MIT’s new robot cheetah may haunt your dreams 

The future is here — and it’s apparently a robot cheetah.

MIT’s cheetah robot, designed to mimic the form of the animal and emblazoned with cheetah spots, can run unleashed and untethered — without support wires — at 10 mph. With a potential to outpace human running records at 30 mph, MIT’s achievement will scarily exceed human capability. Funded by DARPA, the cheetah’s quiet, functional and swift technology will likely be used in rescue missions. 

Their invention may have huge implications

Ethical trap: robot paralysed by choice of who to save

Can a robot learn right from wrong? Attempts to imbue robots, self-driving cars and military machines with a sense of ethics reveal just how hard this is

CAN we teach a robot to be good? Fascinated by the idea, roboticist Alan Winfield of Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK built an ethical trap for a robot – and was stunned by the machine’s response.

In an experiment, Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov’s fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm.

At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. The work was presented on 2 September at the Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems meeting in Birmingham, UK.

Winfield describes his robot as an “ethical zombie” that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn’t understand the reasoning behind its actions. Winfield admits he once thought it was not possible for a robot to make ethical choices for itself. Today, he says, “my answer is: I have no idea”.

As robots integrate further into our everyday lives, this question will need to be answered. A self-driving car, for example, may one day have to weigh the safety of its passengers against the risk of harming other motorists or pedestrians. It may be very difficult to program robots with rules for such encounters.

But robots designed for military combat may offer the beginning of a solution. Ronald Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, has built a set of algorithms for military robots – dubbed an “ethical governor” – which is meant to help them make smart decisions on the battlefield. He has already tested it in simulated combat, showing that drones with such programming can choose not to shoot, or try to minimise casualties during a battle near an area protected from combat according to the rules of war, like a school or hospital.

Arkin says that designing military robots to act more ethically may be low-hanging fruit, as these rules are well known. “The laws of war have been thought about for thousands of years and are encoded in treaties.” Unlike human fighters, who can be swayed by emotion and break these rules, automatons would not.

"When we’re talking about ethics, all of this is largely about robots that are developed to function in pretty prescribed spaces," says Wendell Wallach, author ofMoral Machines: Teaching robots right from wrong. Still, he says, experiments like Winfield’s hold promise in laying the foundations on which more complex ethical behaviour can be built. “If we can get them to function well in environments when we don’t know exactly all the circumstances they’ll encounter, that’s going to open up vast new applications for their use.”

This article appeared in print under the headline “The robot’s dilemma”

Watch a video of these ‘ethical’ robots in action here

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How to make a lightsaber | At-Bristol Science Centre

With the approaching release of Star Wars Episode VII, Ross & Beth of the Live Science Team show you how to make a lightsaber, with science!

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MIT’s Robot Cheetah Is No Longer Bound to the Treadmill

Two years ago, MIT researchers showcased the first run of its cheetah-inspired robot, which could run 5.1 miles per hour, but only on a treadmill.

Now, the team there has significantly improved the robot’s capabilities. It can run twice as fast (10 mph), jump over 13-inch obstacles, and is no longer tethered to the treadmill.”

Read more at mashable.

I’m back in my element! Showed up at the lab at 7:30AM, crushed (LITERALLY crushed because I spent all morning in the crushing room) a solid 3.5 hours breaking rocks to bits and collecting data samples.

I’m stoking so hard… I never realize how much I LOVE what I do until I’m elbows deep in valuable rocks while decked out in so much safety gear that I look like Bane. It’s dusty, dirty and dangerous but ugh I love it so much. Mining is super super cool guys.

Excited rant over, I’m out.

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"A 1953 training film for a mechanical fire control computer aboard Navy Ships. Amazing how problems of mathematical computation were solved so elegantly in "permanent" mechanical form, before microprocessors became inexpensive and commonplace."

42 minutes

Telegraph Siphon Recorder by Muirhead & Co. Ltd. from the Ballingskelligs cable station in the Irish Republic. This station was opened in 1873 only nine years after the epic voyage of the Great Eastern which laid the first successful submarine cable across the Atlantic. The Siphon Recorder was invented by Lord Kelvin in 1867 for use with the new trans-Atlantic telegraph cable laid successfully at the third attempt in 1865. Due to the length of the cable- 4,000 + miles - there was an immediate requirement for an instrument of unparalleled sensitivity and Lord Kelvin devised the Syphon Recorder to satisfy this need. As sensitive as the mirror galvanometer it had the advantage of also creating a permanent record of the received signal. The recorder translated the incoming signal into a series of squiggles on a paper ribbon. These were then interpreted by a telegraph clerk. Syphon recorders were highly complex and expensive and were only used on long distances where the usual equipment was insufficient, in consequence they were never common and most surviving examples are in museums.

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Emmet’s Automatic Transmission Model is absolutely worth your 3D printer’s time. The video is pretty great, too. 

Watch and you might learn something.