Meccano, the French toy manufacturer, has announced an open source, build your own robot project. Details here. As far as I can tell from the website, it isn’t yet available to buy.

I havent had a play with a real one, but I am excited. A robot you can build and adapt, using open source software (which i guess reflects the nature of Meccano, which is a bunch of pieces which can be assembled and re-assembled in any way you can imagine – similar to Lego for the unfamiliar), is a big deal in my world.

There are two versions of the robot, I link above to the larger one of the two. The massive social change around a robot in every home is coming and while the Honda Asimo is the early runner, there are so many players in this arena it is certainly unclear who will end up being the Microsoft, Google, Amazon or Apple of this brave new world.

#meccanoid

 

 

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Robot and Frank

August 3, 2012

This movie is a pretty good introduction to how robots will fit in to our lives in the future (or at least during the difficult transition phase to having robots in our society).

How robots are likely to fit into social care of the young and elderly is an ongoing debate as is the legal aspect of a machine in your home that remembers everything that happens there.

The text on you tube describes the nameless robot as a ‘butler’ which I am not sure is how we should describe robots in our homes. Will we name them like we name our cars, pets and our children? Or will the manufacturers do that for us (will they all end up with alphanumeric strings like R2 D2 / C3 PO?) cos I don’t think we can all call the ‘robot’ as they are in this movie.

I am sure when this movie is re-running on late night TV 25 years from now I will comment to my Asimo about how quaint and old-fashioned it all seems.

I am very much into green energy, keeping an eye on solar and wind technologies.

Any regular reader  of this blog will also know I am keen on robots (still waiting for a commercially available Asimo).

I have discovered there are wind powered “animals” which can move themselves around using the flow of air.

At present they are curiosities (as cinema was about 110 years ago) but as one who  jabbers on about convergence (my phone is now my camera, games machine, web browser, etc etc – and may soon replace my laptop) add a computer as the brain of these animals (possibly wind powered to, but with chargeable batteries), able to control the ‘sails’ and chose direction and control whether to move or not, and we suddenly have independent robots not dependent on electricity from the grid.

This should be a really good idea, but I keep thinking about The Matrix and the rebellion of the solar-powered robots/ computers leading the humans to “burn the sky” (according to Morpheus).

What extremes would we have to go to in order to stop wind powered robots?

Asimo is 11 today

October 31, 2011

Asimo is 11 years old today. Hurrah!

There is a cool new video on the Honda website about the project.

They seem happy with the movement and are now working on the AI. So perhaps soon, that commercially availble Asimo will be winging its way to my house.

Something I have been observing for a while, and continue to find interesting, is the really long-term marketing program for the Asimo. It is pretty clear in this video Honda realises the bad press robots have had since forever from sci fi has given them a real marketing problem for the Asimo.

They have been dragging the prototypes all over the planet to show off the friendly robot – and as I have mentioned before, they appear as if already they are everyday objects already in Honda’s main advertising.

While the cause of making sure everyone is happy with robots in their house (think of Will Smith in I, Robot, very loosely based on Asimov‘s work) is a noble one, which I support – to ensure it is not associated with nightmare machines such as the Terminator – they could have chosen a better birth date for the Asimo than Hallo’ween

Asimo is 10 today

October 31, 2010

Today is the 10th birthday of the Asimo from Honda.

I wonder if anyone considered the coincidence of the date and Halloween and the possible negative marketing / branding which could accompany it? Particularly if they ever did malfunction. (Which I personally doubt they ever will, but since everyone who reads my blog who I speak with irl seems to think I’m on the wrong track about robots in every house, I thought I’d mention it.)

My only issue today is that the Asimo is now in its 10th year and still not available on the open market.

I expect this is some kind of joke, but according to some thinkers (possibly the same ones who got us all in a pickle about the millenium Bug during the late 1990s):

Computers will stop working at 03:14:07 UTC on Tuesday, 19 January 2038 because of the Y2K38 problem.

I’ll be into my 60s by then, so right now am not particularly bothered by this, I expect someone will figure out how to fix this by then – the Y2K bug didn’t actually do anything drastic, so I am struggling to raise myself up into a panic.

But, just in case, just so I am clear, if my Asimo breaks down on this day I will seek compensation from Honda!

 

 

The Rest of the Robots

October 6, 2010

OMG! Please check out this blog and listen to the podcast. I blogged about robots and supermarkets previously and this follows on from that.

What happens when you have an Asimo in your house that can remember EVERYTHING it sees, hears, smells in its internal hard drive and, if you have a cloud version, on a remote server (and several mirror servers)?

What happens if a Government organisation wants access to what this robot has recorded? Will this data be admissible in a court of law – can the robot’s memory be used against you? What you store on your home PC can be, so why would robots be any different?

And how can we be sure our robots aren’t being hacked by criminals to use against us – are we all sure our home PC has never been hacked?

Ryan Calo works at a top US law school and is a robots expert.

One of the key things he says in this podcast is that robots will be the transformative technology of this century.

He refers to how PCs changed lives in the 80s, the internet in the 90s. I would look back to the 19th century and remember the changes cars heralded and also the telephone and light bulb. The rise of the robots is THAT important.

Seriously, the sci fi fear industry shows us what happens when robots go wrong (James Cameron and The Terminator are the most famous and chilling example). As often happens military applications are where technology is developed and robots are the same. Alan Turing is a perfect example here, involved as he was with the development of modern computing and later defined the Turing Test.

I have been speaking about the use of robots for a long time with someone I know well who remains sceptical (I keep telling this person robots would be perfect to do a certain role in their organisation) and this person mentioned it to their boss who agreed with them and said it will never happen.

The blog goes on to discuss the insurance industry which will naturally rise up around robots in every day use. I mentioned this to an actuary I know over a year ago who was going off to see what his company were doing about this. He has not come back to me, which either means his company think I am nuts, or they are well aware and just don’t want to acknowledge it.

There will also be international industry safety standards for robots as there is for all sorts of items you can buy.

Maybe I am wrong about these robots, but I remember when I got my first mobile phone back in 1997 people couldn’t understand what I was doing carrying around this brick everywhere I went.

Just about no one else I knew had one.

One lady (the mother of one of my friends) pointed out I had a post uni McJob rather than a high-flying career, so what was I thinking?

No one got it – yet today every one of those people has a mobile phone they take everywhere they go.

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