close this bookVolume 10: No. 40
View the document1) Funding news
View the document2) News sources
View the document3) Competitions
View the document4) Software development
View the document5) Book and journal calls
View the document6) Technology news
View the document7) Robots and bots

Piers Young is developing genetic algorithms where the genes or "people" cooperate semi-intelligently to maximize their group fitness. It could be a basis for understanding the structures of organizations. Details are at . [,, 21Nov00.]

There are several websites critical of roboticist Kevin Warwick's books and publicity stunts, including the cutting satire at . Warwick (CW 10.39) has been saying that robots or AIs will take over the world. For counter arguments, see Chris Malcolm's . [, 13Dec00. Also ,, 11Dec00.]

The Neuroprosthesis website covers science news (and archival literature) about motor control, neural prosthesis, brain implant, brain control, biomorphic robotics, humanoid and android robot helpers, computational neuroscience, bionic organs, and sensorimotor substitution with a view to help patients with sensorimotor disorders. . [Gyongyi Gaal , connectionists, 30Nov00.]

The Rossum Project collects and develops open-source software for robotics applications. . One of their latest papers is , about a robot built on a Rug Warrior base. [G.W. Lucas , comp.robotics.research, 29Nov00.]

Cutting trenches to lay cable in a typical urban area (not New York City) costs $200K-$500K per mile. CityNet Telecommunications offers an alternative: cylindrical robots that snake their way through sewer systems, stringing cable as they go. They charge $750K per system, and have 53 buyers lined up if the technology proves out. [WSJ, 21Nov00. NewsScan.] (This is less likely to work in residential areas, as the cable would snag all kinds of gunk and then be destroyed by sewer-clearing rotors. Unless we develop sewer-clearing robots... Anyone need a dissertation project?)

Honda's new "Asimo" robot prototype (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) moves in a human-like manner and can change directions, raise its arms, and do a little dance. It is four feet high and weighs just 95 pounds. [AP. USA Today , 21Nov00.]

Jeffrey Harrow says that his biggest surprise at COMDEX was the emotional satisfaction of interacting with Sony's new Aibo robotic pet. (They say it's closer to a generic animal now, but it still looks and acts a lot like a puppy.) Aibo seeks attention -- petting, head and back scratching, physical play, voice commands -- and will rub his head or push at you until he gets it. When happy, he makes soothing noises and his face displays pleasant, warm-colored lights. When angry, the lights flash red as Aibo aggressively seeks attention. If ignored, he gets frustrated and goes off to play with his ball. "I walked up to the Aibo playpen simply to see the latest hardware, but I had trouble walking away. In just the few minutes I spent with Aibo, he had 'reached out and touched me' on an emotional level that I still find astounding. ... I think I've seen a hint of how those future 'smart' machines will appear to be emotional machines as well." . [, RCFoC, 20Nov00.]

(Aibo is unintelligent, but eager to play and cuddle. Would there be a market for "Stepford wives" or artificial women like that? Naahhh. Not unless it were a Christmas present.)

Bandai -- maker of Tamagotchi -- has a Love By Mail game that lets Japanese men court virtual girlfriends via their mobile phones. 30K copies have been sold so far. "Maybe one of them will write in and explain the fascination of jiggering around with the feelings of a software program until she says you are actually not an asshole." [Mark R. Anderson , SNS, 30Nov00.]

-- Ken