Future Culture

Futurist Writer Lei Kalina writes her tongue-in-cheek musings and ramblings on the growing worldwide phenomenon of the growth of the Future Culture in the 21st Century

Future Culture In The 21st Century

Future Culture In the 21st Century

Futures Studies, Foresight, or Futurology , according to Wikipedia, is the science, art and practice of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them. Futures studies (colloquially called "Futures" by many of the field's practitioners) seeks to understand what is likely to continue, what is likely to change, and what is novel. Part of the discipline thus seeks a systematic and pattern-based understanding of past and present, and to determine the likelihood of future events and trends. Futures is an interdisciplinary field, studying yesterday's and today's changes, and aggregating and analyzing both lay and professional strategies, and opinions with respect to tomorrow.

Monday, March 29, 2010

RoboWorld Boom In 2010


NT Research of Korea's RAMex, a buxomy fembot humanoid with tele-operated arms and hands and coming on strong as kick-ass android in Silver Terminator chutzpah, sending the villains a-huffing and a-puffing off to Never-Never Land, was one of the parade of robots wowing them all at last year's International Robot Exhibition in Japan -- together with other cyborgs to fit each and every techie and geek enthusiast's fantasy.

She was there alright, together with the sinister-looking NEXTAGE robots, designed to upstage and throw to the layoff line human factory workers, with its seamlessly efficient work side by side with humans, and equipped with "special sensors that allow it to remain mindful of humans in its vicinity, particularly in a production line environment. "

In the domestic front, robotics had a heyday playing up a host of "caregiving servant robots" at the beck and call of the elderly. There's Mahru-M and Mahru-Z, dubbed as the "household servant robots" , shown at YouTube doing their springy spacewalk in the kitchen ( like a pretty slow trudge from the fridge to the bread toaster) with their perpetual smile on their steel faces and a pink apron adding a homey flair to their robotic existence.

There's Tokyo-based Ifbot , that helper-robot in a Japanese nursing home, which can reportedly "converse, sing, quiz seniors and express emotions"; and Taizo the exercise robo-instructor, that "delightful chap with a bulbous visage and a fun, plushy space suit designed to lead low-impact group exercise , featuring voice recognition and a library of thirty different exercises."

There's Sil-Bot a.k.a. H-Robot, a robot for the elderly or “silver generation” (hence the name Sil-Bot) with its blinking eyes and moving lips, face recognition and speech functions -- moving to its owner's voice from 10-feet distance, showcasing its simple conversation as "typical elderly friend" , reminding patients to take their meds, with its mentally-stimulating interactive games as preventive measures for Alzheimer's Disease and dementia. Botropolis.com reports have it that after completing field trials at Korea's Masan Welfare Hall, the robot headed to Korean grade schools as educational assistant.

Mahru-M (left) and Mahru-Z

If-Bot , robo-caregiver at a Japanese nursing home

Taizo, the elderly's exercise instructor

Sil-Bot, robo-caregiver for the elderly, quizzing patients to prevent Alzheimer's Disease and dementia

And then there's the Squid robot , developed by the Osaka University's Department of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering and demonstrated last October in a Kobe swimming pool as part of an underwater robot festival: with carefully-made rubber panels for its "stingray underwater flights" , sliding and curling rhythmically with forward thrusts, with a flat body to easily enter narrow spaces, with brand new propulsion systems being planned for the said underwater robots to monitor ocean environments, search out underwater resources and possibly perform other underwater missions.

Squid Robot, underwater bot designed to sneak in narrow spaces underwater, for underwater missions

And who could miss TOPIO, Vietnam's torchbearer in the international world of robotics: strut-your-stuff cool and gorgeous in shades (watch out for those abs and muscular built ala Hunky Matinee Idol) , moving quickly in masculine and maximum virile fashion, designed to best them all in the world of , yes, ping-pong. Four high-speed cameras help it identify the trajectory of the ball and accurately return shots, but it can also turn mushy expressing feelings when it either wins or loses a game. Who cares if ping-pong could be the only thing it's good at?? Matrons would be more than delighted to even just ogle at this hunky cyborg.

As March 2010 comes to a close , Future Culture does a round-up of the latest and the newest that the world of robotics has dished out for all you techie geeks and invention enthusiasts:

NASA's androids will be functioning as human avatars, as said cyborgs walk on the moon with their human counterparts watching closely in motion capture suits giving them the feeling of being on lunar surface. The androids will function with better efficiency in lunar explorations, according to NASA scientists.

PopSci.com reports: "Imagine these NASA C-3POs roaming our satellite, controlled by all kind of scientists using telepresence suits down here, all looking for interesting things using high definition visors, and able to move just like they would move on planet Earth. It won't work for Mars, but with a communication delay of only three seconds, it will work beautifully on the Moon."
While other androids do the lunar explorations, a second set of NASA robots called Dextre, will function as handy-man space robots , taking care of satellite repairs and refueling tasks.

(Photo Credit: Popsci.com)

Over at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), an agency of the US' Department of Defense, plans are under way for inexpensive robotic hands that can perhaps also replace existing prosthetics for amputees, according to Pentagon scientists. "Engineers can already design specialized robotic arms better suited for any number of specific tasks than human hands. But DARPA specifically hopes to see arms and hands that can mimic the general adaptability and flexibility of human hands. That means the main challenge rests with the software that provides the brains behind smart robotic arms and hands."

(Photo Credit: Popsci.com)

Robosoft Kompai introduced

Robosoft Kompai , invented and manufactured in France, functions as an elderly robo-caregiver: navigating autonomously for its patients, equipped with artificial intelligence for speech recognition features, keeping track of shopping lists, even functioning as your personal assistant to remind you of your meetings, and your instant musical DJ to sweep you out of your blues. Kompai is perpetually Internet-connected, which can give you a myriad of information with careless flicks and clicks on its LED digital touchscreen, and even keep you in-the-know with its video-conferencing system to keep you in touch with your business partners and clients.

Introduced recently at the 2010 Intercompany Long Term Care Insurance Conference in New Orleans, Robosoft CEO Vincent Dupourqué said that the domestic robots market for dependent persons, whether they be elderly, handicapped or autistic, is one of their top priorities. “Kompaï is the culmination of several years of research with scientific and medical partners. This first generation is intended for developers who would like to implement their own robotics applications for assistance”.

Roboaid.com reports that while Kompaï 's primary means of communication is speech, its next-generation versions will be equipped with visual abilities, and also possibly abilities to interpret and express emotions, plus, with additional arms, it can perform more practical functions such as handling objects, meal preparations , tidying, and even giving Grandpa and Grandma its "cold-yet-full-of-warmth" bearhugs.

For the medical world, enter Virtobot: currently being used at the University of Bern’s Institute of Forensic Medicine.

Botropolis.com reports: virtual autopsy done by Virto-Bot is autopsy without making any cut on the corpse -- autopsy is done via digital scan, as the entire body is virtually visible on a screen, and every scanned body part shows up on the screen, the bones, the tissue, the fat, and especially the problem. "If new evidence in a court suggests that a corpse was shot instead of stabbed, the Virtobot can scan the body and find the bullet very easily, all without even touching the cold, swollen tissue of the deceased victim. So to sum it up, Virtobot makes the autopsy process so much easier and accurate."

More new robotic inventions:

PopSci Gallery: At the International Robot Exhibition in Japan, Robots For Your Every Need

Meantime , check out Singularity Hub's review of the best in the world of robotics in 2009 -- http://singularityhub.com/2009/12/22/a-review-of-the-best-robots-of-2009/ -- and still, its review of the best robots of 2008.