Computational creativity and the future of AI


Nao, Aldebaran Robotics' versatile fool (Photo: Gizmag)

There's an infestation of robots at London's Science Museum this weekend. Robotville has set up camp in a darkened room on the second floor, where visitors to the museum can drop by to say hello to their mechanized counterparts. There are 23 robots all told, from toy dinosaurs to pressure-sensing fish and all-terrain robot cockroaches (though, being purely remote controlled, the latter isn't a robot in the strict sense). Most captivating, though, were the nine androids that struck Gizmag as being, in one way or another, the most human. Say hello to the robots that might help shape our future.  Read More

The multigait robot squeezes its way underneath a glass barrier

More and more, it’s looking like many of the robots in the not-too-distant future won’t be hard, humanoid C-3PO-like affairs, but will instead be squishy, soft-bodied devices. Not only would such robots be better able to withstand mechanical shock, vibration and compression, but they would also be able to do things like squeezing through small spaces – an ability which come in very handy in settings like disaster sites or battlefields. Previous experiments with soft-bodied robots have included Tufts University’s GoQBot, which was clearly inspired by caterpillars. More recently, scientists from Harvard University demonstrated a squishy creation of their own, which could probably best be likened to a robotic starfish ... although it was apparently also inspired by squids.  Read More

Ant-Roach is a six-legged 'pneubot,' designed to showcase the capabilities of inflatable r...

What weighs a little under 70 pounds, has six legs, and is full of air? No, it's not conjoined monkey triplets with gas - as you've doubtless already gathered from the picture, it's a walking inflatable robot known as Ant-Roach. Earning its name by looking like a cross between an anteater and a cockroach, the wonderfully-kooky beast is the creation of San Francisco-based engineering/design group Otherlab. Besides providing amusement, the device was built to showcase the high strength-to-weight ratios and carrying capacities that are possible with inflatable robots.  Read More

An insect fitted with a piezoelectric generator to harness energy from the insect's wings ...

Insects have served as the inspiration for a number of Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) that could be deployed to monitor hazardous situations without putting humans in harm’s way. Now researchers at the University of Michigan College of Engineering are proposing using actual live insects enhanced with electronic sensors to achieve the same result. The insect cyborgs would use biological energy harvested from their body heat or movements to potentially power small sensors implanted on their bodies in order to gather vital information from hazardous environments.  Read More

Harvard University has licensed the technology for its tiny Kilobots, enabling other group...

Do you think that you’ll never be able to afford a robot of your own that isn’t a toy? Well, if you can get Swiss robot-maker K-Team Corporation to sell you one, chances are you can easily afford a Kilobot – perhaps even a whole bunch of them. Designed and first built by Harvard University’s Self-Organizing Systems Research Group, the three-legged robots aren’t much larger than the 3.4-volt button cell batteries that power them, and move by vibrating across smooth, flat surfaces. They were created to study robotic swarming behavior, with the intention that tens, hundreds or even thousands of them could be used simultaneously in one experiment. Harvard has just announced that it has licensed the Kilobot technology to K-Team, which will commercially manufacture the robots so that other groups and institutions can purchase them for their own research.  Read More

The above-water component of one of the four Wave Gliders

It may sound like the premise for the latest Pixar movie, but it’s actually happening – four small autonomous aquatic robots have embarked on a 60,000-kilometer (37,000-mile) journey across the Pacific ocean. The Wave Gliders, built by California-based Liquid Robotics, left San Francisco last Thursday. All four will travel together to Hawaii, at which point they will split into two pairs – one of those pairs will proceed to Australia, with the other heading for Japan. Called PacX (for “Pacific Crossing”), the project will constitute the longest voyage ever completed by an unmanned ocean vessel.  Read More

The NSK robot guide dog climbs stairs (Photo:

Guide dogs for the visually impaired provide an important service and help provide a welcome sense of autonomy to physically-challenged individuals. Unfortunately, the highly-skilled canines require about US$30,000 in training over several months, and always seem to be in short supply. The growing demand for these specialized animal companions gave a group of engineers from Japan's NSK corporation and the University of Electro-Communications just the impetus they needed to design a mechanical solution, and the robotic guide dog was born.  Read More

Some of Team Titanoboa, from left to right: Charlie Brinson, Markus Hager, Michelle La Hay...

Robotic snakes are - perhaps surprisingly - nothing all that new. In the past several years, we've seen ones designed to swim through debris, help out at construction sites, perform surveillance, and inspect the inside of pipes. People seem to be captivated by the little guys, which begs the question: has an artist ever made one? If they did, it would have to stand out from its more utilitarian counterparts, perhaps by being enormous and incorporating colored lights. Evoking prehistory wouldn't hurt, either. Well, it turns out that there is a creation that ticks all those boxes. It's time to meet Titanoboa.  Read More

A rendering of the FastRunner bipedal sprinting robot (Image: IHMC)

Fast as the FastRunner may become, it will never be able to escape the comparison to an ostrich. One day, thanks to a joint effort by MIT and the Florida Institute of Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), this bipedal sprinting robot is going to assume its rightful place in the DARPA-funded robotic zoo, right next to the robotic cheetah and the mule-like BigDog. Thanks to an innovative, self-stabilizing leg design, the movements of this flightless robotic bird are going to be not only very efficient, but also extremely fast. The legs are already capable of hitting 27 mph (43.4 km/h), matching the fastest of humans. The researchers hope to see FastRunner reach speeds of up to 50 mph (80.4 km/h). That, plus the ability to negotiate fairly rough, uneven terrain, potentially makes it a force to be reckoned with, on the battlefield and elsewhere.  Read More

The Robothespian presentation, telepresence and acting humanoid robot by Engineered Arts L...

Engineered Arts Ltd.'s Robothespian is probably one of the first professional robotic actors who made it into the real world (sorry, T-1000). Its elegant movements, extraordinary body language and emotion-conveying skills make it a great communicator. It may not be capable of helping the elderly, it's not nearly as agile and athletic as Boston Dynamics' PETMAN, and it's unlikely to be of any use during eye surgery. But that's OK. Robothespian is an artist. A robot burdened with the task of exploring the ephemeral territory of the arts and claiming it for his robotic brethren. And it seems it is extremely well equipped to get the job done.  Read More

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