Occasional Robot Round-Up – March 2021

We haven’t done one of these in a while. What’s up with our robot overlords?

It seems as if it is a given, now, that robots can walk, fly, swim, drive, crawl, and otherwise move freely about. It looks like robot research is now moving into more subtle forms of communication and action.

You lookin’ at me? Robots are being trained to draw out responses from humans by making “eye contact.” A word game in Sweden is helping them figure it all out. Studies showed that a robot “looking at” a person can encourage more participation in the game by that person.

Robots are also being taught to understand human body language. Cameras are aimed at the torso, face, and limbs and hands, as well as each individual finger and this information is gathered by a computer. All of this data adds up to be a pose. The article explains it this way: “You could tell your robot to “pick that up,” and it could immediately understand what you’re pointing at. By perceiving and interpreting your physical gestures, the robot may even learn to read emotions by tracking body language. So when you’re silently crying with your face in your hands because a robot has taken your job, it might offer you a tissue.”

Speaking of which, The Guardian tested a robot author.. A robot barber is attempting haircuts. Robots are flipping burgers for fast food chains. You can use a robot as a lawyer in some situations. Artificial Intelligence and neural networks are proving as good if not better than doctors at diagnosing and detecting cancers and other issues in patients.

Advances in robotics are leading to other advances in health care. Here’s a gaze-guided wheelchair. The chair moves according to user eye movements, which could be quite useful if other types of steering are difficult or impossible.

Soft-bodied robots are another big thing. The hope is they can get into places hard-bodied robots cannot, and perhaps be safer around humans in some situations. It’s a challenge, though. A rigid robot is limited in ways it can move and sense so the number os sensors required is also limited. A soft robot is “infinitely dimensional,” and we can’t have sensors everywhere, so the question becomes where to effectively put sensors. MIT is working on a system to help figure out where those sensors should be placed.

Sounds like a great world we are heading toward, eh?

But you want to know about the scary stuff, right? We’ll ease in…

These change from a walking robot to vehicle and back. They’re small and under $500. Nothing particularly scary here, but…

Here is Hyundai working on a walking car concept. It would follow that we could make big transformers some time soon. Nothing to worry about. Moving along…

Well, yes, a 60 foot, 25-ton robot learning to walk might be cause for a pause. But it is surely for entertainment purposes, no?

People living in New York City saw the police testing the use of robotic dogs. They’ve used them at a few crime scenes already, once to enter a building and look for suspects.

The maker of a robotic dog, Boston Dynamics, is mad that artists want to point out the potential dangers of robot dogs during a paintball rampage project. The artists wanted to point out that a robot dog with a weapon strapped to its back could do some damage. The company says using a robot dog in that manner would void the warranty.

Lastly, here’s a company is offering police and others a new drone that can smash through tempered, automotive, and most residential glass, allowing it to then enter the structure. It comes with a two-way communications system “enabling crisis negotiators to talk through the drone and negotiate with suspects.” It can carry and drop 1 lb payloads. And they are providing grants to police to help them buy these things.

So, some new things to think about when you see happy dancing robots:

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