Monday, August 13, 2007

Roll up the score, Navy, Anchors Aweigh

DefenseTech has an article featuring a profile on a standard aircraft carrier-based mission for the X-45B (now an entirely Navy-controlled project). The mission sounds almost identical to that of any manned naval aircraft, except in this case the bird is completely autonomous.

When the USAF decided to stop funding and supporting the X-45 project (the pilots in charge felt threatened), I feared that our development of UCAVs would remain stillborn until we were eclipsed by a rival military power. Fortunately, the USN has demonstrated the vision and willingness to push American technology forward, ensuring continued air superiority.

For shame, Air Force...

Capitalizing on Tragedy

In light of the mining disaster in Utah, NPR has taken the opportunity to ask two patronizing questions:
Could Robots Replace Humans in Mines?

Why do human beings still risk their lives burrowing miles under ground and doing one of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs in the world?

Because robots are expensive and people are not.

That’s about all it amounts to. Until robots become the cheaper option, humans will continue to perform the dull, dirty and dangerous tasks.

via News

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Fill in the Blank

Carnegie Mellon researchers have developed an algorithm capable of filling arbitrarily-sized holes of photographs by finding similar regions in a database of a million pictures. A pretty interesting application of computer vision and AI if you ask me. As for practical uses of this specific implementation are concerned, I’d imagine it could be used to remove unwanted ex-boyfriends, politically undesireable items, and “that guy” from photos the world over.

via Slashdot

On the Frontline

Slashdot points to a roundup of some DARPA technology on display. I've seen the robotic surgeon before, which is designed to extract and treat wounded soldiers in combat environments. Really nothing new among the rest either, just the same small walking robots and hovering recon UAVs from the DARPA website.

I’m looking forward to robotic surgeons designed to repair robotic super-soldiers...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Never to be Outdone

Apparently the French aren't the only latecomers to the robotic ethics debate, now the US Congress has decided the enter the mix. A “Congressional Caucus of Robotics” has been formed to investigate the situation. Right. Note the same Bill Gates quote about robotics found in EVERY SINGLE OTHER ARTICLE OF THIS TYPE... can’t these “journalists” find anything new to use?

via News

Attack of the Drones

The editors of are covering the Unmanned Systems Demo sponsored by NAVAIR and AUVSI with a series of articles regarding the current and future states of naval UAVs. Here are the first two:

The Robot Plane Lives - As earlier reported by DefenseTech, the US Navy has selected the Northrop Grumman X-47B as their platform of choice for future unmanned combat air systems development. Notwithstanding the lukewarm announcement by Navy leadership, hopefully the USN will prove not to be as shortsighted as the USAF.

War Shaping Drone Plan - As to be expected, current use of unmanned systems in support of the Global War on Terror by special ops and other forces are affecting the short-term development of UAVs.

Another Quality Microsoft Product(tm)

IEEE Spectrum has a lengthy profile of the tiny, 11-man division of mighty Microsoft developing a toolkit for robot designers. The blatantly uncritical article glowingly portrays the team as an underdog guaranteed to succeed. I’m shocked that there are still tech-savvy people out there who believe Microsoft to be capable of producing quality products.

Will the machines controlled by MS Robotic Studio crash with Blue Screens or Red Rings?

via News

More on Ineffective, Unenforceable Guidelines

Apparently the "we need a code of robot ethics" meme just won’t die. As previously reported, the government of South Korea is hard at work drafting just such a code for robots and developers to follow. Nothing new here, just the same fear-mongering jargon, the same quote from Bill Gates and the same lack of discussion about the effectiveness and enforceability of the proposed guidelines. I guess the French media are just slow to catch on...

via News

Looking for a Few Good ‘Bots

Wired and National Defense Magazine report that M249 rifle-equipped combat robots have finally been deployed to operational units in Iraq. Known as SWORDS, these robots have been promised for some time now, and although there are no reports of actual combat use yet, are expected to eventually engage the enemy at close range with lethal force if necessary.

I’m slightly surprise that the mass media hasn’t picked up on this yet. It could easily generate a firestorm of controversy surrounding the “dehumanizing” of war and the ethical issues concerning armed robots.

via, Slashdot and Defense Tech

Laughter Brings Us Together

Jokes help humans interact and relate with each other, so why not share a laugh with robots too? Despite the failure of most sci-fi androids to grasp the intricacies of humor, researchers are developing a system to identify jokes and puns. They hope it will help increase machine understanding of common language usage, thus improving human-computer interaction.


More Powerset Hype

MIT Technology Review has another article on Palo Alto startup Powerset (previously covered here), which promises to use NLP and semantic technologies to revolutionize search. Nothing new here, just the same promises as before. As always, I’ll remain skeptical until I see the product in action.

By the way, I’m still waiting for my beta invitation.


Monday, August 6, 2007

What’s Next in Defense Tech

Government Computer News has a good round-up of ongoing defense research, some of which (as we all know) is related in one way or another to AI. Nothing too Earth-shattering, but a nice collection of news for the casual reader (GCN is not known for hard-hitting technical content). The coverage includes the DARPA Urban Challenge, machine translation and cognitive computing initiatives.

via News

Automated Annulments

Computers have made it easier for people to do lots of things. Soon, we may have to add getting a divorce to that list. Australian researchers are developing software designed to help mediate a divorce by combining AI, game theory and an external mediator. The goal is to provide a system to divide assets and decide other issues as fairly as possible.

Perhaps the potential clients should seek couples’ counseling from ELIZA instead...

via News