Category Archives: Development

Robots: Why are humans worried?


David Hanson

David Hanson, robotics designer at Hanson Robotics, believes that in 20 years time robots will be indistinguishable from humans, and will walk among us. Robots will help us, play with us and teach us, he predicts that they will be our friends.

But if you read comments on YouTube (which I wish I wasn’t so tempted to do), nearly everyone commenting worries about robots killing us and taking over the planet.

People are also concerned about robot’s “dead eyes”, however I have to say that Hanson’s newest robot, Sophia, shown in the following video, is not quite as creepy as many of the others I have seen. After watching the video a few times I am getting used to her look and think that after an initial freaked-out reaction, I could get used to working with this machine. Sophia must be fairly realistic because it seems strange to call “her” a machine. Watch the video and see what you think . . .


Atlas has come a long way

I have been desperate to know for some time now, how Google has been getting on with their search for the perfect robotic assistant. Atlas has come a long way . . . and boy is he patient! If you didn’t think you could feel sorry for a machine, just have a look at the video on this post. It begins with some impressive demonstrations of balance, with Atlas walking (on two legs) over rough ground. Then we move on to see the robot working in a factory, moving boxes. A rather nasty human appears and begins to tease the robot. That is the point where I began to worry about the future.

Normally I don’t like the comments that appear beneath YouTube videos, but in this case there are some good ones. Here are a few examples:

“The pleasant music will in no way prevent me from having nightmares after watching this.”
“Well at least we know who the robot is gonna murder first when it gains self-awareness.”
“Say goodbye to your job.”
“Have fun with that hockey stick for now, meatbag, in 10 years YOU’LL be the one being toyed with!”
“I’ll be back…”

The robot looks a lot more human than, for example, Honda’s Asimo, and walks a lot more like a human too. I wonder if there is a reason that Atlas doesn’t have a face? Perhaps something to do with the ‘uncanny valley’ effect, or maybe because they wanted to keep it completely “raceless”.

My favourite part of the video, for some strange reason, was the part where the man and the robot were walking along side by side. Visions of Isaac Asimov’s robot detective sprang to mind, and I can see this happening in the police forces around the world, easily within the next ten years.

I’m excited by this, but do have reservations about the bullying!

26th February 2016: New video added below from the original source (Boston Dynamics) without the music, and with original live sound.

Human jobs at risk: Bricklayer

bricklayerThere is so much building work going on at the moment around my home in Sussex that I almost considered retraining as a bricklayer . . . Well no, not really, my aim is to find a robot to do my job so I can retire! A younger person in the south of England would be very tempted to go into the building industry, the amount of houses being built on every available piece of land is beyond belief. Nowhere is safe, especially if you have a large back garden with a field behind it. Your house will be demolished to build an access road to the field.

On one side of my house, which is built on an area rich in Sussex clay, there was an old quarry where they had produced high quality handmade roofing tiles for many years. The entire area has now been levelled, and they are building hundreds of new houses.

On the other side, there used to be semi-green belt land. We remember taking the children over there after school to see the sheep and horses. Now that too is being covered in hundreds of new houses. It is very sad.

But those bricklayers need to make as much money as they can, while they still have the opportunity, for Hadrian is coming. At the moment he is in Australia, learning his trade, but his brothers will no doubt be travelling all over the world taking the jobs of brickies. Hadrian, named after the roman wall (and Emperor of course) built between Scotland and England, can lay 1,000 bricks an hour . . . 20 times faster than an average human brickie.

Fastbrick Robotics ( hope to be launching their first commercial model next year.

Have a look at this video which shows the prototype Hadrian in action.