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Dinosaur Robots Will Do My Bidding! 63

k-k-k-Ken writes: "Saw an interesting article in Forbes about Dinosaur Robots For Sale. While the bots are far from mass production, I can't help but wonder if this is another step in the direction of Jurassic Park meets the Terminator. Once the mobility has been worked out, the AI is the next logical step. Still, I can't help myself and would probably be one of the first to go get a 'Troody' ..." MIT also has a nifty article up about Dilworth and his robots, including links to the Leg Lab where the springy joints mentioned in the article are being developed.
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Dinosaur Robots Will Do My Bidding!

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  • This would definately be cool desk fodder. I already have people coming over to my desk to play with my legos. If I had one of these, we'd never be able to get any work done. Oh nevermind, I forgot that wouldn't necessarily be a *bad thing* (TM).

    Secret windows code
  • Grimlock like Slashdot.
  • The actual movie (along with a couple of others) is on

  • I hope that this doesnt mean that when we seen those cute ( and freakin' big ) diplodocus', it cant morph into a Velociraptor and rip us apart.

  • In general, mainstream A.I. has had disappointing results over the past 40 years, even though A.I. labs like MIT, SRI and Xerox have invented great general computining software (emacs, GNU, bitmap graphics, etc).
    The driving force for A.I. in my opinion will come out of the entertainment computing industry. These including gaming/movie characters with realistic behaviors and robo-toys. Conventional computing labs are driven by making money in business or beating the military enemy. However, nothing is more stimulating than "play". The MIT Media Lab has worked a bit on this.
  • Could the walking tech they're using for this be used to build better robots for some of the Robot fighting competitions out there? This would really add some interesting designs. I'm getting a little tired of the wedge variations winning all the time. Also this would probably help to commoditize the tech so it could be incorporated into all kinds of cool toys. How about one big enough to ride? ;-) The article stated they are hoping to get this thing to run over rough terrain soon. Of course the sci-fi story possiblities are really cool too. Armed rangers riding around on their all terrain dinobots ;-). Kinda like mechwarrior just not so big ;-)
  • These things would go great on a porch or patio. Especially if you had a large garden to hide them in...
  • Its an open forum. Youre free to post what you want, he's free to post what he wants. Thats why I come here to read this thing, because they DON'T edit the resonses. Unless youre some kind of scientologist wannabe.
    You don't have to read it, thats why this moderation system is in effect. As a matter of fact, if you get modded down as an AC enough, your I.P. gets blocked. So what more do you want? Would you like to work for free for slashdot, reading and editing every post instantly, without removing any that I decided I might find amusing on a whim? As a matter of fact, if there were any kind of automated censorship going on, you would find even more useless posts. I for one, would find it tremedously amusing to see how much I could get through the system.

    I don't like these posts much either, but what words are you going to search for to filter them? Haven't you read ANY of the censorware discussions on here?
  • Damn, and here i was all hoping for a flame war. :)
  • An amusement park where the giant mechanical dinosaurs go ape shit wild and send one made of liquid metal back in time to slay the mother of their would be destroyer Jon. But they are always thwarted by ancient technology that can't hurt it, but still manages to kill it after failing to kill it the first 300 times they tried it.......

    .... oh, and they try to put it on display in los angelas and it goes nuts ala Godzilla for a while.
  • DAMN! I was going to make that joke...

    but, I will see to it that if anyone ever makes real working transformers, and I mean giant humaniods that turn into dinosaurs, fighter jets, big rigs, or 80's hot rods, then they will get millions upon millions of dollars.

    Hell instead of spending half a trillion (at least) on missile defence that won't work lets spend it on tranformer research!
  • hey, the javascript wasn't working on the page for me, so here's the link. quicktime 3 required. [] john
  • No, no, no. The on-going efforts to build Daleks is the next step in a long line of attempts to exterminate humanity. Robotic dinosaurs are just for running after screaming people and eating the ones that separate from the group for no apparent reason...
  • Just as we start to build the first city-block trashing mechasaurs, you want to make them as smart as one of Cthulthu's grandchildren ? Isn't a big dumb dinosaur scarey enough for you ?

    Never trust anything with tentacles and no backbone.

  • by zpengo ( 99887 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:49PM (#200279) Homepage
    This is exactly the same thing as any robot made within the past few decades, except that it hops and looks like a dinosaur. Big whoop.
  • Cybertron and all its moons are mine!

    There is no escape. I, Galvatron will crush you just as the magnificent Megatron crushed Prime!

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

  • I hope this one lasts even longer than summer! :)
  • A quick Google search [] for 'supertoys kubrick miniature dinosaurs' will clarify things.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @01:45PM (#200283) Homepage
    This is actually a continuation of Marc Raibert's leg lab work in the 1980s and early 1990s. Raibert had the big insight, which is that balance is more important than gait. Out of that came the various hopping machines of the Leg Lab's early days. Raibert left the MIT faculty and went off to do a startup, Boston Dynamics [], which ended up doing kinematic models of humans for games and such, but not much dynamics.

    Gil Pratt took over the Leg Lab, and focused more on actuator design. Raibert's machines worked, but needed hydraulic, electrical, and pneumatic umbilicals. Better machine design has produced more compact robots.

    The idea of springy joints has been around for a while. [] It's common to model muscles as springs and dampers for which the spring constant, neutral point, and damping factor are adjustable. It's well-known that in mammal running, most of the energy of each stride is stored as spring energy in muscles. (As I recall, about 80% of the energy is recycled for the next stride, so this is a big win.) There's been work at Stanford on flexible manipulators [], although that's more related to arms. McGill [] has a small, high-efficiency hopping machine.

    Unless you use pneumatic actuators, off the shelf components aren't well-matched for this approach motion control. That doesn't mean it can't be done, but you spend a lot of time on component development. That's what the Leg Lab has been focusing on under Pratt, and that's why the little dinosaur model was tough to build.

    Rod Brooks from MIT also tried a robotic startup, IS Robotics, which produced a $100K robotic insect. Didn't sell. It's really hard to sell mobile robots; I've known several people with failed startups.

    I work on this sort of thing for games and animation. []

  • Off Topic:
    Forget this CG crap, for Episode 3 I want C3-P0 to be a real live, autonomous robot actor, programmed with Anthony Daniels' voice!
  • I could see this type of thing really sprucing up the Dinosaur National Monument [] in Vernal, UT.
  • by vex24 ( 126288 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:37PM (#200286) Homepage
    I want one to play my records with it's beak, one to fly out and change the channel on my TV, and one get all sassy and lock me out of my own stone-age house!
  • by xmalenko ( 127203 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:24PM (#200287)
    Me Grimlock say robot dinosaurs first step to Dinobots! Dinobots no need AI, Dinobots smash!
  • Isn't the bigger problem a power issue? A tethered robot would have a hard time keeping balance much less be able to run. With current battery technology and assuming a reasonable running time between charges i believe that the dino's weight would be too great for it to lift itself off the ground. Not to mention what seems to be a lack of battery space.

    sigs are for k1dz
  • The first thing I thought when I read the headline is how the hell can dinasours use ebay?
  • ... can they transform into well-meaning but stupid Autobots, like Grimlock and Snarl?
  • Consider this: the most prolific species on the planet is the beetle. It is my opinion that beetles aren't that smart, but they do their job well.

    I think the better way to go with robots is the Mark Tilden route--BEAM []

    BEAM could work for large robots as well as it does for the bug size. As someone already pointed out dinosaurs had walnut sized brains. At the present time AI is so far from being feasible that you would only dely the introduction of truly useful robots while waiting for AI to catch up.

    The interesting thing about Tilden's robots is they do inexplicable things like "learn"--they "remember" how to avoid obsticals, etc. Their resemblance to bugs is incredible.

    Remember: Dinosaurs disappeared--cockroaches and beetles didn't.

  • AKA, the 'Pip' principle.

    Can anyone comment in an intelligent and informed manner how much something like this would cost if you mass-produced, say, a half-million of them?


  • Troody looks like the prototype of the BattleTech robot I've always wanted. I need something else to get me through traffic. Go road rage!
  • But the business is no sure thing. Dinamation is in dire financial straits, with most of its dinos reportedly frozen in warehouses.
    Seems dinosuars always end up getting frozen: ice ages, financial straits, when are they gonna learn and be warm blooded, oh wait... []
  • Of course there is the potential to use tools like this to come to a greater understanding of how they stood, walked, etc.
  • That's what I'm thinking too. I'm not sure we need an AI for replica dinosaurs. The real thing was pretty dumb, and I'm not sure I'd trust my kids going to a museum which had implemented true "T-Rex simulating AI" in it's exhibits. I think a few simple algorithms will work fine.

  • Right now, he is focused on building incredibly realistic museum pieces that would seem a lot like residents at a zoo. Aibo already chases an orange ball, and some robots can react to facial expressions. Dilworth expects that his dinobots will be even more lifelike.

    And he's looking at charging 100,000 bucks to buy one or lease one for 2,000 a month. After growing up in an era of T-Rexes with foam skin that looks like someone picked at it and pulled chunks out of it at my local natural history museum, I'd be happy to see something more realistic, even if it's smaller. And I bet his robots wouldn't cost much more than those foam and girder monsters.

  • damn that thing walks gracefully!

    I can't wait until i see a honda asimo [] taking troody for a walk down 5th avenue...

  • For a measly $2505, museums can get an Aibo [] ($2500) and a sign asking visitors to squint real hard to see the dinosaur ($5).

    "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of" - Ogden Nash

  • If highly programmable robots with a camera and one arm were widely available, then I think you would see A GIGANTIC leap in AI research.

    The only thing that's really needed is a good open-sourced vision-parsing API, for things to really start happening in the AI field. Let some genius scientists do the really dirty work and then open up the results up to every programmer on earth.
  • by Goronguer ( 223202 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:17PM (#200301)
    [I] wonder if this is another step in the direction of Jurassic Park meets the Terminator . . .

    Another step? You mean this is the latest in a long line of attempts to build robotic dinosaurs to extirminate humanity, and the trend has escaped my attention until now?

  • reminds me of a fake SNL commercial for this robot insurance to dupe old people out of their money.

    "Most insurance companies offer NO robot insurance protection." We see a man attacked in his garden by rampaging robot. Fake Scientist: "Robots are very big and very strong. They can hurt you. When they grip you in their super-strong steel claws, they just don't let go." Old person: "I don't even know why the scientists make the robots."

  • Me Grimlock want make fun of Slashdot Editor Grammar, but Grimlock no understand grammar.

  • by WillSeattle ( 239206 ) on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:35PM (#200304) Homepage
    Hmm, $2000 to rent ...

    I can see it now, a kid will rent one of these babies, maybe a T-rex model, and hack it to kill off his classmates.

    They're killing machines, those dinosaur robots ... and you can just say it's for a science project if they have one of those "no tolerance" weapons searches.

    By the time they figure it out ...

  • I want a robotic Richard Simmons. Or a dog that barks killer bees. I can't make up my mind.
  • Why use AI?

    Didn't the dinosaurs die because they were too stupid?
  • Check out [] The artist there makes dinousar skeltons out of steel. Along with some wire cabling you can make em move, and even snap. I saw them at a trade show last year, and they are very cool. They are for sale too. Less than troody too.
  • We're going to have one more Jurassic Park sequel. I can imagine it now... Jurrasic Park: AI Attacks!

  • How about you come up with an AI as intelligent as a squid before you start having nightmares of rampaging intelligent dinosaur robots.
    uh.. when the robots get as intelligent as a squid I'd be very very scared.
    The squid is actually a very intelligent animal, with capabilities exceding most of the other animals living in the sea.
    The squid is probably the most intelligent animal in the world if you don't take mammals in consideration. It is even smarter than most of the mammals.

    Btw.. I think I've found something that would be nice to work with.
  • Isn't the bigger problem a power issue? A tethered robot would have a hard time keeping balance much less be able to run. With current battery technology and assuming a reasonable running time between charges i believe that the dino's weight would be too great for it to lift itself off the ground. Not to mention what seems to be a lack of battery space.
    If this cool little thing is supposed to be used in museums battery life should be no problem. They could solve the problem simply by programming it to recharge itself from a "feeder station" every 60 minutes or so. This would even make it look like the little thing was looking for food.

    Guess what I'm going to try and build with my lego tomorrow...
  • by Dancin_Santa ( 265275 ) <> on Thursday May 24, 2001 @12:13PM (#200311) Journal
    Once the mobility has been worked out, the AI is the next logical step

    How about you come up with an AI as intelligent as a squid before you start having nightmares of rampaging intelligent dinosaur robots.

    Dancin Santa
  • Yep. Remember those walking Godzilla toys that could shoot sparks out of its mouth? Step #26992.

    Hell, Dancin Santa is step #43005.

    Dancin Santa
  • if, instead of developing Artificially Intelligent giant robots, they made Genuinely Unintelligent robots. Then we would have less to worry about in terms of them getting 'too smart', and eating us.
  • Make a bunch of large robot bees to scare away all the other bees. And then make an even larger robot bear, to steal honey from the robot bees. Then make some robot hunters (who have really bad aim), to try and shoot the robot bear, who's stealing the honey from the robot bees. But the hunters will miss, and will then be mawled by the large robot bears big robot claws.
  • Just add some weaponry and you could kick some major butt on BattleBots or Robot Wars!
  • I'll get some funding via stupid IT jobs. With my extra cash, I'm buying servos, circuit boards that emulate c++ programs then playing with a torch in my grandfather's junkyard. Transformers definately can be made, the biggest obsticle is bipedal movement... which I think could be done with a balance system made up of a fluid and a series of floats. Bleh, who knows how far I'll get, but its going to be friggin fun. Until I get stung by all the bees in the place.
  • i wonder what the security at MIT is like. are they geared up to deal with time-travelling rebel humans and heavily-armed robots from the future?

    it would be simple good sense for them to at least have a plan, or some big sliding steel doors or something. and a helicopter with machine guns.
  • From the above poster's linked site:
    "The technology behind Falling Bodies is now patented. This broad patent covers most spring/damper character simulation systems. If it falls, it has joints, it looks right, and it works right, it's probably covered by our patent."

    Unbelievable. It seems to be nicely tuned, but it's a dead obvious concept.

    Anyone who files a bogus (or bogusly broad) patent should be held financially responsible for the damage it causes by threatening innovators. Yeah, it would be a nightmare to work out, but at least it would give people some reason not to just reach for as much patent control as possible.
  • "Yay! more dinosaur robots that are totally incompatible with everything else including all other MIT dinosaur robots! Yay!"

    The video is horribly slow to download. /.ed already?
  • I think, more important than entertainment, is that technology like this will someday make wheelchairs obsolete.

    Right now a wheelchair that can climb stairs runs about 25 grand... But imagine attaching robotic 'legs' (maybe just supports?) to someone paralized from the waist down, allowing them the freedom they had before they were paralized!


  • When are we gonna see the Corpsegrinder, the Witches or the Investigator??
  • He's not ruling out other markets but would prefer to avoid putting Troody in the military. "I don't want to build a 'Terminator' robot," he says. If someone wants to mass-produce and sell them like Sony's massively successful Aibo robot dogs, Dilworth thinks that might be possible.

    Personally I believe that if the military can find a use for a technology then they will use it. The technology just needs to become practical and just affordable enough for the military to use it.

    If this technology progresses fast enough and the robot legs can be made to run at speads nearing 35 miles per hour over rough terrain, you better believe the military will create walking, running and leaping howitzers.

    It might be interesting to see if they do decide to go the AI or the human pilot route. I would imagine that the human pilot route would be safer, as there would be little chance of the unit being reprogrammed.

    Of course this is all conjecture and a moot point until someone can come up with a very powerful and renewable powerplant for such a robot. Something akin to the fictional fusion reactors of the Battletech game would probably suffice.

  • After a look-see at the article, it seems that small ones will make cyber-pets, a la Poo-Chi, and larger ones can be used in museums. However, there is nothing that humans can make that will replace seeing the original fossils. Also, we will never be sure exactly how they stood and moved. Take for example, the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Originally, T-Rex was thought to stand nearly upright, a two-story tall tower of terror. Later theories have him standing head down, body almost parallel to the ground, better for running and chasing prey, I suppose.

    I presume the Leg Lab will make more life-like joints for the creatures. I'd like to see one soon.
  • This is exactly why Anonymous Cowards should not be allowed to post. If this - person - had an account, he could lose enough karma to ensure his next six lives would be miserble. I've seen this same message attacked to several other news items today - couldn't the perl script automatically reject posts like this by scanning for certain words?

  • Wheeled robots almost always win against walkers in battlebots, and there is a good reason for this. Wheeled robots are just plain more maneuverable that walkers, and much faster. Since so much of battlebots victory is based on taking your opponent to the hazards and/or just getting in something resembling a hit, wheels have a real advantage. They're just faster.

  • Thank you for disagreeing with me. Upon further consideration, I believe you're right. Censorship of any sort would be impractical. But I can dream, can't I? :-)
  • Robotic dinosaurs will be nothing more than a more effective teaching tool than the dusty bones in today's museums. A.I. is as far off today as it was yesterday, and is nowhere near being a reality. If or when we have to deal with A.I., we'll have a lot more on our hands to deal with than worries about rampaging dinobots. Robotic lizards are fun, and somewhat irrelevant.

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury