Although these are basically “Carrying Stuff About” bots, which is no bad thing I suppose. At least these ones are actually doing something – there was this ludicrous thing a couple of weeks back where someone made some “concept” thing where hexapods were going to do swarm-gardening… and loads of blogs reported it as though it was fact. Nope. Not fact. Barmy idea. It’s going to be a long time before gardening robots can function in anything other than environments specially designed for them… like these carrying-stuff-about bots. Very controlled environment… flat floors, uniform plant-pots etc etc.
What happens though if a pot falls over? Hmmm? What then? If something out of the ordinary happens?
They lose their minds, that’s what. They’re a long way from being able to weed, and incinerate bugs etc… and by a long way, I mean about 5-10 years. Everything seems to be about 5-10 years away. It’s a kind of permanently receding singularity… which is basically the mid-point of the sci-fi singularity… ie: between now, and the point where technology has become so bizarre we can’t begin to predict what it will be like.
The Sci-Fi Demi-Singularity then. Between the foreseeable and the unforeseeable futures. 5-10 years.
I mean stuff is happening… and we’re told that we’re on a brink of a robotics revolution – but as far as I can see, we’re basically at the same point we were when I started this blog about 2.5 years ago – and it does appear to be resembling Karl Pilkington’s take on technology “everything that needs to be invented has been, and now we’re just messing about”.
Nothing wrong with that I suppose. If you do a youtube search for “hexapod” say, and sort by date-published, people are making these things at a fairly fast rate.
Maybe these things take time… I mean I saw my first computer when I was 16 – in 1979… a thing about the size of a fridge, with an oscilloscope screen. Two years later, my school had them… these things
Four years later (1986) I was working in a bank looking after an IBM mainframe… and desktop computers were starting to creep in – all Dos based.
Two years later (1988) I was working for a computer company – which had 60 staff, and two desktop computers between all of us. We had typists.
Four years later (1992), I did a piss-take, govt-funded, get-me-back-to-work training session… still using Dos-based desktops… but windows ones were in the background.
1994 – working at Auckland University, NZ – every desk had one – and the internet was starting to creep in. It was so small in those days that the University used to download and cache it. I bought my first PC for home huse.
And that was (god forbid) 17 years ago. Now it’s 2011, and I have literally spent more time in front of a computer in the last 10 years than every other activity, including sleeping combined. The web has… a) provided me with the technology and b) become such a problem, that I’ve felt driven to make this:
The web has become so pervasive that it’s starting to interfere with our physical brain-structures.
Now that is a revolution – and it took (as far as I’m concerned) about 20 years to kick in – in fact it didn’t really kick in until it had stopped being a computer-revolution and started to become a communications revolution. Abundant, cheap, global point-to-point communication. That is the thing that’s interfered with brain-structure.
So maybe this is year 3 of a 20-year process… maybe not. The thing about communication, is that we all need to do it a lot, all the time. We don’t need to be making stuff that often… unless it’s stuff like vegetables or electricity. Physical artifacts? Nah. The only reason we have so many physical artifacts now is that we’ve been conned into it – because the prime-driver of our culture is advertising. So we buy stuff. We buy stuff to reward ourselves for… working – for the 1% who take 40% of the money.
Which brings us to the next revolution – the real one… the one that has been the cause of me writing so little of late, because it makes everything else seem trivial. The Great Correction… but more on that later.
It seems like years now (well it IS years) since Craig Venter did his TED talk about creating microbes that were going to solve the… everything-problem, and to be fair, earlier this year he did manage to boot up a completely artificial living organism. Still… I can remember Alvin Toffler going on about the genetics revolution back in the 80s – this has got to be the most slowly encroaching revolution ever.
An Are-We-There-Yet tech, if ever I saw one. A bit like flat-screen TVs. They took about 20 years to turn up as well.
More more, faster faster. I am now so addicted to coffee that I feel like having another one before I’ve even finished the first one… but then I have a fairly addictive personality. And a will of iron, which means I get to give stuff up a lot. Things I have been addicted to so far (now vanquished apart from 3 and 6), in decreasing order of damage:
1) a beautiful blue-eyed girl
4) an alcohol-nicotene cross-addiction
5) computer games
and somewhere in that list… slotting in somewhere is The Internet – or is that just information? A non-stop flow of information. I am so burned-out I can hardly function. I’m trying to do about 5 freelance jobs at the same time now, as well as personal projects. I can’t concentrate on anything for more than about 10 minutes… can’t read books any more – anything longer than a paragraph has me thinking “whatever; next”. I can’t sleep without having a podcast going on in the background. All the things that used to be a normal part of life, I now have to todo-list, schedule, tear myself away from the web to do.
In which some poor bastard wakes up and plugs in straight away (with an iPhone that has “centre-fold-mode” (fap fap)) and some poor woman not even being left in peace to brush her teeth without multi-web-tasking… it just made me feel physically tired. Weak.
So I thought I’d tell the internet about it. And then I’ll tell twitter than I’ve told the internet. Twitter will automatically tell facebook and friendfeed… and so into google.
In some ways things are easy to predict… we’re just waiting for pieces of the jigsaw to turn up.
Robot muscles for example. I’m pretty sure that servos aren’t the way to go, although they’re dominating things at the moment. Robert Full went on about designing from nature a while back… noting that most organisms legs were basically feet on springy sticks.
“the control algorithms are embedded in the form of the animal itself.
Compare and contrast… “the world’s fastest” hexapod based on servos compared with The Stanford Sprawl machine, that uses springy legs
The worlds fastest hexapod is a LOT faster than the others – and pretty clever – but it’s still considerably slower than the considerably less clever model…
… and it’s all down to the muscles. A missing link in robotics is muscles. I went on about air-muscles a while back… and pneumatics is pretty interesting because it does all clip together like lego… but compressors are too big at the moment.
So anyway. There it is – missing links. Other missing links that I can think of off the top of my head – that we are creeping towards slowly:
fast-charging, long storing, more efficient batteries
pennies per watt solar electric
cheap and easy oil from algae extraction
smooth 3D printing
Direct to retina screens
a brain -> machine link
etc etc. A bit like flat screens ( the thing you’re probably looking at right now)… classic “Are We There Yet” technology that’s predicted decades in advance and takes an eternity to turn up… but when it does (as predicted) it changes everything.
But something tells me people won’t find them as useful as they think they’re going to.
This is an example of… err…. “are we there yet, are we there yet, are we there yet” technology. AWTY-Tech. Sorry. I can’t think of a better way of describing it.
Something that’s been predicted for what seems like an eternity, but never seems to get here. Flat-screen TVs were an example of this – it took decades for them to turn up. Some things like jet-packs, ray-guns, teleporters etc probably never will… although because they’re so warmly anticipated, any “news” that they will instantly goes to the top of the headlines.
Solar power is another one I think. It’s been heading this way for as long as I can remember – in fact see the little black dots on the rooves of these houses
Those are solar water-heaters. I used to live in one of those houses in the early 70s, and we had the same solar water heaters then.
So. Anyway. Pico Projectors… problem #1 : they don’t create very big displays… so you probably aren’t going to watch movies on them. problem #2 : they still kindof need screens to project onto… which are even more hassle to carry around than a laptop.
Then again, if they’re hackable (and it looks like they are) then anything could happen – such is the genius of hackability… and I still get the feeling that they will become as standard on cellphones as cameras now are.