The RoboRoach is a $99 kit consisting of electrodes, sensors, and a few batteries that allows anyone to drive their very own cockroach.
Attaching the electronic “backpack” to an unwitting arthropod is not for the squeamish. You must sand down the top of the critter’s head in order to attach a plug, “Exactly like the Matrix,” says Backyard Brains cofounder Greg Gage. Once installed, the system relays electrical impulses over a Bluetooth connection from your phone to the cockroach’s brain, via its antennae. The roach perceives each stimulus to its antennae as an obstacle, and changes direction. The same technique, applied to the cilia of the inner ear, is used in cochlear implants and during deep brain stimulation for treating a variety of disorders.
Greg Gage is an electrical engineer-turned-neuroscience student at the University of Michigan who, with his cofounder Tim Marzullo, started developing the RoboRoach three years ago.“The reason why we started is because I was annoyed that it was so late that I found out about a career in neuroscience. We have one in five people with a neurological disorder and we have no cures—we’re kind of in the dark ages. We want to get kids to understand that this is a career, and you can do so many amazing things.”
Are robots coming for your job? Foxconn, which manufactures hardware for tech giants like Apple, is starting to automate its factories. The firm has welcomed 10,000 of its Tiffany-blue FoxBots, manufactured by Foxconn itself (in its FoxBot-making facility) to its factory in Jincheng. The plan is to have 30,000 in place by the end of 2012.
Even whistleblowers nowadays are as likely to leak sensitive information to the Internet as they are to call up a reporter. Once their testimony becomes data, Narrative Science can work its magic. “If the data is there, and a human can write that story using the data, then we can write that story.”
NYU Journalism professor Clay Shirky predicted the rise of robot-journalism in 2009, and wrote that its success will depend on whether audiences can trust a robot to be as authoritative a source as, say, Walter Cronkite.
“What if a computer could accurately grade student essays? It could change the way we test students (and the way they’re taught). And a new $100,000 competition is trying to spark auto-grading innovation.”
A Fuzzy, Cuddly Depression-Fighting Robot Is The Platonic Ideal Of Cute
Like a non-virtual tamagotchi, the Babyloid is designed to lift the spirits of lonely older people.
“Be as smart as a puppy” is the advice that Matt Jones of BERG has for robots of the near future. You can see that design principle in action with MIT Media Lab’s Boxie robot, but a robot developed in Japan called Babyloid takes it a step further.