Recently in…Robotics

Futurists, like Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly, work to provide a glimpse at the world of tomorrow. In a recent interview, Kelly stated that the technology to come over the next 20 years will make the previous 20 “pale in comparison.” This week’s “Recently in” looks at the latest innovations building the ground floor of Kelly’s future – a world where robots roam our offices, streets, football pitches and even our comedy clubs. I have a feeling that the future will look a lot like Futurama.

Kobian: The Robot Comedian (Waseda University)
Kobian: The Robot Comedian (Waseda University)

Meet Bob, Britain’s first ROBOTIC security guard

There’s a new employee at the G4S Technology offices in Gloucestershire. Meet Bob, the robot security guard. Bob is part of a $12 million pilot project created by the University of Birmingham that was created to introduce robotics into the work environment. Before you start worrying the consequences of handing the keys over to a robot, understand that Bob’s role is to compliment, and not replace his human counterparts. Cylon security has a nice ring to it.

HitchBOT the hitchhiking robot to travel Canada this summer

When is it acceptable to pick up a shifty, drifting hitchhiker? On the occasion that the hitchhiker happens to be a hitchBOT. Starting July 27, hitchBOT will begin to travel the open road in Canada, the second largest nation by land mass. In an interesting twist on robot/human relations, hitchBOT is trying to answer the question, can robots trust humans? You can discover the results first-hand by following hitchBOT’s journey on No word on whether hitchBOT will be programmed with Canadian-born musician Tom Cochrane’s road trip anthem “Life is a Highway.”

Football-playing robots all set for RoboCup 2014 and beyond

Two weeks after the World Cup champion is crowned in Rio de Janeiro, the RoboCup kicks-off in Joao Pessoa, Brazil. This year, up to fifty teams from around the world will clash to determine the top robotic football club on the planet. The early favorite has to be the University of Pennsylvania robotics lab. UPenn has taken the title in each of the last four years. Daniel Lee, head of the school’s robotics lab, believes that we could see robotic footballers competing at a world-class level in 20 years (20 seems to be the magic number doesn’t it?). Beyond the novelty of robots playing football, these competitions help create innovations in machine communication and problem solving that have major implications off the pitch – the RoboCup is more than a game.

Japanese comedian robot is the other kind of funny

I just flew into town and are my gears tired! In story that seems to be setting up a punchline, Waseda University created a robot comedian called Kobian. What’s the deal with robot comedians? The project’s goals are two-fold. First, researchers want to discover whether comedy can be codified and analyzed to predict how jokes will perform. It’s humor in the big data age. In this experiment, Kobian was armed with three types of comedic methods, behavioral, contextual and character-driven, before delivering its routine to a captive audience. Luckily hecklers cannot hurt Kobian’s feelings. Second, the audience’s reaction was measured to see how the crowd’s mood altered before and after the performance. By all accounts, Kobian had a successful gig – 80 percent of the audience laughed at his impression of a popular Japanese comedian and the crowd, as a whole, experienced decreased levels of stress, depression, anger, fatigue, activity and confusion after the performance. Take my wife-bot please!

SynTouch uses robotics to bring a new sensation to prosthetics

It’s clear that robots are trending toward simplifying and streamlining tasks at work and home. What’s really exciting is to see how robotics will improve lives and open new possibilities for quality of life. This is the case with SynTouch. The company creates sensor technology that allows robots to replicate, and sometimes exceed, the human sense of touch. SynTouch’s work is changing robotics and prosthetics forever by its incorporating innovative tactile sensing technology into its designs. Watch this Born to Design video to learn how SynTouch is revolutionizing prosthetics and making the impossible possible for amputees.

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Mike Fearon

Mike Fearon

Senior Manager Brand Offer Marketing, Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS. Video game world champion and whisky advocate. I like turtles.