MACHINE LEARNING

All right, we know that someday the robots are going to take over. So you might as well get with the program. Make it a partnership. We don’t mean robots like you see in sci-fi movies, walking around with shiny metal limbs. Anything that’s controlled by a program is a robot. So most robots aren’t visible in the ordinary sense of the word, they’re just part of the system. A machine can respond to body movements, facial gestures, or just leaving the scene. The very fact that you’re not there can be an instruction. Bob recalls talking to an engineer who had just come from an automated factory in Kentucky. It made small electric motors, like the kind in vacuum […]

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HEY BOO BOO

We’re going to talk some more about the digital assistants put out by Amazon and Google. Those would be the Amazon “Echo” and Google “Home.” They are small, relatively cheap (from $50 to $129), and they answer questions and do requests. This is the future. Essentially what we have are two devices that listen to what you have to say — with sometimes less accuracy than you would expect — and then respond. They can play music, occasionally with nonsensical results, and respond to more direct questions, such as “how many calories are there in an apple?” This is all new stuff, the edge of wedge if you will. It’s potentially an encyclopedia on your end table, along with lectures, […]

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IT’S ALIMENTARY, MY DEAR WATSON

You have probably heard about IBM’s “Watson” computer winning a million bucks playing “Jeopardy” on TV. Now the Big Blue champion is turning to health care. Watson will listen when a patient describes their symptoms, and then help the doctor reach the correct diagnosis. (Bob recalls that something very similar was done around 30 years ago, using a computer to diagnose a patient’s illness. The study found that the computer’s diagnosis was far more accurate than doctors’. This does not necessarily mean that doctors are stupid,

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BOOKS FOR YOUR INNER INVENTOR

From the mid 19th through the 20 century, America was the world leader in technology. Perhaps the most important driver of those advances was kids who liked to take apart clocks. They took apart other things as well, of course: toasters, radios, automobile engines, etc.

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THE ROBOT REPORT

TheRobotReport.com. The July issue has the latest on 3D Printing — plastic bikinis.

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GETTING TO 3D

The Kinect sensor is Microsoft’s response to the success of Nintendo’s Wii machine. That has a motion sensitive controller and the game responds to its movements. With the Kinect and an Xbox 360, the game responds to your movements. This has led to some very interesting new developments. Several smart young tech types have already figured out how to use the Kinect to draw in 3D, create 3D videos and control robots with their body movements.  We went to YouTube.com and watched Tomoto Washio transform himself into Ultra Seven, a Japanese superhero. He appeared to be shooting a stream of sparks and flames wherever he pointed his hand. He could also appear to detach a crescent from his hat, throw […]

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SOFT HANDS FOR ROBOTS

An unusual robot hand could pick up things as delicate as raw eggs or as heavy as steel balls, without pausing for re-programming.

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DRIVER-LESS CARS AND BOATS

Googe’s self-driving car has already racked up 1,000 miles. Meanwhile, an unmanned boat monitors water quality in the Gulf.

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ROBOTIC AID FOR THE PARALYZED

This video from New Scientist shows a device that lets the partially paralyzed walk again. Shown is Amanda Boxtel, who lost the use of her legs 18 years ago in a skiing accident. The device, an exoskeleton called “eLegs” from Berkeley Bionics, is expected to cost $100,000 when it hits the market 2011. Smart Planet lists a few competing devices, including the ReWalk from Argo Medical Technologies, the Honda Stride Management belt and bionic legs from Rex Bionics.

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MODERN MARVELS

These are the new modern marvels. The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) was held in Chicago this September, where it’s held every two years. We went, we saw, we were awed. What did it teach us? That more and more manufacturing jobs will be done by robots, and that very few people will be required to help. This show is definitely all about high tech: Lasers that engrave detailed images into any surfaces. They can be as large as eight feet across, or so small you need a microscope to watch the work in progress. Other laser equipment can fuse small pieces together in configurations that cannot be molded or manufactured in any other way. In short they can make […]

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