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Posts Tagged ‘Robotics

“Eternity is a child playing, playing checkers; the kingdom belongs to a child.”*…

 

Marion Tinsley—math professor, minister, and the best checkers player in the world—sat across a game board from a computer, dying.

Tinsley had been the world’s best for 40 years, a time during which he’d lost a handful of games to humans, but never a match. It’s possible no single person had ever dominated a competitive pursuit the way Tinsley dominated checkers. But this was a different sort of competition, the Man-Machine World Championship.

His opponent was Chinook, a checkers-playing program programmed by Jonathan Schaeffer, a round, frizzy-haired professor from the University of Alberta, who operated the machine. Through obsessive work, Chinook had become very good. It hadn’t lost a game in its last 125—and since they’d come close to defeating Tinsley in 1992, Schaeffer’s team had spent thousands of hours perfecting his machine.

The night before the match, Tinsley dreamt that God spoke to him and said, “I like Jonathan, too,” which had led him to believe that he might have lost exclusive divine backing.

So, they sat in the now-defunct Computer Museum in Boston. The room was large, but the crowd numbered in the teens. The two men were slated to play 30 matches over the next two weeks. The year was 1994, before Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue or Lee Sedol and AlphaGo

The story of a duel between two men, one who dies, and the nature of the quest to build artificial intelligence: “How Checkers Was Solved.”

* Heraclitus

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As we triangulate a triple jump, we might send precisely-programmed birthday greetings to Joseph F. Engelberger; he was born on this date in 1925.  An engineer and entrepreneur who is widely considered “the father of robotics,” he worked from a patented technology created by George Devol to create the first industrial robot; then, with a partner, created Unimation, the first industrial robotics company.  The Robotics Industries Association presents the Joseph F. Engelberger Awards annually to “persons who have contributed outstandingly to the furtherance of the science and practice of robotics.”

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“Bambi was inspired, and said trembling, ‘There is Another who is over us all'”*…

 

Brian Wolslegel was fresh out of school and looking for work as a firefighter when he took a temporary job with a taxidermist. One day a game warden walked into the shop near Wausau, Wis., and asked if he could build a robotic deer to help catch an illegal hunter.

“I had putzed around with robotic cars just like any kid,” Wolslegel said, “and we started messing around with little motors to make things move. It was a lot of fun.”

More than 20 years later, he’s still at it. His business, Custom Robotic Wildlife, is now one of the oldest and best regarded of its kind in North America. Each year, Wolslegel builds a menagerie of about 150 lifelike remote-controlled animals, mostly for wildlife enforcement officers in states and American Indian reservations across the United States and Canada.

Compared to current motorized decoys, that first attempt was “prehistoric,” Wolslegel recalled, laughing. Today, his whitetail deer can be made to independently move their ears and tail, stomp their legs and slide on a track that makes them appear to walk.

He’s made robotic animals as big as a bear and as small as a squirrel. He’s sold pigs to game wardens in Texas, and elk to clients out West…

More at “Wisconsin taxidermist makes robotic decoys used to help nab poachers across the U.S.

* Felix Salten, Bambi

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As we muse on mechanical ducks, we might send thoughtfully-titrated birthday greetings to Denis Papin; he was born on this date in 1647.  A physicist, mathematician and inventor, he is best known for his pioneering creation of a “steam digester,” the forerunner of the pressure cooker and of the steam engine.

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Written by LW

August 22, 2016 at 1:01 am

“You didn’t ask for reality. You asked for more teeth”*…

 

From the dawn of science fiction…

An illustration from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

… to the somewhat more modern:

A Scent Of New-Mown Hay by John Blackburn

Maddd Science has ’em all.  Readers might also enjoy its creator’s (that’s to say Adam Rowe‘s) other Tumblrs: 70s Sci-Fi Art and Embellished History.

* “Dr. Wu,” Jurassic World

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As we agree with Yogi that “the future ain’t what it used to be,” we might spare a thought for Isaak Yudovich Ozimov, AKA Isaac Asimov; he died on this date in 1992.  A biochemistry professor, he is better remembered as an author– more specifically, as one one of the greatest science fiction authors of his time (imaginer of “The Foundation,” coiner of the term “robotics,” and author of “The Three Laws of Robotics“).  But Asimov was extraordinarily prolific; he published over 500 books– including (in addition to sci-fi) mysteries, a great deal of popular science, even a worthy volume on Shakespeare– and wrote an estimated 9,000 letters and postcards.

Asimov in 1965

Written by LW

April 6, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Every technology, every science that tells us more about ourselves, is scary at the time”*…

 

Further to last weekend’s visit with Silicon Valley’s security robots...

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have built a mother robot that can independently build its own children and test which one does best; and then use the results to inform the design of the next generation, so that preferential traits are passed down from one generation to the next.

Without any human intervention or computer simulation beyond the initial command to build a robot capable of movement, the mother created children constructed of between one and five plastic cubes with a small motor inside.

In each of five separate experiments, the mother designed, built and tested generations of ten children, using the information gathered from one generation to inform the design of the next. The results, reported in the open access journal PLOS One, found that preferential traits were passed down through generations, so that the ‘fittest’ individuals in the last generation performed a set task twice as quickly as the fittest individuals in the first generation…

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“Natural selection is basically reproduction, assessment, reproduction, assessment and so on,” said lead researcher Dr Fumiya Iida of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who worked in collaboration with researchers at ETH Zurich. “That’s essentially what this robot is doing – we can actually watch the improvement and diversification of the species… We want to see robots that are capable of innovation and creativity…”

See and read more here (and here).

* Rodney Brooks

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As we select naturally, we might spare a thought for Blaise Pascal; he died on this date in 1662.  A French mathematician, physicist, theologian, and inventor (e.g.,the first digital calculator, the barometer, the hydraulic press, and the syringe), his commitment to empiricism (“experiments are the true teachers which one must follow in physics”) pitted him against his contemporary René “cogito, ergo sum” Descartes…

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Written by LW

August 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Electricity is really just organized lighting”*…

 

The image above is from High Frequency Electric Currents in Medicine and Dentistry (1910) by champion of electro-therapeutics Samuel Howard Monell, a physician who the American X-Ray Journal cite, rather wonderfully, as having “done more for static electricity than any other living man.”

Although the use of electricity to treat physical ailments could be seen to stretch back to the when the ancient Greeks first used live electric fish to numb the body in pain, it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries – through the work of Luigi Galvani and Guillaume Duchenne – that the idea really took hold. Monell claims that his high frequency currents of electricity could treat a variety of ailments, including acne, lesions, insomnia, abnormal blood pressure, depression, and hysteria. Although not explicitly delved into in this volume, the treatment of this latter condition in women was frequently achieved at this time through the use of an early form of the vibrator (to save the physician from the manual effort), through bringing the patient to “hysterical paroxysm” (in other words, an orgasm)…

Today, electrotherapy is  widely accepted in the field of physical rehabilitation– e.g. in the knitting of broken bones-– and also made the news recently as a method of keeping soldiers awake (an application–the treatment of fatigue– that Monell also touted).

Read and see more at Public Domain Review‘s “High Frequency Electric Currents in Medicine and Dentistry (1910)

[TotH to EWW]

* George Carlin

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As we sing the body electric, we might send precisely-programmed birthday greetings to Joseph F. Engelberger; he was born on this date in 1925.  An engineer and entrepreneur who is widely considered “the father of robotics,” he worked from a patented technology created by George Devol to create the first industrial robot; then, with a partner, created Unimation, the first industrial robotics company.  The Robotics Industries Association presents the Joseph F. Engelberger Awards annually to “persons who have contributed outstandingly to the furtherance of the science and practice of robotics.”

 source

 

Written by LW

July 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

Sweet dreams…

 

PopSci reports from Japan’s International Robot Show:

If you snore, this new pillowbot from Japan will gently brush your cheek to get you to stop — or flip out of bed in terror as its disturbingly slow arm moves toward you.

It’s designed to help people sleep better by stopping chronic snorers and those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which causes breathing difficulty while sleeping. The robot, called “Jukusui-kun” or “deep sleep” in Japanese, is designed to look like a friendly snoozing polar bear. It is connected to a small glove device (also fuzzy bear-shaped) that measures blood oxygen levels, and a below-the-sheets sensor that detects loud noises. The pillow itself also has a microphone to monitor snore decibel levels. A person’s vital stats are pre-programmed into a terminal, which connects wirelessly so you don’t get tangled up in cables.

When the sensors detect blood-oxygen levels are getting too low, or when snoring becomes unbearably loud (yeah that’s right), the bear-pillow’s paw moves slowly and frighteningly toward the sleeping person’s face. This gentle cheek-brush induces the snoring person to turn over on to his or her side, which stops snoring and restores a more restful sleep…

More at “Japanese Robotic Polar Bear Gently Smacks Snorers in the Face.”

As we consider our overnight options, we might recall that it was on this date in 1846 that physician and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. coined the word “anesthesia” in a letter to William Thomas Green Morton, the surgeon who had recently given the first public demonstration of the pain-killing effects of ether (allowing for the painless removal by surgeon John Collins Warren of a tumor from the neck of Edward Gilbert Abbott).

Contemporary re-enactment of Morton's October 16, 1846, ether operation; daguerrotype by Southworth & Hawes

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It’s positively evolutionary!…

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Since 1982, the Gallup polling organization has been asking Americans about their beliefs as to the origin of our species.  The latest results are in; and while a plurality of those queried still believe that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time in the last ten thousand years or so,” a growing minority professes belief in some form of evolution:

There’s been no revolutionary change of beliefs over the last three decades, but one can detect a shift that’s…  well, positively evolutionary.

As we begin at the beginning, we might wish a happy birthday to Isaak Yudovich Ozimov– aka Isaac Asimov– who was born on this date in 1920.  A biochemistry professor, he is better remembered as an author– more specifically, as one one of the greatest science fiction authors of his time (imaginer of “The Foundation,” coiner of the term “robotics,” and author of “The Three Laws of Robotics”).  But Asimov was extraordinarily prolific; he published over 500 books– including (in addition to sci fi) mysteries, a great deal of popular science, even a worthy volume on Shakespeare– and wrote an estimated 9,000 letters and postcards.

Asimov in 1965

 

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