberpunk, but it does its job quite well.

    Master Reboot - The Core

    Looks like we found a bitch… uh, GLITCH in the system.

    This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Games by Mr. Roboto.

    November 24, 2013

    Remember Me

    Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Released Date:June 3, 2013

    Developed by: DONTNOD Entertainment

    Published by: Capcom

    Platforms: Windows, XBox 360, Playstation 3

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Rating (Revised): 4 out of 10

    Nilin (Remember Me)

    Nilin needs some help exploring Neo-Paris to find some lost memories.

    Note: This is a rewrite of the original article posed on Novemer 24. Explanation in the last paragraph.

    Overview: I had some high hopes for Remember Me, Capcom’s memory-stealing, ass-kicking, knuckle-duster. Now I’m wondering if I want to purge this game from my databanks. Somehow, they managed to take a bleeding edge cyberpunk idea, add some excellent visuals to hook you, and implement what can only be described as some bad ideas that bring down much of what’s good about this game.

    But let’s try to highlight better aspects of Remember Me, mainly the story and visuals:

     

    The Story: In Paris (now Neo-Paris) 2084, the Memorize corporation has risen to dominance thanks to its Sensation Engine (Sensen) brain implant that allows people to share memories as part of a futuristic social network. Sensen can also be used to alter or even delete memories, affecting how people act. This alteration capability has not gone unnoticed by the “Errorist” movement, who sees this ability as a form of mind control (figuratively and literally) and seek to end Memorize’s operations.

    Nilin is a “memory-hunter”, someone who can steal and alter (”remix”) memories. She was caught by Memorize’s S.A.B.R.E. Force, as part of their campaign to end the errorist movement, and taken to La Bastille to have her memories removed. But Edge, the errorist leader, helps her escape and is now trying to help her recover her memories before a final assault to take down Memorize.

     

    What has been seen… The visuals of Remember Me is some sweet eye-candy. The differences between Slum 404 and sewers, and Saint-Michel district and Memorize’s headquarters are certainly stark enough in contrast. The slum areas certainly look like DIY constructs.

    Robotic Red Light District

    Some of the robots you’ll encounter won’t be this sexy, or working,… or friendly.

    It certainly all looks inviting enough to explore. But that’s where one of the game’s problems come in: Limited exploration. All too often, the path you have to walk is linear with only a few branch areas where some upgrade “patches” might be hidden (in that case, a “clue” presents itself to show where the patches are). You will encounter some obstacles, so Nilin becomes a sort of “Spider babe” who is able to climb up and slide down ladders and pipes, shimmy across ledges a-la Ninja Warrior “Cliffhanger”, and even jump across bottomless pits between ledges. Arrows show the way to go, and if necessary and “aug-eye” clue can be called upon to show you the way. Helpful, but it’s no fun for more adventurous explorers.

    View of the Leaking Brain

    Take your time walking the streets and admire the “view”.

    As a memory hunter, Nilin has the ability to “remix” memories. This ability can have a dramatic effect on your target like turning a vicious enemy into an ally… IF it’s done right.

    It’s in the remix

    Remixing memories is quite fun, seeing the possible outcomes. Too bad you’ll only get three four chances to do remixes.

     

    Control out of control. For those of you expecting a first person shooter, let me break the news to you: This isn’t a shooter, and it’s not first-person. Remember Me is third-person, from-behind, like Tomb Raider. And it’s a beat-em-up fighting game (think “Double Dragon”). I tend to prefer first-person games, but third-person can work for me… IF things work out right. Unfortunately, like many third-person games, the “camera” used tend to cause problems itself. Clipping, obstructions, and inability to fully control the camera (particularly when hanging off ledges) can make for some serious frustration, especially during the fights.

    Speaking of fights, that’s where I had some serious problems. To start, you use the game’s “Combo Lab” to construct your own combo of punch-and-kick “pressens” that can do extra damage, heal yourself, or allow you to use special “Super Pressens” (S-Prssens) sooner and more often. Think carefully when making your combos as the pressens only do their magic if you do the combos correctly, otherwise your fighting skills become nothing more than a pointless exercise in button mashing. Another problem is that the combos are “predetermined,” meaning that the pattern of punches and kicks are already decided for you. You just decide what pressen those attacks are.

    As for the fighting itself, it’s all about rhythm as ekkko points out in the comments. I was finally able to get past a fight with mourner leapers thanks to ekkko’s tip, though I did have to die another half-dozen times more before I saw an attack pattern being used, then it was the mourner leaper’s turn to get their asses handed to them. After that, it was smooth sailing through the end, except for a couple of “puzzles” to solve near the end. No more watching Nilin die during fights.

    Fight scene

    Remember: Fighting is all about rhythm, like dancing, only with an occasional evasive two-step to avoid creeps who want to “cut in.”

     

    Conclusion: Remember Me had the potential to be a great cyberpunk game, possibly ten stars. It had a story line with some twists to make you want to stay until the end. It had the visuals to make the story come alive. But lack of exploration, a wonky camera, and limited combo customization should make you reconsider whether you want Remember Me to take up memory space on your systems.

    NOTE: I originally blogged RM while in a state of rage due to an inability to get past a point late in the game. Do NOT try that at home! After a break and ekkko’s hint (and a few more deaths before discovering a pattern), I did make it past and finish easily. With calmer headspace prevailing, I saw fit to revise RM’s rating from 2 to 4 stars. The issues of the camera, premade combos, and no exploration still hold the game back though.

    This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Games by Mr. Roboto.

    Source: The Hindu, and everywhere else by now.

    WARNING! The following article contains graphic pictures of a dead robot. Viewer discretion is advised.

    The tip of the iceberg? Depending on how you want to look at it, robots just took one step closer (or further away) from being human as one domestic robot has apparently killed itself. Because of the degree of the robot’s (self) destruction, determining exactly why it chose to kill itself remains a mystery, though we do have some “theories”.

     

    The GORY details: On 12-Nov-2013, a Roomba robot in Hinterstoder (apartments) in Kirchdorf, Austria finished cleaning up spilled cereal in a kitchen and was shut down by the owner. But for reasons yet unknown, the robot restarted, pushed a pot out of its way, and wound up on the kitchen stove “hotplate” where it melted and started a fire.

    Firefighters came in too late to save the Roomba:

    Roomba post-suicide 12-nov-13

    (Firefighter Helmut Kniewasser) ‘Somehow it seems to have reactivated itself and made its way along the work surface where it pushed a cooking pot out of the way and basically that was the end of it.

    ‘It pretty quickly started to melt underneath and then stuck to the kitchen hotplate. It then caught fire. By the time we arrived, it was just a pile of ash.

    ‘The entire building had to be evacuated and there was severe smoke damage particularly in the flat where the robot had been in use.

    The human apt dwellers were allowed to return after cleanup, except the Roomba’s owner (who also owns the apts) whose flat is not livable. The owner plans to sue Roomba: “The company that makes the robots is selling dangerous devices, I intend to sue to get compensation. It has ruined my home as everything is smoke damaged.”

     

    Another version of the truth: With the Roomba reduced to ashes and no witnesses to the event, it will be near impossible to determine exactly why the bot fried itself. We can only speculate for now, but the real reason may not be as sci-fi as some might believe.

  • Bad owner: The owner claims he shut the bot off when it finished, but it is possible the switch may not have been completely in the off position. A slight jostle, bump, or tremor could have cause the switch close in the “on” position. And the rest of the story… This would be the most likely reason (IMO).

    Then again, the owner may have been a total dick, repeatedly bullying the Roomba until its spirit was broken.

  • Defective robot: The owner’s claim the robot is dangerous may hold up in court, unless Roomba can prove it tested its units satisfactorily so that it should be improbable for the bot start up on its own, unless the owner… see above.
  • Asimov’s Directives: No word on if Roomba programs the robots with The Three Laws, but if so then the robot’s suicide may be the unit following those laws. But then, why would it endanger humans in the other apts, where its actions violate the First and Third laws? That would put us back at the “Defective robot” spot, unless…
  • The Ghost: (From CNET:) “In future times, when the distinction between robot and human becomes far more blurred, occurrences such as these will surely become more usual.” Indeed, this is what Dr. Alfred Lanning was talking about when discussing “The Ghost In The Machine”. Was this an example of the “Ghost?” Have we actually seen the much-promised singularity, only to lose it in a puff of smoke? Are we so close to the humanization of the machines that the seemingly simple Roomba is just the infant of greater things to come?
  • Dr. Alfred Lanning (I, Robot)

    “That, detective, is the RIGHT question.
    Program terminated.”

    This post has been filed under Rise of the Robots, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

    October 28, 2013

    The Incredible Bionic Man

    Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Year: 2013

    Directed by: Tom Coveney

    Source: Smithsonian Channel

    Rating: 9 out of 10

    Men of TIBM

    “Gentlemen, we can build him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man.”

    Overview: Ever wondered how close we are to making a real artificial, cybernetic life form? A robotic android (”Roboid” as I would prefer to call them) like Lt. Cmdr. Data?

    No?

    Well, a couple of guys thought it would make for an incredible thought experiment… and, they went through with it earlier this year. Richard Walker (the bearded dude) and Professor Alexander Seifalian got together, along with Bertolt Meyer (psychology professor with an artificial arm and hand) as the model, and the most advanced bionic/cybernetic prosthetics and implants available and built TIBM (my name for him). The result… not bad for a first attempt, but it does have a long way to go to be Data. It does show, however, that we’ve come a long way from peg-legs and hook-hands (deal with it, pirates!). You can watch the video online at the Smithsonian Channel’s site or on YouTube.

     

    Some assembly required.

    TIBM parts laid out.

    Batteries not included.

    So what is needed to build your own TIBM? Well, you need a body-frame to install everything on, otherwise things fall apart very rapidly. Next, some limbs would help. Prosthetic arms and legs have been around for some time, but today’s computer technology practically makes them indistinguishable from the real thing, provided you wear long-sleeve shirts and full-length pants. Next, a skull made from a synthetic, bone-like material to house your cyberbrain… once that’s been made. A microphone for ears, special glasses for eyes, a latex “skin” face… so far TIBM is shaping up real good.

    What about inside, where it counts? Another synthetic material has been developed that can be made into any shape, but for now it serves as artificial blood vessels. That should work with the artificial heart and nano-particle “blood” being used. They have an artificial kidney that uses real kidney cells, and a prototype pancreas. The Internet-based chatbot serves as the brain, albeit a primitive and imperfect brain.

    So TIBM is looking more human, but what about moving like a human? Piece of cake for the hands and arms, but as for walking, the legs themselves don’t do it alone. That’s where a motorized, exoskeleton comes in for walking. Baby steps at this point.

    TIBM (attempting) walking

    You… put… one… foot… in… front… of.. the… oth… ther… and… soon… ah, screw it.

     

    Better, Stronger, Faster… Cheaper. TIBM represents the advance of technology, inspired by The Six Million Dollar Man. If you want to compare price tags, TIBM costs only ONE million, so for one Steve Austin you can have a half-dozen TIBMs. One problem is that TIBM won’t have nuclear power sources of Austin.

    The lack of nuclear power is but a minor nuisance, compared to other problems of TIBM. For one thing, some of the implants use Bluetooth, an unsecure wireless protocol leaving them open to hacking. Its walking ability needs much work still. TIBM is also incomplete, missing vital organs like the brain, liver, and digestive tract.

    Ethical considerations were also brought up briefly; While the devices were made for people (like soldiers) who lost limbs or organs in accidents, some may try to “upgrade” themselves without a real medical need. Then there’s concern that TIBM may be the prototype of a new race that may supplant or destroy humanity.

    Bertolt Meyer encounters the completed TIBM

    Bertolt Meyer takes a trip to the Uncanny Valley as he meets the completed TIBM, complete with his face, for the first time.

     

    Conclusion. We’ve certainly come a long way from peg-legs and Jarvick artificial hearts, but there is still some development to go yet before we can make fully functional androids. Even now, or as shown near the end of the show as Dr. Meyer tries a new prosthetic, developments and breakthroughs keep us moving closer to that day. And when that day does arrive… will humanity be ready? If TIBM’s fumble with a pint at the end is any indication, humans still have plenty of time to be prepared.

    This post has been filed under Rise of the Robots, Documentary, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

    Source: Singularity Hub. Quoted study from Oxford University here.

    Robots take over human jobs

    In case nobody noticed, the machines are taking over… starting with our jobs.

    The robots ARE taking over. Well, the brainless sheeple have succeeded where the terrorists tried. The US Government has self-destructed and the country is fucked. Brainless hordes of tea-party zombie-borgs are now roaming the streets, assimilating independents and eating their brains. And all because the sheeple did something so stupid like “voting”, not for a person, but for a corporate brand. Our only hope now is an underground anti-party resistance armed with smart-phones with Linux, the Original Constitution of The United States (THX Nick Cage!), and nuclear powered SUVs armed with…

    Wait, WHAT? Oh, no zombies yet… just the shutdown. Still, better be prepared… just… in… case… But before I get ahead of history, something from last week I’ve been meaning to blog: Machines taking over US labor.

    The Singularity Hub reports on an Oxford University research paper that shows America’s job market is susceptible to computerization. This is based on 702 job listings and advances in artificial intelligence, where computers can replace meat in transportation, labor, and even administrative support jobs:

    “While computerization has been historically confined to routine tasks involving explicit rule-based activities, algorithms for big data are now rapidly entering domains reliant upon pattern recognition and can readily substitute for labor in a wide range of non-routine cognitive tasks,” write study authors Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.

     

    Detroit knows… Having your job being replaced by a machine is old news to Detroit, MI, US. Ever since the 1970s, robots have taken over factory jobs, leaving the hapless humans out in the cold… if not in the unemployment office. But those old clunkers are mere toys compared to what today’s mechs can do, especially when combined with still advancing artificial intelligence. Maybe one day, robots will be building… (wait for it)… ROBOTS!

    Robot Factory

    “Robots building robots. Now that’s just stupid!” - Det. Del Spooner

    Numbers game. The paper puts the actual number at 47%. Not actual jobs that will be lost, but what could be lost to automation; Jobs at risk of automation. Even then, there’s no accounting for economics (not that there ever is any accounting for economics(!)). Factors such as regulation, actual costs of automation, and post-automation benefits/cots aren’t figured in, so that 47% is more a “rough” estimate.

     

    So who can we replace? The paper’s appendix has a listing showing what jobs they studied for possible automation. The jobs are listed by increasing probability of automation, and some are marked with a 1 or 0 indicating if the position can automated or not. So who lucked out, and who’s out of luck?

    Recreational Therapists, chill out; Your jobs are safe with only a 0.0028 probability (or less than one third of one percent) of being replaced. You medical doctors (surgeons, physicians, and dentists) are in even better shape; Your probability is .0042 - .0044, but you have been marked as “not computerisable”.

    Ironically, Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators (metal and plastic) have .86 probability, Computer Operators have .78, Computer Support Specialists have .65, Programmers - .48, Computer Hardware Engineers and Other Computer Occupations - .22.

    At the bottom of the list: Telemarketers, as if those robocalls at dinnertime need to remind us.

    No mention of Politicians, though Political Scientists have .039 probability. But given the recent DC bullshit, I for one would openly welcome our new cyber-overlords.

     

    Additional Input. The New York Times has an “Op-Ed” post called “How Technology Wrecks the Middle Class.” Probably better, this spoken track from the 2011 deluxe re-release of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Liverpool” explains what humanity will have to look forward to:

    Stan (Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Liverpool (2011-CD2-Track 7))

    “In the coming age of automation, where people might eventually work ten or twenty hours a week, Man for the first time will be forced to confront himself with the true spiritual problems of living”
    This post has been filed under Rise of the Robots, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

    September 16, 2013

    Fallen World

    Game Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Release Date: July 20, 2013

    Developed by: Oddity Games, Kuroato

    Platforms: Windows (Desura), iOS (iPhone), Online (Official Site)

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Moderate

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low

    Rating: 5 out of 10

    “Fallen World’s narrative was inspired by cyberpunk anime and films such as Appleseed, Terminator, and The Matrix Series. While the the game mechanics were designed with the idea of creating a totally new and unique, fast paced action, easy to play, but yet challenging gaming experience.”

    Overview: In between rounds of Shadow Warrior Redux on Steam, I’ve been toying with this indie title that’s looking for a home on Steam but is available on Desura. For the uninitiated, Desura is much like Steam, a software distribution platform. Unlike Steam, Desura is geared more toward indie and “casual” games, which is the two categories that Fallen World falls into. As can be deduced by the above blurb, Fallen World takes some of the ideas common in cyberpunk and makes a game geared more for the web-browser gamer though it is available for any type player, from nubie web surfers to veteran joystick jocks who can still remember their favorite nth-key Pac-Man pattern.

    Fallen World fits nicely for the casual cyberpunk gamer; It’s easy to pick up, but challenging enough to keep it from being boring. Plus, you get to earn experience points, or XPs, that you can spend to upgrade your skills and such. Those upgrades will be vital as you and Ai venture deeper into machine territory.

     

    The Story: The machines have overrun Earth, but a small band of human resistance remains and they have a plan to pull the plug on the machine’s plans for domination. They have enlisted the help of Kuro, a ninja-cyborg, to help deliver a virus into the machine’s mainframe to shut them down. Kuro won’t be carrying the virus, but a cyborg girl named Ai will. Kuro needs to escort Ai from the human’s hideout to the machine’s headquarters, where she will upload the virus. The machines are already waiting for the duo…

    0001-fallen-world_2.jpg

    True to anime tome, the termination of the last bot in a wave is… dramatic.

    Bitch, please. Already I can hear the vets wondering why I would review a game like this, other than it being a cyberpunk game. Well, not all cyberpunkers are hardcore gamers (too busy hacking or making music, etc.). Some were gamers in the 80s and 90s, but the ravages of time has slowed our reflexes and killed our eyesight (I can happen to me, it WILL happen to you!), so these casual games may be our way to scratch an itchy trigger finger. And others are just starting out, so a casual game can get them started to being joystick jocks, or just net.dicks.

    Some of the other gripes the pros might have:

  • It’s one of those “Flash” games. I’ve played Flash games online, but Fallen World is NOT one of them. FW uses a relatively new game creation engine called Unity. While Flash is mostly restricted to web browsers (though stand-alone Flash players are out thers), Unity games can be made to run on most any platform, on or offline.

    There’s no mention on the minimum specs your system needs to run Fallen World, so try the online version first. If the web version runs well, the Desura version will work.

  • It’s only for those with no skills. Admittedly, my skills may not be what they used to be, but I’ve been able to hold my own against the robot hordes.
  • Escort game??!!!??? Nope, tower defense game. Ai doesn’t move as the robots close in. Instead, she relies on Kuro’s sword, random air strikes, and soldiers and turrets Kuro can call upon.
  • Of course, I have my own problems after playing:

  • Not so wide-open. I play using a wide-screen TV/monitor on my rig, so I would like to see a game fill the whole 16:9 HD ratio. Unfortunately, Fallen World doesn’t. It remains at the standard 4:3 ratio of old even in full-screen. A hold over from it’s port from browsers.
  • What’s the difference? They said there was going to be some features in the stand-alone version, but I’ve yet to see what they are. Maybe I haven’t played far enough into the game to find those features. A wide-screen option would have been nice (see above).
  • (Out of) Control. The on-line version requires use of the mouse, and there are two different ways to use it. Understandable, but a stick/pad control would be ideal for the stand-alone.

    Ai dies in Fallen World

    Get used to seeing this scene until your skills are advanced enough.

    Conclusion. Fallen World certainly gives indie games a shot in the arm, showing that there are some good quality cyberpunk games out there. Still, I was a bit disappointed that the additions were not in the stand alone version (unless I need to play deeper). But for an asking price of $3 US, it’s certainly more of a challenge on your skills than on your wallet.

  • This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Games by Mr. Roboto.

    Source: University of Washington (Research Site)

    University of Washington researcher Rajesh Rao (left) was able to get his fellow researcher Andrea Stocco to press a button using only his mind… from across campus.

    So he’s not Charles Xavier, but a researcher at the University of Washington was able to get a fellow researcher to push a keyboard button by sending the message through his mind, via computers, Internet, and a couple of wired caps.

    Rajesh Rao set up a way to send a “fire” command mentally to colleague Andrea Stocco that would make him press the spacebar on his keyboard who was on the opposite side of the U of W campus.

    The video, though short on length and sound, does show what appears to be a successful transmission of Rao’s “fire” command to Stocco’s head. Stocco compared the involuntary reaction to a “nervous twitch”. And Rao’s reaction:

    “It was both exciting and eerie to watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain,” Rao said. “This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain to his. The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains.”

    The setup was quite simple enough, but the effect will reverberate through the tech world for some time to come.

    Getting into your head. The technology to connect a human brain to a machine has been around for a while; Machines that can read brainwave activity has been used by hospitals for years, recently there are machines that can “read” thoughts in your brain, they’re even developing thought controlled game controllers. But this is the first time one brain was actually “connected” to another. And the implications are, well…

    Stocco said years from now the technology could be used, for example, by someone on the ground to help a flight attendant or passenger land an airplane if the pilot becomes incapacitated. Or a person with disabilities could communicate his or her wish, say, for food or water. The brain signals from one person to another would work even if they didn’t speak the same language.

    Being able to “upload” and “download” such information into and from one’s brain would be just the tip of the iceberg. Got enough memory-space in your skull for the full Wikipedia site? How much porn can you cram into your cortex? Would you like to lean kung-fu like Neo? Instead of writing memoirs, you can just transfer your memories to tape/disk/net so others can experience what it’s like to be you. Maybe you would like to learn all the languages of the world without shelling out thousands for language courses or Rosetta Stone’s stuff. Hey, let’s try speaking to our PCs in native machine language!

    But why stop at just transferring our knowledge? Emotions also play a part in our experiences, so that should also be part of our virtual personality. Better yet, just transfer our whole mind into another person’s head; Just take ‘em over and use their shells to do our bidding. Become a “Turnabout Intruder” of sorts… or maybe act as a Manchurian Candidate. Or, if they ever clone human bodies, you can backup your brain then restore it to your new shell. Real Altered Carbon shit, only without the need for a “stack” to be implanted. Pull on the new flesh like borrowed gloves, and burn your fingers once again.”

     

    Don’t get that personal firewall just yet! The potential help and/or harm of this capability is great, but it’s not exactly advanced enough to make Altered Carbon or Brainstorm possible anytime soon.

    Rao cautioned this technology only reads certain kinds of simple brain signals, not a person’s thoughts. And it doesn’t give anyone the ability to control your actions against your will.

    Both researchers were in the lab wearing highly specialized equipment and under ideal conditions. They also had to obtain and follow a stringent set of international human-subject testing rules to conduct the demonstration.

    “I think some people will be unnerved by this because they will overestimate the technology,” (Chantel Prat, assistant professor in psychology at the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences) said. “There’s no possible way the technology that we have could be used on a person unknowingly or without their willing participation.”

    So we can’t experience another person’s life or hijack their bodies, or have a personal army of meatbots, or learn kung-fu like Neo. We can still enjoy some killer fiction with such possibilities while they keep working on this.

    This post has been filed under Brain-Computer Interface, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

    I know, everyone’s glad to see CPR back up and running (especially the spammers), and I haven’t lost sight of what I’m supposed to be doing here. Sometimes I get… distracted. Like looking for the latest music and games to review… particularly games right now.

    If you’re not familiar with Steam, it’s a multifunction platform for PCs where you can play games and smack-talk fellow gamers online since 2003. In October 2012, the Steam community started the Greenlight project, where members can help choose what games they would like to see on Steam, and where developers can showcase their hacking skills (or lack of) by sharing their mods, original games, etc.

    If you do a search on Steam for “cyberpunk,” you’ll come up with several games including classics like System Shock 2 and Deus Ex, and newer releases like Remember Me and the latest Shadowrun incarnation (they’ll be reviewed once I can afford and play them). The trend continues with the Greenlight project as I am following several games of interest.

    **WARNING** Many of these games are still demos or “pre-alpha” releases, meaning they’re not ready for game time… yet. If enough people upvote them, maybe we can see them on Steam, and I can review them for you.

    Here are the particular games I’m following:

    Dead Cyborg. (Official site) Billed as a “First person, hard sci-fi adventure”, Dead Cyborg has the post-apocalyptic visuals to make a good adventure.

    Dead Cyborg

    Shot of the underground bunker you’re trying to leave.

    To help, or annoy, you, various robots can give you clues, needed inventory, or just a bit of humor. Some of the computer screens and trash can also clue you into what happened to have you wake up in a bunker. Currently freeware, there are two “episodes” already out but no mention of a third just yet. If pressed for a review, I would give it a solid 8 even though it’s not a shooter. But robots can’t live on shooters alone.

    Neon XSZ (Neon Excesses). (Greenlight page) Think “Tron” does “Descent” and you get the basic idea of the gameplay, though it’s still in alpha form. You fly a virtual starfighter through the depths of cyberspace in order to defend it… or crash it.

    Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey. (Community forum) The third chapter of the Longest Journey series where you control the protagonist(s) as they venture between the crumbling cyberpunk world of Stark and the magic land of Arcadia. I have the first two Journeys in my Steam library, just need some time to check them out.

    Fallen World. (Play online) “…inspired by cyberpunk anime and films such as Appleseed, Terminator, and The Matrix Series”, you play a cyborg-ninja that’s trying to protect a cyborg girl who can bring down the robot network. Something of a “tower defense” meets escort game. That escort part may be a turn-off for some, but try it online before downvoting, or calling Jean-Claude Van Damme for help.

    Collateral. (Steam page)

    If you remember an old game called Quarantine, your memory banks are still functioning.

    You play a flying cab pilot named Zack Edgewater who is looking to get out of the hell-hole of New Bedlam. In the meantime, you work for fares and do jobs for the city’s factions until you can get one of those passcodes to leave this mad town in your dust. Quarantine does The Fifth Element.

    Satellite Reign. (Official site) Not happy with the recent reboot of Syndicate? This should make up for it, as it’s made by the creator of Syndicate Wars. In Satellite Reign, you control a four-man squad through an “open cyberpunk city.” You can take on missions with open ultra-violence or ninja stealthiness, by converting enemies into allies or turning the infrastructure against them. This could be the next Syndicate.

    There are others I’m following, but not all are cyberpunk, or even being developed anymore.

     

    Say, pal, can you spare a buck? Some of these games have KickStarter pages, just search for them if they don’t have official sites. Some of these people are looking for those development bucks to get their games out, Steam or not. Some may already be out on Desura (I tried them once but found it was mostly Steam rips). If you would like to see these games out give them your support. And if or when they do come out, I’ll be ready to review them… barring anymore technical fubars.

    This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Games by Mr. Roboto.

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