New report on public attitudes to robotics

Very exciting news to all here at Dreaming Robots — and especially so with our workshop on Societal Impacts of Living Machines at the forthcoming Living Machines 2013 conference in London — is the recent publication of this report on what the public thinks of robotics and autonomous systems from Sciencewise.

The Executive Summary reads thus:

Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) were identified as a key growth area by Chancellor George Osborne in his speech to the Royal Society in 2012 and confirmed by David Willetts in the report Eight Great Technologies. Public opinion towards RAS tends to be broadly optimistic, stating that these technologies are good for society and could solve problems but there are many issues associated with them (such as requiring careful management or having the potential to impact on employment). Some issues prove to be particularly controversial such as the use of robots in warfare or for the care of children or the elderly.

We’ll be pouring over the report in the next few days, so stay tuned to Dreaming Robots for more information and analysis.

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News of an amazing technological development…

… that should in no way be belittled by the inevitably endless stream of piss-poor punnery that will doubtless follow. (See what I did there?)

Go on. Your turn. Knock yourselves out. (But whatever you say, it’s still AMAZING!)

Bristol scientists use urine to charge mobile phone

Scientists have developed a way of charging mobile phones using urine.

Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, claimed harnessing power from “the ultimate waste product” was “a world first”.

“One product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine,” he said.

“By harnessing this power as urine passes through a cascade of microbial fuel cells (MFCs), we have managed to charge a Samsung mobile phone.”

The scientists believe the technology has the future potential to be installed in bathrooms to harness the urine and produce sufficient electricity to power showers, lighting or razors as well as mobile phones.

‘Smart toilet’

Dr Ieropoulos said: “The beauty of this fuel source is that we are not relying on the erratic nature of the wind or the sun, we are actually re-using waste to create energy.

“So far the microbial fuel power stack that we have developed generates enough power to enable SMS messaging, web browsing and to make a brief phone call.

“Making a call on a mobile phone takes up the most energy, but we will get to the place where we can charge a battery for longer periods.

“The concept has been tested and it works – it’s now for us to develop and refine the process so that we can develop MFCs to fully charge a battery.”

The MFC is an energy converter which turns organic matter directly into electricity via the metabolism of live micro-organisms.

The electricity is a by-product of the microbes’ natural life cycle, so the more they eat things like urine the more energy they generate and for longer periods of time.

Dr Ieropoulos said: “We are currently bidding for funding to work alongside partners in the US and South Africa to develop a smart toilet. Watch this space.”

The robotics laboratory is a collaboration between the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol.

Another Terminator.

Never being a paper to miss out on an opportunity to hyperbolise new robot technologies, The Daily Mail have done it again, welcoming yet another Technological Threat to Humankind on its pages today.

Despite, as they themselves report, the Atlas robot being

built to help respond to disasters, such as the Fukushima nuclear reaction meltdown in Japan in 2011

and as they also begrudgingly accept, it still lacks a brain,

it looks like it could easily star in the Terminator films. 

In case the photo accompanying the press release doesn’t look scary enough, they’ve even helpfully supplied a picture to better illustrate why you completely and absolutely need to be afraid of this new threat to human existence!

Can you spot which is the new (real) robot designed to help in emergency situations, and the humanoid machine (fantasy) designed by Skynet to wipe humanity from the face of the earth? (No? Hint: look at the eyes.) [Editor’s note: I wonder how much The Mail pays per year to use that photo? They certainly try to get their money’s worth.]
The Mail are not, of course, alone in proclaiming the development of the ‘real-life Terminator’ (though they just happen to be the news source I hate the most, so this is all very convenient.)
This could, and probably should, all be written off as more of The Mail’s pathetic paranoia and dissemination of misinformation, except for the uncomfortable fact that Atlas has been designed by DARPA, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, whose explicit mission is to ‘maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military’ and whose other projects include unmanned aerial drones, more unmanned aerial drones, yet more unmanned aerial drones, unnamed anti-submarine vessels, exoskeletons for soldiers… you get the idea.