postheadericon Tech Talk: Robot Facebook and Other Strange Developments


As a long-time Sci-Fi freak, any new developments in robotics always catches my eye, and this week a new website for robots did so explosively. That's right, I said a website for robots, not humans.

www.myrobots.com is now open for business, and is being hailed the "Facebook" for your robot, if you are one of the millions that already have one. Whether you own a Sony AIBO robot dog, or you are building your own Ardunio, you can now create a facebook-like account for your bot that will connect with your bot's sensors and automatically post status messages, shared with other bots of like build.

Imagine this scenario: where your AIBO petbot gets lots of attention during your next holiday party from houseguests and then updates that information on myrobots.com. If you also have an iRobot Roomba 500 Series Vacuum Cleaner added as a friend of your AIBO, this automated room cleaner can then use the status information to plan for an extra special cleaning based on last night's party activities. In other words, whereas human friend's status is nothing but annoying to us all, to robots, these status messages are being put to good use.

Another noted development this week (as reported by NewScientist.com) tells us that nano-robotics are making the idea of a Terminator in your Toilet all the more real, as nano-bots can now assemble on command into any shape imaginable, including representations of human skin. So instead of sending a video projection of your self over the Internet, it may be possible very soon to instead send instructions to a pile of nano-robotic "dust" that will then assemble itself into a likeness of you (well, actually a three-dimensional facsimile of you). The sci-fi ideas found in "Avatar" and "Surrogates" are not so far from reality, so it appears.

All of this tech and more are nearing stores and manufacturing areas, and are pouring out of research labs faster than the release of such in the movie "I Robot." In fact, you can go to www.bostondynamics.com to see what looks like a real T-800 of Arnold Schwarzenegger fame, testing out clothes and equipment meant for human wear (PETMAN YouTube video).

Now granted, much of this research and subsequent production of robotics is taking place within DARPA (the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and being used to fly around the world droning alleged terrorists, more and more sophisticated robotics are making their way into hospitals, schools and now homes. For example, the Roomba robotic vacuum is now in over 6 million homes, and that number is sure to grow each holiday season.

But now that bots have a place to socialize and share temperature statistics and whatnot, one has to ask, is Skynet more of a possibility? For those who have not followed the Terminator series of movies, Skynet is formed when bots become self-aware, or in short, use social media and the "cloud" to group together and to take over the human race. As robotics become more and more prevalent in our lives, will this also offer up nefarious opportunities for bot-hacking, and perhaps further intrusions into our everyday lives by prying eyes?

It does seem that the plots for sci-fi movies we have come to love and adore, may be more relevant in our not-to- distant realities. We have already seen how easy it is to track our movements via a simple smartphone, imagine the possibilities of hacking into our robotic pets at home? Will websites like myrobots.com be impenetrable to others, or will hackers be able to map the temperature of our homes with every square inch of our living rooms, by just taping into our future vacuum cleaners and refrigerator tweets.

Well I suppose we in Nepal have other things to worry about, as in this climate of load shedding and petro shortages, we need not worry about electronics invading or threatening our lives, as most will sit dormant for at least 12 hours a day or more. However, bio-nanorobotics may pose more of a challenge, as conventional electrical power is no longer a requirement when using this technology.

Instead, there are soon to be protein, DNA, and chemical molecular motors that require little or no external power source to operate and bind together into complex structures that resemble a living organism, but that are controlled remotely like your Sony AIBO is today. Once these machines are rolled out, even Nepalese will have a hard time telling the difference between what is robot and what is real.

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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