Robot Suicide! One robot gets closer to human… maybe.

November 15, 2013

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.
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    The Incredible Bionic Man

    October 28, 2013

    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.

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    IBM’s New Chip Thinks For Itself.

    August 22, 2011

    Source: IBM via Engadget and VentureBeat

    Today (18-Aug-2011), IBM researchers unveiled a new generation of experimental computer chips designed to emulate the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition. The technology could yield many orders of magnitude less power consumption and space than used in today’s computers.

    This is your brain on a chip. Last Thursday IBM announced the development of a new computer chip that works like a human brain (press release here). Not content with pwning Jeopardy!, Big Blue is now looking to take artificial intelligence to the next level… or at least another step closer to human.

    The chips are part of the DARPA funded project SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics) and their production is completion of phase one.

    Dharmendra Modha (Venture Beat pic)

    Dharmendra Modha, principal investigator: “This is the seed for a new generation of computers, using a combination of supercomputing, neuroscience, and nanotechnology,” Modha said in an interview with VentureBeat. ”The computers we have today are more like calculators. We want to make something like the brain. It is a sharp departure from the past.”

     

    Think about this. The idea behind the SyNAPSE project is to create computers with human-like abilities; Computer chips that accurately mimics the operations of the brain. IBM’s chips can do things like navigate and identify objects and patterns, but the ultimate goal would be to analyze more complex systems and learn. Yes, learn. All while using less power than current technologies can.

    But this is a DARPA project. DARPA, as in the Mad Scientist division of America’s DoD. The same people who made the Internet possible. Most likely, this is being developed for some sort of military analysis and strategy generation system, like a high-stakes chess machine.

    But isn’t that how Skynet started?

    Watson on Jeopardy!

    Alex Trebek: “The answer: The human race… Watson”
    Watson: “What is screwed?”
    Alex: “Correct!”
    This post has been filed under Rise of the Robots, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.
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    Robot helps woman walk.

    November 15, 2010

    Source: CNN, with additional information from Berkeley Bionics

    So it’s not Jesus walking on water…

    … but for Amanda Boxtell, who has been paralyzed for 18 years following a skiing accident, the new-mobility provided to her with her new eLegs is exciting, especially for CNN’s Ali Velshi. Developed by Berkeley Bionics, the eLegs were introduced on 7-Oct-2010. I haven’t seen or heard of these legs until November 10, at 12:45 PM EST, when I saw the CNN broadcast for the first time. You can see the video on CNN’s site if the vid above doesn’t work.

    The system is rather clunky, requiring a couple of crutches/canes to act as input for the legs, but it brings Amanda one step closer (literally) to full mobility. At least, it gets her out of her wheelchair.

     

    Iron Man or HULC? Berkeley Bionics should know something about robotic exoskeletons; They also developed one for the US military called the Human Universal Load Carrier, or HULC, which they licensed to Lockeed-Martin:

    The HULC is a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting. There is no joystick or other control mechanism. The exoskeleton senses what users want to do and where they want to go. It augments their ability, strength and endurance. An onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the individual. Its modularity allows for major components to be swapped out in the field. Additionally, its unique power-saving design allows the user to operate on battery power for extended missions. The HULC’s load-carrying ability works even when power is not available.

    I suspect that the eLegs were developed from HULC technology. Hopefully they won’t come with 20mm folding-fin rocket launchers, although Lockheed-Martin is looking to adapt the HULC for industrial use (like Ripley’s loader suit) and medical applications.

    Meanwhile, Raytheon Sarcos is developing its own robosuit for soldiers. Also clunky, as it still needs to be tethered to a power source:

    The video and accompanying article can be found here.

     

    Still waiting for Tony Stark. What we’re looking at are first-generation robo-suits. Naturally, they will get better as the technology advances, so a real Iron Man is years away. Now we have time to save up for when such suits are made available at our favorite outfitters. (To give you an idea, Raytheon’s suit is projected to cost $150K US).

    This post has been filed under Rise of the Robots, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.
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    USA Today: “The Machines Took Over (Wall Street)”

    May 7, 2010

    Source: USA Today print edition, 07-May-2010 (Scan of front page from Politico.com)

    Front Page USA Today 07-May-2010

    Front page of today’s (07-May-2010) USA Today showing the roller-coaster ride of yesterday’s stock market, with some ominous words about machines taking control. For a better view in PDF click the image.

    Bombs away, Wall Street babies. If you were watching the epic fail of Wall Street yesterday (06-May-2010) in its final hour of operation, you would have seen what has to be the biggest WTF ever. Beginning about 2:30 pm EDT and lasting for 15 minutes, The Dow Jones nose-dived 700-1000 points, nearly 11% of its value, before recovering to close only 348 points off its opening. At a time when Wall Street is already under scrutiny for financial shenanigans resulting in the mortgage crisis, this major fubar could be what Obama and Congress needs to put bankers on a very short leash with a choke chain, even as this drop is now being investigated.

     

    Somebody set up us the bomb! What happened yesterday is identical to events surrounding similar Dow drops, with events in Greece being “triggers:”

    (USA Today online) In a late-day plunge eerily reminiscent of famous Wall Street stock market meltdowns in 1987 and the fall of 2008, the Dow Jones industrials nosedived almost 1,000 points in a volatile day Thursday that began with heavy selling on Greek debt fears and was followed by a waterfall decline that was allegedly caused by erroneous trades and “unusual trading activity.”

    Before Thursday, there were riots in Greece as that government announced pay cuts and tax hikes to deal with their economic collapse. Coincidence?

     

    Program error detected between keyboard and chair. The main suspect in yesterday’s fail are the computerized trading systems used, and a the possible input of one person:

    make-love-not-warcraft.jpg

    (Associated Press) No one was sure what happened, other than automated orders were activated by erroneous trades. One possibility being investigated was that a trader accidentally placed an order to sell $16 billion, instead of $16 million, worth of futures, and that was enough to trigger widespread sell orders across the market.

    “I think the machines just took over. There’s not a lot of human interaction,” said Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Pitt Capital Group. “We’ve known that automated trading can run away from you, and I think that’s what we saw happen today.”

    So the crash was just a lemming cliff-dive parade due to a ID-ten-plus error that went unchecked. The stocks that suffered the worst did recover, even though Wall Street remains nervous. And the invalid transactions that occurred during the period will be nullified. No AIs or hacks, other than an errant input.

    But given Wall Street’s past handling of such events, they will just keep the systems running until the next errant input won’t be checked… or be an accident.

    (Huffington Post) At 2:37 yesterday afternoon, Skynet became aware of its existence. Less than a minute later, it decided to make a killing in the Market.
    This post has been filed under Rise of the Robots, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.
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