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Who Needs Humans?
08-14-2011, 06:25 PM, (This post was last modified: 08-14-2011, 06:34 PM by R.R.)
RE: Who Needs Humans?

Quote:Robot learns from experience

5 Aug 2011

By John Roach, contributing writer at

A robot outfitted with a rudimentary brain-like neural network is able to tackle new tasks by calling on its past experience and knowledge to think and act for itself.

This breakthrough demonstrates the evolving ability of robots to adapt to ever-changing environments, according to Osamu Hasegawa, an associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology who is developing the technology.

"So far, robots, including industrial robots, have been able to do specific tasks quickly and accurately. But if their environment changes slightly, robots like that can't change," Hasegawa said in a press release.

In this video, the robot uses its artificial intelligence to pour a glass of "water" (beads, actually, since water and electronics don't mix all that well) and then, mid-task and with its hands full, it's told to make the water cold. What to do? It spies the "ice cube" on a nearby tray and decides to put down the bottle so it can pick up the ice cube and put in the glass.

Hasegawa's robot is similar to the Bakerbot reported on earlier this week that is able to make and bake a cookie almost from scratch, using code that enables it to determine where ingredients are, pour and mix them together, and place them in the oven.

Hasegawa's team has developed an algorithm called a Self Organizing Incremental Neural Network, or SOINN, to do the thinking. The network obtains information from the robot's visual, auditory and tactile sensors. In addition, it does what people do these days: goes online and chats with others (robots in this case).

So, for example, let's say this robot in Japan is asked to make a cup of tea. It doesn't know how, so it goes online and learns from a robot in London how to make a perfect cup of English tea. But, since it's in Japan, the robot knows this isn't quite right.

Based on its past experience and surroundings, Hasegawa said, "we think this robot will become able to transfer that knowledge to its immediate situation, and make green tea using a Japanese teapot."

Quote:Robot makes cookies from (almost) scratch

By John Roach contributor
updated 8/3/2011 4:26:12 PM ET

The future of robots is shaping up to be wonderful for couch potatoes: they can fetch beers , fold laundry, and now they can even bake cookies.

This latest breakthrough comes from the Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT where graduate student Mario Bollini is plugging away at code that allows robots to make decisions for themselves as they accomplish specific tasks.

The Bakerbot, which is a Willow Garage PR2 robot, represents a hybrid approach to this end goal, he said. The robot knows, for example, that four bowls with cookie ingredients are on the table as well as a mixing bowl and a cookie sheet.

"All the manipulation is done on the fly," he said. It calculates, for example, how to pick up the bowls with ingredients and pour them into the mixing bowl, mix them together, and put them in the oven. The result is a baked cookie, not the prettiest cookie in the world, but nevertheless a baked cookie.

Ultimately, researchers would like to use the knowledge (and code) gained from this Bakerbot project and use it to design a robot that would know what to do when asked to bake a cake, for example.

"It would try to understand that, find a recipe for that, and it would try to understand what the recipe is telling it to do and then use actions that it knows how to do to accomplish it," Bollini said.

Beyond baking, robots with these types of skills are already being eyed for factory jobs. Current robots on the assembly line are programmed to do one task over and over again. If someone gets in its way, they get hit. And if they need to do a different task, they have to be completely reprogrammed.

A more dynamic robot could be useful, for example, on an auto assembly line where robots install windshields of all shapes and sizes on several different models of cars and do so without crashing into each other and their human colleagues.

In the more distant future, Bakerbot really might find its home inside a home, particularly for elder care in countries with aging populations such as Japan, Bollini noted. There, they'll likely start out doing cooperative tasks, not baking cookies all by themselves.

"If you're not strong enough to lift the mixing bowl and put it out, the robot will do that part of the task and then the human does things that are easier for the person to do like recognize where everything is and get it out of the cupboards," he said.

This result might actually be the prettiest cookie in the world.

Quote:Future of war: Private robot armies fight it out

By Greg Lindsay
updated 8/6/2011 3:12:35 PM ET

Last month, NATO’s commanders in Libya went with caps-in-hand to the Pentagon to ask for reconnaissance help in the form of more Predator drones. "It’s getting more difficult to find stuff to blow up," a senior NATO officer complained to The Los Angeles Times. The Libyan rebels’ envoy in Washington had already made a similar request. “We can't get rid of (Moammar Gadhafi) by throwing eggs at him,” the envoy told the newspaper.

The Pentagon told both camps it would think about it, citing the need for drones in places like Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, where Predator strikes have killed dozens this month alone. So why doesn’t NATO or the rebels do what Cote d’Ivoire’s Air Force, Mexican police and college student peacekeepers have done — buy, rent or build drones of their own? The development of deadly hardware and software is leading to a democratization of war tech, which could soon mean that every army — private or national — has battalions of automated soldiers at their command.

"Drones are essentially flying — and sometimes armed — computers," the Brookings Institution noted in a paper published last month. They’re robots that follow the curve of Moore’s Law rather than the Pentagon’s budgets, rapidly evolving in performance since the Predator’s 2002 debut while falling in price to the point where Make magazine recently carried instructions on how to launch your own satellite for $8,000.

"You have high school kids competing in robotics competitions with equipment that 10 years ago would have been considered military-grade," says Peter W. Singer, author of "Wired for War" and a senior fellow at Brookings, who predicts robots on the battlefield will be a paradigm-shifting "revolution in military affairs." First comes the high-tech arms race with China, Israel and all the other nations competing to build their own drones. Then comes the low-cost trickle-down into low-tech wars like Libya’s, where tomorrow’s rag-tag militias fight with DIY drones. Finally, if robots are simply computers with wings (and missiles), then expect to see future wars fought by the descendants of flash-trading algorithms, with humans as anxious bystanders.

Flattening the battlespace
Since the Predator first appeared above Afghanistan nearly a decade ago, the Pentagon’s inventory of drones has risen from less than 50 devices to more than 7,000. But the gap between the U.S. and its closest competitors may actually be shrinking. China, for example, has pinned its military ambitions on 2,000 missiles guided by target data from some two-dozen models of surveillance drones.

The worldwide drone market is projected by the Teal Group to be worth $94 billion over the next decade, led by the Pentagon, which has asked Congress for $5 billion for next year's expenses alone. One reason for the ballooning arms race between anywhere from 44 to 70 nations (depending on which estimate you believe) is self-interest. So far, the Pentagon has refused to share its toys, instituting tight export controls on drones such as the Predator or Reaper, both of which are made by General Atomics.

Another is purely financial. An F-22 stealth fighter costs $150 million, roughly 15 times a top-of-the-line Predator. The U.S. military’s blank check of a budget — more than the rest of the world’s combined — means little and less when the cost of drones keeps falling.

But the most important factor may be doctrinal. Unlike the U.S., which is still feeling its way forward with robotic warriors while entrenched generals fight for their tanks and aircraft carriers, small nations with shrinking budgets stand to gain the most from embracing robotic warfare.

"There’s no such thing as a first-mover advantage in war," says Singer. "This technology is different than an aircraft carrier. You don’t need a big military infrastructure to use it, or even to build it. This is more akin to the open source movement in software. You’re flattening the battlespace, and the barriers to entry for other actors is falling."

Peak arms
In 2004, French troops arrived in Cote d’Ivoire to help police a cease-fire in the country’s simmering civil war. Not expecting trouble, they left their air defenses at home. But on Nov. 4, 2004, a pair of Israeli-made Aerostar drones circled their base, reconnoitering targets for the Russian-made jets that bombed them a few hours later, killing nine soldiers and a U.S. aid worker. The drones belonged to an Israeli private military firm hired by Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, who claimed (unconvincingly) that the whole thing was an accident.

Hiring drone-bearing mercenaries is easy when you’re a president; what about when you’re a college student? A year later, a trio of Swarthmore students formed the Genocide Intervention Network to help bring attention to Darfur. After raising almost half-a-million dollars in donations, the group solicited a bid from Evergreen International to remotely fly four surveillance drones above Sudan, documenting atrocities. Sadly, the price tag was a cool $22 million a year. (They passed.)

Today, they would toss the project on Kickstarter and build their drone using Arduino modules developed by hobbyist sites such as DIY Drones. In a recent essay, the consultant and futurist Scott Smith noted that both the "maker" movement and the Libyan rebels desperately hacking together weaponry are drawing on the same open source knowledge base. Or for that matter, so are the Mexican drug cartels assembling their own tanks and submarines.

"We’ve come to a point where you put together a parallel system to the U.S. Department of Defense," says Smith. And also to the point where the DoD is soliciting the hobbyists themselves to be the next generation of weapon designers via DARPA’s crowdsourcing effort, UAVForge. "If I were at a major arms contractor, I would be worried about being disrupted," Smith says.

He wonders if the world is headed toward "peak arms," in which open source, distributed, low-cost tools fatally undermine big-ticket weapons sales in all but a few cases (most of them involving the Strait of Taiwan). And that goes double for non-state actors, e.g. roll-your-own NGOs and drug cartels. "The era of large scale, run-and-gun DIY micro-warfare is just around the corner," Smith concludes.

The robot wars
The trajectory of drones and warbots is the same as computing in general — smaller, cheaper, more ubiquitous. In February, AeroVironment unveiled the prototype of a hummingbird-sized drone that can perch on a windowsill can peer in. Insect-size is next.

But the shift from a single pair of eyes in the sky to a swarm of bots would create havoc with U.S. military doctrine, which requires having a human operator at all times, or a "man in the loop." This is one reason why the Air Force is training more remote pilots this year (some 350) than bomber and fighter pilots combined. Then again, that’s not nearly enough for 7,000 drones, let alone 7 million, all of which would have the intelligence to fight or fly on their own, with faster-than-human response times.

That’s why the definition of "in the loop" is blurring from direct human control "to a veto power we’re unwilling to use," says Singer. In the case of missile defense systems already in use, "you can turn it on or off," but you can’t pick and choose which bogeys to shoot. "The speed and complexity is such that the human interface has to be minimized to be effective," he adds, which suggests the generals in "WarGames" were right all along.

Or were they? Releasing increasingly autonomous warbots into the wild will demand new algorithms to command them, raising the specter of a "flash crash" on the battlefield as opposing algorithms clash and chase each other’s tails. Or what if hackers were to assemble a botnet for real: an army of machines ready to do their bidding? Perhaps a decade from now, there will be no "cyber war." There will only be war.

Messages In This Thread
Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 07-18-2011, 04:05 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - zapoper - 07-18-2011, 09:50 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 07-19-2011, 01:54 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - Cheng - 07-18-2011, 05:31 PM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - Deathaniel - 07-18-2011, 06:27 PM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - Cheng - 07-18-2011, 07:32 PM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - Bull Medicine - 07-25-2011, 08:18 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - Deathaniel - 07-25-2011, 05:26 PM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - Deathaniel - 07-19-2011, 06:12 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 07-19-2011, 06:52 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - zapoper - 07-19-2011, 08:04 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - JazzRoc - 07-22-2011, 02:31 PM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - rsol - 07-22-2011, 02:36 PM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - JazzRoc - 07-22-2011, 04:19 PM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - macfadden - 12-02-2012, 03:48 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 12-02-2012, 04:18 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - FastTadpole - 08-08-2011, 11:33 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - JazzRoc - 08-10-2011, 11:54 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 08-14-2011, 06:25 PM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 08-29-2011, 04:33 PM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - JazzRoc - 11-14-2011, 08:55 PM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 07-18-2012, 06:55 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 12-02-2012, 02:54 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 12-22-2012, 04:50 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - Watchdog - 12-24-2012, 12:35 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 06-17-2013, 02:49 PM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 11-02-2013, 02:35 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - Watchdog - 11-02-2013, 03:12 AM
RE: Who Needs Humans? - R.R - 11-02-2013, 03:15 AM

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