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The Military

Human Rights Watch: Petition Against Robots On the Battle Field 275

New submitter KublaCant writes "'At this very moment, researchers around the world – including in the United States – are working to develop fully autonomous war machines: killer robots. This is not science fiction. It is a real and powerful threat to humanity.' These are the first words of a Human Rights Watch Petition to President Obama to keep robots from the battlefield. The argument is that robots possess neither common sense, 'real' reason, any sense of mercy nor — most important — the option to not obey illegal commands. With the fast-spreading use of drones et al., we are allegedly a long way off from Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics being implanted in autonomous fighting machines, or into any ( semi- ) autonomous robot. A 'Stop the Killer Robots' campaign will also be launched in April at the British House of Commons and includes many of the groups that successfully campaigned to have international action taken against cluster bombs and landmines. They hope to get a similar global treaty against autonomous weapons. The Guardian has more about this, including quotes from well-known robotics researcher Noel Sharkey from Sheffield University."
The Military

How a 1960s Discovery In Neuroscience Spawned a Military Project 112

Harperdog writes "This is pretty fascinating: The Chronicle of Higher Ed has an article about a DARPA project that allows researchers to scan satellite photos, video, etc., and have a computer pick up differences in brain activity to tell whether an image has been seen...images that might flash by before conscious recognition. From the article: 'In a small, anonymous office in the Trump Tower, 28 floors above Wall Street, a man sits in front of a computer screen sifting through satellite images of a foreign desert. The images depict a vast, sandy emptiness, marked every so often by dunes and hills. He is searching for man-made structures: houses, compounds, airfields, any sign of civilization that might be visible from the sky. The images flash at a rate of 20 per second, so fast that before he can truly perceive the details of each landscape, it is gone. He pushes no buttons, takes no notes. His performance is near perfect.'"

Robot Hand Beats You At Rock, Paper, Scissors 100% of the Time 225

wasimkadak writes "This robot hand will play a game of rock, paper, scissors with you. Sounds like fun, right? Not so much, because this particular robot wins every. Single. Time. It only takes a single millisecond for the robot to recognize what shape your hand is in, and just a few more for it to make the shape that beats you, but it all happens so fast that it's more or less impossible to tell that the robot is waiting until you commit yourself before it makes its move, allowing it to win 100% of the time."

London's Robotic Fire Brigade 82

dustpan writes "The BBC has a story up about a quartet of robotic fire fighters that the London Fire Brigade is testing and with which have been achieving 'tremendous results.' The robots were developed by QinetiQ, which is a defense contractor. The LFB has been testing the units since last year and the machines are primarily used in fires involving acetylene canisters. The group commander for hazardous materials and environmental protection with the LFB says that the robots have cut the time to resolve these potential hazards from 24 hours to 3. From the article: 'Three years ago we were shutting down parts of London for over 24 hours every other week. Now it doesn't even make the news.'"

Flying Micro-Robot Takes Off 72

AndreV writes "A University of Waterloo in Ontario engineering research team has developed the world's first flying micro-robot capable of manipulating objects for micro-scale applications, which include micro-assembly of mechanical components, handling of biological samples and even microsurgery. It moves around and manipulates objects with micro-grippers, remotely controlled by a laser-focusing beam (heating the pincers with a laser opens them; when the laser is turned off, they cool and close). Its magnetic drive mechanism controls the field using continuous feedback from positioning sensors in order to position the 'bot. 'It can enter virtually any space and can be operated in a sealed enclosure by a person outside,' the project leaders says, 'which makes it useful for handling bio-hazardous materials or working in vacuum chambers and clean rooms.' The video of the contraption shows it floating in mid-air."

"There are things that are so serious that you can only joke about them" - Heisenberg