Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryRobotics

military-bomb-defusing-robot-with-shepherd-dog-in-the-background-stockpack-adobe-stock
Military bomb defusing robot with shepherd dog in the background.

How San Francisco’s Gun Fears Prevented Lifesaving Innovation

Killer robots in law enforcement would reduce the death toll but they are a bridge too far for many politicians

In November, 2022, San Francisco voted to allow police to deploy killer robots. Less than a month later, the city reversed their decision. Initially, in an 8-3 vote, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors allowed law enforcement to use robots “as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD.” Sounds like reasonable policy, but protestors held up “NO KILLER ROBOTS!” signs at City Hall and the Board of Supervisors caved. This may be a case of hoplophobia, an irrational fear of firearms. So-called “killer robots” can deploy explosives to allow passage through blockaded doors or, in extreme situations, kill those who put innocent Read More ›

Group of female robots close to each others cyborg army concept 3d rendering

Is It Technically Genocide If We Kill a Planetful of Robots?

Orville Season 3, Episode 9, features an EMP-like device that could wipe out the robotic Kaylon

This is the best episode of the third season, but there was still plenty to question about the ethical underpinnings. The first scene shows the Krill’s Supreme Chancellor, Teleya, forming an alliance with the Moclans, who have just been ousted from the Union. This doesn’t make any sense. The Moclans hate women. Teleya is a woman. Now, the writers do take the time to address this discrepancy, but it’s a superficial attempt, and therefore, not enough to convince the viewer that this alliance could really happen. Stop and consider who the Moclans are: They don’t just have a bias against women. They hate women. So much so that they turn every child on their planet into a man. There is Read More ›

3d-illustration-roboter-auge-stockpack-adobe-stock
3D Illustration Roboter Auge

Why Don’t Robots Have Rights? A Lawyer’s Response

Robots are hardware and software packages that lack a nature or any abilities outside of whatever their designers imagine

“Free the Robots!” “Equal Rights for Robots!” Or maybe: “Set Us Robots Free!” Such future protest signs might well pop up in social media, to judge from “Why don’t robots have rights?” (Big Think, October 31, 2022) Writer Jonny Thomson worries that “ future generations will look back aghast at our behavior” when humans can “no longer exploit or mistreat advanced robots” as will presumably be the case in the 21st century. Dig into the article and get techno-whiplashed as Thomson suddenly starts talking about “the 22nd century [when robots] are our friends, colleagues, and gaming partners.” Thomson’s article considers robot rights as analogous to animal rights. The summary asserts: When discussing animal rights and welfare, we often reference two Read More ›

an-elderly-man-with-a-backpack-on-his-back-is-slowly-walking-along-a-mountain-hiking-trail-on-the-seashore-he-leans-on-a-walking-stick-stockpack-adobe-stock
An elderly man with a backpack on his back is slowly walking along a mountain hiking trail on the seashore. He leans on a walking stick.

How Robotics Can Help Speed Up Post-Stroke Rehabilitation

Robotics can help the therapist put the partially paralysed stroke patient’s thoughts and intentions back in the driver’s seat

In the United States alone, about 795,000 people suffer strokes each year, leading to varying degrees of paralysis. Post-stroke rehabilitation has come a long way in recent decades and one area of focus is robotic-assisted rehabilitation for both the upper and the lower body. That’s partly a medical issue and an economic one. As Physiopedia explains, It is used to supplement or facilitate rehabilitation by assisting in the repetitive labor-intensive manual therapy that is normally administered by therapists. This decreases the time demands on therapists as the robotic devices can help move the patient’s limbs during exercises, thereby increasing the amount of therapy for each patient and increasing the number of patients undergoing therapy simultaneously.” Here’s a demonstration of a Read More ›

close-up-picture-of-beautiful-charming-female-in-pale-pink-silk-shirt-sitting-on-floor-on-colorful-carpet-holding-laptop-on-knees-with-prosthetic-bionic-hand-made-of-black-metal-mechanical-device-stockpack-adobe-stock
Close-up picture of beautiful charming female in pale pink silk shirt sitting on floor on colorful carpet holding laptop on knees with prosthetic bionic hand made of black metal mechanical device

Bionic Hands? Not An Improvement on Mechanical Hooks!, Says User

Right now, says a woman born without a left hand, electronic prostheses don’t function as well as mechanical extensions

Writing in the engineering journal IEEE Spectrum, Britt H. Young looks at bionics from the perspective ofa user. Her left forearm failed to develop prenatally. She offers a number of concerns about the direction of bionics, especially the expense of bionic limbs and their difficulty of use compared to simpler prostheses: Today, the people who design prostheses tend to be well-intentioned engineers rather than amputees themselves. The fleshy stumps of the world act as repositories for these designers’ dreams of a high-tech, superhuman future. I know this because throughout my life I have been fitted with some of the most cutting-edge prosthetic devices on the market. After being born missing my left forearm, I was one of the first cohorts Read More ›

senior-woman-is-receiving-post-from-an-futuristic-robotic-delivery-service-stockpack-adobe-stock
senior woman is receiving post from an futuristic robotic delivery service

Amazon Abandons Robot Home Delivery Service

Scout is in mothballs. We are told that “the program did not completely meet its customers' needs.”

Delivery folks, don’t quit your jobs yet: Oct 6 (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) will stop live tests of its automated delivery robot “Amazon Scout”, a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Thursday, after the U.S. retailer realized the program did not completely meet its customers’ needs. The company is now scaling back or “reorienting” the program, and it will work with the involved employees to match them to other open roles within the organization, Amazon spokesperson Alisa Carroll said, adding that it was not abandoning the project altogether. Technology, “Amazon abandons live tests of Scout home delivery robot” at Reuters (October 6, 2022) Amazon insists that it is not abandoning the idea. But problems with the model Read More ›

white-futuristic-robot-crossed-arms-unhappy-face-stockpack-adobe-stock
White futuristic robot, crossed arms, unhappy face

When a Robot Commits Suicide — an Elegy for What?

What’s frustrating about Episode 1 of Orville, Season Three is that robot Isaac’s claim to personhood is not ambiguous so much as confused and contradictory

Last time, we began our review of The Orville, Season Three, by discussing the unorthodox relationship between Isaac, the ship’s token robot, and Dr. Claire Finn. The bottom line is that they were romantically involved until Isaac turned out to be a sleeper cell for his race of robots, the Kaylon, who controlled an entire planet. In a climactic moment, Isaac — because of his attachment to Dr. Finn’s son Ty — defeats his programming and saves the Orville. Unfortunately, however, in the battle between the Kaylon and the Union fleet, many Union soldiers were killed defeating the Kaylon — and most in the Orville’s crew have not forgotten it. Dr. Finn and Isaac’s relationship remains somewhat ambiguous. What feels Read More ›

robot-hand-putting-fresh-cherry-on-top-of-the-cupcake-stockpack-adobe-stock
Robot hand putting fresh cherry on top of the cupcake

As the Robot Fry Cook Takes Over the Kitchen …

… Jay Richards’ new short “Science Uprising” special dismisses philosophical claims that humans are mere “meat machines”

Science Uprising released an extra feature on Tuesday, following Science Uprising 10, in which philosopher Jay Richards discusses what underlies the myths of artificial intelligence: It isn’t a superior grasp of the technology involved that drives some (Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and others) to warn that AI will achieve superiority over human beings, drive us out of work, and finally out of existence. It’s the hidden premise that humans are just “meat machines” rather than spiritual beings in a creator’s image. If that were true, of course it would follow that other, faster machines would likely overtake and replace us. David Klinghoffer, “Jay Richards: Myths, Metaphysics, and Artificial Intelligence” at Evolution News (October 4, 2022) However it plays out among Read More ›

silly robot
Friendly crazy robot handyman on orange background. Creative design cyborg toy. Copy space photo

Tesla’s Optimus is Sub-Optimal

With other robotics programs far outrunning Tesla, it can be hard to see what Elon Musk is adding to the field and why he's even trying

As promised, Elon Musk demonstrated his prototype robot “Optimus” at the 2022 Tesla AI Day.  The original plan for the robot included: Navigating the world through AutoPilot (the Tesla vehicle’s driver assistance system) Being able to perform repetitive or dangerous tasks safely Being able to be instructed using natural language instead of programming A year later, the Tesla robot has not even remotely demonstrated the ability to do any of these things with any sophistication.  That’s not surprising given Elon Musk’s penchant for promising things and not delivering them, but it does drive home the point that many of Musk’s mistakes stem from his more general misconceptions about the nature of the world.  Musk is great at organizing people, capital, Read More ›

thinking-robot-stockpack-adobe-stock
Thinking robot

Should We Love or Hate an Intelligent Robot? Or Care at All?

In Season 3 of Orville that becomes a serious question

The Orville Season 3 was recommended to me by a reader. I recall seeing a large portion of the first season and enjoying it. I had not watched the second season until preparing for this series of reviews. Unfortunately, I must say at the outset that I found myself very disappointed in Season Three, ironically called New Horizons because it only retreads about half of Season Two. This latest season fell far short of my expectations which were based on my memories of the first season. Still, we’re going to take a look at each episode and see where the problems lie. Before beginning our review of the first episode, a little prologue is required. During the midpoint of the Read More ›

closeup-of-hummingbird-hawk-moth-butterfly-macroglossum-stellatarum-feeding-of-red-valerian-flowers-centranthus-ruber-in-flight-its-a-species-of-hawk-moth-found-across-temperate-regions-of-eurasi-stockpack-adobe-stock
Closeup of Hummingbird Hawk-moth butterfly (Macroglossum stellatarum) feeding of red valerian flowers (Centranthus ruber) in flight. Its a species of hawk moth found across temperate regions of Eurasi

Machine Uses Live Hawk Moth Antenna for Smell Detection

Human-created sensors are not sensitive, fast, or discerning enough to identify and process smells in the danger zones for which the Smellicopter was designed

We’ve often written about electronic prostheses that link up with the human nervous system — which essentially means controlling the prosthesis by thoughts alone. A reversal is also possible, as the University of Washington demonstrated in 2020: A machine (the “Smellicopter”) used an insect’s antenna to identify and seek out smells: “Nature really blows our human-made odor sensors out of the water,” said lead author Melanie Anderson, a UW doctoral student in mechanical engineering. “By using an actual moth antenna with Smellicopter, we’re able to get the best of both worlds: the sensitivity of a biological organism on a robotic platform where we can control its motion.” Sarah McQuate, “The Smellicopter is an obstacle-avoiding drone that uses a live moth Read More ›

robot-dog-delivering-pizza-3d-illustration-stockpack-adobe-stock
Robot dog delivering pizza. 3D illustration

New AI Institute Aims at “World’s Smartest” Intelligent Machines

Boston Dynamics’ Marc Raibert thinks they’ll make progress at machines that think like humans if they keep at it long enough

Hyundai Motor Group and Boston Dynamics recently announced the launch of the Boston Dynamics AI Institute, with more than US $400 million to start. Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert is to head it up, for the purpose of “creating future generations of advanced robots and the world’s smartest and most capable intelligent machines.” Boston Dynamics, founded in 1992, is already famous for its robot dogs: Raibert has bigger plans for smarter robots, as he detailed in a recent interview, as he told Evan Ackerman at IEEE Spectum: The new thing that’s clearly different from what Boston Dynamics is doing, is to make robots smarter, in the sense that they need to be able to look at the world around them Read More ›

3d-render-beautiful-woman-computer-generated-photo-realistic-to-to-illustrate-the-uncanny-valley-effect-stockpack-adobe-stock
3D render beautiful woman computer generated photo realistic to to illustrate the uncanny valley effect

AI: The Shadow of Frankenstein Lurks in the Uncanny Valley

The fifth and final excerpt from Non-Computable You (2022), from Chapter 6, focuses on the scarier AI hype

Wrapping AI in an impressive physical package can magnify the perceived impact of new technology. Doing so uses seductive optics. The confusing of AI packaging with AI content was evident in media excitement about a Buddhist robot who delivers messages to the faithful. “The world’s first sutra-chanting android deity, modeled after Kannon the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, was introduced to the public last week,” the report reads. The robot can “move its eyes, hands, and torso, make human-like gestures during its speech, and brings its hands together in prayer. A camera implanted in the left eye to focus on a subject gives the impression of eye contact.”1 Technologically speaking, nothing special is happening here. The messages from the Buddhist robot Read More ›

old-lonely-woman-sitting-near-the-window-in-his-house-stockpack-adobe-stock
Old lonely woman sitting near the window in his house.

Is a Robot Pal Really a Solution to Old Age Loneliness?

New York State is buying a companion bot called ElliQ in a pilot project that is likely among the first of a trend

New York State is buying 800 ElliQ robots from Israeli firm Intuition Robotics to help seniors cope with the familiar problem of loneliness — which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic: ElliQ, a tabletop device that resembles a virtual assistant like Alexa or Siri, can make small talk, answer questions, remind users to take medication, help contact friends and family, initiate conversation and help with other daily activities. Users interact with the robot an average of 20 times per day, according to the company. Margaret Osborne, “New York State Purchases Robot Companions for the Elderly” at Smithsonian Magazine (June 22, 2022) Greg Olsen, director of the state’s Office for the Aging, says that seniors accept new technology like the ElliQ model Read More ›

robot assistant
Girl in orange shirt standing near house robot

Is the World Running Out of Humans? Are Robots the Answer?

But then why have we “run out of human beings,” as some claim?

So some claim: The pandemic and the U.S. labor shortage are starting to change the conversation about robotics and automation from threat to opportunity — from putting jobs at risk to filling critical gaps in the workforce. “The biggest shift that has happened from 2018 to now is that we’ve literally run out of human beings to do the things that we need to do,” said roboticist Siddhartha “Sidd” Srinivasa, a professor at the University of Washington’s Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering in Seattle who founded Carnegie Mellon University’s Personal Robotics Lab during his 18-year tenure in Pittsburgh. That shift is giving a new spark to robotics engineers and entrepreneurs who have long aspired to change the world Read More ›

a-humanoid-robot-with-a-shopping-trolley-is-shopping-at-a-grocery-store-future-concept-with-robotics-and-artificial-intelligence-3d-rendering-stockpack-adobe-stock
A humanoid robot with a shopping trolley is shopping at a grocery store. Future concept with robotics and artificial intelligence. 3D rendering.

Engineering Mag Editor Dislikes Androids That Make People “Feel”

That’s not really the job of a robot, says Evan Ackerman, who“hugs robots” himself

Evan Ackerman, a senior editor at the prominent engineering mag IEEE Spectrum, thinks — even though he “hugs robots” — that we don’t really need androids in daily life. Ackerman, who has a degree in Martian geology, focuses on “Nicola,” an android under development at Riken, a research institute in Japan, modeled on a boy and intended to ““to promote natural interactions with both adults and children.” So far, it is only a head. The reason that this research was necessary is because androids can be tricky to read at times, especially when making expressions associated with negative emotions, which are more difficult to distinguish. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m so skeptical that androids are the best Read More ›

first-cell-origin-of-life-stockpack-adobe-stock
First cell, origin of life

Will AI Chemistry Robots Finally Discover the Origin of Life?

Chemist Lee Cronin’s hopes for a breakthrough by getting robots to motor through millions of chemical combinations, looking for self-replicating systems

How did molecules form self-replicating systems? This is a harder problem than we sometimes think because it’s not obvious why molecules should seek to develop into complex organisms that can self-replicate. Science journalist Katharine Sanderson notes that University of Glasgow chemist Lee Cronin is using robots to test the “billions of ways” it could have happened: He and his team have set up machines that combine a selection of simple substances – acids, inorganic minerals, carbon-based molecules – to react randomly. The outcome is analysed and then an algorithm helps the robot choose how to proceed. In this way, the robot can hunt through vast swathes of chemical space to see if any self-replicating systems emerge. Cronin thinks this automated Read More ›

centipede-is-a-poisonous-animal-with-many-legs-that-can-bite-and-release-poison-to-enemies-stockpack-adobe-stock
Centipede is a poisonous animal with many legs that can bite and release poison to enemies.

A Robotic Centipede Is Not Just a Toy

It may be useful in agriculture because it replicates natural centipede skills at navigating rough ground or water

Georgia Tech biological physicist Daniel Goldman recently told a virtual meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology that he hopes to build a centipede robot. A robot that riffed off the centipede, a carnivorous land-dwelling arthropod with a long body and many jointed legs, would look a little bit like this: What would it be good for? Well, intense study by Goldman and his colleagues showed that centipedes have ways of overcoming obstacles that make them especially useful for agricultural tasks like planting, picking, and weeding, where they must constantly adapt to the landscape (land or water), which is something a lot of machines have difficulty with: Here’s one of their papers on the topic. Another approach, pioneered Read More ›

young-disabled-man-playing-on-piano-electronic-synthesizer-with-artificial-prosthetic-hand-in-music-shop-stockpack-adobe-stock
Young disabled man playing on piano electronic synthesizer with artificial prosthetic hand in music shop

What If a Prosthetic Limb Could Feel Like the Real Thing?

No, this isn’t some Uncanny Valley; the human nervous system responds to electrical signals from machines

A NOVA special premiering February 23, looks at a remarkable new development in prostheses that “allows prosthetic legs to move and feel like the real thing.” Here’s the trailer: Follow the dramatic personal journey of Hugh Herr, a biophysicist working to create brain-controlled robotic limbs. At age 17, Herr’s legs were amputated after a climbing accident. Frustrated by the crude prosthetic limbs he was given, Herr set out to remedy their design, leading him to a career as an inventor of innovative prosthetic devices. Now, Herr is teaming up with an injured climber and a surgeon at a leading Boston hospital to test a new approach to surgical amputation that allows prosthetic limbs to move and feel like the real Read More ›

lego-mindstom-ev3-fll-robotics-competitions-for-kid-stockpack-unsplash
LEGO MINDSTOM EV3 - FLL ROBOTICS COMPETITIONS for kid.

A Lego Toy That Solves Mazes May Bring New Hope to Amputees

Organic materials that enable computer chips to work like neurons could improve the usability of prostheses

A Lego toy robot with an organic brain, programmed to solve mazes, promises better prostheses: In the winter of 1997 Carver Mead lectured on an unusual topic for a computer scientist: the nervous systems of animals, such as the humble fly. Mead, a researcher at the California Institute of Technology, described his earlier idea for an electronic problem-solving system inspired by nerve cells, a technique he had dubbed “neuromorphic” computing. A quarter-century later, researchers have designed a carbon-based neuromorphic computing device—essentially an organic robot brain—that can learn to navigate a maze. Saugat Bolakhe, “Lego Robot with an Organic ‘Brain’ Learns to Navigate a Maze” at Scientific American (January 28, 2022) The difference between a regular materials-only computer chip made of Read More ›