A group of researchers from the University of Duisburg Essen in Germany used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to come to the finding, tracking blood flow in the brains of 14 study participants when they were shown videos of humans, robots and inanimate objects being treated either affectionately or harshly. …

The results suggest that the reason we feel empathy for robots like WALL-E is that, when we see them treated a certain manner, it triggers the same sort of neural activity as seeing a human treated that way. In a sense, our mind interprets the robot to be human-like in a way that it doesn’t for, say, a rock. On the other hand, one possible explanation for why, despite this pattern, they still arouse less empathy than humans when being treated harshly is that we interpret them as something slightly less than human—something more like a pet.

via Smithsonian Mag

Would you open up to a robot?
Can robots make a better documentary than humans can?

Filmmaker Brent Hoff and roboticist Alex Reben are testing out this idea and setting out to make the first documentary shot and directed by robots. BlabDroids — little adorable robots equipped with microphones, loudspeakers and heat sensors — ask probing questions.

Amazing exchanges like this occur:

Subject (holding the bot up to a mirror): “Here, this is you. I hope you like yourself.”

Cubie: “I have no feelings, but if I did the feeling would be mutual.”

Teaser is here.

via Wired

From The New York Times: 

Stephen Verstraete, a sculptor living in Belgium, designed a do-it-yourself garden robot. “I don’t have green thumbs. All my plants always seem to die,” he said. So when he was asked to create robots to roam around a technology convention in Amsterdam last year, Mr. Verstraete built robots that detected sunlight and moved house plants to the light.

No. No. No. And, no. 
These are the #robotawareness stories that make me uncomfortable…  

If the bees are dying, we need to address that. Not build robobees. If you don’t have a green thumb, don’t get plants or just look at where the sun is … I just shiver thinking of the day when I have to explain to my nephew that you can just touch soil to determine whether a plant needs water… 

Also, my alerts from NYT for the word “robot” have been out of control lately. Coincidence? I think NOT!
From 'RoboCop To 'Robot & Frank': Best RoboMovies Of All Time : NPR

Science fiction movies throughout time are populated with robots. But when it comes to films with a tight focus on robots only a handful may come to mind. In advance of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, TOTN’s favorite film buff Murray Horwitz discusses the best robot movies of all time.

My interest in robots is so intense that I can confuse people at work into doing things like this.

What’s your favorite robot movie?

I think mine, at the moment, is Robot & Frank

Simon, Georgia Tech’s humanoid robot

The behaviors of these future robotic objects may be utilitarian, like a lamp that bends to follow the items you reposition on a desk, or they may provide feedback, like a fork that vibrates when you’re eating too fast. They won’t require you to press a sequence of buttons to make things happen, but they will work alongside you in unobtrusive ways, responding to caresses, waves or verbal commands. Some might just sit back and observe you to understand what you need.

       - Designer Carla Diana 

NYT: Talking, Walking Objects


thinking about checking out the regional competition this year… 

I mean, if Morgan Freeman endorses it then…

What My Boo Isaac Asimov Thought 2014 Would Be

What will the World’s Fair of 2014 be like? I don’t know, but I can guess. One thought that occurs to me is that men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better. By 2014, electroluminescent panels will be in common use. Ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button.

Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.

Read his whole piece from 1964 here.

I’m jumping back into the game with this post. Happy New Year!

Watch on

It’s not really intended for humans. It’s probably more for robots in the future when robots have killed all humans. That’s the sort of market that we’re trying to get into.

           - Jemaine Clement

Yay! I’m over 100 posts!

the perfect #robotawareness-themed pick-me-up! Happy Friday!

there’s a music video but I prefer this live version