Los Angeles City Council approves ‘robot dog’ donation to police

A four-legged “robot dog” is the newest member of the Los Angeles Police Department after the City Council voted 8-4 to approve its acquisition on Tuesday.

The robot – a quadruped unmanned ground vehicle called “Spot” – is manufactured by Boston Dynamics and is valued at nearly $280,000.

Spot was first offered as a gift to the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division by the Los Angeles Police Foundation in March. The foundation is a nonprofit group that has “awarded more than $44 million in grants to the LAPD” since 1998, according to its website.

LAPD said the robot will be used in a limited number of scenarios including “incidents involving active shooters, assessment of explosives, hostage situations, natural disasters, hazardous materials assessment, barricaded suspects and search and rescue missions.”

Spot will not be equipped with any weapons systems, facial recognition software or analysis capabilities, officials said. It will also not be used for routine patrol duties or covert surveillance operations.

Keep reading

This Soft Robot Unfurls Inside the Skull 

An octopus-like soft robot can unfurl itself inside the skull on top of the brain, a new study finds. The novel gadget may lead to minimally invasive ways to investigate the brain and implant brain-computer interfaces, researchers say.

In order to analyze the brain after traumatic injuries, help treat disorders such as seizures, and embed brain-computer interfaces, scientists at times lay grids of electrodes onto the surface of the brain. These electrocorticography grids can capture higher-quality recordings of brain signals than electroencephalography data gathered by electrodes on the scalp, but are also less invasive than probes stuck into the brain.

However, placing electrocorticography grids onto the brain typically involves creating openings in the skull at least as large as these arrays, leaving holes up to 100 square centimeters. These surgical operations may result in severe complications, such as inflammation and scarring.

Now scientists have developed a new soft robot they can place into the skull through a tiny hole. In experiments on a minipig, they showed the device could unfold like a ship in a bottle to deploy an electrocorticography grid 4 centimeters wide, all of it fitting into a space only roughly 1 millimeter wide. This “enabled the implant to navigate through the narrow gap between the skull and the brain,” says study senior author Stéphanie Lacour, a neural engineer and director of the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne’s Neuro-X Institute in Switzerland.

Keep reading

Robot dogs will soon patrol the US-Mexico border

“Robot Dogs” will soon be patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border according to the Department of Homeland Security.

These four-legged robotic quadrupeds weigh in at approximately 100 pounds and look like something out of science fiction horror.

DHS says the machines are critical in patrolling the harsh landscape of the American Southwest.

“The southern border can be an inhospitable place for man and beast, and that is exactly why a machine may excel there,” said DHS Science and Technology Derectorate manager Brenda Long. “This S&T-led initiative focuses on Automated Ground Surveillance Vehicles, or what we call ‘AGSVs.’ Essentially, the AGSV program is all about…robot dogs.” 

Reaction to the armed dogs has been mixed but police view them as just another tool.

“Due to the demands of the region, adding quadruped mechanical reinforcements is a smart use of resources. Despite the dangers, and maybe even using them as cover, there are many types of illegal activity that happen in the harsh border zones,” DHS said in a statement.

Police use of such robots is still rare and largely untested — and hasn’t always gone over well with the public.

Keep reading

Lowes introduces surveillance robots that monitor license plates, mobile devices, to detect repeat offenders

Home improvement products retailer Lowe’s has started using security robots manufactured by Knightscope in four stores in Philadelphia.

The robots, K5’s – first launched in 2015 – are supposed to help the retailer collect evidence in case of criminal prosecutions, and act like “security guards.”

Even though the K5 can detect persons, has 16 microphones, and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), as well as sonar sensors, along with four 360-degree high definition wide angle cameras, it does not have facial recognition software baked into it.

(But Knightscope offers that feature – “seeing” a person, and knowing who it is – in the K1 Tower and KA Hemisphere models.)

K5’s other features include a security button on the back that people can press to summon help, what seems like limited communication letting users send customized messages through it and, as it patrols parking lots, the robot can emit a sound.

By using the robots to identify license plates and mobile devices, Lowe’s is able to cross-reference that data with an existing database of previous “offenders.”

Keep reading

Artificial Intelligence-Powered ‘Robot Lawyer’ to Represent Human in Court Next Month

A robot powered by artificial intelligence is set to become the world’s first “robot lawyer” and will take on speeding ticket cases in court next month, its creators have said.

Joshua Browder, the CEO of Startup DoNotPay, which bills itself as “the home of the world’s first robot lawyer” confirmed the news on Twitter on Monday.

Browder said the company is offering to pay any lawyer or person $1 million to use the AI lawyer in an upcoming case in front of the United States Supreme Court.

“We have upcoming cases in municipal (traffic) court next month. But the haters will say ‘traffic court is too simple for GPT.’ So we are making this serious offer, contingent on us coming to a formal agreement and all rules being followed,” Browder wrote.

The CEO did not provide further details regarding the defendants in the case or the location of the court.

According to DoNotPay’s official website, the company uses artificial intelligence to “help consumers fight against large corporations and solve their problems like beating parking tickets, appealing bank fees, and suing robocallers.”

Keep reading

Scientists Say They’re Now Actively Trying to Build Conscious Robots

2022 was a banner year for artificial intelligence, and particularly taking into account the launch of OpenAI’s incredibly impressive ChatGPT, the industry is showing no sign of stopping.

But for some industry leaders, chatbots and image-generators are far from the final robotic frontier. Next up? Consciousness.

“This topic was taboo,” Hod Lipson, the mechanical engineer in charge of the Creative Machines Lab at Columbia University, told The New York Times. “We were almost forbidden from talking about it — ‘Don’t talk about the c-word; you won’t get tenure’ — so in the beginning I had to disguise it, like it was something else.”

Consciousness is one of the longest standing, and most divisive, questions in the field of artificial intelligence. And while to some it’s science fiction — and indeed has been the plot of countless sci-fi books, comics, and films — to others, like Lipson, it’s a goal, one that would undoubtedly change human life as we know it for good.

“This is not just another research question that we’re working on — this is the question,” the researcher continued. “This is bigger than curing cancer.”

“If we can create a machine that will have consciousness on par with a human, this will eclipse everything else we’ve done,” he added. “That machine itself can cure cancer.”

Keep reading

Drone advances in Ukraine could bring dawn of killer robots

Drone advances in Ukraine have accelerated a long-anticipated technology trend that could soon bring the world’s first fully autonomous fighting robots to the battlefield, inaugurating a new age of warfare.

The longer the war lasts, the more likely it becomes that drones will be used to identify, select and attack targets without help from humans, according to military analysts, combatants and artificial intelligence researchers.

That would mark a revolution in military technology as profound as the introduction of the machine gun. Ukraine already has semi-autonomous attack drones and counter-drone weapons endowed with AI. Russia also claims to possess AI weaponry, though the claims are unproven. But there are no confirmed instances of a nation putting into combat robots that have killed entirely on their own.

Experts say it may be only a matter of time before either Russia or Ukraine, or both, deploy them.

“Many states are developing this technology,” said Zachary Kallenborn, a George Mason University weapons innovation analyst. ”Clearly, it’s not all that difficult.”

The sense of inevitability extends to activists, who have tried for years to ban killer drones but now believe they must settle for trying to restrict the weapons’ offensive use.

Keep reading

Scientists Develop Gelatinous Robots to Crawl Through Human Body to Deliver Medical Payloads or Diagnose Illnesses

Scientists have developed miniature gelatinous robots that can crawl through the human body to deliver medicine or diagnose illnesses.

The “gelbot” is powered by little more than temperature changes, and its innovative design, which resembles an inchworm, is one of the most promising concepts in the field of soft robotics, according to Jill Rosen of John Hopkins University.

“It seems very simplistic, but this is an object moving without batteries, without wiring, without an external power supply of any kind—just on the swelling and shrinking of gel,” said David Gracias, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and a senior project leader.

“Our study shows how the manipulation of shape, dimensions, and patterning of gels can tune morphology to embody a kind of intelligence for locomotion.”

The 3D-printed robot, which is made out of gelatin, is intended to replace pills or intravenous injections, which could cause problematic side effects.

The prototype was announced in the journal Science Robotics, on Dec. 14.

Keep reading

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

In the fall of 2020, gig workers in Venezuela posted a series of images to online forums where they gathered to talk shop. The photos were mundane, if sometimes intimate, household scenes captured from low angles—including some you really wouldn’t want shared on the Internet. 

In one particularly revealing shot, a young woman in a lavender T-shirt sits on the toilet, her shorts pulled down to mid-thigh.

The images were not taken by a person, but by development versions of iRobot’s Roomba J7 series robot vacuum. They were then sent to Scale AI, a startup that contracts workers around the world to label audio, photo, and video data used to train artificial intelligence. 

They were the sorts of scenes that internet-connected devices regularly capture and send back to the cloud—though usually with stricter storage and access controls. Yet earlier this year, MIT Technology Review obtained 15 screenshots of these private photos, which had been posted to closed social media groups. 

The photos vary in type and in sensitivity. The most intimate image we saw was the series of video stills featuring the young woman on the toilet, her face blocked in the lead image but unobscured in the grainy scroll of shots below. In another image, a boy who appears to be eight or nine years old, and whose face is clearly visible, is sprawled on his stomach across a hallway floor. A triangular flop of hair spills across his forehead as he stares, with apparent amusement, at the object recording him from just below eye level.

The other shots show rooms from homes around the world, some occupied by humans, one by a dog. Furniture, décor, and objects located high on the walls and ceilings are outlined by rectangular boxes and accompanied by labels like “tv,” “plant_or_flower,” and “ceiling light.” 

Keep reading

Terminator-style robot can survive being STABBED: Self-healing bot detects when it’s been harmed and mends itself on the spot

Sci-fi fans will know the Terminator was only a ruthless killing machine because of its effortless ability to heal itself after damage.

Now, engineers at Cornell University in New York may be well on their way to recreating this remarkable self-healing ability.

The experts have created a robot capable of detecting when and where it has been damaged and then restoring itself on the spot.

The small soft robot, which resembles a four-legged starfish, uses light to detect changes on its surface that are created by cuts. 

After the researchers punctured one of its legs, the robot was able to detect the damage and self-heal the incisions.  

‘Our lab is always trying to make robots more enduring and agile, so they operate longer with more capabilities,’ said Professor Rob Shepherd at Cornell University. 

Keep reading