Note to Self: If you ever get a photo op with the crown princess, do NOT pick your nose


March 7

Crown Princess Masako speaks to a student about his prize-winning invention, the Omni-Directional Electric-Powered Wheelchair, as Crown Prince Naruhito looks on at the 65th Concours of Schoolchildren’s Inventions in Tokyo Wednesday. (AP)

He’s never going to live that one down, no matter how advanced his rag-doll transporter might be. Thankfully for him, you can’t go to jail for disrespecting the imperial family anymore.

Robot news: Elderly cyborg terminators from Cyberdyne

This report from the Nikkei scares the hell out of me:

Cyberdyne’s Wearable Robot Suit To Help Seniors

TSUKUBA, Ibaraki Pref. (Nikkei)–A wearable robot suit developed by university scientists that aids the user’s hand and leg movements may be Japan’s answer to a graying society in which a great number of people require lifestyle assistance, or so the developers hope.

The Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL
, suit was developed by a team led by Tsukuba University professor Yoshiyuki Sankai. It is equipped with sensors that respond to the wearer’s brain signals telling muscles to move. With the legs and arms moving slightly before the user’s, the suit enables wearers to walk easily, without straining their arms or legs, and lift items weighing more than 20 kilograms. It is currently being used in trials at health care facilities specializing in the elderly.

cyberdyne-robot-suit-350p.jpgCyberdyne Inc., a venture set up by Tsukuba University, will team up with Daiwa House Industry Co. (1925) to produce 400 HAL suits a year. To this end, Daiwa House recently invested roughly 1 billion yen into the company through a private placement of new shares. The Tsukuba University spinoff will use the proceeds to establish a mass production infrastructure by next fall.

A “HAL” designed by “Cyberdyne.” There are two possible explanations here: 1) the developers are actually trying to help the elderly and just happen to be big fans of apocalyptic science fiction; or 2) They are diabolical madmen with a sense of irony and are raising an army of elderly cyborgs to rule the world.

Ishihara: “Grow some balls and stop hitting on robots”

That’s the gist of his latest interview. Maybe he just wanted to make the otaku cry.

If you go out in the world, it’s filled with sensitivity, and it’s much more interesting. For example, there is no fun in seducing a female robot who only acts in a certain way. But it’s fun to seduce a human, because you can only predict, but not know what will really happen. When it comes to seducing, it is fun to think how you can successfully reach the heart of the target.

Lest you be misled, he still knows where Japan’s strengths lie:

My plan for the Olympics is to fully utilize robot and computer technology. For example, it wouldn’t be too bad of an idea to have Astro Boy fly with the Olympic torch.

Philip K Dick android stolen?

Well, that may be what the mainstream media wants you to believe, but come on-we ARE talking about a Philip K Dick ANDROID here! How could anyone familiar with the man who wrote A Scanner Darkly, Valis, Ubik, The Man in the High Castle, and of course We Can Build You, which stars a cybernetic simulacra of Abraham Lincoln think that a robot containing a complete copy of his surviving records was merely stolen, like a mere piece of luggage? I fully expect to see this android again. My guess: the Replicant Liberation Front freeing their spiritual leader.

The other world cup

World cup fever has gripped the, ummm, the world I suppose. But in all of this fuss over teams of humans from one country competing against teams of humans from another country for the greater glory of their history/race/ideology/religion its important not to forget the as of yet infantile league that will some day destroy them all. I am of course talking about the RoboCup.

And not only humans and robots are caught up in football fever! For according to this report from the BBC even monkeys are new getting in on the action, and this is something that is of great concern–for when monkeys and robots meet on the battlefield, no good can come of it. We have been down that dark road before and we much be very mindful of that awful conflict re-awakening.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Aso: Japanese Animation Readies Humankind for Robot Slavery

I can’t believe I’m going to see this guy next week:

The word “robot” is said to have come to us from the Czech word robota, which means “labor” or sometimes even “drudgery,” and thus is a word that originally carried a negative connotation.

But through Japan’s Astro Boy or the cat-like robot Doraemon, the meaning of the word “robot” shifted, instead becoming a benevolent friend who helps human beings. In Asia and elsewhere around the globe, robots came to be understood as the “white hats” -the good guys.

The impact of this situation is that countries with an affinity for Doraemon do not have workers who reject industrial robots, and thus in those countries, industrial productivity rises. In addition, you find that Japanese-made industrial robots sell well.

Yaskawa Electric Corporation and the other firms of Japan’s “big three” hold a market share of half the global market in the area of robots for welding or applying coatings. Of course, Astro Boy and Gigantor-what we in Japan know as “Tetsujin 28”-are there in the background to all this. In other words, what created the climate in which all this could take place was Japanese culture, and I am continually speaking of culture’s significant contributions in this area.

(Picture: Aso – 2nd from left – giving some kind of award to Bulgarian sumo wrestler Kotooshu (I’ll let you guess which one he is))

When Robots Are Used for Evil, Nobody Wins (Except the robots)

Somehow, political robotic telemarketing seems even more annoying than robotic telemarketing that’s trying to sell me something. Thankfully, I haven’t gotten any of these calls:

Column: Just a bit of hypocrisy in Simmons’ attitude regarding robo calls

On Politics

Congressman Rob Simmons wants to share a phone number with his constituents in the 2nd Congressional District, and he’s urging people to call it: (202) 393-4352.

The number belongs to “American Family Voices,” the group behind the recent rash of the so-called robo calls — automated phone messages — that have flooded homes in Eastern Connecticut, urging residents to call Simmons’ office and tell him they don’t like his position against federal funding for port security.

Simmons has, in the past, claimed these calls have caused a major disruption of his staff’s ability to do its work as hundreds of constituents have called to complain about receiving the unwanted automated messages. So his solution to the problem is ask residents to call “American Family Voices” — and tell them to knock it off.

According to Simmons — and these are his words — American Family Voices is “notorious,” “a shadowy, partisan” organization using “these sleazy and deceptive” calls to distort his voting record.

I don’t recall the congressman being as equally outraged back in 2002 when another organization — United Seniors — flooded the homes of Eastern Connecticut with automated calls asking residents to call the congressman and “thank him” for passing a prescription-drug bill for seniors.
Continue reading When Robots Are Used for Evil, Nobody Wins (Except the robots)

A sad day for robot-kind

Kyodo article via Japan times:

U.N. robot envoy last of its kind

RIO DE JANEIRO (Kyodo) Sony Corp. recently announced it will cease development of QRIO humanoid robots. Nevertheless, the machines continue to entertain children around the world.

A QRIO robot enchanted a group of students with a samba and soccer performance Tuesday at a school in Sao Paulo.

QRIO, the product of cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology developed by Sony Corp., is touring Brazil sponsored by the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan.

“It surprised me when (the robot) danced samba,” said Gustavo Vencigueri Azedo, 10, as he mimicked the robot’s steps of Brazil’s national dance.

The performance at Colegio Magno School demonstrated the robot’s ability to dance to different rhythms. It stumbled and got back up, reacting to sounds and talking to students in Portuguese.

“My classmates were very impressed when the robot walked toward a soccer ball and kicked it,” Karen Pincelli Izzo, 11, said.

Izzo could hardly conceal the excitement in her voice as she described the scene, adding the encounter has inspired her classmates to pay more attention in science classes.

“The robot has shown us that this is the right track for motivating students toward technology,” Principal Miriam Tricate said, adding that she was impressed by the students’ interest in talking to the Sony technicians who attended the event.

Colegio Magno School, which is part of the United Nations Educational and Scientific C Organization’s Associated Schools Project Network, was selected as one of two schools in Sao Paulo to host the first leg of the robot’s Brazilian tour because of its emphasis on technology in its curriculum.

Students at the school have several science projects under way, including construction of a solar-powered vehicle and robots that can help blind people.

The Brazil tour is the association’s first event involving the Sony robot outside Asia. Previous technology education tours have been conducted in India, Vietnam and Thailand.

“Brazilian children have behaved in a more lively way in comparison to what I have seen among children in these three Asian countries,” said Toyoko Sakamaki, deputy director of the association’s education and culture division.

Sony developed the prototype for QRIO in 1997. The latest version can walk across uneven surfaces and recognize faces and voices.

Japanese Govt to Pick up Where Sony Left Off?


Friday, February 3, 2006

Govt To Launch New Robot Development Initiative

TOKYO (Nikkei)–The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will begin a results-oriented robot development project in fiscal 2006 that will be broad in scope, supporting applications for everything from factory automation to nanny-robots that can make sure children safely get to school and back.

The ministry intends to review the participants after two years in order to focus the funding on those participants that have the best chances of attaining the project objectives in 10 years.

The project will support development work on three themes: factory automation, robots that operate in difficult environments and robots that help people in daily activities.

Within in each theme the work will focus on specific objectives, such as a robot that can assemble flexible materials like bundles of wires, and a robot that can bus tables at a family restaurant. The ministry could set as many as nine different objectives.

Several companies and other bodies will be selected to work on each objective. Funding in the first year will total 1.1 billion yen, and a similar amount will be provided each subsequent year. But after two years a review will be conducted and for each objective only one body will be selected to carry forward with their project.

By focusing support this way on the most capable bodies, the ministry hopes to accelerate the practical development of advanced robots.

(The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Friday morning edition)

Though the ambitious Astro Boy Project (NOTE: JT apparently requires registration to view its archives. Do yourself a favor and visit to get around this. I just made you all an account for it) does not seem to have taken off, the Japanese government, in the grand tradition of high technology, has decided to serve taxpayers with the bill for research and development of more practical robots. When this research develops into marketable products, you can be sure that business interests will jump at the chance to sell robots.

Oh, that reminds me: Sony recently decided to scrap its Aibo robot dog and Qlio humanoid robots as part of their restructuring plans. As one surprisingly sympathetic Aibo enthusiast explained, “R&D is expensive. It’s hard for a company to try to go into the black when they’re showing R&D expenses.” Hey, maybe the prospect of high-tech products that require minimum investment could entice even Sony to get back into the ring once it has trimmed the fat off its business.

And one other thing, what is up with the waitress-bot? Wouldn’t it make more sense to make a robot that can serve prison food or something rather than a bogus family restaurant?