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MIT Helping NASA Build Valkyrie Robots For Space Missions ( 35

An anonymous reader writes: NASA announced that MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is one of just two institutions that will receive "R5," a six-foot, 290-pound humanoid robot also known as "Valkyrie" that will serve on future space missions to Mars and beyond. A group led by CSAIL principal investigator Russ Tedrake will develop algorithms for the robot as part of NASA's upcoming Space Robotics Challenge, which aims to create more dexterous autonomous robots that can help or even take the place of humans "extreme space" missions. While R5 was initially designed to complete disaster-relief maneuvers, its main goal is now to prove itself worthy of even trickier terrain — deep space exploration.

Even the CEO's Job Is Susceptible To Automation, McKinsey Report Says ( 176

colinneagle sends word that according to a new report it's not just blue collar workers who need to be concerned about being replaced with a robot, top execs should be worried too. According to Network World: "Global management consultants McKinsey and Company said in a recent report that many of the tasks that a CEO performs could be taken over by machines. Those redundant tasks include 'analyzing reports and data to inform operational decisions; preparing staff assignments; and reviewing status reports,' the report says. This potential for automation in the executive suite is in contrast to 'lower-wage occupations such as home health aides, landscapers, and maintenance workers,' the report says. Those jobs aren't as suitable for automation, according to the report. The technology has not advanced enough."

The Dawn of the Robotic Chef ( 50

pRobotika writes: When Moley announced its robotic kitchen back in April, the media jumped on the story as a promising glimpse into the future. But how realistic are robot chefs? Robotics' professionals are understandably skeptical but, if Moley manages to overcome one major issue, their approach could have real potential. Why? Because their kitchen is basically a flexible robotic workcell, and in manufacturing that's nothing new.

ABC's 'BattleBots' Reboot Will Come Back For a Second Season ( 37

An anonymous reader writes: Good news if you're a fan of watching robots fight or just flail around in a corner. ABC has renewed BattleBots for a second season. According to The Wrap: "Following the summer ratings hit "Celebrity Family Feud," the six-episode first season of "BattleBots" earned an average of 5.4 million total viewers and a 1.7 rating among adults 18-49. Season 2 will keep the single-elimination tournament format of the first, but will double the size of the field to include expert roboticists, garage builders, families on a mission and past winners returning to defend their turf."

Robots Teach Each Other New Tricks ( 27

schwit1 writes with this story from the MIT Technology Review about a robot at Brown University who was taught to perform a task from another robot at Cornell. According to the article: "the ability to acquire and then share knowledge is a central component of human culture and civilization. A small milestone in the exchange of robot knowledge has now been demonstrated by two bots working in different academic research labs. Researchers at Cornell University previously devised an online game, called TellMeDave, through which volunteers can help train a robot to perform a task and associate different actions with commands given in everyday language. By guiding the robot through a task, a volunteer trains a machine-learning algorithm so the robot can perform the task again. And this learned behavior is stored in a central repository called RoboBrain that's accessible by other robots (see 'The World's First Knowledge Engine for Robots')."

How Amazon's Robots Move Everything Around 177

dkatana writes: Amazon's drones have a long way to become reality, but the real magic of the Internet of Things (IoT) is already happening at Amazon's vast fulfillment warehouses in the US. Amazon runs a fleet of thousands of small robots moving storage pods around so orders can be fulfilled in record time. They are so efficient that they can move an entire warehouse and have ready to operate again during the weekend. All together the small robots have traveled over 93 million miles — almost the distance from Earth to the Sun.

Russian Scientists Create Cockroach Spy Robot 50

An anonymous reader writes: A team of scientists at the Kaliningrad-based Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University has unveiled a small cockroach robot which will be tasked with hunting out victims trapped under debris. The robot measures 10cm in length, and can move at up to 30cm/second. The device is fitted with light sensors, as well as contact and non-contact probes which allows it to move around without bumping into any obstacles. “We had to develop many things from scratch. For example, there’s a company in Austria that produces gearing for legs, but a unit for one robot would have cost us nearly $9,000 while our entire budget is $22,500,” said Danil Borchevkin, the university’s lead engineer.

Morphological Computation: The Hidden Superpower of Soft-Bodied Robots 51

Hallie Siegel writes: Ever wonder why most robots are built with hard bodies? It's because they are easier to control that way. But now researchers are embracing the complexities of soft bodies, by using their complex dynamics as an asset for solving some of the control computation, instead of using digital computation to solve it. Not surprisingly, many soft robots are inspired by nature. Researcher Helmut Hauser talks about his research in 'morphological computation', including OCTOPUS, a bio-inspired robotic silicon arm.

Robots Are Coming For Our Jobs, Just Not All of Them 319

szczys writes: There was a video published on YouTube about a year ago called Humans Need Not Apply which compared human labor now to horse labor just before industrialization. It's a great thought-exercise, but there are a ton of tasks where it's still science-fiction to think robots are taking over anytime soon. Kristina Panos makes a great argument for which jobs we all want to see taken by robots, others that would be very difficult to make happen, and some that would just creep everyone out.

How Long Until We Have a Home Robot That Lives Up To the Hype? 114

moon_unit2 writes: You may have heard of "personal robots" such as Jibo, Buddy, and Pepper. One journalist recently met one of these home bots and found the reality less dazzling than the promotional videos. Whereas the Indiegogo clips of Buddy show the robot waking people up and helping with cooking, the current prototype can only perform a few canned tasks, and it struggles with natural language processing and vision. As the writer notes, the final version may be a lot more sophisticated, but it's hard to believe that real home helpers are just around the corner.

Philadelphia Hackers and Others Offer Brotherly Love To Fallen Robot 142

An anonymous reader writes: Since a hitchhiking robot was destroyed in Philadelphia over the weekend, there has been an overwhelming show of support according to its co-creators Frauke Zeller and David Smith. Makers from all over Philly have reached out and offered to help rebuild the robot. "We'll say that at this moment, if we get the OK from the creators to repair or replace the needed parts for HitchBOT, we'll be happy to do so," wrote Georgia Guthrie, executive director for a local makerspace called The Hacktory. "If not, we understand and we may just build ourselves a HitchBot2 to send along on its journey. We feel it's the least we can do to let everyone, especially the Robot community, know that Philly isn't so bad."

Hitchhiking Robot's Cross-Country Trip Ends In Philadelphia 224

An anonymous reader writes: A hitchhiking robot that successfully traveled across Canada in 26 days last year and parts of Europe, has met its demise in Philly. Created as a "social experiment," hitchBOT started its journey in the U.S. in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on July 17 with its thumb raised up and tape wrapped around its head that read "San Francisco or bust." After about two weeks in the U.S., someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair. "Sadly, sadly it's come to an end," said Frauke Zeller, one of its co-creators. The Independent reports: "The robot was designed to be a talking travel companion and could toss out factoids and carry limited conversation. A GPS in the robot tracked its location, and a camera randomly snapped photos about every 20 minutes to document its travels."

Beyond Safety: Is Robotic Surgery Sustainable? 54

Hallie Siegel writes: The release last week of the study on adverse events in robotic surgery led to much discussion on the safety and effectiveness of robotic surgical procedures. MIT Sloane's Matt Beane argues that while the hope is that this dialogue will mean safer and more effective robotic procedures in the future, the intense focus on safety and effectiveness has compromised training opportunities for new robotic surgeons, who require many hours of 'live' surgical practice time to develop their skills. Beane says that robotic surgery will likely continue to expand in proportion to other methods, given that it allows fewer surgeons to perform surgery with less trauma to the patient, but no matter how safe we make robotic surgical procedures, they will become a luxury available to a very few if we fail to address the sustainability of the practice.

MIT Is Improving Object Recognition For Robots 9

jan_jes writes: MIT have demonstrated their monocular SLAM supported approach that is able to achieve stronger performance against the classical frame based approach [where misclassifications occur occasionally]. The system is able to detect and robustly recognize objects in its environment using a single RGB camera. They have presented their paper at the Robotics Science and Systems conference last week. The system uses SLAM information to augment existing object-recognition algorithms. Robot with camera provide the improved object predictions in all views.

Robot-Staffed Japanese Hotel Opens 56

jfruh writes: The front desk is staffed by a female android in a white tunic. The bellhop is a mechanical velociraptor. A giant robot arm put luggage into cubbyholes. It's the Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki and it's opening this Friday, and it's a place where 'basically guests will see only robots, not humans,' according to general manager Masahiko Hayasaka.

Diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggy" until you can find a rock.