Boston Dynamics, the MIT spin-off and self-proclaimed maker of “nightmare-inducing robots“, has been sold by its parent company Alphabet (aka Google) to the Japanese tech behemoth SoftBank. No specifics regarding the price or the terms of the sale have been announced which is not surprising given we still don’t know how much Google paid for the company when it purchased it four years ago.
Set 38 years in the future, the plot of 2002’s blockbuster film Minority Report revolves around Washington DC’s PreCrime unit, a police force who able to stop future murders from happening with the aid of three mutant human who are able to predict homicides before they happen. Minority Report managed to side step the “psychic predicts a murder” cliché storyline with its innovative use of technology: not only could precogs predict future murders, but their visions could be streamed via a neural bridge in the form of a video that the police officers could watch. Fantastical? Nope, and researchers from MIT already have a jump on the technology.
LIDAR (LIght Detecting And Ranging) sensors play a critical role in almost all autonomous and semiautonomous vehicles. Using lasers and relatively simple time of flight calculations, LIDAR can very accurately measure distances and generate detailed 3D maps of environments, but traditionally the best performing systems have been large and very expensive. German lighting manufacturer Osram Opto Semiconductors unveiled their new 4 channel LIDAR package last week, and its price and size is set to shake up the market.
I visit the local Michaels store at least once a week. Even if I didn’t have a 10 year old daughter with an insatiable appetite for arts and crafts, I imagine that I would still make that 5 minute crosstown trip weekly. The reason is simple: coupons. In their weekly circular, without fail, they always include a handful of coupons, and even though I am not that artsy crafty myself, I can usually find something useful for my lab. From resin and epoxy to tools and storage, I never come home empty-handed. Most of the time the coupon is for 40% off any regularly priced item, and sometimes it’s even 50%, but the rare, and often most useful coupon is the 20% off any item – regular OR sale price. It was because of such a coupon that I came unexpectedly home with a Sharper Image camera drone.
Ever since their introduction over eighty years ago, Isaac Asimov‘s Three Laws of Robotics have been the de jure rules governing the acceptable behavior of robots. Even the uninitiated and uninterested are likely to say they know of them, even if they can’t recite a single rule verbatim. When conceived, the Three Laws were nothing but a thought experiment wrapped in a science fiction story, but now, the dizzying pace of developments in the fields of robotics and ai has spurred engineers and ethicists to reinvestigate and rewrite the guidelines by which artificially intelligent entities should operate. Who better to take the lead in this initiative than Google, the company who just yesterday announced that machine learning will be at the core of everything it does.
Modeled after observed biology and behavior within the brain, neural networks are arguably the most popular of the biologically inspired AI methods. Neural networks excel at pattern recognition and classification tasks including facial, speech, and handwriting recognition. They also often play a central role in video game character AI.
In a press release yesterday, iRobot, maker of the impossibly cute Roomba robot vacuum cleaners, announced that they are emancipating their Robot Defense & Security (D&S) unit. The yet-to-be-named new company will continue to serve the current D&S market of defense, law enforcement, and industrial organizations. The existing D&S management team will continue to lead the new company. Financial backing to the tune of $45 million will be provided by Arlington Capital Partners.