TIME robots

Apple’s Co-founder: We’re All Going to Be Robots’ Pets One Day

9th annual Southeast Venture Conference and Digital Summit Charlotte
Charlotte Observer—TNS via Getty Images Steve Wozniak

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk agrees

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak thinks we’re all probably going to become robots’ pets.

Speaking at a recent technology conference, Wozniak said that at first the thought of artificially intelligent beings in charge of everything scared him. But now it’s a comforting thought.

Fast forward hundreds of years to when robots are in charge. At that time, humans will probably be treated in a similar fashion to dogs, Wozniak said during an event at the Freescale Technology Forum 2015 in Austin, Texas.

“It’s actually going to turn out really good for humans,” he added. “And it will be hundreds of years down the stream before [artificially intelligent beings would] even have the ability.”

“They’ll be so smart by then that they’ll know they have to keep nature, and humans are part of nature,” he continued. “So I got over my fear that we’d be replaced by computers.”

Wozniak believes robots will helps us because we’re the “gods originally.”

At the event, Wozniak also took the time to discuss the Internet of Things. He likes it, but cautioned that connected devices in the home have the potential to attack humanity.

Wozniak isn’t the only tech leader with thoughts on future human and robot interaction. In a recent interview with scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk warned that robots will use humans as pets once they achieve a level of artificial intelligence known as “superintelligence.”

They’ll treat humans like “pet Labradors,” he said.

TIME Gadgets

7 Ways These Rolling Robots With Screens Could Change Our Lives

Suitable Technologies
Suitable Technologies A Microsoft employee uses a Suitable Technologies BeamPro robot to remotely go to work.

They're not just a funny thing to feature on sitcoms

Most days, here are no actual humans manning the Suitable Technologies store on the main drag in Palo Alto, Calif. Instead, the salespeople remotely “beam in” from places like Hawaii and New York to operate the company’s roving BeamPro robots, five-foot tall rolling devices with speakers and screens on top. One of the robots has a leaf blower attached. Another one does a routine where the “pilot” drives it across the street to buy ice cream for potential buyers.

It’s a cute gimmick. But as these machines get more advanced, they could seriously change the way distance affects people’s lives. Here are seven ways how:

Helping families connect to each other and their homes. In a recent episode of Modern Family, Phil gets grounded by an ear infection and is unable to return home for his daughter Alex’s graduation party. So he sets up a robot (this $2,500 one made by Double Robotics) to act as his surrogate.

The subplot makes it clear that this early generation of wheeled machines has limitations—like not being great at going down stairs. But one can also see how much richer the connection is than handing a phone around from person to person. And you might notice that no one else has to sacrifice what they’re doing to take care of faux Phil, like what happens to the relative who gets stuck lugging a Skyping relative around on a laptop.

Today in the Suitable Technologies store is actual breathing human Tom Wyatt, a VP of sales at the company. He talks about how people have used the robots—both the $17,000 enterprise version and the $2,000 consumer version—to be virtual wedding guests and family reunion-ers. He has one in his house that his daughter, off at college, uses to have dinner with the family or sit around watching a San Francisco Giants baseball game with her brothers.

“We’re just hanging out,” he says. “Just like she’s here.”

Improving elder care. Other customers have bought the robots to stay better connected to aging parents. Because machines like the BeamPro can be controlled remotely, those aging parents never have to turn it on, control it or remember to charge it. Kids can check in to make sure they’re okay or that they’ve taken their medicine. Various robot manufacturers are making deals with assisted living facilities, who are touting these gadgets as an amenity that helps keep families connected once someone needs full-time care. There’s more potential for interaction than with a phone or computer screen, too — the robot can take a stroll down the hall with Nana, for instance. As people get older, they often get isolated. Social interactions that can really simulate having a human in the room could have serious health benefits.

Making the business world smaller. As these robots get cheaper, there will be more consumer usage. But the early adopters have been big businesses like Google who are using them to attract the best talent (“No need to move to Mountain View!”) and make collaboration better when all the key people can’t be in the room together. Though there are various companies making these roaming machines, Wyatt says he sees Suitable’s biggest competitor as traditional video conferencing. The situations where the robots thrive are ones where there needs to be movement or a greater sense of presence.

Rolling robots have given keynote speeches, moving around the stage like speakers would stroll. Convention centers have purchased them so they can rent them out by the hour to people who want to be at a conference for a half-day instead of shelling out for the plane ticket, hotel and so forth. Business owners who need to keep an eye on their factories in China have used them to check up on things so they have to make the trip half as often.

Giving recruiters an edge: The football coach at Stanford University, Wyatt says, uses robots for recruiting.

“You’re in a situation where you have a limited number of visits that each guy can do to each campus,” he says, alluding to NCAA regulations. “So this kid is in Iowa—or wherever—can beam in, drive around the athletic building, look at the weight facilities, plug in the 4G card, drive over to the practice facility, drive over to the stadium.”

Touring schools by robot could become standard practice for kids in the future, making the process of choosing a college far more economical. Tech companies and other businesses, meanwhile, can use the same scheme to lure future employees.

Making culture accessible. Institutions like the Smithsonian have used rolling robots to help bring the museum experience to disabled people. Rolling along viewing paintings and artifacts with a docent, people from all over the world can see exhibits up close. As machines get more rugged and have more robust connectivity, Yellowstone or Yosemite could have them on hand for visitors to explore national parks. Machines like the BeamPro come with technology similar to the type cars use to brake automatically when the vehicle detects something in front of it—like a kid running into the street—which can help make sure no one is driving these off cliffs.

Changing real estate. Real estate agents are using rolling robots to give people virtual tours of spaces they might want to purchase, like the couple from New York interested in a San Francisco apartment.

“People say, I’d love to buy that place, but what does my view look like? And what do the amenities look like?” says Wyatt. Right now, Suitable’s machines are being used mostly in static places—like a condo complex in Hawaii. But the robots could be popped in and out of an agent’s trunk and used all over the place, so long as they shelled out for a 4G connection or had listings with stable Wi-Fi.

Outsourcing jobs. At the Suitable Technologies store, the jobs are outsourced to make a point. But there are other human jobs that could be outsourced via rolling robots to save companies money, which could be unpopular with locals. Take the example of a security guard wandering around a parking lot on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park. A computer can’t do that job, but “there’s a guy in Nebraska that would probably be very willing to have that job and at a lower wage than anyone would around here,” Wyatt says.

Teachers could command a classroom remotely and wander down the hall to the faculty lounge. Specialist doctors could go up and down a hallway visiting bedridden patients, rather than being reliant on video equipment in every room. Wyatt has sold some robots to clinicians who want to be in more than one place.

“It’s that freedom and control piece that makes a difference,” he says. “It’s not that the traditional video conferencing system doesn’t work. It’s just limiting.”

TIME Innovation

Watch the World’s Most Nimble Robots Suffer 15 Spectacular Faceplants

DARPA Robotics Challenge Showcases Cutting Edge In Artificial Intelligence
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Fans pose for photographs with Team Kaist's DRC-HUBO robot after its successful run during the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge at the Fairplex June 6, 2015 in Pomona, California.

The last one is a doozy

The Defense Department’s research agency awarded $2 million to the world’s most nimble robot on Sunday — but bear in mind that a “nimble” robot is still a bit reminiscent of a “nimble” toddler.

A compilation of slip-ups at the DARPA Robotics Challenge shows that despite the incredible progress robots have made accomplishing a variety of tasks, from opening doors to traversing rubble to turning valves, many are still struggling to stand on their own two feet (or four feet or wheels):

Laugh while you can. DARPA sponsored a similar competition for driverless vehicles in 2004, and there was no shortage of cars making funny U-turns and veering off roads:

In as little as a decade Google had driven down the error rate on driverless vehicles down to 13 minor accidents in six years, all of which it attributes to human error. They grow up so fast.

Read next: The Iron Man Challenge

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Tech

Watch This Robot Perfectly Mimic a Master Japanese Swordsman

This robot can cut through anything

Robots these days can play the violin, send us Amazon packages, even adapt if they get hurt. Now, one of them can slice us all to bits.

Yaskawa Electric Corporation recently tracked the movements of Isao Machii, a renowned Japanese swordsman, and taught a robot called Motoman-MH24 how to mimic his use of a katana (also known as a scary Japanese sword). In a video released by the robotics company, the sword-wielding robot can be seen slicing through flowers and fruit with ease and precision. He even battles Machii, who holds several world records and has sliced through a fried shrimp hurtling towards him at 80 m.p.h., in a 1,000-cut challenge.

Hopefully, Yaskawa’s next project is a robot that’s really good at dulling swords so it can protect all of humanity.

TIME robots

Watch the Scariest Robot in the World Jump Over Stuff Automatically

Please don't become self-aware

It’s bad enough that Boston Dynamics has made a robotic cheetah that can run nearly 30 m.p.h. (48 km/h). Now MIT has its own cheetah-robot that can autonomously leap tall obstacles in a single bound. The robot uses lasers to see its environment, and the onboard computer uses a three-part algorithm to detect an obstacle, adjust its approach, then measure the appropriate jump trajectory. The entire process takes about 100 milliseconds. Right now the cheetah can clear hurdles as high as 18 in. (46 cm) at an average running speed of 5 m.p.h. (8 km/h).

MIT researchers are planning to demonstrate their cheetah’s abilities at the DARPA Robotics Challenge in June.

TIME Careers

These Jobs Are Most Likely To Be Taken by a Computer

SPAIN-TECHNOLOGY-ROBOT
Gerard Julien—AFP/Getty Images A man moves his finger toward SVH (Servo Electric 5 Finger Gripping Hand) automated hand made by Schunk during the 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots in Madrid on November 19, 2014.

Great news, dentists!

Telemarketers’ jobs have the highest chance of being automated, according to recent report. Other positions with huge potential for being overtaken by robots? Cashiers, tellers and drivers, among others, according to this new NPR interactive.

While telemarketers have a 99% chance of one day being totally replaced by technology (it’s already happening), cashiers, tellers and drivers all have over a 97% chance at being automated. Many positions within the “production” category put together by NPR, including packaging and assembly jobs, tend to rank highly as well.

The job with the lowest shot at being overtaken by technology in the future? Mental health and substance abuse social workers. They have a 0.3% chance, according to the data. Occupational therapists also rank at 0.3%, while dentists, surgeons and nutritionists appear pretty safe at just 0.4%.

Per NPR:

The researchers admit that these estimates are rough and likely to be wrong. But consider this a snapshot of what some smart people think the future might look like. If it says your job will likely be replaced by a machine, you’ve been warned.

To play around with the complete data, check here. But beware, it’s pretty addicting.

TIME Innovation

Watch: This Robot Cockroach Is Surprisingly Mesmerizing

It runs extremely fast

Artificial cockroaches have come a long way since Joe’s Apartment.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab have created a tiny, cockroach-like robot that can run around fast enough to launch a second, partner robot into flight.

The lab aims to mimic the ways animals sense the world around them and move about in very small robots, a.k.a. millibots. The so-called VelociRoACH above is strapped to a harness carrying another bot, the H2Bird, which it tosses into the air after a running start. (Another version of the robo-roach, dubbed the X2-VelociRoACH, is the fastest robot relative to size, according to the researches, and can reach running speeds of about 11 miles per hour.)

It’s simply cool to look at. But researchers say the system shows the benefits of getting multiple robots with different capabilities (ground speed in one, flight in another) to work together. This allows both to be more efficient. Or as the lab puts it:

Placing the H2Bird on top of the VelociRoACH decreases the cost of transport of the VelociRoACH by approximately 16 percent. This decrease in the cost of transport would be useful in a situation where the VelociRoACH and the H2Bird had to both reach a point 80 meters away and the H2Bird had to fly 20 meters in the air, where the VelociRoACH cannot reach…In situations such as these, cooperative locomotion would be more efficient than independent locomotion.

The lab’s website says, at the moment, the tiny bots are remote controlled. The next step? Making both autonomous.

TIME innovations

This Robot Learned to Make a Salad by Watching YouTube

Julia Child taught a generation of Americans how to cook gourmet French cuisine by breaking it down into simple steps that anyone could follow. A robot named for her at the University of Maryland took a similar approach when it taught itself to make a salad.

Using pattern recognition software designed by the interdisciplinary robotics team at the College Park campus, Julia the robot watched YouTube videos of people making salads to learn the steps, from cutting vegetables to tossing the ingredients and even pouring the salad dressing at the end.

Surprisingly, it was that last step that proved the most difficult, since dressing doesn’t always come out evenly and the robot does not yet have good feedback mechanisms to know when too little or too much is coming out. Even taking the cap off the bottle proved challenging.

Computer science professor Yiannis Aloimonos said the team chose cooking because it is something that everyone understands how to do but which is actually challenging for a robot to learn. But the lessons they’ve learned in programming Julia could be applied to just about any human activity, from stocking shelves to working on a factory floor.

“If you can work in the kitchen with your hands and do things, basically you can do almost anything else,” he said.

So far, Julia has made tomato salads, fruit salads and even a tuna salad that required some tricky work spooning out the mayonnaise. Aloimonos, who moved to the U.S. from Greece in 1982, said they’re now working on a Greek salad, but not just because he likes them.

“The objects that are involved—tomatoes and cucumbers—are not easy to cut and manipulate, and then you have soft things like feta cheese and oily things like olives,” he said. “It’s a challenge to put them all together at the same time.”

The robot was purchased with an educational discount from Rethink Robotics for about the price of a small car. Cornelia Fermüller, a research scientist at the university, developed the pattern recognition software to allow it to learn from watching YouTube—a process she compared to learning how to speak a language.

For now, it’s a language that Julie speaks at only a basic level. But there’s always more YouTube videos to watch.

“I don’t think that we’ll get to that gourmet level soon,” Fermüller said.

TIME innovations

Here’s Why a Lawnmower Roomba Wouldn’t Kill Anybody

iRobot Technology
Christian Science Monitor—Christian Science Monitor/Getty The features of the iRobot Roomba are demonstrated by an iRobot employee in a show room at the iRobot offices, on August 24, 2012 in Bedford, Massachusetts.

iRobot is designing it with safety as a top priority

iRobot, the Bedford, Mass.-based company famous for its Roomba vacuum-bot, has been floating the idea of an autonomous lawnmower device for years. But now the company is getting closer to bringing the idea to lawns across America, eliminating yet another tedious household chore.

Most automated lawnmowers available today typically require their owners to install cables underneath their yard to signal to the robots where to stop mowing, an expensive and time-consuming process. iRobot is going about it a different way. The company recently asked federal regulators for permission to use easier-to-install wireless beacons that could communicate with a robotic lawnmower, keeping it from going rogue and threatening your neighbor’s garden gnomes.

Still, lawnmowers are inherently more dangerous than vacuums. Roombas, after all, don’t have spinning death blades. How does iRobot plan on keeping the gardening gadget safe?

“Safety has to be a huge concern,” iRobot co-founder and CEO Colin Angle told TIME, highlighting safety features baked into the Roomba that keep it from falling down stairs. “In order for a lawnmower to be similarly safe, you have to take the same amount of care. So you probably don’t go with one giant spinning blade, you probably go and do other things. You can make blades which are centripetally [designed], they’re lightweight, they’ll move so that they’re enough to cut grass. But if you put a hand in there, it might draw a little blood, but it won’t chop off your finger.”

Roomba needs permission from the Federal Communications Commission to go ahead with its plans because the wireless frequencies its beacons would use are shared by star-hunting astronomers’ radio telescopes. Angle says the FCC process is “ongoing,” but he’s optimistic the agency will support the company’s position that their system would pose little risk to extra-terrestrial science.

“I think the FCC folks understand whether infinitesimal risk of something is real or not, and they’ll go through the process,” said Angle. “We’re hopeful they’ll come out with a positive outcome.”

TIME robotics

A Drug-Buying Robot Has Been Freed From Police Custody

!Mediengrupppe Bitnik Items purchased on the darknet by the Random Darknet Shopper

The bot, programmed to buy illegal goods online, was part of an art exhibition

A robot programmed to buy drugs from illegal online markets has been freed by Swiss police. The shopping bot, called the “Random Darknet Shopper,” was created last fall by a Swiss art group called !Mediengruppe Bitnik to purchase illicit goods online using a weekly allowance of $100 worth of Bitcoin. The various items the bot bought at random, including counterfeit sneakers and ecstasy, would be delivered to the art group’s gallery for an exhibition.

Swiss police captured the robot back in January and confiscated its purchases. However, last week, the art group announced that the police had returned Random Darknet Shopper as well as all of the goods it bought, except for the ecstasy. A Swiss police official told CNBC that the makers of the robot wouldn’t be charged for programming the robot to buy illegal items.

“This is a great day for the bot, for us and for freedom of art!” the art group wrote in a blog post.

[CNBC]

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