Monday, February 2, 2009

Automated Warehouses, Terminator Drones, And Cyborg Insects--Oh My!

The economic, political, and social impacts of robotics and cybernetics continue to grow rapidly.

In the commercial sphere, Wired reports:
Next time you order a new pair of skinny jeans from, you should know that you are helping welcome in the hive-mind robot overlords of retail.

Warehouses run by Gap, as well as Zappos and Staples now use autonomous robots to pluck products from their shelves and send them to you.

All the robots are told is where products are located and where they need to go. From there, the robots, which look like massive orange Roombas, figure out the rest. They locate the stack of shelves with the needed product on it, slide beneath the stack to pick it up and then find their own routes from the stacks of stuff to human operators. And they manage to find just the right time to get themselves recharged for five minutes out of every hour.

Continue reading and/or check out the video:

Also from Wired comes word that even as the United States dramatically scales up its use of robots on the battlefield, Russia is now making progress along the same lines.

Finally, and most bizarrely, Next Nature reports:

Scientists at the University of California created a neural implant for a beetle that gives them wireless control over the insect. Electrical signals delivered via the electrodes command the insect to take off, turn left or right, or hover in midflight.

Beetles and other flying insects are masters of flight control, integrating sensory feedback from the visual system and other senses to navigate and maintain stable flight, all the while using little energy. Rather than trying to re-create these systems from scratch, Michel Maharbiz and his colleagues aim to fuse the ‘born’ with the ‘made’.

Continue reading.

The 21st Century is going to be pretty wild and weird. But, like Hunter S. Thompson, I don't think it will ever get weird enough for me.

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