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Robots Can Now Wait Tables, Fall In Love, And Breathe Fire Just Like Humans

The Huffington Post     First Posted: 08/04/11 03:04 PM ET   Updated: 10/02/11 06:12 AM ET

I've seen the first thirty minutes of Terminator enough times to know that murderous robots are eventually going to take over the world and enslave us all. That's why my attention is always piqued when I hear of a new robot that can replicate the actions of humans -- well, that and general technological interest.

Seriously, the number of robots in the news for mimicking us has seemed to increase recently. Below are 7 new ways that robots are replacing humans, in fine dining, factory work, and yes, even falling in love. Humans, know thy enemy: You better believe the robots are getting to know you:

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  • Learn From Their Surroundings (And Wait Tables!)

    The Hasegawa Group at the Tokyo Institute of Technology <a href="http://www.diginfo.tv/2011/08/01/11-0158-r-en.php" target="_hplink">has created a robot they say can think, learn from its surroundings, and act on its own,</a> thus setting in place the plot for every apocalyptic robot movie ever. It uses an artificial intelligence technology called a self-replicating neural network, or SOINN (Self-Organizing Incremental Neural Network), and takes into consideration its past experiences in similar situations and its environment before it takes action. Above, watch SOINN in work as a robot acts as a waiter to pour some ice water. Table for 10? (That's robot for 2).

  • Take Care Of You When You're Old

    Say hello to RIBA-II, the "<a href="http://www.researchsea.com/html/article.php/aid/6391/cid/2/research/riba-ii__the_next_generation_care-giving_robot.html" target="_hplink">next-generation caregiving robot.</a>" This friendly guy uses "<a href="http://www.researchsea.com/html/article.php/aid/6391/cid/2/research/riba-ii__the_next_generation_care-giving_robot.html" target="_hplink">high precision tactile sensors</a>" and "<a href="http://www.researchsea.com/html/article.php/aid/6391/cid/2/research/riba-ii__the_next_generation_care-giving_robot.html" target="_hplink">flexible motor control technology</a>" to lift up people who are infirm or elderly in a variety of ways -- off the bed and into a wheelchair, into a sitting position to eat a meal, or <a href="http://www.researchsea.com/html/article.php/aid/6391/cid/2/research/riba-ii__the_next_generation_care-giving_robot.html" target="_hplink">up from the floor if they've fallen</a>. As someone who is not a morning person, I'd personally like to use RIBA-II as an alarm clock, to lift me up from my bed and into a hot shower to start my day right every time. <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyNa7b4eHRo" target="_hplink">Check out RIBA-II in video action on YouTube here</a>.

  • Build iPhones (And Take Your Job)

    Foxconn, the Taiwanese parts company that produces Apple's iPhone and iPad, wants to add 1 million robot laborers to its factories by 2014, <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-07/30/c_131018764.htm" target="_hplink">according to a report by Xinhua News</a>. Perhaps instead of spending money on new robots, <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/25137/20100526/foxconn-suicide-toll-rises-to-nine-harsh-work-conditions-criticized.htm" target="_hplink">Foxconn should be focusing on improving its notoriously harsh working conditions.</a> Foxconn currently employs 1.2 million workers; they have not said how many will be let go in favor of the machines.

  • Discern Oaky Notes In Wine

    <a href="http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-07-electronic-tongue-cava-wines.html" target="_hplink">According to Physorg</a>, researchers at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain have developed a robotic tongue that uses sensors and a nifty algorithm to identify different cava wines that it "tastes," producing "<a href="http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-07-electronic-tongue-cava-wines.html" target="_hplink">classifications similar to those of a sommelier</a>." As someone who can't tell the difference between Gaja and Franzia, I find this very impressive -- though it won't be a true replica of a wine connoisseur until it can look down its nose at me and judge me for my apparent lack of culture and class.

  • BREATHE FIRE

    Okay, so no humans can breathe fire (peanut gallery, hold your tongues). But this robotic pony, <a href="http://www.lvl1.org/2011/08/01/thank-you-maker-faire/" target="_hplink">the adorably named Butterscotch</a>, can do so much: walk around; swivel its head; shoot flames out of its mouth. It is controlled by Wiimote and was unveiled by robotics group LVL1 at <a href="http://makerfaire.com/" target="_hplink">Detroit's Maker Faire</a> in late July 2011. Let us hope we never have to go to battle against this strange new species.

  • Listen To Your Phone Calls From The Sky

    Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins first displayed their WASP flying drone spy-plane at the 2010 <a href="http://www.blackhat.com/" target="_hplink">Black Hat conference</a>. The thing flies and has both an onboard HD camera and a Linux computer the size of a cigarette pack that is really, really good at hacking into encrypted networks. And now the thing has been updated with even more spying power: <a href="http://blogs.forbes.com/andygreenberg/2011/07/28/flying-drone-can-crack-wifi-networks-snoop-on-cell-phones/" target="_hplink">according to Forbes</a>, Tassey and Perkins have added a feature that allows the WASP to "impersonat[e] the GSM cell phone towers used by AT&T and T-Mobile to trick phones into connecting to the plane's antenna rather than their carrier[.]" Yep, that means it can listen in on, transmit, and record your conversations and text messages, all while flying above you like a little toy airplane (it's 14 pounds and 6 feet long and 6 feet wide). Moral of the story: If you see a yellow toy flier in the sky above you, don't make a phone call divulging all of your treasonous secrets. Now is not the time.

  • Fall In Love

    "Lovotics is a robot inspired by the psychology and biology of humans in love," says the video's narrator, and that's a pretty apt description: Researchers at the National University of Singapore <a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/26953/" target="_hplink">have created Lovotics</a>, a fluffy white ball of a machine that comes to know and remember people it interacts with and emits different colors to show its love (just like humans?). The team of researches hopes that as Lovotics falls in love with you, you, too, will fall in love with Lovotics. The<a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/26953/" target="_hplink"> Technology Review </a>adds, "After industrial, service and social robots, Lovotics introduces a new generation of robots, with the ability to love and be loved by humans." Maybe there is hope for humans and robots to co-exist, after all.


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