June 26, 2019

Drones are all the rage now, but can you imagine one the size of a bug?

Meet the RoboBee X-Wing, a new robot created by scientists at Harvard University. Standing under three inches tall, with a wingspan of less than two inches, this tiny machine flaps its little wings 170 times a second. It also runs on solar power, starting to fly whenever its solar cells are exposed to light. This makes it the lightest device ever to fly without being attached to an external power source, New Scientist reports.

Currently, it's not quite ready to be flying outdoors — it needs light three times as intense as sunlight, so it needs some improvements before it can embark on its first real expedition. But one day, the RoboBee might be used to monitor the environment, or get into spaces too small for people or other robots. At its size, it's even light enough to "land on a leaf," said Noah Jafferis, one of the RoboBee's creators.

You can read the study detailing the RoboBee X-Wing's capabilities at Nature, or watch it fly below. Shivani Ishwar

April 9, 2019

Doctors performed the world's first delivery of a baby whose parent underwent a robot-assisted uterus transplant — and it's a boy!

The baby, delivered by C-section on Monday, is just the 15th child in the world to be born after a uterus transplant, Science Daily reports, and the first in a research project at the University of Gothenberg, Sweden, dubbed the "Robot Project." Through this project, scientists are investigating a new method of uterus transplants using robots. This procedure is much less invasive for the donor and is an important step towards making the transplant process safer and more successful.

In this case, the uterus donor was the recipient's mother, who was operated on in the robot-assisted method. However, the traditional open surgery was still performed on the recipient — although the scientists plan to bring robots into the mix with that process as well.

The "Robot Project" has successfully performed six uterus transplants by this robot-assisted method, and is even preparing to perform its first transplant from a deceased donor. So more pregnancies and more babies can be expected in the near future.

Read more about this robot-assisted success story at Science Daily. Shivani Ishwar

March 5, 2018

Artificial intelligence is poised to enter yet another aspect of your life: fast food. After years of preparation, a burger-flipping robot named Flippy made its debut on Monday at the Pasadena, California, location of the restaurant chain CaliBurger. Created by a tech startup called Miso Robotics, Flippy is the "first robotic kitchen assistant with artificial assistance."

CaliBurger is planning to install Flippy in 50 more of its locations. Each one costs about $60,000, Miso Robotics told local news station KTLA. The company has received $10 million in funding to bring Flippy to other restaurants as well, Tech Crunch reported.

If you're worried about robots taking more jobs, though, don't worry: Flippy still needs human coworkers to function, at least for now. Only once a human puts raw patties on the grill can it begin working. Equipped with thermal vision in addition to a regular camera, Flippy can detect exactly what stage of cooking the meat is at, allowing it to grill about 150 burgers in an hour, NPR reported. Once the meat is cooked, a human can add the toppings.

"This technology is not about replacing jobs," said David Zito, the CEO of Miso Robotics. Instead, CaliBurger and Miso aim to make Flippy part of an "integrated, part-robot, part human kitchen," NPR reported. Read more about Flippy at NPR. Shivani Ishwar

October 7, 2015

Some news organizations are already using robots to write the news, and that's only going to become more common as the technology gets better. Computer algorithms "will do, and can do, our work," New York Times columnist Barbara Ehrenreich told Hasan Minhaj on Tuesday's Daily Show. "Prepare to be unemployed, Hasan."

Associated Press Managing Editor Lou Ferrara is less concerned with this development — in fact, he's a big proponent of having robots write the news. They are quicker and more accurate, he told Minhaj — a point Minhaj argued was a bug, not a feature. He ran through some of AP's more egregious (human) errors of the past few years with Ferrara, noting that true or not, people clicked on the articles madly. "Until these robo-reporters learn the value of pageviews, bias, and straight-up lying, it looks like journalists like me are going to have a job," Minhaj said in mock triumph. That is, until Ehrenreich threw cold water on his celebration of media bias. Nothing, it seems, is safe from our robot overlords, not even snark. Watch below. Peter Weber

September 11, 2015

On Thursday, 42 Senate Democrats assured that the Iran nuclear deal would not be derailed by Congress, upholding a filibuster of a resolution of disapproval. In the White House press room, reporters grilled White House press secretary Josh Earnest on the politics of the Iran deal. The last question was from Bob Costantini, of Westwood One News, who started to ask if President Obama was upset that no Republicans have agreed to back the deal. Siri, on somebody's iPhone, decided to answer: "Sorry, I'm not sure what you want me to change." You can watch the entire exchange at C-SPAN, or the BBC's annotated version below. Peter Weber

July 28, 2015

Hundreds of science and tech luminaries are freaked out about the real possibility of robotic machines that kill on their own, without a human picking the targets and pulling the trigger, and they think you should be worried, too.

On Monday, in an open letter presented at the opening of the International Joint Conference On Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, physicist Stephen Hawking, Space X founder Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and other prominent figures with ties to artificial intelligence (AI) warned about autonomous weapons and urged the world to enact a global ban on such human-free killing technology. The letter, organized by the Future of Life Institute, says that such technology is "feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high":

If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce. It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc. [Future of Life Institute]

The signatories said they are speaking out not because they despise AI but because they believe it "has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways," so long as it doesn't include "offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control." You can read the entire letter at the Future of Life Institute. Peter Weber

June 20, 2015

The creators of a robot named Pepper claim it can read your emotions. And at least 1,000 people in Japan were curious enough to find out, because Softbank's four-foot-tall humanoid sold out in one minute flat Saturday, UPI reports.

Pepper can learn, converse, interpret, and respond to a range of emotions (including joy and anger), and develop its own personality tailored to its owners, Newsweek reports.

One thousand robots will go on sale each month in Japan for the low, low price of about $1,600. It may go on sale overseas next year, but if you're lonely, you're probably better off forking over $5 for that cat from the shelter. Julie Kliegman

January 5, 2015

Most people today use computers at least in part to perform tasks for their jobs, but a new report by the Department of Labor predicts that computers, robots, and other forms of artificial intelligence will completely take over many of our jobs in 10 years.

"65 percent of the jobs in 10 years have not been invented yet," The Washington Post boldly states. Included among the jobs that employment specialists predict will be in demand in the future are: IT specialists (web developers, database administrators, security analysts and the like), engineers, accountants, lawyers, healthcare professionals, and construction workers.

Agricultural workers, postal service workers, and data entry clerks make the list of workers who will likely be obsolete, since their duties are considered a "process" and could easily be performed by high-tech computers.

David Tuffley, a lecturer in applied ethics and socio-technical Studies at Griffith University who authored the Post piece, recommends that workers looking to be more employable in the robot age become essentially more human. Creative skills, curiosity, and the ability to look for solutions in an unorthodox way will make the human mind a prized commodity in the face of an automated future. Teresa Mull

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