Robot Roundup #1

It’s like that game where you turn away for a bit… then quickly look back… and all the people who were there before are now a little bit closer.

I think robots are a bit bloke-orientated to be honest… but we’re in the beginnings of this revolution, another one – and right now it’s in the stage where things are interesting – in the phase where to compete (for what? attention?) the innovations are just as likely to be disruptive than incremental-economy-of-scale type things. The interesting stuff is being done by universities and hobbyists rather than major corporations. And although big money is behind this as well, we are still in the space where tinkerers can get in on the ground floor.

So anyway, I’ve been out of commission for a week or so… here are a random bunch of bots that have snuck up in the meantime, with vague thoughts etc.

1) hoppybot

Leaping Robot Hops Closer to War” enthuses Wired’s Danger room, only we don’t really have “wars” as such any more. We have massively destructive (and expensive) attacks on people who haven’t a shit-show of defending themselves, and then massively expensive occupations – all for reasons that are not adequately explained (and are usually clear lies)… with the one clear result, and that is trillions of dollars flowing from taxpayers (many of whom are not yet born) to… who? People who make hoppybots I suppose.

As someone pointed out in the comments, this is similar to a remote controlled toy that you could buy in the duty-free section of Singapore Airport about 15 years ago.

And that’s another thing. A lot of things are being called robots, when actually, they’re just remote-controlled toys. Some of these are pretty cool – particularly the first-personism aspect where you can see through their eyes… but there’s this gradient… where at one end are amazingly sophisticated bits of kit – essentially remote-exoskeletons… and at the other… remote-controlled toys, pretending to be something that they’re not.

2) Here’s a neat example of a toy warbot:

It’s a toy robot battle-bot kit from Lynxmotion… with airsoft guns rather than real ones… but it wouldn’t take too much to take the brain of this and put it into some serious hardware. Only they’ve left the electrics exposed…


… so it won’t be able to stand up to anything that squirts conducting liquid at it, like this:

Still… Lynxmotion… Hexapods. Oh fuck yes:


3) Remember that scene in Goodfellas where they’re in prison cutting garlic with a razer-blade so finely that it disintegrates in the pan? (I love the way in Italian Gangster movies, the gangsters are so often really good chefs)… well someone’s made a lego one:


4) Lazybot asks the Lazyweb to do stuff for it.

Brilliant. Cheating maybe, maybe not. Willow Garage (who are in the throes of making an open-platform for robotics) have made a system where if a robot can’t succesfully identify what it’s looking at, it pays someone on Mechanical Turk, a couple of cents to do it for them.

And why not? The Universal Mind is the Universal Mind… and we are all symbiotic nodes within it. True it’s not exactly autonomous… but then how often does the average screen-bound web-inhabitant ask google something every day. This is just a different type of googling.

Anyway (5) this is not a video of it. This is a video from the same place, of a robot changing tools:

Changing tools is a vital part of robotery I think. When I watch this video I find it impossible not to anthropomorphise the slight trial/error way the robot tries to get the parts to fit.

Which brings me to

6) Paper Wall-E, that lets you know when email has arrived

That’s not a collection of wires and paper, it’s a little creature, and you know it.

7) Parliamentry Writebot

That looks a lot like the Biblebot from last year.

8 ) Flying Roomba

Apropos of nothing. Again it’s not so much a robot as a remote-controlled toy… and (from the look of their website) firmly back into warbot land, although they do also say that they could potentially use it to herd sheep.