Results tagged “anthropomorphic” from kwc blog

Robots with medals


At the Yuma Test Grounds in Arizona, the autonomous robot, 5 feet long and modeled on a stick-insect, strutted out for a live-fire test and worked beautifully, he says. Every time it found a mine, blew it up and lost a limb, it picked itself up and readjusted to move forward on its remaining legs, continuing to clear a path through the minefield.

Finally it was down to one leg. Still, it pulled itself forward. Tilden was ecstatic. The machine was working splendidly.

The human in command of the exercise, however -- an Army colonel -- blew a fuse.

The colonel ordered the test stopped.

Why? asked Tilden. What's wrong?

The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg.

This test, he charged, was inhumane.

The Washington Post has a fascinating article on how robots in the war field are being anthropomorphized. Soldiers show emotional attachments to particular robots, some models are considered to have personality, and some event get medals:

"When we first got there, our robot, his name was Frankenstein" says Sgt. Orlando Nieves, an EOD from Brooklyn. "He'd been in a couple of explosions and he was made of pieces and parts from other robots." Not only did the troops promote him to private first class, they awarded him an EOD badge -- a coveted honor. "It was a big deal. He was part of our team, one of us. He did feel like family."

The gist of the article seems to undercut attempts to actually add emotions and personality to robots: it seems that we as humans are pretty good at attributing those characteristics even when they aren't actually designed in.

I had a brief hint of the anthropomorphic attribution when I attended an iRobot talk a year ago. Some of the robots in the Washington Post article are iRobot's Packbots and the iRobot talk provided this fun factoid:

On April 8, 2004, Packbot 129 became the first packbot to be 'killed in action.' US soldiers managed to retrieve all of its parts and it is now framed for display.

Taking this one step further, the article mentions that UAV operators can now receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.

WashingtonPost: Bots on the Ground

Cultural Uncanny Valley


Read on for an semi-complete essay written in the spirit of silliness. It's an old draft I wanted to wrap up now that we are in the final countdown to entry 2000 (three to go).

Anthropomorphic iPod (Shuffle edition)


Newsweek has has revived the Anthropomorphic iPod argument in light of the "Random is a Virtue" iPod shuffle marketing gimmick.

More than a year ago, I outlined these concerns to Jobs; he dialed up an engineer who insisted that shuffle played no favorites. Since then, however, millions of new Podders have started shuffling, and the question has been discussed in newspapers, blogs and countless conversations. It's taking on Oliver Stone-like conspiracy buzz.

Apple execs profess amusement. "It's part of the magic of shuffle," says Greg Joswiak, the VP for iPod products. Still, I asked him last week to double-check with the engineers. They flatly assured him that "Random is random," and the algorithm that does the shuffling has been tested and reverified.

Cellphone shopping


Not for myself, as AT&T can't seem to drop the price on the Nokia 6820 that I want to upgrade to (I have the 6800). Honeyfields was looking for a new Cingular phone, so I had to entertain myself as she browsed through the demo models.

My entertainment, repeated at two different booths, went as follows: * begin playing with my cellphone, tossing/twisting/bouncing it around * let the cellphone drop and hit the floor * watch horrified looks of mall-goers walking buy (usually someone will say something like, "looks like he needs a new phone") * turn towards Cingular salesperson, make some point about the phone being really tough, showing him how its still working. * intentionally drop cellphone directly in front of salesmen, letting it break into about four different pieces (phone, battery, battery cover, sim card) * observe the truly horrified look of the salesperson

I scared one salesman enough that he started comforting his anthropomorphic cellphone (kinda how you might pet/comfort a bunny), going as far to get out his cellphone case and put his cellphone back in it, as if to protect it from my doberman cellphone.

Anthropomorphic iPod


My post frequency is down, so I'm going to cheat and mine a post from an e-mail thread.

This New York Times has an article on people and their iPods, and more specifically, how people attribute a higher level of intelligence to their iPods than actually exists. For example,

The iPod "knows somehow when I am reaching the end of my reserves, when my motivation is flagging," Mr. Greist insisted. "It hits me up with 'In Da Club,' and then all of a sudden I am in da club."

People also seem to think that the iPod favors certain artists, and point to the fact that the songs by the same artist will frequently play in proximity to one another. Often this artist will be someone the person likes, so they think that the iPod has learned their music tastes.

Personally, I think this viewpoint may be a result of how humans have a hard time comprehending random.

There is a problem that math/CS majors study called the Birthday Paradox, which asks "given N people, what is the probability that 2 have the same birthday?" It only takes 23 people for the probability to reach 50%. When we did this in class it only took ~15 people before we had two of the same birthdays. (Rubin reminds me that birthdays are not actually distributed evenly throughout the year, so the probability of having two people with the same birthday is actually much higher "since people in certain weather areas always seem to get randy around the same time").

This problem has applications to the iPod shuffling problem. Assuming that you had an equal number of songs from 100 different artists, then you would need 12 songs for there to be a 50% probability of at least two songs by the same artist (100 different artists). This doesn't mean that the songs by the same artist are 12 songs apart; it just means within that span of 12 songs there are at least 2 songs by the same artist, which means on average they will be a lot closer than 12 songs apart. If there are only 50 artists, then it only takes 9 songs, and for 200 artists it takes 17 songs.

However, like the Birthday Paradox, these assumptions are unrealistic: there are definitely artists that we have a lot more songs of, and soundtracks also inflate the number of artists. We also, as the article points out, buy more music of the kind we like. Putting this all together, even if the iPod is being completely random, it should be the case that you frequently hear songs by the same artist close together, and that artist will likely be someone you like. Thus, through complete mindless randomness, the iPod has 'learned' all about your preferences.

(I didn't verify any of the math I used in this entry)

The links overfloweth


ultimate iPodAs if to answer my post on link dearth, the harvest is now bountiful. I should save some of these for 99, but oh well:

HULK Blog SMASH!: which shall entertain me now that the anthropomorphic mars rovers have run their course. 1

Ultimate iPod (well, not really): pqbon and I were discussing the simplicity of the iPod last night. As if to fly in the face of everything we discussed, someone mocked up what the iPod would look like with everyone's absurd feature request. 2

NYTimes on Giant Robot: mmmm, fried mochi on a George Foreman grill. Definitely will have to try that one out. 3

A reason to add Belgium to my visited countries map: Belgian Centre of Comic Strip Art: Yerba Buena had a good comics exhibit awhile back, but an entire museum would be even cooler 4

tranSticks: finally, a Sony product I can say positive things about :). If done right, I think wireless tech like this can fix usability and security issues that we see with technologies like Bluetooth, while making the overall setup so much easier to understand. The color-coded sticks allow the person to actually see the setup and interact with it physically without worrying about PINs/passwords, device names, menus, etc...

Whee! Backyard coaster 2/5

1 via kottke 2 via engadget 3 via metamanda 4 via fwak 5 via boingboing

Cool Mars Animation Video


This is a really cool animation of the Mars Rover from launch on earth to its mission on Mars. The level of technical detail appears to be high to me: they studied old Mars sunset images to get the correct blue cast, and you see a lot of the rover elements in high detail. I didn't realize how many rocket stages there were to launch the thing, and it's really cool to see the rocket get smaller, and smaller, and smaller.

One other note: the "American Beauty" music coupled with the camera on the rover make it seemly oddly anthropomorphic, and there are also the Johnny 5 resemblences.
Maas Digital MER Animation (medium) (via Kottke)