Interesting 2009 - Robots FTW


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A 5 min talk given at Interesting 2009 about why robots are ace.

It'll make more sense with the speaker notes. As otherwise it's just a collection of photos. Which whilst great, probably isn't as much of a presentation as a photo album.

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  • I’m going to spend the next 5 minutes talking about why I think robots are ace.
  • Because in films they tend to be portrayed as evil androids – like False Maria in Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film , in which she wreaks havoc upon the city
  • Or the Terminator, the unstoppable android assassin
  • Or the Cybermen - some of the Doctor’s most deadly enemies in Dr Who
  • Or they tend to be portrayed as sweet figures of fun providing comic relief- like Johnny 5 in Short Circuit
  • Or Wall E
  • Or R2D2 & C3PO – they rock, but they are very much the comic relief
  • Or Marvin the Paranoid Android, in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy But actually robots are full of win, and they’re ace and amazing and wonderful without having to be evil assassins or sweet but ineffectual comic relief. And here’s a few examples of how and why…
  • This is the Tankpitstop, a Dutch robot which stops you having to get out of your car into the cold & get your hands smelling of petrol – the robot clocks the car when you arrived at the filling station, matches it to a database of fuel cap designs and fuel types, and away you go….
  • Dustbots was a 3 year project at the University of Pisa to experiment with new ways of managing urban waste. They’re fitted with GPS navigation, a gyroscope, beacons and a multitude of sensors to keep them from running into humans (an excellent idea since these robots weigh in at 1.5 tons)!
  • This is Gundam, from the TV series of the same name – he’s 18 metres high and weighs 35 tonnes Japan has been obsessed with the idea of giant robots. They are the stars of shows like Getter Robo. The original Transformer toys came from Japan before Hasbro turned them into a global phenomenon Patrick Galbraith, ethnographer at the University of Tokyo and author of The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insider's Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan, "no series is more beloved" than Gundam. "In Japan, they skipped all that negativity after the industrial revolution, and really, what they have is technology and mechanics as the hope for the future," "In Gundam, you see a young man get on board a giant robot, he reads a tech manual and he says, 'I can fly this thing and save the world' - and in fact, he does. "I think that hopefulness is what the Japanese see in robots." The Gundam story is about a war between space colonies and Earth. It first launched as an animated TV series in 1979 - one set in what was called the "Universal Century," in which human-controlled robots were used to protect their pilots against enemies. This idea of machines being positive forces was in contrast to much of the Hollywood science fiction of the period - such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which the ship's computer tries to kill its pilot. Mr Galbraith said that it was this positivity that had gripped the Japanese - in some cases, so much that they became "otaku" - or in Mr Galbraith's term, "obsessive geeks". "Otaku people are people who have an ideal of the future, who have an ideal of technology that's so strong and so important to them that they've moved far away from the bounds of reality," he added. This obsession with technology has meant the country is the ideal place to test new innovation - with people comfortable with it as part of their everyday lives. This has meant that a visit to Japan can give an intriguing glimpse at the global future.
  • I love these firefighting robots. Robot assistance is most often called upon in fires involving acetylene cylinders, which are used for welding. These can explode long after a fire has been put out, putting firefighters at risk and leading them to set up a 200-metre cordon around the scene of a fire for as long as 24 hours. This can cause huge disruption to roads and railways passing through the exclusion zone. Since starting trials with robots that can safely inspect and cool acetylene cylinders, London Fire Brigade has cut the average time it took to clear the cordon around a fire involving the cylinders from 19 hours to 2 hours 15 mins. These robots can break into vans / buildings and put out the fires. You’ll notice that there are two robots and they’re a very good team – in this case Bison holds open the door so that Black Max can cool down the cylinders They’re fitted with a thermal imaging camera so that fire crews can assess the temperature of acetylene cylinders without risking injury. They have sensors and grappling devices – they were built for war, and bomb disposal. And now the London Fire Brigade
  • The Tweenbots was an art project by Kacie Kinzer examining the random kindness of strangers. She designed tiny smiling cardboard robots that rely on the help of pedestrians to get to their destination. The Tweenbots roll at a constant speed, in a straight line and are dependent on humans to steer them in the right direction to reach their final location (which is printed on a flag attached to the robot’s body). The results were unexpected. Over the course of the following months, throughout numerous missions, the Tweenbots were successful in rolling from their start point to their far-away destination assisted only by strangers. Every time the robot got caught under a park bench, ground futilely against a curb, or became trapped in a pothole, some passerby would always rescue it and send it toward its goal. Never once was a Tweenbot lost or damaged. Often, people would ignore the instructions to aim the Tweenbot in the “right” direction, if that direction meant sending the robot into a perilous situation. One man turned the robot back in the direction from which it had just come, saying out loud to the Tweenbot, “You can’t go that way, it’s toward the road.” But of more interest to me was the fact that this ad-hoc crowdsourcing was driven primarily by human empathy Tweenbots told the story of people's willingness to engage with a creature that mirrors human characteristics of vulnerability, of being lost, and of having desire to achieve a goal without the means to do so.
  • So I hope this has helped you to realise that robots are much much more than scary androids or figures of fun. Thanks for having me, have a great day!
  • Interesting 2009 - Robots FTW

    1. 1. Robots FTW! Katy Lindemann @katylindemann
    2. 9. Robots FTW because…they can fill up our cars for us (helping us to become even lazier than we already are)
    3. 10. Robots FTW because…they can make our cities cleaner, more pleasant places to live
    4. 11. Robots FTW because…they inspire us towards greater innovation and a more positive future
    5. 12. Robots FTW because…they save lives
    6. 13. Robots FTW because…they bring out the best in people & remind us that society is fundamentally good. They help us learn about ourselves.
    7. 14. kthxbai! Robots FTW!