Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gentle Giant Robot Bear Developed to Assist Humans In Need of Strong, Helpful Arms

"This cuddly Japanese robot bear could be the future of elderly care

'Bears are powerful and also cute.'

Deep in the bowels of a secluded facility outside the central Japanese city of Nagoya, a team of dedicated researchers has been working on a monster. It’s a primal, animalistic robot that uses advanced technology to power its intelligent vision, flexible movement, and giant arms strong enough to lift a human right off the ground. It could have profound implications for the relationship between man and machine.
But perhaps most importantly, it is very cute.

Meet Robear. It’s a high-tech teddy with a mission: helping make elderly care much easier in the future.
Robear is the brainchild of Toshiharu Mukai (above left), an affable scientist who has been leading his Robot Sensor Systems Research Team at the Riken-SRK Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research since 2007. It’s actually Mukai’s third robot bear, following 2009’s RIBA and 2011’s RIBA-II. Why the ursine fixation? "Bears are powerful and also cute," Mukai tells me. "And our product is white so it will be associated with cleanness."

Cute robots are a
definite trend. Japanese carrier SoftBank is selling its congenial, dubiously useful Pepper this year, in perhaps the biggest mainstream splash yet made by a humanoid.

This month, leading national bank Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ
installed Aldebaran’s Nao robot as an assistant in its flagship branch. And Mukai believes that appearance is more than just skin-deep when it comes to robots. "[It’s important that they’re] cute or friendly," he says. "Patients, especially old people, don’t like mechanical appearance. Patients need to feel that robots are their friends."
That’s especially true with Robear, because it’s a robot that gets very paws-on. Robear is designed to perform tasks such as helping elderly patients stand up, or lifting them from a bed into a wheelchair. The latter task can be severely strenuous for care workers, who do it an average of 40 times a day, according to Mukai. It’s no secret that Japan’s aging population is one of the biggest problems facing the country, and researchers are hoping to find solutions in technology. It’s important for Robear to make a good first impression..."

Read the full article at its source:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Robot Criminals???

" with $100 bitcoin buys drugs, gets arrested
This is the curious story of how a robot armed with a weekly budget of $100 in bitcoin managed to buy Ecstasy, a Hungarian passport and a baseball cap with a built-in camera—before getting arrested.

The "automated online shopping bot" was set up in October last year by Swiss art group, !Mediengruppe Bitnik, as an art installation to explore the "dark web"—the hidden, un-indexed part of the Internet.

Each week, the robot was given $100 worth of Bitcoin— the major hard-to-trace cryptocurrency—and programmed to randomly purchase one item from Agora, an online marketplace on the dark web where shoppers can buy drugs and other illegal items. The items were automatically delivered to a Swiss art gallery called Kunst Halle St Gallen to form an exhibition.
The robot was christened "Random Darknet Shopper" and its purchases included a Hungarian passport, Ecstasy pills, fake Diesel jeans, a Sprite can with a hole cut out in order to stash cash, Nike trainers, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, cigarettes and the "Lord of the Rings" e-book collection.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the robot and his artistic creators had a run in with the law. In January 2015, the Swiss police confiscated the robot and its illegal purchases.
However, three months later, the Random Darknet Shopper was returned to the artists, along with all its purchases except the Ecstasy (also known as MDMA) tablets, which were destroyed by the Swiss authorities.

The artists behind the robot escaped without any charges.
"This is a great day for the 'bot, for us and for freedom of art!" !Mediengruppe Bitnik said in a blog post last week. "In the order for withdrawal of prosecution, the public prosecutor states that the possession of Ecstasy was indeed a reasonable means for the purpose of sparking public debate about questions related to the exhibition."

The Swiss authorities confirmed that the artists and the robot would not be charged.
"We decided the Ecstasy that is in this presentation was safe and nobody could take it away. Bitnik never intended to sell it or consume it so we didn't punish them," Thomas Hansjakob, a spokesperson for the Swiss St Gallen police, told CNBC on Tuesday.
He added that the artists had not informed the police before undertaking this project and that the authorities had heard about it from the media..."
 Read the full article at its source:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Robot Guide Dogs? The Technology's There, How About Human Acceptance?

OK, robots aren't soft and cuddly; they don't need a belly rub, either. On the other hand they don't need to be walked and there's nothing to scoop.  Maybe it's good to have the option of either a dog OR a robot...

Which would you prefer? Dog or Robot? Why?

"Why a robot could never replace a guide dog
30 Mar 2015
Following the news that robot “guide dogs” have been developed by researchers, fans of guide dogs have taken to the web to express why a robot could never replace the real thing. Here’s our top ten:

Robots don't have hearts

A guide dog is so much more than a mobility aid. When they’re not working they behave just like a pet dog and are adored by their owners and show love in return.

True, a robot is all business, all the time!

Friends for life

There are many people with sight loss who rarely leave home on their own and many more who say they feel cut off from the people and world around them. A guide dog is a companion who provides company and friendship as well as assistance.

Depends on what you program the robot to do...

Part of the family

A guide dog isn’t just there to support its owner; guide dogs become part of the family and are adored by everyone.

Adorable is subjective. Take a look at this cutie:

You can’t cuddle a robot
Have you tried? It’s nowhere near as soft and warm as these little puppies.

OK, no cuddling. But then again, no fleas, 'accidents' behind the sofa, scratching, or puppies to find homes for :)

World class dogs

The Guide Dogs charity has trained guide dogs for more than 80 years and the techniques are pretty advanced. Guide dogs are bred for their exceptional attributes that make them among the most loyal and trusted canine companions in the world.

So why are robots a threat?

A robot doesn’t want its tummy tickled

There’s no denying that robots are pretty cool, but they are far less cute when you rub their tummies!

They don't have tummies... duh! Also, they don't have tummy problems.

Guide dogs can go up steps

So can Robots!


A guide dog and their owner have a truly unique partnership that is built on trust and understanding. Guide dogs can learn a huge amount about their owners from their height to their length of stride.

Dogs are wonderful. Robots are programmed to learn the things they need to know to do their job. There are partners and then there are partners. Check out this Toyota Partner Robot: 

Batteries not included

Guide dogs don’t run out of batteries so they’ll never leave you stranded.

Try not feeding your guide dog for a couple of days. They need fuel, too.

The robot looks like a lawn mower

Some robots look like dogs. Ever seen Asimo?

Enough said!"

Plenty said in a pointless argument. Robot guides are not intended to replace dogs. Simply to  function as guides for those who would prefer a machine over a dog.

See full article at its  source: