Robotics may be getting a lot of headlines today – but how do the stories compare to the past. Here’s a list of 5 fascinating reads in robotics from 2008 – after all 2008 was the year of Wall-E and the release of Boston Dynamics first Big Dog video.
The UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Grand Challenge is designed to boost development of teams of small robots able to scout out hidden dangers in hostile urban areas.
Over 10 days in August, 11 teams of robots will compete to locate and identify four different threats hidden around a mock East German village used for urban warfare training, at Copehill Down, Wiltshire.
The robots must find snipers, armed vehicles, armed foot soldiers, and improvised explosive devices hidden around the village, and relay a real-time picture of what is happening back to a command post. (New Scientist April 2008)
Check out those drones! As an aside I wonder if that mock East German village built for urban warfare training during the Cold War is still ‘active.’
Mighty Atom was the size of a ten-year-old boy, more or less, but had a 100,000 horsepower atomic energy heart, an electronic brain, search light eyes, super-sensitive hearing, rockets in his legs, ray guns in his fingers, and a pair of machine guns in his posterior. He attended primary school, where he was often teased for being a robot… Since robots could not harm humans – that’s their nature – he had no choice but to put up with it. (The Valve November 2008)
It was the first time that brain signals had been used to make a robot walk… “The robot, called CB for Computational Brain, has the same range of motion as a human. It can dance, squat, point and “feel” the ground with sensors embedded in its feet, and it will not fall over when shoved.” (The New York Times January 2008)
“By 2010 we will see mobile robots as big as people but with cognitive abilities similar in many respects to those of a lizard. The machines will be capable of carrying out simple chores, such as vacuuming, dusting, delivering packages and taking out the garbage. By 2040, I believe, we will finally achieve the original goal of robotics and a thematic mainstay of science fiction: a freely moving machine with the intellectual capabilities of a human being.” (Scientific American January 2008)
Rogue robots on the loose — Ground-crawling US war robots armed with machine guns, deployed to fight in Iraq (in 2007), reportedly turned on their fleshy masters. The rebellious machine warriors have been retired from combat pending upgrades. (The Register April 2008)
Finally, if you have not seen Alex Rivera’s 2008, social and political sci-fi movie, Sleep Dealer I recommend it. See the trailer here (or below) – “We build your skyscrapers and harvest your crops – let our robotics do your dirty work.”
Picture – The San Antonio Light, 16 October 1928, the headline reads: “Steel Soldiers May Do Mankind’s Fighting.”