WBEZ | robots http://www.wbez.org/tags/robots Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Robots DID take over Mitt Romney's Twitter http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-08/robots-did-take-over-mitt-romneys-twitter-101367 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mitt%20romney.jpg" style="height: 184px; width: 620px; " title="" /></div><p>Last week, there was some drama surrounding the Romney campaign, but this time, it wasn&#39;t due to the Republican candidate&#39;s political leanings; it was over a sudden increase<a href="https://twitter.com/MittRomney"> in Twitter followers</a>. Crunching the numbers, <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/07/statistical-probability-that-mitt-romneys-new-twitter-followers-are-just-normal-users-0/260539/"><em>The Atlantic</em> reported Tuesday</a> that graphs indicate there has most likely been &quot;bot involvement,&quot; despite the campaign strenously denying that <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/zekejmiller/romney-campaign-we-dont-buy-twitter-followers">they&#39;ve purchased followers</a>.</p><p>Comedian Peter Kremidas doesn&#39;t much think it matters what the campaign says, because robots are definitely involved and they&#39;ve got opinions of their own. Read an excerpt below or listen above.</p><p><em>Hello! My name is Michael. I&rsquo;m here to talk about The Romney. Get ready for some fun!</em></p><p><em>I will talk about this story. It is a Twitter story. This month, The Romney acquired an average of three to four thousand new Twitter followers every day. And then over the past weekend he suddenly gained around 150,000 new followers. There were those who were surprised but I was not one of the surprised people. Some speculated that these are not real Twitter accounts. Some even accused The Romney of actually purchasing new Twitter followers with his moneys. But that is not the true happenings! And I will prove it with my mouth words. Now.</em></p><p><em>Hello! I am the president and CEO of the Romney fan club, other members include Professional Wrestler The Ultimate Warrior, Anne Romney, and a Nintendo 64. And guess what? I have come on behalf of the club because, I want to clear the air on these heinous rumors. These new Twitter followers were not purchased by the Romney, and the new accounts are real it&rsquo;s just they are all owned by robots.</em></p><p><em>And to you people who don&rsquo;t trust robots, Well guess what I am a robot and I think we&rsquo;re great on the phone. So why don&rsquo;t you go eat at Chick-fil-A you </em>bigot<em>!</em></p><p><a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/" target="_blank">The Paper Machete</a>&nbsp;<em>is a weekly live magazine at the Horseshoe in North Center. It&#39;s always at 3 p.m., it&#39;s always on Saturday, and it&#39;s always free. Get all your</em>&nbsp;The Paper Machete Radio Magazine&nbsp;<em>needs filled&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/paper-machete" target="_blank">here</a>, or download the podcast from iTunes&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-paper-machete-radio-magazine/id450280345" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 01 Aug 2012 11:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-08/robots-did-take-over-mitt-romneys-twitter-101367 I, not robot: A critic speaks out (while she still can) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/i-not-robot-critic-speaks-out-while-she-still-can-100470 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Robot%20reviewers%20still.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 344px; " title="‘News at Seven,’ a program designed by Northwestern University’s Intelligent Information Laboratory, offers news – and criticism – generated and presented by artificial intelligence. (Courtesy of Intelligent Information Laboratory)" /></div><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: Scientists at Northwestern University have <a href="http://infolab.northwestern.edu/projects/news-at-seven/">designed an artificial intelligence program</a> that generates a virtual news show. On its own, it collects the news from online sources, writes a script, then animates cartoon-style avatars to deliver the show. </em><em>The program, called </em><a href="http://http://infolab.northwestern.edu/media/movs/nas_111109.mov">News at Seven</a><em>, is a project of the Intelligent Information Lab, co-directed by professors Kristian Hammond and Larry Birnbaum. One version of the program, launched in 2008, was designed to offer not just hard news by-the-numbers, but movie reviews.</em></p><p><em>Theatre critic Kelly Kleiman considers the implications for flesh and blood critics.&nbsp;</em></p><p>When I heard that robots were writing sports stories, I was barely surprised: So many stories about competitive sports are a list of names and numbers (&ldquo;Boston beat the White Sox 4-2, with pitcher Whoosafroogit&rsquo;s wild pitch in the 4th inning leading to a walk-off homer by Whatsisname&rdquo;). The data are simple, easily retrievable and easy to assemble into comprehensible sentences.</p><p>But robots writing criticism? The mind (at least mine) boggles. Are reviews really that formulaic? And if they are, is the response to give them to robots to write or to jolt human writers out of their complacency?</p><p>I don&rsquo;t pretend to be current on the state of artificial intelligence, so when I say I don&rsquo;t understand how a robot could write criticism, I mean that literally. Has robotics advanced to the point that a walking computer could take in a performance, compare it to a large body of other performances it has seen before and evaluate the worth of the script and the persuasiveness (dare I say &ldquo;humanity&rdquo;?) of the actors?</p><p>We assess quality based on a template consisting not only of our previous theatrical experiences but of our experiences of people in general, which is why a reviewer&rsquo;s perspective changes over time. It&rsquo;s not clear to me how that body of learning could be acquired, much less meaningfully processed, by a machine.</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s the question of insight: An alert critic experiences each production of a play differently and, in the best cases, understands something about the play from Production Q that she&rsquo;d never realized during Productions A through P. And there&rsquo;s the question of tone: A human being can tell that Chekhov&rsquo;s monologue about giving up tobacco is actually a revelation of existential despair. Could a robot understand that, or would it object to the constant divergences from the ostensible topic?</p><p>But all of these pale before the ultimate question: Do android critics dream of electric actors?</p><p>Deactivating now.</p></p> Fri, 29 Jun 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/i-not-robot-critic-speaks-out-while-she-still-can-100470 Straight outa Dilbert: Could a robot go to meetings for you? http://www.wbez.org/story/straight-outa-dilbert-could-robot-go-meetings-you-95734 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-23/dilbert strip jpg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-23/Dilbert strip.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 197px;" title="Just like in the Dilbert strip above, our reporter has get-rich-quick dreams inspired by a robot that goes to meetings for you. "></p><p>My to-do list for 2012: Create invention. Change the world. Get rich.</p><p><strong>The invention:</strong> A robot that goes to meetings for you.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Changing the world:</strong> In addition to freeing up a load of time, this invention will prevent a ginormous number of needless conflicts. (If you hadn’t been at the meeting, you wouldn’t have responded to your colleague’s idiotic comment, and we’d all be better off, right?)</p><p><strong>Getting rich:</strong> This part seems obvious, since everybody needs one.</p><p>So, job one: Major R&amp;D. How convincing can this robot be?</p><p>The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/clever-apes">Clever Apes</a> guys recommended talking with <a href="http://www.neuromech.northwestern.edu/">Malcolm MacIver</a>, a Northwestern University scientist who has <a href="http://www.northbynorthwestern.com/story/master-of-the-galactiverse/">consulted with the producers of the <em>Battlestar Galactica</em> prequel <em>Caprica</em>, and the movie <em>Tron Legacy</em></a>. In other words, he’s one of the guys Hollywood people call when they want to know, “How do we make this robot really lifelike?”</p><p>And he’s built these crazily-awesome robotic fish. (<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/clever-apes-light-sabers-and-fish-choir">They even sing</a>.) But fish--even singing fish--don’t go to meetings.</p><p>So MacIver told me about a project by a colleague of his in Japan, Hiroshi Ishiguro. “He had the Japanese movie-making industry create a <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2006/07/21/hiroshi-ishiguro-builds-his-evil-android-twin-geminoid-hi-1/">stunningly-accurate reproduction of him</a>,“ MacIver says. &nbsp;“So he can send his physical robot to a meeting and it will smile and furrow its brow—and talk through his mouth.”</p><p>How accurate are we talking about? &nbsp;“It’s realistic enough that he doesn’t want to show his young daughter,” MacIver says, “because he thinks it would creep her out.”</p><p>Wow.&nbsp; So, is this Ishiguro guy beating me to market?&nbsp; No, as MacIver describes things, it sounds like he’s mainly using it for pure research.</p><p>Ishiguro uses the robot to learn about non-verbal elements of communication “by disrupting them,” says MacIver. “So you can say, ‘OK, I’m going to shut off eyebrow movement today, and how does that affect people’s ability to understand what I’m talking about?’ You know, are they still able to get the emotional content?”</p><p>So, back to stunningly accurate: Ishiguro’s robot would creep out a three year old... but does it fool his adult research subjects? Would it fool my colleagues, if I left eyebrow-movement switched on?</p><p>Not so much, says MacIver.</p><p>What if he just got a much, much bigger grant?</p><p>“Um, unlikely,” MacIver says.&nbsp;</p><p>OK. Super-lifelike equals. No go. Moving on....</p><p>Someone mentioned to me that there’s a robot that listens really well. It can kind of convince you that it’s listening to you. When I saw the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHP5Fou4_5o&amp;list=UU7iV-w5LGcy4d3wRgNWXRmw&amp;index=9&amp;feature=plcp">YouTube video</a>, it looked like <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZisWjdjs-gM">WALL*E</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>It had these big goggle eyes that bug out a little bit, it would look down—It would respond emotionally to you. The point of the experiment was—I mean, it was kind of heartbreaking—could you make old people in nursing homes less lonely, if they had someone to listen to them, and <a href="http://www.ii.ist.i.kyoto-u.ac.jp/%7Eyasser/Publications/pdf/yasser_iui4aaal.pdf">would this do it</a>?&nbsp;</p><p>And even for ten seconds, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHP5Fou4_5o&amp;list=UU7iV-w5LGcy4d3wRgNWXRmw&amp;index=9&amp;feature=plcp">watching this guy in the lab coat</a>, you think: Yeah, maybe.</p><p>So, I tell MacIver, now I’m starting to think that the robot should be a <em>cartoon</em> version of me.</p><p>“Well, right, that’s a good point,” he says. “If you can’t do it perfectly, go to the other side of the uncanny valley and and you’ll be more effective.”</p><p>The “uncanny valley” turns out to be this phenomenon where, when animated characters—or robots-- get <em>too</em> real-looking, they become creepy. Like <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2004-11-10/entertainment/review.polar.express_1_polar-express-film-series-sensors?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ">in the 2004 movie, <em>The Polar Express</em></a>.</p><p>Lawrence Weschler explained it this way in <a href="http://www.onthemedia.org/2010/mar/05/the-uncanny-valley/transcript/">a 2010 interview with <em>On the Media</em></a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-family: courier new,courier,monospace;">If you made a robot that was 50 percent lifelike, that was fantastic. If you made a robot that was 90 percent lifelike, that was fantastic. If you made it 95 percent lifelike, that was the best – oh, that was so great. If you made it 96 percent lifelike, it was a disaster. And the reason, essentially, is because a 95 percent lifelike robot is a robot that’s incredibly lifelike. A 96 percent lifelike robot is a human being with something wrong.</span></p><p>So: I want a cartoon avatar.&nbsp;</p><p>That’s one question down, but there’s a lot more R&amp;D to do.&nbsp;Next, I think I need to talk with some Artificial Intelligence specialists...</p><p>... to make sure that the robot knows what to say if someone in the meeting asks “me” a question.&nbsp; (I’ve got some ideas, but they’ve probably got better ones.) &nbsp;</p><p>Because, as it turns out, the Hiroshi Ishiguro model has another problem: Not only is it creepy, but it requires Ishiguro himself (or some human being) to actively operate the robot. In other words, he may have skipped the commute, but mentally he's still "there." &nbsp;</p><p>Which pretty much defeats my purpose.&nbsp;</p><p>And then there’s figuring out how to license the technology-- like, would I owe <a href="http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2003-01-29/">Scott Adams</a> a royalty?-- plus a manufacturing supply chain, a marketing campaign-- the whole shebang. &nbsp;</p><p>Stay tuned.&nbsp;</p></p> Sun, 22 Jan 2012 23:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/straight-outa-dilbert-could-robot-go-meetings-you-95734 Clever Apes #20: Reimagining Robots http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-10-19/clever-apes-20-reimagining-robots-93254 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-18/Jaeger.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Heinrich Jaeger demonstrates the jamming effect, which led to a soft robot. (WBE" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-18/Jaeger.JPG" style="width: 600px; height: 450px;" title="Heinrich Jaeger demonstrates the jamming effect, which led to a soft robot. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)"></p><p>From industry to pop culture to the military, we’ve long been captivated by robots. We tend to imagine them as our mechanical mirror images – reflections of our most efficient, coldest selves. But some modern robots look more like a sack of flour than a person.</p><p>In the latest installment of Clever Apes, we visit an accidental roboticist who’s reimagining the most basic concepts of robotics. He’s taken the same principle that makes a vacuum-packed bag of coffee hard and bricklike, and <a href="http://jfi.uchicago.edu/%7Ejaeger/group/JaegerGroupPapers/granular/SPIE_final.pdf">translated it into a robot </a>that might one day pick up your toddler’s toys or collect intelligence from an enemy bunker.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size: 8px;">Listen to the episode: </span></strong></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483802-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Robots episode WEB.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbqHERKdlK8">The concept is called jamming,</a> and it’s really simple. Suck the air out of a bag of granular material, and you reduce the room around each grain just enough that it can’t move past its neighbors. The whole thing seizes up, and behaves like a solid. Let out a little air, and it liquefies again. This works for ground coffee, ball bearings, molecules, even big objects like cars in a traffic jam.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Heinrich Jaeger's mushy robot can crumple, bulge and ooze. (Jaeger Laboratory, U" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-18/iRobot_JSEL.gif" title="Heinrich Jaeger's mushy robot can crumple, bulge and ooze. (Jaeger Laboratory, University of Chicago)" width="598" height="473"></p><p><a href="http://jfi.uchicago.edu/%7Ejaeger/group/JaegerLab/People/People.html">Heinrich Jaeger </a>at the University of Chicago recognized the power of that phenomenon. You can effectively change a material from solid to liquid and back again without having to melt or freeze it. And it’s dirt cheap: indeed, you could use actual dirt. This probably has a ton of applications no one has thought of, but one of them that’s now underway is a <a href="http://jfi.uchicago.edu/%7Ejaeger/group/Jamming_Apps.html">soft robot</a>. Jaeger, along with the company iRobot and colleagues at the University of North Carolina and Cornell University, are developing prototypes of a squishy soccer ball that can move, change shape, and may soon be able to pick up almost anything. It’s a fundamental change in thinking about robots. Instead of using “smart” components (like little nanobots equipped with microprocessors), Jaeger is making a shapeshifting robot with dumb particles of sand or plastic beads. The smarts emerge when all those particles work together.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Al Shilling looks after his robot, Rocket Al. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-18/ChiBots 1 - Al Shilling with his robot Rocket Al.png" title="Al Shilling looks after his robot, Rocket Al. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)" width="500" height="417"></p><p>After dropping in on Jaeger’s <a href="http://jfi.uchicago.edu/%7Ejaeger/group/JaegerLab/Projects/Projects.html">lab </a>(one of the more fun, freewheeling physics labs you’re likely to encounter), we pay a visit to the <a href="http://www.chibots.org/">Chicago Area Robotics Club</a>. There, robot enthusiasts are trying to harness robots’ inherent awesomeness to promote science and technology among young people. They’re also working on a curriculum for Boy Scouts looking to earn the new <a href="http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/BoyScouts/AdvancementandAwards/MeritBadges/mb-ROBO.aspx">robotics merit badge,</a> which was just introduced last spring. Great idea, Scouts … but maybe some clever ape can help you redesign the patch, eh?</p><p>As always, subscribe to our <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast" target="_blank" title="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes" target="_blank" title="http://twitter.com/#!/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, and find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" target="_blank" title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-18/Scout badge.jpg" title="" width="500" height="500"></p></p> Wed, 19 Oct 2011 10:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-10-19/clever-apes-20-reimagining-robots-93254