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Beth Stackpole
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Robot rescue hero
Beth Stackpole   10/12/2012 8:29:45 AM
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It's certainly hard to get your mind wrapped around the idea that an algorithm could drive a robot to figure out how pull that solider out from under the debris or throw a chair through a window to coordinate an escape from fire. That said, Design News' robotics coverage certainly shows we're making progress towards that goal. Great example of yet another instance where  unleashing the creativity of the innovators is likely to result in some seriously extraordinary technology.

mrdon
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Gold
Re: Robot rescue hero
mrdon   10/12/2012 10:41:26 AM
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Beth, Agree. The world provides a wealth of inspiration to design cool and innovated autonomous robots from animals, to insects, now MacGyver. I wonder how MacGyer might feel that is job may be threaten by a robot? LOL

SparkyWatt
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Platinum
Re: Robot rescue hero
SparkyWatt   10/15/2012 1:26:29 PM
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It strikes me that this is more a database application than an algorithm.  Humans, after all, sort through millions of pieces of data to do the MacGyver thing.  From our point of view the concepts:

- A window may be an exit.

- Glass is breakable

- You have to throw a weight to break a window.

- You can't lift more than 45 pounds.

- A chair weighs about 10 pounds.

Are distinct ideas from thousands that we piece together to figure out that we can throw a chair through a window to escape through it.  The big problem here isn't going to be coming up with a clever process for figuring this stuff out.  It is going to be putting together a massive database of simple common facts that can be quickly integrated into plans.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Robot rescue hero
Beth Stackpole   10/15/2012 1:34:37 PM
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@SparkyWatt: I agree that this robot is going to have one big data problem on its hands to both amass and process all of the possible scenarios and data points in order to make any kind of informed decision about what solution to try or how exactly to go about fixing a problem. While I hate being negative about any kind of technology exploration, I'd say this is definitely a "work-in-progress."

NadineJ
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Platinum
curious
NadineJ   10/12/2012 11:17:49 AM
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Did the researchers use MacGyver as their inspiration or is that a tie-in created by the author?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: curious
Ann R. Thryft   10/12/2012 4:15:31 PM
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Nadine, I checked the press release, and that term is used there.

tekochip
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Platinum
Duck Tape
tekochip   10/12/2012 4:47:30 PM
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It should come equipped with a duck tape dispenser and a paper clip canister.

Charles Murray
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Intelligent enough?
Charles Murray   10/12/2012 6:15:18 PM
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If I'm locked out of my car, I may not necessarily want to use a chair or a crowbar to break the window to get in. So the question arises: Will the robot be judicious in its choice of solutions?

Cadman-LT
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Platinum
Re: Intelligent enough?
Cadman-LT   10/14/2012 7:37:21 PM
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That is a very good point. I don't think I'm ready to trust robots for such things.

GlennA
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Gold
science fiction or over-reach
GlennA   10/14/2012 10:17:43 PM
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This sounds ambitious to the point of being too far-fetched.  I think sometimes these projects are meant to evaluate 'bleeding-edge' technologies, determine the short-comings, and make a wish-list of new technologies.

3drob
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Platinum
Re: science fiction or over-reach
3drob   10/15/2012 11:31:24 AM
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GlennA, I agree completely.  Even the name "Golem" is a word that has negative connotations (e.g. dumb or helpless). 

It's a nice idea, but I really would NOT like to see an autonomous robot until their cognitive ability is a LOT further along.  And then I wouldn't like to see an autonomous robot because I don't know that I would trust it's motiviation (think Stuxnet).

btwolfe
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Re: science fiction or over-reach
btwolfe   10/15/2012 11:42:12 AM
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GlennA, I have to agree. I didn't believe half of what McGyver did, so I find it even harder to believe a robot can do it. I'm also confused by the specs. The statement "ability to lift 100kg -- the combined weight of its two arms" is confusing. Does this mean the two arms together can lift 100kg and that they also happen to weigh 100kg? I'm familiar with the Schunk LWA 3 (the arms being used on this robot) and I know it can't lift that much (it's more like 6kg).

I think there's a lot of hand waving with the technical capabilites. It'll be interesting to see if they even come close to what's being touted. I suspect most of the work will be in software modelling of the environment and deducing what's relevant to accomplishing a certain task. That alone will consume all $900K. Hope to see great things come from this.

Rob Spiegel
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Please, not MacGyver
Rob Spiegel   10/14/2012 10:21:24 PM
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While the MacGyver appellation is cute, I can't see that it's appropriate. The shtick with MacGyver is that he always failed.

NadineJ
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Platinum
Re: Please, not MacGyver
NadineJ   10/14/2012 11:03:30 PM
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Rob: I agree.  I've never seen the television show but I'm familiar with the common phrase.

That's why I asked if it was used by the researchers.  Unfortunately, an asst professor is quoted using it in the press release.  It sounds like a fun reference but reads as a little trivial.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Please, not MacGyver
Rob Spiegel   10/15/2012 3:41:29 PM
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Nadine, actually I mixed up MacGyver -- a clever secret agent who worked with gadgets to solve probloems -- with MacGruber, a Saturday Night Live takeoff 

NadineJ
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Re: Please, not MacGyver
NadineJ   10/15/2012 4:21:07 PM
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Rob, that's an interesting mix up.  But, my comment still stands, even if alone.

Good work doesn't need to be tied to cultural kitsch.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Please, not MacGyver
Rob Spiegel   10/15/2012 4:28:31 PM
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You're right about that, Nadine. The robot is a fascinating step forward, even if it requires mammoth tweaking. The ability of the robot to manipulate tools and the ability of the robot to "think" is quite something. 

Carmine
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Iron
Intelligent Headlights?
Carmine   10/15/2012 11:48:29 AM
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I sure hope its equipped with Intelligent Headlights.  I wouldn't want it blinded by rain or snow as it searches for a "pipe" to lever a smoking HVAC unit off some poor soul.  http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=247143  All kidding aside, this sounds way, way out these.  How is this thing supposed to know just how truly fragile humans are to avoid inadvertanyly killing the trapped guy with that "oh-so-handy-and available" pipe?

William K.
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Platinum
Macgyver robot???
William K.   10/15/2012 3:20:36 PM
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The difference will be that the robot won't be able to violate all kinds of physical laws and limitations. It will never connect a scuba tank to a garden hose to inflate an air matteres to bust open a hatchway. But a robot that was aware enough of it's surroundings to use a pipe as a lever to pry an object off of somebody would be quite an accomplishment. Of course, that would also be a big accomplishment for a whole lot of our population today. The advantages are clear but the level of creative thinking required is beyond most of our population, and probably beyond all programmers, so it will be amazing to see what gets developed.

The downside is that a robot that smart may want to replace us humans. That could be a problem.

Watashi
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Platinum
Re: Macgyver robot???
Watashi   10/15/2012 6:13:12 PM
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Have we not learned anything from the "Terminator" and "Matrix" franchises? 

Machines turn on humans when they have the cognitive ability to realize that humans actually believed the storylines from MacGyver.

William K.
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Platinum
Re: Macgyver robot???
William K.   10/15/2012 6:29:09 PM
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It was always the cartoonish departures from real physical reality that bothered me. But my wife always watched it because of the guy's looks. Go figure.

Robots won't become an agressive threat until they become self-aware. Likewise, people unable to pay attention long enough to become self-aware are very easy to enslave. That is the reasoning behind the training of the current generation to not be able to focus attention for more than a second or two. They won't be able to discover that they are slaves. Think about that, and become uneasy!

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Macgyver robot???
Ann R. Thryft   10/15/2012 6:32:34 PM
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Thanks, Watashi, that's funny. I also think there are some unwarranted, anthropomorphizing assumptions in the comments here about how much independence a machine can actually have. It's one thing to use an algorithm, perhaps as simple as a decision-tree type of analysis, for assessing simple physics (levers, e.g.), amounts of force required, etc. It's quite another to assume, or posit, that a machine can have a separate sense of self and self-awareness.

GlennA
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Gold
remember Watson / IBM / Jeopardy ?
GlennA   10/15/2012 9:55:59 PM
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Watson did win against Ken Jenning, and the other champion whose name I can't remember.  The game was fairly structured, but still required sifting through a lot of facts very quickly.  But Watson was the size of a room, not a mobile robot.

William K.
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Platinum
Robot using found items
William K.   11/4/2012 7:30:35 PM
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The robot may be able to do more and better than the specific task that it's tooling was intended for, which could be very useful in an un-anticipated situation. BUT the creativity of the remote operator is what will be the really vital part. That is similar to the way a good engineer is able to use good engineering tools, but a poor engineer is only able to look at the tools. IT is all about creativity and insight, of course the more adaptive robot will wind up being much more useful.

Unfortunately the Macgyver guy used to routinely violate all kinds of physical realities. CReative? Certainly, but Correct? Very Seldom.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Robot using found items
Elizabeth M   11/5/2012 12:26:45 PM
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Good point, William. My colleague Beth pointed out potential drawbacks to this type of robot in a comment below. It definitely remains to be seen how this is executed to determine how successful and, as you pointed out, how creative a robot can be given various scenarios.

Cabe Atwell
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Blogger
Re: Robot using found items
Cabe Atwell   5/20/2014 3:23:57 AM
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Ha! That robot reminded me of Fender from the movie Robots, where he lost his legs in a chop shop and used replacement female robot legs to escape.

Elizabeth M
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Blogger
Re: Robot using found items
Elizabeth M   5/20/2014 4:21:25 AM
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You're finding some old stories of mine, Cabe...I forgot about this one! I haven't seen that film, but it sounds like a good analogy. You've made me think I should do some research and see how far this project has come now.



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