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Tibetan Buddhist robots and Pauline Anna Strom’s space music star in ‘Ether Antenna,’ a DM premiere


 
Pauline Anna Strom is a San Francisco composer. Blind since infancy, Strom says she felt like “a loner and a heretic” growing up Catholic in the South. During the Seventies, she moved to San Francisco, where she heard Tangerine Dream, Eno and company on FM radio and was inspired to experiment with synthesizers and a TASCAM four-track. (DM is reliably informed that, despite all the other changes to the city, she still resides in SF with her long-lived iguana, Little Solstice.)

Strom’s music is not for the disco. At once soothing and disorienting, it’s her means of sailing in the timestream, conjuring up the frozen past and the (apparently) populous future. Her first release, 1982’s Trans-Millenia [sic] Consort, took its name from Strom’s time-traveling alter ego, according to the press materials for the new retrospective of her recording career (such is its futurity, it comes out tomorrow):

She believed that humanity was confined by its inability to access the people of the future, therefore suffering in a kind of group solipsism. Designing a world of music that rooted itself in all times but the present, Strom’s alter ego, the Trans-Millenia Consort, became a musical activist for triggering this state of heightened consciousness.

 

Pauline Anna Strom (photographer unknown, used with permission of Archie Patterson’s Eurock Archives)
 
Strom’s first LP has inspired a new film that also mixes the familiar unsettling and the unsettling familiar: Ether Antenna, set in Nepal. There are no human actors, only robots portraying incidents from the lives of Avalokiteśvara and Shakyamuni Buddha. A five-minute excerpt from Ether Antenna, set to music by Pauline Anna Strom, appears at the bottom of this post, and the director, Michael Candy, kindly agreed to answer a few questions by email.

It strikes me that the prayer wheel that appears at the beginning and end of Ether Antenna is a kind of robot, and that Tibetan prayer flags are automata, too. Why do we find machines in a 1,200-year-old religious tradition?

The idea of automata originates in the mythologies of many cultures around the world. It’s almost an obvious outcome of a technology-enabled civilization; as digital automation continues to penetrate our daily life, it’s easy to overlook the analogue counterparts and machines that have made modern living possible.

A few years prior to my residency, I traveled to Ladakh and spent a few weeks exploring the Indian Himalayas. One of the most striking things as a (foreign) engineer was to find ancient mechanical infrastructure still functioning and valid in society. It’s like, none of those complex folding walls, trap doors or snake pits Hollywood seems so fond of would ever function without a good amount of oil and snake food. But here, in this ancient mountain range, you can find and touch a several-hundred-year-old spinning drum embossed with text and with the flick of a finger have it praying for you; some even use water, wind or solar to complete their eternal journey clockwise.

Nowadays you can’t catch a taxi in Kathmandu without a plastic solar powered prayer wheel whirling away on the dash. For me, these are simple machines doing man’s spiritual bidding—to pray; ether machines keeping you connected to the cloud, from a time when people actually knew where the cloud was.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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11.09.2017
08:11 am
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Dreamy sci-fi paintings show the world after an alien invasion
07.22.2016
09:30 am
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While science fiction is a rich genre for both film and literature, the visual art it inspires—most frequently relegated to the covers of bad paperbacks—is very often astoundingly corny, regardless of how good the book it’s interpreting might actually be. Really good sci-fi art is really hard to come by, another reason why Simon Stålenhag is so singular; his post-invasion landscapes are dreamy, intense, and mysterious—completely devoid of the heavy-handed cheese one normally associates with paintings of robots and/or aliens taking over the earth.

Stålenhag has complied his work into two high-concept art books, Tales from the Loop and the sequel Things from the Flood, which comes out in November but is available for pre-order now. Ground Zero for Stålenhag’s dystopia is an alternative Sweden from his own ’80s and ’90s childhood, where experiments with a massive particle accelerator—“The Loop”—go terribly wrong. Despite the disaster, Stålenhag likes to focus on the quiet and the mundane countryside, now irrevocably altered by mysterious invaders. Still, there is an intimacy to his work, with special attention to the domestic lives, childhoods and romances of the people living in this chaotic new world.
 

 

 
Much more of Simon Stålenhag’s work after the jump…

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Posted by Amber Frost
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07.22.2016
09:30 am
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Retro chicks and robots (sometimes) behaving badly
01.05.2016
10:09 am
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Actress Caroline Munro and
Actress Caroline Munro and “Elle” the robot from the 1978 film, Starcrash
 
I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a throwback kick for a while now, so I thought I’d keep that retro train running with a photo series depicting cool vintage chicks battling (and sometimes just hanging out with) robots. If you’re a fan of robots and girls, you’ll recognize some of the characters in this post like the Daleks from Doctor Who, “Elle” the dutiful robot who sounds like Yosemite Sam from culty-cool 1978 film, Starcrash or the gorgeous Tina Louise glamming it up with the robot that landed on Gilligan’s Island
 
Bathing beauties and a robot hanging out at the beach, 1920s
Two bathing beauties and a robot hanging out at the beach, 1920s
 
The encyclopedic site Filmsite.org has an exaustive list of films that feature robots dating all the way back to the age of silent films in the early 1900’s. And thanks to that list, I’ve added a few robot-themed films to my queue like 1965’s Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (starring Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon and a bevy of robot women in gold bikinis), which for some strange reason I have never seen. Loads of images of retro girls and robots (sometime behaving badly, making them NSFW), follow.
 
Nude dancers and a robot, 1920s
Nude dancers and a robot, 1920s
 
Bikini girls with a Dalek robot, 1950s
Bikini girl with a Dalek, 1960s
 
More retro babes and robots after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.05.2016
10:09 am
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‘We are the Robots’: German elementary school kids do Kraftwerk
10.30.2015
09:02 am
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OK. We’re pretty sure that this is the cutest kid-related thing you’ll see all day.

Students at Lemmchen elementary school in Mainz, near Frankfurt, Germany perform Kraftwerk’s classic “Die Roboter,” complete with adorable cardboard robot costumes.

What’s most remarkable about this version, outside of the cute-factor, is the fact that it sounds so totally (perhaps, refreshingly) HUMAN.
 

 
Via: Electronicbeats.net

Posted by Christopher Bickel
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10.30.2015
09:02 am
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Finally, a robot to replace the Whitney Houston-sized hole in our hearts
07.22.2015
02:47 pm
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Multi-talented musician, designer, and hacker Martin Backes from Germany has designed a robot to croon a pop ballad like a superstar from the ‘90s. As Backes writes,
 

“What do machines sing of?” is a fully automated machine, which endlessly sings number-one ballads from the 1990s. As the computer program performs these emotionally loaded songs, it attempts to apply the appropriate human sentiments. This behavior of the device seems to reflect a desire, on the part of the machine, to become sophisticated enough to have its very own personality.

 
In comments, Backes explained that the sounds were generated by digital signal processing, or DSP: “the sound is generated by the real time synthesis language called SuperCollider, same for the Visuals, so you have to write code. There`s almost no Audio FX or something like this, its basically a sine wave, the most artificial sound.” You can find out more about the device on Backes’ website.

The results are strangely impressive; even if the enunciation of the words isn’t always ideal, at least in the case of Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” the computer does a good job of matching her vocal range and expression.

Unfortunately, the robot’s repertoire consists of only five songs:
 

Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You”
R. Kelly, “I Believe I Can Fly”
Toni Braxton, “Un-Break My Heart”
Bryan Adams, “Everything I Do, I Do It For You”
Celine Dion, “My Heart Will Go On”

 
Below, you can watch a demonstration video for “What do machines sing of?”:
 


 
via Das Kraftfuttermischwerk
 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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07.22.2015
02:47 pm
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Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ covered by hard disks and other internal computer doodads
04.09.2015
01:29 pm
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We’ve seen this a few times before, most notably with the cover of “Rock Lobster” by the “Bit52s” a couple years back. Here we have a case full of hard drives and other unidentified computer components playing what is arguably the song of the 1990s, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.

It should be said that the “Rock Lobster” cover works a bit better, but at least this experiment establishes conclusively that robots cannot reproduce the ass-kicking righteousness of Dave Grohl’s skull-shattering drum fills.
 

 
via Das Kraftfuttermischwerk
 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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04.09.2015
01:29 pm
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The uncannily SEXY retro robot pinups of Hajime Sorayama
04.03.2015
05:23 pm
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Hajime Sorayama’s porny futurism is one of those 1980’s aesthetics that is somehow simultaneously hilarious yet incredibly impressive. The cheeky pin-up “gynoids” are so sleek and gorgeous—but so utterly ridiculous—it’s difficult to tell if the work is actually fetish or satire or some combination of both—although his years illustrating more “conventional” fetish art for Penthouse and Playboy suggest some interest in niche lusts. When asked last year in an interview about some of his favorite work, Sorayama replied:

I do have a few, actually. Penthouse started to run the section called “Great American Pissing Contest” after it published the image of a woman pissing on an expensive sofa. When the big Canadian distributer stopped importing that issue of Penthouse because of excessive S&M scenes, a movie director who is also my friend blessed me by saying, “Congratulations, country boy! You became famous.” This was decades ago…

In that light, doesn’t “cheesecake robot” sound kind of tame? Sorayama’s gynoids have had a cult following since his 1983 book, Sexy Robot (yes, it’s actually called that), but although he continues to produce cyber-smut (his latest, Sorayama: XL came out in 2014), it’s not often you see his work displayed. San Francisco will soon lucky enough to host an exhibit of prints that spans his entire career (with some for purchase), at Fifty24SF Gallery starting April 4th.
 

 

 
More sexy robots after the jump…

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Posted by Amber Frost
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04.03.2015
05:23 pm
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Meet Bina48, the robot who can tell jokes, recall memories and mimic humans
03.24.2015
04:28 pm
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Maybe you guys are already familiar with Bina48, one of the most sophisticated robots ever built. She’s modeled after a very real woman named Bina Aspen, wife of Dr.Martine Rothblatt. Rothblatt is the CEO of biotech outfit United Therapeutics.

More than just a robot, Bina48 is a “mind clone.” Bina Aspen spent more than 20 hours recalling her childhood experiences, life experiences and thoughts. The information was “then transcribed and uploaded to an artificial intelligence database.”

Bina48 cost over $125,000 to make over a course of three years and was built by robot designer David Hanson.

Bina48 recently was on a panel at SXSW which you can watch here. It’s really weird. Bina48 begins expressing how nervous she is in front of a large crowd and then tells a joke to calm everyone’s nerves. WAT?!

But here’s where shit gets real strange. A video of Bina48 having a conversation with Bina Aspen. Prepare yourself for a total head trip…

Part 1 of the video, below:

 
Part 2 after the jump…
 

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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03.24.2015
04:28 pm
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‘Angry, flatulent robots’ star in Jim Henson’s early movies for Bell telephone seminars, 1963
03.16.2015
12:58 pm
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In 1963 Jim Henson‘s resume consisted almost entirely of six years at a Washington, D.C., television show called Sam and Friends. In 1963 that experience paid off, as he roped in a pretty sweet deal for Bell System—or “Ma Bell,” as the nationwide telephone company was known before the Justice Dept. broke it up into regional companies in 1984. Bell commissioned two movies for use at a Bell Data Communications Seminar, which AT&T later described as “elite seminars.”

The first movie, “Robot,” clocks in at a tidy 3 minutes and 18 seconds and focuses exclusively on the eponymous and humorous automaton, which Tara McGinley, in one of my favorite DM headlines, called an “angry, flatulent robot.” Spot on.

Typical of the movie’s humor is this introductory statement made by the robot:

“The machine possesses supreme intelligence, a faultless memory, and a beautiful soul. Correction: the machine does not have a soul. It has no bothersome emotions. While mere mortals wallow in a sea of emotionalism, the machine is busy digesting vast oceans of information in a single, all-encompassing gulp.”

The second movie, “Charlie Magnetico,” is twice as long and, I daresay, twice as funny. “Charlie Magnetico” uses the same robot used in “Robot” (albeit in a less flatulent mode) while also branching out to include comic footage of a rocket ship exploding as well as entire family of employees called the Magneticos—the humor here residing mainly in the idea that an entire multi-continental supply chain could be administered from a single shack in the woods. Playing Charlie Magnetico as well as his mother was Henson’s first hire, Jerry Juhl, whom Henson later credited with “developing much of the humor and character of his Muppets.”

More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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03.16.2015
12:58 pm
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Prepare for our robot overlords! Evil ‘Cybermen’ direct traffic in the Congo!
03.10.2015
09:26 am
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On the busy streets of Kinshasa, capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo, there’s a new sheriff in town—or rather, there are some giant robots now directing traffic. A local taxi driver said (ominously), “There are certain drivers who don’t respect the traffic police. But with the robot it will be different. We should respect the robot.” Of course people will “respect” the robot! We’ve all seen Terminator!

Humanity’s inevitable fall to robot overlords aside, there are some real benefits to these machines, who have already proven successful after earlier trial runs in 2013. There impartial, they can’t be bribed, they actually record evidence and they appear to be just as capable of writing tickets and directing traffic as a flesh and blood cop. They’re also solar powered, and at $27,500, I’m guessing they cost less than employing cops round-the-clock.

I remain suspicious. If we’re not doomed to enslavement by massive metal fascists, why do these robot cops look so much like Doctor Who’s Cybermen??? They couldn’t have designed them all tiny and Japanese and cute? Mark my words, this is only the beginning!
 

 
Via The Creators Project

Posted by Amber Frost
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03.10.2015
09:26 am
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Real-life ‘Rosie the Maid’ robot actually existed in England in 1966
09.23.2014
02:54 pm
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An entire generation of kids was brainwashed by the creative folks at Hanna-Barbera into thinking that the future would consist of treadmill sidewalks, levitating high schools in the clouds, and family-sized flying saucers for the commute. It’s hard to watch The Jetsons today and not think, “Boy, they really thought about resources differently in the 1960s.” (Actually, this radio program from the Canadian Broadcast Company argues that The Jetsons got more right than you’d suspect…. can you say Roomba?)

One of the prime objects of techno-fetishization was the Jetsons’ maid, called Rosie, who (per Wikipedia) was an outdated model but so beloved by the family that they would never think to replace her. I also didn’t realize until researching it today that most of the Jetsons episodes were made in the 1980s—in fact, Rosie appeared in only two episodes in the original 1962-1963 run and was a more frequent premise in the 1980s episodes.

Anyway, we think of that kind of robot as existing purely in the future, but a man named Dennis Weston who lived in Leeds, England, created a reasonable—and working—facsimile of Rosie almost at the same time as those original Jetsons episodes. As early as 1966, Weston created “Tinker,” a remote-controlled robot that could wash the car, weed the garden, take the baby for a stroll down the road, and go shopping. The catch was that Tinker couldn’t travel more than 200 yards of David’s garage, where he controlled Tinker through a control panel. Due to lack of space at David’s home the robot was eventually passed on to a family friend in 1974. Tinker was activated by 430 motors, and a TV camera in the robot’s head transmitted an image to the operator.

Weston died in 1995 at the age of 71. The Cybernetic Zoo blog received a message from Weston’s son Martin in 2012, according to which “Tinker was given to his Dad’s friend, Brian, in 1974 as Dennis no longer had the space available to keep it. Brian owned a shop called Leeds Radio during the 60s and 70s; he sold army surplus radio equipment. Most of the gear that went through Brian’s shop was eventually stripped down and sold off as spare parts. Unfortunately, the same thing probably happened to Tinker. ... Percy was just another one of Martin’s Dad’s 10,000 unfinished projects. It never got completed and the hand just accumulated dust under a pile of junk in Dennis’ cellar/workshop. It probably ended up being melted down for scrap.”

One of the images below states that Tinker “can be programmed to perform ‘any reasonable task.’” Given the apparent importance of user control during those tasks, it’s a little unclear what “programmed” could really mean here…...
 

 

 

 

 
Here’s Weston working on his follow-up to Tinker, named Percy:
 

 

 
Here’s an early Jetsons sampler from 1963:
 

 
via Voices of East Anglia

Posted by Martin Schneider
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09.23.2014
02:54 pm
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Will pole dancing robots put human strippers out of work?
03.20.2014
12:49 pm
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Poledancing robot
 
So many questions. The world’s largest computer expo took place in Hanover, Germany, last week. It’s called CeBIT (Centrum für Büroautomation, Informationstechnologie und Telekommunikation), and David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany were both in attendance. Tobit Software hauled out a few robots who proceeded to do a, er, “sexy” pole dance for a large audience including the two heads of state.
 
dancing stripper robot
 
We wring our hands and stroke our beards thoughtfully at the specter of widespread mechanization and robotization acting as a powerful drag on employment figures, as increasingly, blue-collar jobs are being taken over by robots, and corporations are only too eager to accelerate that process along. But I don’t think anyone had supposed that strippers were among the threatened population.

As always, it’s a little unfair to judge an incipient technology by its first exposure to the public. But it’s not easy to imagine what the target audience for this product is.

Each gyrating bucket of bolts runs $39,500, for those who can afford a really weird private fantasy come true.

It is not known whether Frau Merkel made any disappointed comments about the “Unheimliches Tal” (Uncanny Valley).
 

 
via So Bad So Good

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Extreme pole dancing
Meet “Pole Dance,” The Pole Dancing Doll

Posted by Martin Schneider
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03.20.2014
12:49 pm
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With its giant fembots, Japan is winning the go-go arms race
01.17.2014
08:32 am
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Giant fembots
 
In the ten zillionth instance of Japan provoking a “Why didn’t anyone else think of this before now?” reaction, the aptly named Robot Restaurant in Tokyo’s well-known Kabukichō entertainment district has adopted what might be considered the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. With an aesthetic vaguely reminiscent of Kaiju Big Battel (itself a goof on the excesses of Japanese culture) as orchestrated in the style of, say, Gaspar Noé‘s Enter the Void, Robot Restaurant features (in what is surely not an exhaustive list) endless flickering lights, pterodactyls, glow sticks, robot dogs, animatronic sharks, a blinking army tank, a bunch of people wearing African masks, go-go girls wearing fairy outfits, go-go girls in hyperbolic pretend battle with each other, go-go girls playing rock music, and go-go girls driving around giant animatronic fembot amusement park cars. The fembots have “pneumatic busts,” in the reliable verbiage of Time Out Japan.

I keep calling them “go-go girls,” but the proper term is “para-para dancers.” The price tag for a couple of hours of this madness is 5000 yen (about $50). The joint’s website gives a vivid impression of the batshit craziness that goes on there.

It all sounds utterly awesome.
 
Peace sign
 
Dayglo tank
 
African masks
 
Robots
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Bikini-clad go-go girls do The Jellyfish
Ode to Der Musikladen’s Teutonic go-go girls, the worst disco dancers the world has ever seen

Posted by Martin Schneider
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01.17.2014
08:32 am
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Thought your art degree was already useless? Meet the draw-bot!
11.14.2013
09:03 am
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Cross-media artist Matthias Dörfelt has taken a strong new step towards realizing the nightmares of illustrators everywhere by creating Robo Faber, “an autonomous drawing robot determined to reproduce.” Per the Creative Applications Network:

The robot continuously creates drawings generated using a preset system Matthias developed for Weird Faces and the I Follow flip books. The system works around the idea of thinking how the drawings are created by hand and the same logic designed into the algorithm.

Each connector, or “mechanical part”  is entirely random and unique, based on the presets Matthias programmed. In this way the robot can draft an infinite amount of connectors while looking like it is sketching and thinking about a mechanism to reproduce.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Obviously, this is not exactly Botticelli - though the images produced are playful and fun, it’s primitive and bloodless stuff. So gifted portraiturists and expressive renderers can probably shrug this off - because technologies never improve, right? The device’s programming is based in Paper.js, which, to be as basic as possible about it, is a form of Javascript that incorporates vector graphics functionality. But more important than the tech, and more important than the fact that as soon as there’s a robot that can make an entire episode of South Park that’s totally going to happen forever onward, it’s really neat to watch the thing in action. So behold the end of art, and despair.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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11.14.2013
09:03 am
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Robots that can anticipate human activity: Robot bartenders imminent!
05.31.2013
03:28 pm
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Robot bartender
 
While others may fret about HAL releasing all of their oxygen into the dark vacuum of space, I have always had a comparatively optimistic prediction of robots. My own robot vision is much more along the lines of the I, Robot narrative, where artificial intelligence has flaws and growing pains, for sure, but ultimately comes to benefit the world, providing deep and fascinating insight as to what it means to be human.

Also, they might get us drunk.

Take this robot at Cornell University, who has learned how to process and navigate complex environments enough to anticipate when his scientist friend (yes, I’m going there) tends to pour a beer. This is actually a pretty giant step for artificial intelligence. Scientists constantly wrestle with the creation of the sort of algorithms necessary for learning things like “anticipation.”

So no, I will not be taking out a policy with Old Glory Insurance, and I do not fear Skynet becoming self-aware, nor the subsequent Terminator robots that will eventually run our barren land. I welcome our new technologically birthed companions, and only ask that they perfect their pours.
 

 
via National Geographic

Posted by Amber Frost
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05.31.2013
03:28 pm
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