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Friday, July 26, 2002

Farting Robots and Shitting Ducks
The first of a new, biweekly column on science from the author of The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace and Pythagoras’ Trousers: God, Physics and the Gender Wars
by Margaret Wertheim

I'VE SIGNED THE PETITION, SIGNATURE NUMBER 134,042, so clearly I'm not the only one mourning the passing of Futurama. Though, frankly, and I am sure this is not an irrelevant statistic, I have yet to meet another soul aside from my husband who actually watched the show. Too bad, because Futurama, a hyperkinetic hybrid of The Simpsons and Star Trek, is one of the most brilliant sci-fi parodies ever conceived. If there were any doubts about Matt Groening's genius, Bender blew them away.
Bender is of course a robot -- but one in a class of his own. In classic science fiction, the function of the robot (or its fleshy facsimile) is rational reflection (think Data and Mr. Spock). Though Spock is a Vulcan, his persona is strictly machinic, an android in spirit if not technically in flesh, while his Next Generation counterpart, Lieutenant Commander Data, is unambiguously pure construct. A Mensa Dream Team, cool, calm and calculating at every turn, are the guys you can call on when the dilithium drive melts down and the space-time matrix ruptures. Bender, he'd be down the back of the bus chugging beers. If Data is the silicon sibling of the icy Vulcan Spock, all quiet reason and prim restraint, Bender is the titanium twin of Homer Simpson, belching and farting his way through time and space. With this venal, indulgent sensualist, Groening thumbs his nose at the whole tradition of artificial intelligence: Fuck chess, pass the nachos.
For much of the past half-century, robotics research has focused on tasks requiring concerted mental acuity -- navigating a maze, for instance, or precise mechanical assembly -- but a new generation of researchers are beginning to turn their attention to more "mundane" corporeal functions such as walking and scuttling. And yes, some of the finest minds in the field are currently trying to make robots that fart and shit and pee.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Movies and pictures from Robodex 2002 event : have a look here :

New robot has basic social skills
Associated Press Writer


PITTSBURGH (AP) - A 6-foot-tall robot that courteously steps aside
for people, smiles during conversation and politely asks directions shouldn't be blamed for being too eager to please.
The robot, named GRACE (short for Graduate Robot Attending Conference), will wander a symposium on artificial intelligence that begins this weekend, where it will demonstrate basic human social skills.
It will try to sign in at the registration desk, find a conference room, give a speech and answer questions.
GRACE, a drum-shaped contraption with a digitally animated face that appears on a computer display, is the work of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Democrat & Chronicle: UR robot to strut its stuff
By Matthew Daneman
Democrat and Chronicle

(July 23, 2002) — Toting a food tray, the server came to a stop, stared at Tom Kollar's face and offered a snack. "Hello, my name is Mabel. Would you like an hors d'oeuvre?"
Mabel's small, wheeled base is a robot itself, bought with some research grant money.
Atop that base are a variety of sensors, camera and microphone, a speaker so Mabel can talk back and a Webcam that keeps an eye on how much food is gone from the tray.
The robot is loaded with voice recognition and facial recognition programs. It will look around for what it thinks are people, focuses its camera and microphone on what it believes are faces, and offers food. If the face moves around, the camera will follow.

Sunday, July 21, 2002

Showcase for digital entertainment
By Jonathan Fildes
Saturday, 20 July, 2002, 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK
Want to know how the characters in Star Wars Episode II were created, find out how computer games will change the way we use computers?

Or how a robot called Lewis could be your wedding photographer? Well, then Siggraph 2002 could be for you.

At one of the world's largest multimedia conferences in the world, held this year in San Antonio, Texas, US, more than 6,500 international experts will reveal the digital future of the entertainment industry.

Siggraph - Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques - is now in its 29th year.

The annual six-day conference attracts experts in animation, computer graphics, robotics and digital art. It is a meeting of the people who create what we watch on the big screen to the computer screen and how we watch it.

Digital voyages

Highlights this year include a keynote address from Esther Dyson, often described as the most influential woman in cyberspace, who will explore issues of control and identity on the internet.

Talks and demonstrations promise enlightening voyages into the creation of Middle Earth for the film Lord of the Rings, and the Star Wars universe.

Across the hall, Lewis the robotic photographer will try to snap your photograph, while Public Anemone, an organic, sea anemone-like "robot creature" will emotively respond as you tap on its tank.

(Siggraph facts:
29th conference
20,000 anticipated visitors
6,000 international visitors
300 exhibitors)