On the Robot Beat #4

On the Robot Beat #4

robot is something created by humans (directly or indirectly) that performs tasks (autonomously or not) done by humans (or, more broadly, by other animals…a robot dog, for example, would perform work done by living dogs, including providing companionship). 

The word may conjure up an image of a mechanical man, perhaps clunky and made of metal. The way we use the term at The Measured Circle, it would include software performing human tasks, and non-anthropomorphic devices like an answering machine or a calculator.

On the Robot Beat presents news about our creations that are, even in small ways, replacing us.

Robot refueler

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced in this

press release

that Dextre, the astrobot “handyman” on board the ISS (International Space Station) successfully performed a simulated refueling of a satellite in space. This is really significant, since it means that currently orbiting satellites, which were never intended to be refueled, can be safely “topped off” to allow their thrusters to continue operating to keep them functional.

That’s certainly a lot cheaper than replacing a device which may have cost hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention the expense of getting a new one into orbit and the reduction in the amount of future space junk.

Well done, astrobot!

FDA approves autonomous telemedicine bot

Robot rights continue to expand. While the process has begun in Nevada and California to eventually give autonomous (self-driving) cars the equivalent of driver’s licenses (gee, will they be able to vote with those?) ;), the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved licensing an autonomous telemedicine robot for use in hospitals:

The Verge article

This is a huge step (um, roll) forward. A doctor can guide the robot, using an iPad app, to go to a patient’s bedside. The doctor’s face shows on a screen, and the doctor can see and converse with the patient. It’s also possible to transfer monitoring data to the robot.

The autonomous part is that the robot can steer around obstacles and such on its own. In hospitals, there can be a lot of surprising obstacles (wheelchairs, both occupied and not, gurneys), so it’s freeing for the doctor to just send the robot to a certain floor and bed, and then “become conscious” through it once it gets there.

It’s not always going to be about whether or not a robot can do the job…it will sometimes be whether or not we allow the robot to do the job.

The Verge: “Industry leaders claim robots will create, not kill, American jobs”

The Verge article

Can using robots actually mean the creation of more jobs for humans? Perhaps, although I might state the equation a bit differently. According to this article, Germany has twice the robot-to-human worker ratio of the USA. If robots are more efficient, not having robots when your competitor does can mean that entire markets can shift. If you lose, say, the manufacturing of cellphones to another country, you lose human jobs.

The International Federation of Robotics has this interesting


in which they argue that robots increase jobs…even in the robotics industry, the number is three to five human jobs per robot. They give this statistic:

“Total potential of job creation by robotics:
1.9 million to 3.5 million between 2012 and 2020″

Of course, that is arguably not an unprejudiced group, but it makes sense that it takes more than one person to create a robot that replaces one human worker.

“Um…Captain…is that a robot with a chainsaw?”


YouTube video

shows an amazing robot that carves two stools out of a log…trust me, you have to see this one to appreciate the precision, and perhaps artistry.

LS3 Follow Tight

The amazing Big Dog robot has been evolving over time, and now, to me, looks very much alive:

YouTube video

One of the differences is that the Big Dog (which is a real US military robot that can be used for transport) is now told verbally to follow someone…and just decides on its own the best way to do that. It may, for example, pick a different path if its easier and it can catch up.

It still has that weird thing with two sets of sort of human like legs, attached at the corners (like most quadrupeds), but with the “knees” both facing in. When I showed someone the video once, they described it as “two guys carrying a mattress”, which I think is a good way to put it.

Why did the iPhone cross the road?

If you can write a funny answer to that, Apple may be interested in hiring you to give Siri, the voice on the iPhone, more personality:

9t05Mac article

Although the ad had apparently been withdrawn, it seems that Apple was advertising for someone to write material for Siri, to help craft her into a distinct and funny personality. My Significant Other already thought Siri was pretty funny when the robovoice couldn’t recognize the name “Wozniak”, but my Android phone could…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: