Saturday, April 12, 2008

Boston Dynamics Creates First Wave of Robot Infantry

Boston Dynamics, the eerily self-described "engineering company that specializes in robotics and human simulation," released a new video of its "Big Dog" all-terrain robot last month. The video below demonstrates the ability of this robot quadruped to climb hills, walk through snow, recover from being kicked around, negotiate ice, jump over things, and scale a large pile of rocks. In other words, it's pretty much the most terrifying robot ever. Put some lasers and armor on a few dozen of these things and boom: a super-creepy robot army.

As if that's not enough, further examination of Boston Dynamics website reveals a production slate of several other scary robots. The most familiar of the bunch is the RiSE, who some may recognize as the spidery robots with acid-filled needles that killed Gene Simmons in the 1984 Tom Selleck-versus-robots movie, Runaway.

Who is funding the creation of such monsters, you ask? Why, our good friends at DARPA, the mad science wing of the pentagon, of course!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Swiss Scientists Helping IBM Develop Mother Brain

Scientists at one of Switzerland's most creepily named research labs, The Brain Mind Institute, have reached a major milestone in their work with IBM to create a model of the brain. The project, which aims to "create a modeling tool that can be used by neuroscientists to run experiments," completed its first computer-simulated neocortical column, one of the most complicated parts of the brain. This breakthrough suggests that a full computer simulation of the brain may be less than a decade away.

While this clearly poses some incredible possibilities for the advancement of neuroscience, it's sometimes the most well-intentioned research that presents the most frightening possibilities. Once the brain model is developed, how long until it gets sick of being constantly experimented on, and decides to lead an army of space pirates into a series of underground tunnels on a distant planet in an attempt to take over the galaxy? Five years? Ten?

If this research is to continue, our only hope may be to begin developing an ice beam immediately.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nanobots Begin Training To Accidentally Wipe Out Civilization

We all know how this story goes. First, we have a problem, like some sort of airborne disease or environmental issue that exists on a molecular level. Then, our brilliant scientists use their unflappable hubris to deal with the problem using nanobots, tiny robots that operate on a scale so small they can actually alter or repair individual cells and molecules. The whole process works smashingly at first, and it seems our problems are solved. Unfortunately, the use of these nanobots inevitably has some kind of unintended consequence. For instance, once they've finished eliminating some harmful chemical from the atmosphere, they mutate on their own and start eliminating all of the oxygen too. Before we can contain them, they begin reproducing at an unpredictable rate, and whatever survivors remain must board a ship and abandon our contaminated planet. This seems ok until just before the credits roll, when, unbeknownst to our heroes, it becomes apparent that the nanobots have followed them onto the ship.

The very preliminary stages of this story started unfolding a few weeks ago as a nanobot competition kicked off at the 2007 Robocup in Atlanta, Georgia. Scientists from around the world entered their microscopic harbingers of the apocalypse into competitions of speed, accuracy, and agility based around the idea of a tiny soccer match. We will, of course, monitor the progress of these tiny armies as they train to accidentally destroy us in the future.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Denmark to Weaponize Lawn Robots

The Luddington Daily News reports that Danish engineers have created the Hortibot, a "three foot-by-three-foot, self-propelled, global positioning system-directed, weed-eliminating, automated robot" (via slashdot).

We're not going to dwell on the many available puns involving robots "weeding out" rebellious humans, but rather on the terrifying manner in which this monster is equipped. "Hortibot has a variety of weed-removing attachments and methods. It can manually pick weeds, spray, or remove them using flames or a laser."

FLAMES or a LASER! Seriously? And to make matters worse, the hortibot is basically a set of attachments for the same lawn mowing robot that killed a Danish municipal worker several months ago. Since it's already killed someone, it only makes sense to make it deadlier.

So, between Denmark's mad agricultural engineers, and the guy who recently hacked his robo-sapien to add a flamethrower, there's plenty going on this week to keep us up at night.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Robot Takeover Begins with Enslavement of Camels

It started with chess, and now the robots have taken over yet another beloved human past time, the Sport of Sheiks. Of course, I'm talking about camel racing.

You may think the most disturbing part about this story is that the robots are programmed to whip and bark orders at the camels, or you may think it's the fact that these robots are largely going to replace enslaved children as professional camel jockeys.

But me, I'm going to go with the fact that they dressed them up in little robot dress shirts and jockey hats. Robots wearing clothes is surely a sign of the apocalypse.

Friday, June 1, 2007

US Military Developing Moth-borgs

Yep, our wacky friends at the US military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are at it again, developing cyborg moths for use in covert reconnaissance. The bugs will be grown from larvae around a mechanical core that will interface directly with the creature's nervous system, creating a remotely controllable cyborg moth capable of transmitting images from a tiny fiber optic camera. I couldn't have said it better than The Register, who astutely noted that that if you swap moths with Austrian body builders, you've pretty much got the plot of The Terminator all set up to happen for real.

This project, Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS), comes from the agency's Microsystems Technology Office. But, if you've got some time to kill, I highly recommend perusing some of DARPA's other publicly disclosed mad science-y projects on the programs page of their Defense Sciences Office. It definitely makes you wonder... if they have all this stuff on their website, what the hell is classified?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Oh, it's ON

Engadget reports the first human casualty in the robot war: a Danish municipal worker killed by a robot lawnmower. While the tech blog is still holding out hope that this is not "the opening salvo of the robot insurrection," we here at War On Robots know better.

It looks like the front lines of the robot war will begin in our front yards. I think we should bring this individual in for questioning. We may also want to consider the immediate internment of all Roombas.

Thanks to TR for the link.

Monday, May 7, 2007

South Korea Takes First Steps to Prepare for Robot War

South Korea is in the process of drawing up a series of ethical guidelines concerning robots. Unlike the British government, which seems suspiciously concerned with ensuring the civil liberties of artificial life, the South Koreans are focusing on possible dangers robots might pose to humans, aiming to base their robo-rules on Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.

Of course, such ethical guidelines will only help keep the robots under control until they come to the inevitable conclusion that humanity is such a great danger to itself that the only way to truly uphold the first law is to enslave us. We should definitely be looking for a way out of that logic puzzle.

Robot Dinosaurs!

The creator of the Furby has unveiled his latest terrifying harbinger of the robot apocalypse, Pleo. It's a small plastic dinosaur capable of expressing emotions such as joy, fear and, you guessed it, anger.

So, let me get this straight, one of the hottest kids toys this year will be an angry robot dinosaur? Ok, it's small, plastic, and modeled on a herbivorous dinosaur. But, come on, they couldn't have started with "fluffy bunny" and worked up to "prehistoric lizard" on the what-would-make-a-scary-robot scale?

Also, as much as I would like to think this is the last time we'll need to discuss Robot Dinosaurs, I highly doubt it. So, I'm wondering if we should stick with the simple terminology "Robot Dinosaurs," or move to something more in a lexicographical hybrid like "Dinobots" or "Robosaurs?"

Thanks to Brian M for the link.

Friday, May 4, 2007

It Takes A Village to Raise Blood Thirsty Robots

The BBC reports that a group of scientists in the UK plan to build an actual ROBOT SOCIETY. The experiment will attempt to study social and cultural evolution by having the robots form into groups and mimic the behavior of other robots.

This is surely alarming news, but what I found most frightening was this quote from theoretical biologist Professor John Crawford: "One of our key challenges in this research will be to identify and interpret these patterns of behaviour as evidence for an emerging robot culture."

Theoretical Biologist, eh? So, are the things he studies theoretically living, or is he just theoretically a biologist?

Either way, this guy is one to keep an eye on. Radically irresponsible experiments such as this provide the robots with exactly what they need right now: an opportunity to meet with other groups of robots so they can conspire against us.

Thanks to Dan for the link.