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]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 13

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Why do we need human pilots again?

By John Markoff in the New York Times

2. We thought education would unlock the potential of Arab women. We were half right.

By Maysa Jalbout at the Brookings Institution

3. Peru found a 1,000 year-old solution to its water crisis.

By Fred Pearce in New Scientist

4. Why Saudi Arabia might need to break the country in two to “win” its war in Yemen.

By Peter Salisbury in Vice

5. Startup accelerators are great…we think.

By Randall Kempner and Peter Roberts in the Wall Street Journal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 9

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The truth is, California doesn’t have a water problem. We all do.

By Steven Johnson in Matter

2. Uber isn’t selling rides. It’s selling data.

By Ron Hirson in Forbes

3. A blind scientist wants to reinvent how the vision-impaired ‘watch’ movies.

By Chris Colin in California Sunday

4. Cute little details may make an app “delightful,” but they’re crowding out thoughtful design.

By John Pavlus in Co.Design

5. These giant robot traffic signals/red-light cameras are actually making the streets of Kinshasa safer.

By Mark Hay in Good

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 2

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. McDonald’s is raising wages for 90,000 employees. That’s a good start, and a strong message to other fast food outlets.

By Shan Li and Tiffany Hsu in the Los Angeles Times

2. “It must be right:” The human instinct to trust the authority of machines can be dangerous when life is on the line.

By Bob Wachter in Backchannel

3. As college acceptance letters roll in, women should ask about sexual assault prevention on campus.

By Veena Trehan at Nation of Change

4. When corporate values clash with policy in conservative states, big business has a powerful veto tool.

By Eric Garland in Medium

5. Amazon’s Dash button isn’t a hoax. It’s a step toward a true “Internet of Things.”

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles in the Wall Street Journal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Lee Kuan Yew didn’t think Singapore could survive true democracy. After his death, Singapore must do just that.

By Max Boot in Commentary

2. Resilience means more than flexible infrastructure. Cities must open doors to creative vibrance through the arts.

By Jason Schupbach at 100 Resilient Cities

3. Why does China need the next Dalai Lama?

By the Economist

4. The robots of the near future aren’t threatening. They’re boring.

By Erik Sofge in Popular Science

5. Can we truly redesign the experience of death?

By Jon Mooallem in California Sunday

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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