‘The Last Jedi’ Revealed the Dark Side of BB-8

By Jeremy Hsu | January 3, 2018 2:37 pm
The clever and adorable repair droid BB-8 is a popular face of the new Star Wars film trilogy by Disney. Credit: Disney

The clever and adorable repair droid BB-8 is a popular face of the new Star Wars film trilogy by Disney. Credit: Disney

Robots can provide comic relief and cuteness overload for longtime fans of the Star Wars films that take place in a galaxy far, far away. The latest example in Disney’s Star Wars films is the adorable BB-8 droid that has a dome head riding atop a spherical body and mostly communicates through beeps and electronic warbles. But something dark and ominous may be lurking beneath the bubbly droid’s exterior.

Turn back now to avoid spoilers on “The Last Jedi” or any of the Star Wars films.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

‘Predator’ Vision Drones Get AI to Spot Poachers

By Jeremy Hsu | December 29, 2017 10:12 pm
The thermal infrared camera imagery taken by a drone operated by the Air Shepherd conservation group during a field demonstration. Credit: Air Shepherd

The thermal infrared camera imagery taken by a drone operated by the Air Shepherd conservation group during a field demonstration. Credit: Air Shepherd

Poachers illegally hunting elephants and rhinoceroses under the supposed cover of darkness may soon find themselves being tracked by “Predator” vision drones armed with artificial intelligence. The new AI system that enables surveillance drones to automatically detect both humans and animals could help conservation experts and rangers protect endangered wildlife starting in 2018. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Forget Bans: UN Stuck on Defining Killer Robots

By Jeremy Hsu | December 18, 2017 10:28 pm
An unmanned military robot rolls out of a U.S. Marine amphibious vehicle during the Ship-to-Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. Credit: Lance Cpl. Jamie Arzola

An unmanned military robot rolls out of a U.S. Marine amphibious vehicle during the Ship-to-Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. Credit: Lance Cpl. Jamie Arzola

A United Nations meeting on lethal autonomous weapons ended in disappointment for advocates hoping that the world would make progress on regulating or banning “killer robot” technologies. The UN group of governmental experts barely even scratched the surface of defining what counts as a lethal autonomous weapon. But instead of trying to create a catch-all killer robots definition, they might have better luck next time focusing on the role of humans in controlling such autonomous weapons. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Virtual Reality Can Help Convict Nazi War Criminals

By Jeremy Hsu | December 14, 2017 12:04 am
A scene from the short documentary film "Nazi VR" that tells of how a virtual recreation of Auschwitz helped convict a Nazi war criminal. Credit: MEL Films

A scene from the short documentary film “Nazi VR” that tells of how a virtual recreation of Auschwitz helped convict a Nazi war criminal. Credit: MEL Films

During World War II, Reinhold Hanning served as a guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp where more than 1.1 million people were killed by Nazi Germany. More than 70 years later, a virtual recreation of Auschwitz helped German prosecutors convict Hanning of being an accessory to the murder of 170,000 people. Now a new documentary film explores how the virtual model of Auschwitz can be viewed through virtual reality headsets in future court cases involving the last surviving Nazi war criminals. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Star Wars Droids Top Sci-Fi Robots Survey

By Jeremy Hsu | December 11, 2017 9:11 pm
The Star Wars droids C-3PO (left) and R2-D2 (right) were the most popular science fiction robots in a recent survey by Conversica. Credit: Disney | Lucasfilm

The Star Wars droids C-3PO (left) and R2-D2 (right) were the most popular science fiction robots in a recent survey by Conversica. Credit: Disney | Lucasfilm

Disney seems to have a lock on many of the more popular science fiction robots between owning Lucasfilm’s Star Wars franchise and the beloved animation studio Pixar. A recent survey of Americans found that the Star Wars robot duo of R2-D2 and C-3PO topped the choices of people’s favorite sci-fi robots driven by artificial intelligence, followed closely by Pixar’s trash-compacting robot WALL-E. Commander Data, a pasty-looking android with a much more humanlike appearance from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” came in last. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

How Tanks Went from War Curio to Homefront Hero

By Jeremy Hsu | November 30, 2017 11:44 pm
http://digital.nls.uk/first-world-war-official-photographs/archive/74549152

British tanks on training manoeuvres, in France, during World War I. This photograph of an advancing tank dwarfing British troops, gives an idea of the scale of tanks, and the power they brought to the front line in the last years of the war. The earliest models of tank were slow and excessively heavy, and struggled on wet ground, but later models were much more effective. Credit: National Library of Scotland | Tom Aitken

When the first tanks appeared on the battlefields of World War I, journalists described them as “grotesque creatures” and made comparisons to prehistoric animals such as dinosaurs. Even German prisoners of war supposedly laughed when recalling their first glimpse of the mechanical beasts. Later versions of British heavy tanks received an unflattering paint color known as “dog turd brown.” But 100 years ago, the first mass attack by hundreds of British tanks at the Battle of Cambrai signaled a huge change in modern warfare and even helped win civilian hearts and minds back home. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

The Big Caveat on AI and Future Work

By Jeremy Hsu | November 30, 2017 7:06 pm
Amazon robots and human workers together in a warehouse. Credit: Amazon Robotics

Amazon robots and human workers together in a warehouse. Credit: Amazon Robotics

Artificial intelligence will likely both giveth and taketh away jobs for humans. A McKinsey Global Institute report estimates that automation could displace between 400 million and 800 million people worldwide by 2030, even as the report also suggests the benefits of automation could help create enough new jobs for displaced workers. But beyond the numbers, the report offers more useful lessons regardless of whether future work ultimately looks sunny or bleak. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Virtual Reality Immersion Beyond the Headset

By Jeremy Hsu | November 29, 2017 5:16 pm
A person trying out the "Tree" virtual reality experience by the New Reality Company. Credit: James Orlando

A person trying out the “Tree” virtual reality experience by the New Reality Company. Credit: James Orlando

Virtual reality experiences can provide an uncanny sense of immersion that tricks participants’ brains into believing they are walking on that narrow beam high above a city or are being chased by a monster through dark halls. The New Reality Company wants to push the boundaries of virtual reality by adding real-world props and additional sensory stimuli based on touch and smell–clever steps that can strengthen the power of immersion. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: mind & brain, technology, top posts

The Flying Car Future Is Leaving Wheels Behind

By Jeremy Hsu | October 28, 2017 7:21 pm
The Black Knight Transformer is a prototype flying car that can drive like a truck and fly like a helicopter. Credit: Advanced Tactics

The Black Knight Transformer is a prototype flying car that can drive like a truck and fly like a helicopter. Credit: Advanced Tactics

A prototype flying car that supposedly does the job of both a helicopter and a truck went up for sale on eBay a few days before Halloween. That privately-developed AT Black Knight Transformer represents a vision of the flying car future that has seemingly fallen out of favor as new startups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere pursue the idea of flying cars without wheels. But flying car enthusiasts or companies with specialized missions in mind may still find something to admire in the Black Knight Transformer’s hybrid flying car design. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Project Wing Drones Test Home Delivery Down Under

By Jeremy Hsu | October 25, 2017 5:38 pm
Project Wing delivery drone in Australia

Wing delivery drone flying over Queanbeyan, Australia. Credit: Project Wing

If you get food cravings or need to grab some over-the-counter medicine, chances are that you live just a short walk or drive away from a convenience store or pharmacy as long as you live in a city or the suburbs. But the Aussie residents of a certain rural community face a 40-minute round trip in the car whenever they want to pick up some ingredients for dinner or even grab a cup of coffee. That situation made them the ideal first customers for backyard drone deliveries through Project Wing, a delivery drone effort under Google’s parent company Alphabet. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts
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Lovesick Cyborg

Lovesick Cyborg examines how technology shapes our human experience of the world on both an emotional and physical level. I’ll focus on stories such as why audiences loved or hated Hollywood’s digital resurrection of fallen actors, how soldiers interact with battlefield robots and the capability of music fans to idolize virtual pop stars. Other stories might include the experience of using an advanced prosthetic limb, whether or not people trust driverless cars with their lives, and how virtual reality headsets or 3-D film technology can make some people physically ill.
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