From here, which is a fairly good example of the way technology is evolving too big/fast/diverse to keep track of any more.
Mind you – at the beginning of this, the dude says “the goal is to reproduce the amazing capabilities of insects”…
… so let’s take a wasp for example, it can:
– self-fuel using energy from its environment
– see (smell touch balance taste? hear?)
– self-replicate using ingredients from its environment
– organise into swarms
– fight (teeth, poison)
– fly, with amazing stability, for long periods
– 3D print nests using ingredients from its environment
– run about the place being a pest
and about a hundred equally miraculous things*. I’d say we’ve got a way to go yet – in fact as I keep saying, it’s probably going to be easier just to reprogram the wasps than to try to make one ourselves.
I was going to put “evolve” into that list, but that’s so fundamental to any replicating / competing architecture, that it’s a bit redundant. Evolution isn’t a skill, it’s a side-effect.
Oh yea… “Search and Rescue“. Bless. We still don’t really know what these things are for
So apparently in Japan you can get these anti-disaster escape pods, which seems like a good idea. I think aeroplanes should be filled with these things… but longer, so you can stretch out properly. That way a) you don’t have to sit next to anyone, b) there’s scope for some sort of emmersive entertainment a bit like Caprica or whatever and c) when your plane crashes into the sea, they’d all float about etc and you could sit there waiting while the rescue people come.
They’re a bit like zorbs I guess. Hard zorbs – like Godzilla M&Ms . I wonder if you could go over Niagra falls in one? Probably a bad idea.
Anyway – according the site where this comes from, these things are designed for 4 people. Are you shitting me? It hardly looks as though there’s room for one. What if someone farts? Or there’s a fight? A fart-fight? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Anyway, I looked a bit further and found this…
So there’s a bit more room than I’d initially thought. Is that a pole-dancing pole? That’s a bit weird. Is it? Hard to say. Possibly not for some people, but it’d be weird for me.
Anyway, fantastic idea – but it’s missing one vitally important… tangent, or component or… thing… and what it is, is… these things need to be useful in all the times where there isn’t a disaster going on. Needs to be a game-pod or something – because otherwise it’s just taking up space (and sphere’s don’t tessellate) and touching wood and everything, disasters are fairly rare.
Cool though. I’d get one – if it was a game-pod… and I’d already got my solar-panels, and all the other components of my post-apocalyptic survival-kit… and that’s the other problemette with this thing of course – it’s a solution to the last problem, not the really, really predictable next ones.
Touching wood, as I say. Turn it into a games-pod.
In case I haven’t mentioned it, “Search and Rescue” is a sub-category of “Solutions Looking for Problems“… I mean sure, sometimes people do get lost, or get into dangerous situations, but it’s pretty rare – and certainly not as big a problem as car-crashes or landmines or people just being piss-wits generally.
So we’re hell-bent on building this giant, planet-scale monster… a human machine symbiote… and we don’t know why, or even what exactly it is that we’re building… but we wants it… we wants it…
So we keep making these things, and when we don’t know what they’re for… some little voice (like an angel on the shoulder) pipes up “search and rescue?”.
1) Fly eyes
an excuse to have a really cool photo of a fly-eye… although they don’t look so cool when you get them in perspective do they? No. They’re bastards.
Anyway, the attached article is about using some uber-simplified algorithm for controlling robotic flight… means you can get away with using a much smaller, lighter brain to fly something than we currently do… though it is quite remarkable that a fly is clever enough to work this out, because they’re not generally regarded as being the sharpest tools in the box. I’ve got a feeling that some species of AI is the only sane way of getting computers to control really complex robots… and it has the potential for using the same bit of software to control any device. Mind you, the learning curve could be a bit scary.
So um… don’t get me wrong – what this article is talking about is actually an extremely clever and quite remarkable development. But um… what’s it for? well…. it could be useful for search and rescue. Obviously.
Ok – this one pushing the dial of the daftometer well into the red zone – people doing Shakespeare with robots (and I suspect that by “robots” we actually mean remote-controlled toys).
Now I’ve got nothing against Shakespeare. I’ve heard that some of the stuff he wrote was actually quite good, for the time etc. A bit talky maybe, but he did apparently have a certain literary flair… unfortunately his work does seem to have this… thing… where people use it to lend credibility to daft experiments.
The gist of the article though is that (and this should come as no surprise to anyone) people do seem to be pre-disposed to anthropomorphising these things… and this could be useful for… err… well, search and rescue.
They even invoke the Godwin’s Law variant ’9/11′ – which has long since stopped being whatever it should have been… and instead has become this cynical touch-stone for every dubious-(and generally authoritarian)-cause-championing wanker in the entire universe. To be fair though, the person name-checked in the article did have robots at the World Trade Center… so um… maybe there is merit in getting them to do a bit of Shakespeare etc. Can’t hurt can it? Never did me any harm.
“Search and Rescue” in robotics is a euphemism for “We don’t know what to do with it, but it might be useful as a weapon… but we don’t want to be seen to be making weapons”.
It’s a euphemism for “we’ve invented this really cool thing, but we don’t know what it’s for, LOL”
But they don’t want to say that so they say “search and rescue?”
And who knows. Maybe they will actually come in handy for searching and rescuing… I’m sure they will, but there’s no way that the number of them being made is justified by the number of people that actually get lost. Besides, we saw after Katrina what happens when there’s a really major disaster – people wealthy enough to have cars fuck off, and the poor are left behind to die. The Free-Market in action. After three days, the stragglers are herded what is essentially an open, ad-hoc concentration camp governed by the law of the jungle. Then when the water has receded, the corporate-owned state use it as an excuse to privatise the schools, and “relocate” the poor away from neighbourhoods with too much redevelopment potential.
It’s said somewhere that all human drama boils down to two basic problems: People who won’t leave, and people who won’t stay.
We’ve got a major lie at the heart of many of our institutions… pretending to look after the latter when they’re really more interested in exercising the former… and vice versa. This is the conflict at heart of the “immigration” issue: “We’re racist, but we like paying sub-minimum-wage wages”. Searchbots dance a two-step along this line… spying and rescue. All the money is in spying, but public sympathy is in rescue.
But anyway. Cynicism aside,
This is a page that will be re-edited over time… a compilation of search and rescue robots (which are (more often than not) not actually robots, but remote controlled gadgets)
From the University of Maryland. A military rocket-powered variant here… which hints at search and rescue by talking about Police and Fire departments… but doesn’t come right out and say it. It’s been canned now anyway – probably because of the whole “utterly fucking insane” wrinkle that proved to be a tricky one to iron out.
And they do appear, at least partly to have been designed specifically with search and rescue in mind… rather than making a cool toy and then trying to justify it afterwards (you don’t have to. Cool toys are cool)
Ecofriend is a website that specialises in “green” solutions that are basically just digital renderings/drawings of things that won’t ever be made. The thing above has been made though – it’s a bendy toy/sculture from www.slobots.com… you can buy them on Etsy for a couple of hundred quid… and yea, they’re quite neat…. but ecofriend reports it as though it’s an actual green, search and rescue robot – rather than an 8 inch tall plastic toy. Eco-snakeoil salesmen.
This one being interesting because (apparently) there’s a mother bot and lots of little babybots that go off doing the searching. Used after 9/11 apparently – though I’m kindof over 9/11 now. It’s turned into Godwin’s Law style justification for really damaging “conservative” decisions.
8) Whole mass of them here
Some of these are really cool actually. Animal tanks.
Anyway. That’s enough for now. I’ll add more as I find them… which is usually a couple a week.