CLOSE
YouTube / CGP Grey
YouTube / CGP Grey

The Robots are Here

YouTube / CGP Grey
YouTube / CGP Grey

Excuse me, internet, the robots have arrived. In the video below, C.G.P. Grey lays out a compelling argument that robots are sufficiently advanced and available that they are on the verge of filling a whole bunch of jobs that we have traditionally thought of as very human-reliant. One of his examples is cab drivers. Take a self-driving car, delete the paid driver, and you've just erased a segment of the economy. (We have seen much of this in factories already, so it's not a matter of whether it can happen, it's a matter of when.)

But it just keeps going from there. It's easy to grumble and say, well, surely my job isn't threatened. After all, I use my creative powers to find and pithily describe YouTube videos for the enjoyment of others. No robot could do that! Except the YouTube homepage does a surprisingly "good enough" version of that already—minus, perhaps, the analysis and Simpsons "I welcome our new robot overlords" jokes.

Here's a sample quote from Grey: "We think of technological change as the fancy new expensive stuff, but the real change comes from last decade's stuff getting cheaper and faster. That's what's happening to robots now." As a guy who has worked in technology for more than a decade (with a focus on mobile tech in the last six years or so), I have to say he's right. Ubiquitous, cheap technology is powerful technology.

Now, the video. If you have fifteen minutes on your lunch break, I think you will enjoy this. It may bug you at times, you may think Grey is wrong on the timeline or the details, but even if that's the case—what's our plan if he's right?

For more on this, there's a lengthy Reddit thread on the video; a full transcript (links to sources and further reading); and of course there's my ongoing coverage of IBM's Watson: what makes it different, how it learns, videos of it in action, Ken Jennings trash-talking it, and some very early coverage. For more C.G.P. Grey, dude has a website and an excellent podcast.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
NASA, JPL-Caltech
arrow
Space
NASA Could Be Sending Autonomous Bee Drones to Mars
NASA, JPL-Caltech
NASA, JPL-Caltech

While NASA is inching closer to landing humans on Mars, a team from Japan and the U.S. is working on exporting something else to the red planet: robot bees. As Co.Design reports, the engineers believe their hive of drones, dubbed Marsbees, could be used to explore the surface of Mars autonomously.

The project is one of a handful being funded by NASA in 2018 as part of the space agency’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. According to the initial designs, the Marsbees would collect data and images from Mars just like the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers do now. But the drones' small size and large numbers give them a few key advantages.

The Marsbees would be carted onto the planet by way of a conventional rover that acts as a roaming beehive. The bumblebee-sized drones would use flapping apparatuses the size of cicada wings to fly around Mars, capturing data individually or swarming together to analyze larger swaths of land. If one robot fails, there would be more to make up for the missing sensor, and after gathering enough information they could return to the ground-based hub to recharge and relay the data back to Earth.

The team still needs to perfect a prototype before the swarms of Martian bees can become a reality. Wing size is a crucial factor, since the atmosphere on Mars is thinner than it is on Earth. Once they have that design element in place, the engineers still need to prove their drones can take off, land, navigate through the air, and complete missions. They hope to tackle each of those points in the first phase of the project using a $125,000 grant from NASA.

Concept art for marsbees.
C. Kang, NASA

[h/t Co.Design]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Art
The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
iStock
iStock

Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios