Phasma Insectoid Robot

Six legs, insect-inspired locomotion. By takram design.

Imagine building tens of thousands of these, equipping them with botulinum toxin darts and gecko feet, then airdropping them at random points on a battlefield. Better shoot ‘em all!

Give them the ability to burrow and self-replicate and then you have something like PKD’s “Screamers”.

H/t Pink Tentacle.

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Jamais Cascio on Robotic Soldiers on the History Channel

Jamais Cascio recently appeared on the History Channel’s program “That’s Impossible!” The episode, only the second in the show, was called “Real Terminators”. Here is a series of clips where he appears:

Jamais Cascio segments from That’s Impossible: Real Terminators from Jamais Cascio on Vimeo.

Great stuff, Jamais.

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PhysOrg: Robots are narrowing the gap with humans

Singularity-relevant press release on PhysOrg, primarily about the “Robobusiness” conference in Boston:

Robots are gaining on us humans. Thanks to exponential increases in computer power — which is roughly doubling every two years — robots are getting smarter, more capable, more like flesh-and-blood people.

Matching human skills and intelligence, however, is an enormously difficult — perhaps impossible — challenge.

Nevertheless, robots guided by their own computer “brains” now can pick up and peel bananas, land jumbo jets, steer cars through city traffic, search human DNA for cancer genes, play soccer or the violin, find earthquake victims or explore craters on Mars.

At a “Robobusiness” conference in Boston last week, companies demonstrated a robot firefighter, gardener, receptionist, tour guide and security guard.

You name it, a high-tech wizard somewhere is trying to make a robot do it.

A Japanese housekeeping robot can move chairs, sweep the floor, load a tray of dirty dishes in a dishwasher and put dirty clothes in a washing machine.

Intel, the worldwide computer-chip maker, headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., …

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Partial Design for a Macro-Scale Machining Self-Replicator

I’m reading a somewhat obscure piece of data, a 1995 mailing list post to sci.nanotech by Chris Phoenix titled, “Partial design for macro-scale machining self-replicator”. It’s really interesting.

The design was prompted by another poster, Will Ware, who wrote “Speaking as a practicing engineer, I think there would actually be a lot of value to making macroscopic replicators, even if there’s no new science involved. The absence of new science does not mean an engineering job is trivial.”

Phoenix’s design is based around the idea of a substance whose cured form is hard enough to easily machine its non-cured form. The uncured form is converted selectively into the cured form through exposure to UV rays from the Sun. Phoenix describes his design:

Here’s the intended capability: To machine blocks of soft material into complex parts, with typical dimensions of a few inches, maximum dimension 20 inches, precision 1/100 inch, smooth circles of any diameter (made by rotating a platform with a cutter held off-center); minimum hole/concave curve 1/16 inch …

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Scars Mirrodin Wurmcoil Engine

Invasion of the Worm Robots

Consider this — a worm robot that burrows through the top layer of soil and is capable of converting it into additional modular segments of itself as quickly as possible. With an efficiency of just 1%, a worm with a 1 cm maw that tunnels through a 100 meters of earth every hour would be able to process roughly 0.785 cc of earth per hour or 1,884 cc (115 cu in) per day. Assuming 7.85 cc of soil is needed to build one robotic segment 1 cm long, we get a growth rate of 0.1 cm per hour or 2.4 cm (1 in) per day. Nothing shocking, really, but the numbers are contrived to be conservative. If the worms could divide (which would be possible if each segment or a small row of segments can be self-sustaining), then exponential replication could quickly overwhelm an ecosystem even if the growth rate is relatively slow. I doubt many predators would be interested in consuming a robot.

Why brainstorm worm robots? Well, the worm motif seems

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Missing: Robot Ethics Charter

Researching the current state of “roboethics” (a lame term that marginalizes “AI ethics”, a more-relevant superset of roboethics), I find a bunch of references to a South Korean project to draft a Robot Ethics Charter. All these references occur in March 2007, and they promised the ethics charter would be released in April 2007 and subsequently adopted by the government. However, I can’t find it anywhere. Anyone have a clue about where it went? One article summarized the effort as follows:

The prospect of intelligent robots serving the general public brings up an unprecedented question of how robots and humans should be expected to treat each other. South Korea’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy has decided that a written code of ethics is in order.

Starting last November, a team of five members, including a science-fiction writer, have been drafting a Robot Ethics Charter to address and prevent “robot abuse of humans and human abuse of robots.” Some of the sensitive …

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Self-Assembling Robots

Got to love the odd, somewhat tweaky way in which the researcher denies the possibility of these robots taking over. And the humorous way that the question is always brought up with advanced robotics research.

Obviously, these robots wouldn’t take over — they’re probably dumber than unicellular organisms, at present.

But does that mean that robots of this type won’t be the new superior weapon, 20 years or so down the line? No — they very well could be. Especially for more subtle applications than blowing things up, such as spying, or sabotage.

Also, it gives us a look into how advanced Artificial Intelligences could use robotics to influence the world, a decade or two from now. No need to view this from the lens of sci-fi hysteria, but the prospect of AIs orchestrating swarms of robots will be a near-future reality.

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