June 5, 2016

This Robot Renaissance ≠ The Second Renaissance

After almost 20 years of killer drone dominated robot headlines, it seems the world's robots have finally had enough and have decided to collectively launch a full scale PR offensive to improve their image. December has truly been an amazing month for robot enthusiasts. First we had Amazon unveiling their delivery by air plans, then we got news that along with 7 other companies google had just bought Boston Dynamics and yesterday we saw NASAs Valkyrie and many other bots compete at the DARPA Robotics Challenge! The challenge was a phenomenal success and was won by SCHAFT, which you can see in action in the video below. This month also saw Europe launch Gaia & Swarm, we saw China land a Jade rabbit on the moon and two days ago we were allowed to eavesdrop on the conversation between Japanese robot Kirobo and an astronaut aboard the ISS. With TU Delft unveiling its DelFly; the first fully autonomous robot dragonfly, and yesterday's introduction to cubli; a walking and jumping self balancing cube, robot news shows no signs of slowing down. When you see robonaut stretching its new legs in the links below, you can only wonder where they will take us.

From a simple Roomba to Google's selfdriving cars, from Matternet's quadcopter delivery vehicles to robot seals for the elderly and robot dinosaurs that teach kids to code,... Robots are finally helping us rediscover that they have other uses besides spying and bombing people. After 40 years of hiding in space, in the military, in darkened manufacturing plants and only recently showing up in healthcare and search and rescue, increasingly advanced robots and drones are finally beginning to show up in the more traditional consumer market.

More and more we see robots that support us, not just literally as is the case with exoskleletons, or physically when they replace broken limbs and organs, but also mentally. A computer, when given input (keyboard, mouse, camera) can mine, gather, assemble, transform, inspect and distribute data. If a computer has an eye, it can see you fall. A robot is all that with the added benefit that it can actually catch you. A robot is what happens when you stick any combination of wings, arms, eyes, ears and/or noses onto a computer. We love to play with these machines because humans crave data. It's what allows us to improve our understanding of the world and our quality of life and these new toys are helping us generate mountains of it. Even excavating it from places we never would have thought possible, places inaccessible to ourselves.

This week Europe launched Gaia, last week China's rover started roaming the surface of the moon, last month India sent a probe on its way to orbit Mars and last year the US's massive Curiosity gently touched down on Mars. We've got robots keeping an eye on places as remote as Titan and even Pluto and this year, for the first time in our history, we've managed to guide one of our envoys, Voyager 1, out of our solar system and into the the void between the stars. If there is a race between man and machine, we fleshlings just got beaten to interstellar space. These days, robots are literally everywhere.

Have you seen the many Robot spiders, fish, snakes, flies and dragonflies, humming-bees and -birds, apes, mules, dogs, lizards, jellyfish & octopi crawl around on youtube? During my travels I've even made some rare sightings of various room sized robot scientists, puking and farting humanoids and even many armed surgeons and organ growers. Robotics is undergoing its own Cambrian explosion. Robots are beginning to take on a stupendous amount of shapes and sizes, their form and function radiating outwards filling niches as fast as we can think of them. If something can be done, we either already have or are about to. The human spirit in action!

Anyone can visit any place anywhere from wherever they are by sending or unlocking a robotic representation of themselves. Robots giving keynote speeches are kind of cool but how would you feel about a robot boss? You can ask Siri, Google or WolframAlpha anything and they will be able to answer many of your questions. You can play a game with Watson or Deep Blue and lose. You can have sex with a realdoll or a real far-away person through teledildonics. Could chatterbot, when he recognizes you and can recall your past conversations, become your friend? Another celebration of the human spirit or the loss of our human touch?

Right now people can perform a 9 to 5 drone flight over Afghanistan and not miss their family dinner in the US... How much longer before we'll be able to do 9 to 5 shifts as astronaut miners? Robotic avatars that respond 1:1 to your movements and virtual reality gear that allows you to put yourself in the robot's position will no doubt find use in various branches of our emerging space industry. Besides exploration, mining and construction, they might even find use in tourism. I can imagine many being too afraid to strap themselves to the top of a rocket but I think A LOT of people would pay to experience space through an avatar.

> Apple, Amazon & Google getting into robotics
> Google adds to its menagerie of robots
> Boston Dynamic showcase
> Meet the DRC teams
> DRC trials wrap-up
> Matternet's package delivery drones
> Amazon Testing Drone Delivery System
> Gaia Space Telescope Soon to Map the Milky Way [HD]
> Swarm; orbiting magnetism to light converter maps earths magnetic field
> China's Jade Rabbit Moon rover sends back first photos
> Astronaut chats with Kirobo
> Robot dragonfly DelFly Explorer flies autonomously
> NASA Unveils Valkyrie
> Robonaut Legs In Motion
> The Cubli: a cube that can jump up, balance, and 'walk'
> BBC/NHK docu; Robot Revolution, will machines surpass humans (2013-05-04) Full HD 1080P

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