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When Is a Robot Not Mechanical? When It's an Android

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Beth Stackpole
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Creepy with a ton of possibilities
Beth Stackpole   9/10/2012 7:29:19 AM
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Seems like there is some great research potential at the heart of this project. Rat heart muscle cells--curious about that one. Anything about the rat heart muscle that lends itself to this or is it more that rats are the go-to source for research?

naperlou
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but, do they sting?
naperlou   9/10/2012 11:47:24 AM
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Ann, this is a very interesting avenue of research.  From the title, of course, I thought you were talking about a cell phone. 

But, seriously, do we need more jellyfish?  I remember being stung by them in the Chesepeake when I was joung.  Not fun.  These will not have stingers, will they?  Just kidding.

It would be interesting to see what type of control system the researchers come up with.  These could be efficient little swimmers for long distance surveillance, for example.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Creepy with a ton of possibilities
Ann R. Thryft   9/10/2012 12:34:36 PM
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Beth, rats are definitely one of, if not the, most common animals used in lab experiments. They are bred specifically for this purpose. And incorporating living bioengineered tissue into robots appears to be a trend. I'll be posting on this subject again soon.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: but, do they sting?
Ann R. Thryft   9/10/2012 12:39:24 PM
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Lou, I think it's unfortunate that the term "android" has been co-opted by a commercial enterprise, and not very accurately, either. Regarding the Medusoid, I agree about the control system--I'm really curious to know what they have in mind. This isn't quite a robot yet, or an android, but with the correct control system, it could be.

Jennifer Campbell
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Re: Creepy with a ton of possibilities
Jennifer Campbell   9/10/2012 12:49:55 PM
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Although they are bred for lab experiments, I never really thought of it going much further than rats more than getting injected with drugs that are undergoing testing, or having makeup put on them (wink).

Seriously, though, putting living tissue into robots is a tad bit creepy. More and more, after reading your posts, Ann, am I beginning to understand the term uncanny valley and why it's real.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Creepy with a ton of possibilities
Ann R. Thryft   9/10/2012 1:04:40 PM
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Lipstick on a rat?? Hadn't heard of that one. I agree, Jenn, it's getting creepy when we start combining engineered living tissue with machines. But also fascinating. I think that uncanny valley may be expanding into more of a continent at this point.

mrdon
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Re: Creepy with a ton of possibilities
mrdon   9/10/2012 2:26:26 PM
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Hi Ann,

I agree about being creepy and fascinating at the same time. It seem's like a mad scientist movie where life is being created in a lab. I like robots with a mechanized appeal but when they start looking and acting like humans that's where I draw the line. Fascinating article.

Reno at Anthrobotic.com
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Iron
The Naming Game
Reno at Anthrobotic.com   9/10/2012 9:29:10 PM
Great coverage, and I hate to be the robot dork raining semantics down on the parade, but... This naming of robots/drones/cyborgs/androids issue is really starting to spiral into unmitigated ambiguity, so with all due respect, mitigation: this is certainly a novel robot, but I'm afraid it's not an android - the greek preference "andro," from which the word is derived, distinctly implies "man," and "oid" is of course... well, "of." Sure, meanings of specific words change over time, but this isn't one of them.

As examples, the terminator is an android. It's also a cyborg. ASIMO is an android, but not a cyborg. Both are robots. Predator and Reaper drones aren't robots, they're supertech R/C planes. So what do we call the starfish and things like it? I suppose we might just need a new standardized word for these non-mechanical artifcial moving things!

It's a complicated issue that a dictionary alone won't solve. I've addressed it a bit here: "WarBot Update: What to Call the Drones Now that They're here at Home – Suggestions?" http://goo.gl/Dxhh3

Thanks - Reno at Anthrobotic.com

sdoyle
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Re: The Naming Game
sdoyle   9/11/2012 9:50:17 AM
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The biggest use for this that comes to mind for me is moving facial features on an android.  The "muscles" used would have discrete electrical signals going to them controlled by a cpu or fpga of some sort.  When you want the android to smile, particular signals are excited.  When you want the android to smile really big, then those signals are excited with a greater amplitude.  A frown is just different signals.  This is not too far from how our faces actually work.

Obviously there are some hurdles to overcome and refinements to make to get to that point, but the basics of it can be seen in the video.

It wouldn't take much time to create a look-up table for appropriate facial actions (and store that in memory) to make an android have at least basic "emotions".

How many years before your household helping android is able to wink at you when he it cracks a joke?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Creepy with a ton of possibilities
Ann R. Thryft   9/11/2012 12:14:20 PM
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Glad you liked the post, mrdon. A lot of robot R&D is starting to remind me of science fiction movies. The ones that look like people are really big in Japan, but I agree, they're too weird for my taste. DN did a survey on that subject, asking our Systems & Product Design Engineering and Automation & Control Engineering groups on LinkedIn "Should Robots Look Like People or Machines?" Here are the results:
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1381&doc_id=237885

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