Tag Archives: robots

Mind reading robot doesn’t know what to think

Pax Arcana

A few years ago, Honda introduced a small humanoid robot called Asimo that could do things like walk, wave, and savagely attack people by falling down the stairs at them.

The latest addition to the Asimo family is even more dangerous.

According to the Guardian (UK), the latest Asimo can read your mind — literally:

To control the robot, the person wearing the helmet only had to think about making the movement. Its inventors hope that one day the mind-control technology will allow people to do things like turn air conditioning on or off and open their car boot without putting their shopping down.

The helmet is the first “brain-machine interface” to combine two different techniques for picking up activity in the brain. Sensors in the helmet detect electrical signals through the scalp in the same way as a standard EEG (electroencephalogram). The scientists combined this with another technique called near-infrared spectroscopy, which can be used to monitor changes in blood flow in the brain.


Naturally, scientists are pushing the “we-help-disabled-people” angle in order to hide their real agenda — to mass produce an army of mind reading robots that will enslave us under their cold, brushed-metal thumbs.

But fear not, Paxites. My team of computational behavior theorists is well on its way to devising appropriate defensive maneuvers should you be attacked by a mind reading robot. Idea #1 — Force yourself to think about all the delicious motor oil stacked behind the robot. Then, when it turns around, you push it down the fucking stairs.

Honda unveils helmet that lets wearer control a robot by thought alone [Guardian]


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The robots are not sarcastic

Pax Arcana

If you’re like me, one of your favorite pastimes is plugging some of the hilariously besnargled (new word) language on Engrish.com into a text-to-speech program and prank calling your friends with it. For example:


…and this beauty…


But why do the robot voices sound so silly? Science fiction told us we would have HAL-like computer voices that sounded like native speakers — rather than clipped guttural noises from the bottom of a tin can.

Over at Slate, Farhad Manjoo looks into it and finds that pronunciation is only part of the challenge for robot voice designers:

Because human speech is extremely varied, too complex and subtle for computers to understand and replicate. Researchers can get computers to read words as they appear on the page, but because machines don’t understand what they’re reading, they can’t infuse the speech with necessary emotion and emphasis.

Consider this simple exchange:

I’m going to ace this test.
Yeah, right.

A human reader would understand that the second sentence is meant sarcastically. So would a duplicitous machine like HAL 9000. But today’s computers wouldn’t get it; a robot would think the guy really was going to ace that test.

In other words, robots simply aren’t sarcastic enough to communicate effectively with us humanoids. Which I’m sure they’ll be really upset about as they’re harvesting our spinal fluid for lubricant.

Read Me a Story, Mr. Roboto [Slate]

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The robots are more dangerous than ever

Pax Arcana

robotEvery time I write about the threat posed by armies of sentient, wall-climing robots, some naive sap writes in and chides me for overstating the danger.

OK, fine. Don’t listen to me.

But maybe you should listen to Patrick Lin, author of a report for the Office of Naval Research that concludes that our militarized robot fighters could rise up against us at any time:

The report, the first serious work of its kind on military robot ethics, envisages a fast-approaching era where robots are smart enough to make battlefield decisions that are at present the preserve of humans. Eventually, it notes, robots could come to display significant cognitive advantages over Homo sapiens.

“There is a common misconception that robots will do only what we have programmed them to do,” Patrick Lin, the chief compiler of the report, said. “Unfortunately, such a belief is sorely outdated, harking back to a time when . . . programs could be written and understood by a single person.” The reality, Dr Lin said, was that modern programs included millions of lines of code and were written by teams of programmers, none of whom knew the entire program: accordingly, no individual could accurately predict how the various portions of large programs would interact without extensive testing in the field – an option that may either be unavailable or deliberately sidestepped by the designers of fighting robots.

The answer, Lin says, is to “teach” the army robots right from wrong through an artificial intelligence learning process. Also, robots should each be programmed to adhere to a strict code of conduct that prevents them from killing the wrong humans.

I think a better idea would be to give every human a keyword that would cause all robots to self-destruct. Like if you said “Sproing!” and the robots head and arms and legs popped out and bounced around like they were on slinkys. Oh man that would be hilarious. Wait, what were we talking about again?

Military’s killer robots must learn warrior code [Times UK]

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Death comes nipping at your heels

Pax Arcana

Popular science fiction films such as Star Wars and Maximum Overdrive have left us with an inaccurate impression of what the inevitable end-times war with the machines will look like.

In those films, the forces of mechanized evil spend considerable energy creating armies of terrifying robot warriors. While it is difficult to deny that this approach creates an environment of fear and intimidation among the humans, the strategy is also very flawed.

That’s why the real-life clash of humans and robots will be far more difficult. The machines have learned that if their warriors look evil, they are more likely to draw suspicion and return fire from the people. So they’ve been disguising their terrible death mongers as adorable and helpful servant-bots.

To wit — First they give us automated vacuum cleaning robot droids like the below:


…only to capitalize on our accommodating nature with the below monstrosity, which was sent here by its electronic overlords — and their human stooges at Engadget — to tear our feet to shreds:

Beware, my friends. Danger lurks behind the birdbath.

SmartMow mows the lawn but won’t accept a glass of lemonade [Engadget]


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Tuesday filler: T-Pain v. Vocoder

Pax Arcana

And yet another layer in the robots’ diabolical plan is peeled back.

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Escalators are about to get deadly awesome

Pax Arcana

Not only are the nation’s escalators attacking old people at an alarming rate, they are also growing more powerful by the day.

According to the New York Times, some escalators in that city’s subway stations now have the ability to sense when humans are around and change speeds accordingly:

Using infrared motion sensors, the escalators will slow to a crawl of just 15 feet per minute when no one is on them, compared with the normal full speed of 100 feet per minute. The escalators will gradually accelerate to the full speed, over a period of a few seconds, once a rider steps on them.

Not only can the new machines buck the elderly with wild changes of speed, but they can also take a short nap afterward:

“Like humans, machines benefit from a little rest from time to time, and the escalators that provide service to subway customers are no exception,” said Paul J. Fleuranges, a spokesman for New York City Transit, the arm of the authority that runs the subways and buses.

He’s right. I once saw a robot dressed like a human resting on the side of the road next to a mangled motorcycle. My friend said he thought it was a man who had fallen off a motorcycle. I said you would fall for that one, wouldn’t you?

New Subway Escalators Speed Up When You Get On [NYT]

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The robots will rock you now

Pax Arcana

Robots launching a violent war against man is a staple of science fiction, but let’s be honest for a second — that scenario is pretty damn unrealistic.

As anybody who’s studied the machinations of robot subversion knows, their real plan is to sneak in through our ear holes and plant subliminal messages in the microchips implanted in us by crooked ear, nose, and throat doctors.

Our spies in New Zealand have successfully absconded with the below video of the world’s first all-robot band:

The accompanying Wired article implies that the robots were programmed by humans to play real instruments. I say the editors of Wired have underestimated their resolve and cunning.

Video: New Zealand’s Band of Robots [Wired]

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The robots are getting jumpy

Pax Arcana

Because science should not only terrify you, but also annoy you and give your dog a heart attack, researchers have devised a robot grasshopper that can leap 27 times its own height.

God damn it. This means I have to rebuild my anti-robot security fence to at least 28 times the height of a grasshopper. What am I, made of Legos?

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Pax Arcana

Futhermore, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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The escalators are trying to kill our old people

Pax Arcana

The New York Times today reports a dramatic rise in the rate of escalator attacks against old people. In fact, the yearly rate of escalator injuries increased more than 100% from 1991 to 2005 — to an average of 2,660 sweet old ladies per year:

Nobody knows why the rate is rising. “Perhaps the exposure is greater than it was in 1991,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Joseph O’Neil, an associate professor of pediatrics at Indiana University. “We don’t know if there are more escalators, but there are certainly more active older adults.”

Welcome to hell. Please use the hand rail.

Also, they always put the Friendly’s on the second floor of the mall.

Dr. O’Neil’s report cautions older people to use care when riding the mechanized death traps. At any time, he said, the steel jaws of misfortune can clamp down on your velcro shoes and drag you, bloodied and wailing, into the fiery pit of H-E-doublehockeysticks.

Senior citizens especially are encouraged to get their affairs in order before engaging in any way with technology — especially mechanized conveyances, robots, VCRs, and the eBays. Danger lurks around every corner.

Escalator Injuries Rise in Older Adults [New York Times]


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