And it looks really familiar for some reason. Pan’s Labyrinth? Something like that. Maybe it’s the marionette thing – rather than having the servos “at the joints” it’s pulling strings from behind the machine. Fair enough – another approach, and really, putting motors at the joints isn’t how nature does it anyway – probably something to do with leverage.
The idea is that people can “remotely inhabit” it… so it acts as a communication device… which is an idea I’ve been a bit of a fan of for a while now… only I imagined the remote devices would be autonomous, rather than being carried about. Less chance of being nicked/kidnapped though I suppose. I think I’d find it even creepier if I knew the person inside it.
On the other hand, it might be really interesting for disabled people… or people like me, who are merely lazy. Instead of going to a supermarket, you just inhabit a doll, and have someone carry you about. I want that one, etc.
Dunno – the whole thing creeps me out on a number of different levels. Really cool machine though.
It’s a real hat-wearing thing where you see what the plane sees through goggles, and when you move your head the camera inside moves around as well. K. For. Cool – exactly what I was describing a couple of years back. From the sound of it, it has rockets as well, which means you could set fire to an entire corn field by accident or something. Fucking great. This is the future of something.
Kenny Logins? Are you mad? K’inell.
If you’re going to be playing appalling 80s Anger Dancing music (
) then I think I’d go for… umm… Jeff Beck?
In which you have to wait around for about 4 minutes before the Original Nigel Tufnell gets to the point, which is a massive guitar solo.
Alternatively there’s this
Which strictly speaking isn’t anger-dancing music, and which makes you wait around for even longer for the guitar solo… but it is kindof an epic guitar solo, if you like that sort of thing. Makes me laugh anyway, and that’s generally a good sign. And then there’s John Lydon of course… and say what you like about John, he does sometimes give the impression that he means it.
Crap for anger-dancing though. You’d be completely knackered by the time it got to the guitar-solo bit… it’d be all “not now Steve mate, I’m a bit fucked. I’m off for a lie down, see you tomorrow”.
Or maybe this one because it’s got Jimmy Page in it
It’s all a bit much really. The 80s came to an end for a reason, and it wasn’t just because it ran out of numbers.
The 80s was shite because everything became about “moving units”. I once found an entire skip filled to the top with Thomas Dolby Singles outside Dave Stewart’s studio up in Crouch end – boxes of them, and every single one had had a black-and-decker put through it. Spirit of the age. Units that failed to move. Generation-X was forced into becoming Generation-X by the relentless shiteness of the aspirations that were paraded before us as culture.
Punk was, and still is, the only honest and reasonable reaction to anything. It’s got to hybridise of course (even John Lydon knew that)… but the bottom line has got to be a fundamental rejection of… what?… Inauthenticity? Something like that. A rejection of control. A rejection of needing to be liked.
Anyway, for me, the greatest guitar solo of the 80s was this
It’s soooo obvious that Roombas are supposed to be more than vacuum cleaners… supposed to be something that they’re not. Yet.
I mean what the hell do we want here? I can tell just by looking at them that they’re not very good at being vacuum cleaners… but now? You can have a vacuum cleaner… that doesn’t work that well BUT YOU CAN SEE THROUGH ITS EYES.
At a superficial level, we want gadgets. At a deeper level we want to be the gadgets.
It’s a borg thing. Pretty much all tech developments that we really, seriously go for are extensions of some sort of human capacity… and quite a few non-human capacities. That’s what we’re doing here, we’re self-evolving ourselves, by merging with our appliances. It’s not a sex thing. Well… not yet.
Not just because it’s a guy flying a quadracopter, doing the 1st-person POV thing through video-glasses…
… but because it’s a hippie house with solar panels and a garden and broken down cars in the front yard. That’s what I’m talkin bout. It’s got that whole pre-post-apocalypse thing going on.
It must feel quite frustrating flying around a gadget like this without guns or rockets or something. It’s like when you play space invaders your whole life and then you try are car-racing game and it’s like “WTF? I’m not allowed to shoot the other cars?!?!”
It’ll be deemed a major breakthrough when quadracopters become silent. Wonder how hard that is.
Ok – bit of a weird one today – a mishmashed collection of various tech bits that more or less revolve around a theme. It’s a concept-link-latte. I’m not sure what the theme is, but it’s something like
“What the fuck are we building here?” or
“How to make Skynet in 5 easy lessons”
Genetic algorithms are simple little programs that simulate evolution by (re)combining groups of actions, keeping the ones that works best, ditching the rest, then recombining again. They can arrive quite quickly at solutions to complex problems.
Some Australians have spent a mere million dollars and invented a thing which stitches together all of their CCTV camera feeds so you can walk around in them like doom. You could use augmented reality to turn the homeless people into Zombies so you don’t feel bad about killing them.
These are using existing CCTVs… but you could just as easily (in fact more easily) achieve the same thing using
So you just fly a bunch of these things into an area and position them such that you can create a 3D map of the place… with proper depth-perception (as is on Darpa’s shopping list) maybe.
I learned how to use these
last week – they’re little mesh-networking things… cheap as chips with a line-of-site range of about a mile… works through walls etc to a more limited extent. I saw one this morning that had a range of 40 miles… which is… miles!.
I’m not sure that these would have the bandwidth to transmit real-time video (my ones run at 38400 baud)… but you get the idea. It’s not entirely outside the bounds of possibility to drop a cluster bomb of CCTV cameras over an area and operate them from another country. They’re so cheap though that you and I could probably do it.
Accompanied of course by flying drones, and flotillas of euphemisms designed to obscure the fact that what’s actually happening here is that people’s Dads, Brothers, Sons, Daughters, Husbands, Wives, Mums… are being killed.
Still as long as they’re not controlled by n’ n’ n’ nineteen year olds, what could possibly go wrong?
Anyway… enough about that… back to the warm, touchy-feelyness of
The cool thing about these, is that they’ve actually made them, and they actually go… quite well.
It’s electric – hydrogen fuel-cell powered. Lots of specs and whatnot on the site, though right now they’re just tinkering with the toy-sized version – the skin of which is made with a CNC milled mold… which is used to shape fibre-glass.
Something well within the abilities of 5th generation repraps in other words… something largely creatable from a direct digital->physical process in other words.
So maybe you wouldn’t have to drop a cluster-bomb filled with Perch-and-Stare drones, but a single reprap with a load of vitamin parts.
A way to go yet of course. I’m still of the opinion that humans are the ultimate vitamin part… and whatever emerges, it will be a human/machine symbiote, rather than a machine takeover.
I mean in a way we’ve already got this – except that the machine, isn’t a physical object… it’s a set of formulas, laws and conditions – it’s debt-based currency and corporatism, with it’s grotesque and alien offspring… “defence” industries, privatised prisons, privatised water/food/health systems, derivative colonialism etc etc.
We’ve actually already got the monster. Skynet is just something that will flex its muscles in the sunlight (one bright morning), several sheddings-of-skin into the future.
A while back I started collecting examples of ‘Search and Rescue‘ robots – which are basically cool machines that people have made, but once they’ve made them, can’t think of anything to use them for other than spying on people or finding them when they’re lost.
Which is fair enough I suppose. A kid’s toy. Hopefully.
A kid’s toy with 18 servos and gyroscopes and more smarts than it took to land a man on the moon back in the 60s (ok, massive exaggeration, but you get the point).
But what are these things actually for? What did C3P0 actually do? He was a translator… yea, there’s an iPhone app for that. R2D2? A cross between an upturned dustbin and… an iPhone… with script-kiddie-level hacking software… a rootkit bot. R2D2 had viruses.
I know that industrial robots have gotten to be so advanced that they could probably make themselves from scratch… but they’re not the ones getting all the attention. The ones that aren’t terribly good for anything are.
So. My theory. The (or at least A) killer-app of robotics is…
… drum roll…
… the ability to make us think we’re flying.
I’ve never seen a gadget generate so much twitter excitement as this thing:
A little quadro-copter that you control with your iphone… and crucially, you see what it sees.
These have been around for a while in various guises, but this was the first one to really make a splash. There’s a variant here:
Which is scarier looking, but tough enough to carry a hi-def camera
Clocking in at around $415 – although you can probably add a bit to that. Still… no worries, the prices of these things are plummeting.
So anyway, the ability to fly is a real killer-app in my opinion… and in a lot of ways, being able to do it remotely is an advantage – ie: you don’t die. This design from Nasa for example looks great, but your head is inches away from 4 blades that are spinning fast enough to turn you into salami.
And it’s 5 metres wide, and will absolutely kill anything that gets in its way.
There was some discussion recently about what a real physics-obedient space-fighter would be like… and one of the things said was that there wouldn’t be windows because of the disorientation created by flipping about in zero-g, and the massive glare/darkness created by nearby stars/the void etc. So instead you’d have screens that showed (via camera) what was outside.
Well if you’re going to do that, you may as well not be in the spaceship at all. You might as well be in a flotation tank somewhere – allowing your spaceship to withstand g-forces, temperature, radiation etc etc that you couldn’t deal with yourself.
But I digress… I think that first-person, remote controlled microcopters are going to be a killer-app of the robotics revolution – not for search and rescue, but because everyone wants to be able to fly… and first-personism allows you to feel like you are, without risk of injury. Unless you crash into your own face or something.
You could use them for meetings… fly off to your office, and sit around in a circle with the other gyrocopters all going “heh heh heh heh”.
You could send them off to the shops to get crisps, beer, fags etc, so you wouldn’t have to get out of your flotation tank.
You could set them up so when another gyrocopter sees you, augmented reality kicks in so it sees you, “at your best” when you’ve tidied yourself up a bit, and not as you really are… a little black helicopter, or someone lying starkers in a flotation tank, surrounded by spilled crisps, empty beer bottles and fag-ends.
This one ticks a lot of boxes: it’s packed with sensors for flight stability, augmented-reality-capable, first-person POV, controlled over wifi via iPhone’s tilt-sensors, open-platform for developers. AND IT RUNS LINUX
I also love the fact that it’s French – because the French really were THE aviation pioneers… and I do so love seeing high-tech gadgets flying over cobbled streets :)
(obviously being a New Zealander, I do also have to point out that Richard Pearse flew a plane before the Wright Brothers… but apparently the Brazilians also have a claim for this one. Morphic Resonance etc. Parallel Evolution. We’re all eyes in the same head)
Anyway, back to the Parrot… various things can be gleaned from the specs over here…
– 15 minute flight time
– 90 min charge time
– 18 km/hr
– 360g (is that about the same as a can of coke? Seems heavy to me)
– 640×480, 15fps video
– 45cm x 29cm
and so on. Other things I’d be interested in are flight-range and load capacity… ie: how much can it lift? And the obvious ones… how much are they? Where do you get them? As far as I can gather they’re not on general release yet, although there’s a lot of videos and photos and so on.
So anyway… brilliant. Love it.
Further boxes to tick:
- A ‘glasses’ display so you actually feel like you’re the… parrot.
- bifocal/3d vision.
- the ability to control peripherals etc.
- solar charging? Solar is pretty weak mind.
(bit of a longer-shot)
- the ability to place an iPhone (and by that I mean android) on the device itself… so the brain of the copter becomes another iPhone… rather than being essentially a thin-client, which is kindof what it is at the moment I suspect. A longer shot though granted – rightly or wrongly, I just have this instinct about this.
In addition to this, there are all the usual pressures – better resolution, faster, stronger, smaller, bigger etc etc… these will evolve over time though.
I’m not sure how ‘open’ the software etc is, but this really needs to be (and will be whether they like it or not) a platform rather than simply a device. From the look of the site, they’re investing a lot of headspace into augmented reality and gaming… but I think this gadget is more useful for interacting with the real world, rather than turning reality into a game-zone.
As a platform, controllable over the web, the possibilities for this are absolutely huge.
Dogcam. It’s supposed to be a petcam, but I can’t imagine it not turning a cat into a struggling furry ball of hooks and spitting-fire. Dogs are more malleable. Ductile etc. Maybe it would work for ducks as well. They’re ductile.
Neat idea though – especially when cameras get small enough to mount on insects etc – bringing one of my favourite subjects: Spider-Safaris one step closer. First-Personism again
These things have also been made for humans apparently – years ago,
There’s a great article about Sousveillance here – the universal panopticon, and The Blue-Spaghetti Monster that I was on about earlier. Little brother looking back up the hierarchy… which is one of the things that is starting defining so many conflicts – Iran, The London Riots etc. At one point, if you went into any shopping mall in the UK and tried to take photographs, the security people would jump on you (especially, I suspect, if you were taking photos of their CCTV cameras). These days it’s kindof moot though because everyone has a cellphone and everyone seems to be taking photos with them all the time.
It’s a simple leap from this, to having some sort of peripheral which allows you to have a lens mounted on glasses or a button, ready to go (or even going) all the time.
“Scientists say the optoelectronic fiber could lead to bizarre new imaging products like a wall-sized, all-seeing camera or a soldier’s uniform that captures 360-degree views.”
… but it kindof represents a missing link. A sensory mesh.
Prosthetics have come a long way (and are progressing rapidly) – this video turned up recently:
Something that’s missing from these prosthetics – or robots generally from a bio-mimicry point of view is that real organisms are covered by a layer of nerve-cells – not a single censor, but a whole mesh of them, reporting back an entire “touch-picture”.
So there you go. Starts off on one thing, winds up on another… tenuously connected, but I can imagine this scenario of immersive-sensors. Where everything everywhere is being watched or recorded all of the time… which seems like a terrible or scary idea, but I have this feeling that the universal mind gets what the universal mind wants – and maximum sensory input is one of them. It wants omnipotence.
It was never going to be enough that the only people who got to play with these were the military – and this is this the closest thing I’ve seen to the thing I described back when I claimed I wanted to be a bird, although I did say that I want to crap on cars rather than fire rockets.
A home-made UAV that can fire rockets, with proper 1st-personism. Marvelous.
There does seem to be this Agincourt-Effect – where highly disruptive technologies do so because they make people, cheaper.
So you go from knights in armour to longbows to crossbows to guns… each successive one of these facing concerted efforts by the great and good (ie: The Aristocracy and The Pope) to be outlawed so as to preserve the prevailing order… but they’re all rapidly normalised. Now we have predators replacing jet fighters, and games-players replacing pilots and so on and so on. It’s tempting to see suicide bombers within this, but I think that’s a different process entirely.
I seem to recall a while back someone having some sort of blowing-up-the-planet Artificial Intelligence competition… I can’t help these feeling that a large section of humanity is devotedly devoting all of their energy into creating a robotic race of super-fight-bots that will massacre us, just like Terminator 4 etc. It’s not just insane people from the military, it’s kids… backyard tinkerers… all heading towards the same point.
Here’s some insane person’s fantasy about using robotic bugs to spy on and kill people. The voice-over is flirting with that whole hollywood macho tone – an indication that they’re living in movie-land rather than the real world. Just like Ronald Reagan – who had an alarming habit of telling anecdotes about his life which were actually from movies, and they named a battleship after him. I’m talking about The US Air Force.
1) they’re all little flying robots that look a bit like bugs
2) they all employ first-personism
3) they’re all evil. Either for spying or killing people – apart from the last one maybe. Or any of the other ones.
4) they’re all a bit rubbish.
I mean no offence etc, they’re a lot better than I could do – I can barely tie my shoelaces, but if you compare them to an actual insect… they’re crap. Take a proper hornet for example. It can :
fly : really accurately. Straight through holes the same size that it is without hesitation.
walk : like the clappers, up walls, upside down on the ceiling, all limbs individually sensored and controlled.
3D print using locally sourced materials (their nests are 3d printed)
self-fuel using locally sourced materials.
reproduce itself from locally sourced materials, with sexual selection and variation so evolution happens.
Now that, my friends is quite a feat of engineering. Think of the best flying machine we have today… a stealth bomber? It doesn’t come close to what a simple wasp can achieve.
So I’m guessing that we’re going to learn to make “brains” that learn how to use alien systems faster than we’re going to learn how to build robots that actually manage to do what mad-scientists want them to. I’m guessing that the biotech revolution is going to merge with and eclipse all the others – robotics, nanotech etc… they’re not going to be like they are in sci-fi movies because it’s easier (and a lot more potent) to program/adapt existing creatures than it is to make them from scratch.