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Thursday, August 22, 2002

Dean Of Invention: A wheelchair that climbs stairs? It's just one product of Kamen's idea factory.
By Pradnya Joshi
Staff correspondent
April 29, 2002

You have teenagers thinking they're going to make millions as NBA stars when that's not realistic for even 1 percent of them. Becoming a scientist or engineer is."
"We celebrate the wrong things," Kamen said.

The motivation for Kamen's robotics competition was to provide students direct exposure to engineers and scientists while doing a project. With that, FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology - has enlisted corporations to not only fund school teams but also to provide mentors and advisers so that students have direct exposure to engineers and scientists.

"FIRST is a wonderful sociological experiment that brings people together," said Woodie Flowers, a mechanical engineering professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has helped support the competition since the beginning in 1990. And, as he points out, the most coveted prize, the Chairman's Award, is given to the team that demonstrates the "most exemplary relationship between a team and a community."

Monday, August 19, 2002

A new robosoldier goes to war
"Christian Science Monitor"

USA > Military
from the July 31, 2002 edition

In Afghanistan, a new robosoldier goes to war
The 'war on terror' is a testing ground for new technology
By David Buchbinder

NARIZAH, AFGHANISTAN ? A squad of heavily armed American soldiers lines up single file outside a mud-walled compound in eastern Afghanistan, ready to burst inside.
Just around the corner, technicians boot up Fester, a tank-like robot the size of a suitcase. An order comes over the radio: The soldiers are to hold their positions, but the robot is authorized to enter the building.
The radio-controlled, reconnaissance robosoldier can climb stairs, turn somersaults and roll along at about 9 m.p.h. Shockproof and waterproof, he has survived a plunge from a second-story window. Most important, Fester won't die if he's shot while exploring a cave or poking through a suspicious building.
On Robotics via News Is Free

TECHSPLOITATION: Artificial Intelligence
Annalee Newitz, AlterNet
August 5, 2002

Abnormal technology.
Science fiction writers love to speculate about the abnormal psychology of robots. That's the pathos of the robot - designed to have the perfect mind, it nevertheless malfunctions and becomes a calm-voiced, sociopathic HAL, or a tragically doomed rebel like the replicants in "Blade Runner," or the feminist death-bot in "Eve of Destruction." When Isaac Asimov set out to write the first definitive work of robot S.F., "I, Robot" (1955), he did it by creating a character called a "robopsychologist" whose observations of abnormal robotic psychology formed the meat of the tale.
Researchers haven't yet invented a robot whose psychology is complicated enough to be equivalent to that of a "normal" person, let alone a neurotic one. It's safe to say that all these speculations about the insanity of machines are really meditations on our own mental failures and cognitive disasters. Even true tales about the behavior of actually existing robots -- like the small "evolving" robot in England named Gaak that managed to escape from its cage and zoom out the doors of a building and into the parking lot -- read like allegories of human life. Trapped in a lab, forced to fight for scant resources with its fellow lab-bots, Gaak said, "Fuck this," and ran away when it had the chance. Just like you would, right?
On Robotics via News Is Free

Robots need culture says Sony Scientist
Robots need culture says Sony scientist
15:57 Friday 16th August 2002
Matthew Broersma

A researcher says that the next wave of robots will be able to interact with one another, form their own languages and evolve new kinds of intelligence
Luc Steels, a professor at the University of Brussels and director of Sony's Computer Science Laboratories in Paris, wants to make robots more like living things by teaching them how to express themselves. It is a concept that has met with resistance from some quarters.
On Robotics via News Is Free

Robots learn to fly
"New Scientist"
9:30 17 August 02
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition

Learning how to fly took nature millions of years of trial and error - but a winged robot has cracked it in only a few hours, using the same evolutionary principles.

Krister Wolff and Peter Nordin of Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, built a winged robot and set about testing whether it could learn to fly by itself, without any pre-programmed data on what flapping is or how to do it.
On Robotics via News Is Free