The human scaled #RoboApoc

This semi-weekly feature scours the internets for news of the Robot Apocalypse (#RoboApoc). I rate each item on a scale of 1 to Skynet

Still stuck in the past.

When I think of robots (which is often) I think of humanoid robots, you know machines that look human. Maybe it is because of the pop culture robots that shaped my childhood, like C-3PO, the Terminator, or even Transformers.

After humanoid robots I think of robots that function in a human understanding of space and time, meaning robots that relate to the natural and human built world in the same scale we do.

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Racism, Chairs, and the Silver Set – This week in the #RoboApoc

This semi-weekly feature scours the internets for news of the Robot Apocalypse (#RoboApoc). I rate each item on a scale of 1 to Skynet

These kids are using tech to create a better world.
These kids are using tech to create a better world.

1. There’s an app for that. A family of Georgia teens created Five-O, an app that allows people to rate their interactions with the police. The people who conceptualized and designed the app – Caleb, Ima, and Ahsa Christian – range in age from 14 to 18.

#RoboApoc Rating – 1. Given the recent killing of Mike Brown by Ferguson, MO. police officer Darren Wilson, this app is super timely. Any app that makes it easier to hold people in power accountable is great. And the fact that this app was designed by teenagers means we may have a new generation of tech savvy freedom fighters on our side, the robots haven’t won yet. 

2. Wearable chairs? A Zurich based start up called noonee has developed the chairless chair. Basically you strap a couple of exoskeleton legs on, and when you drop into sitting position it they will take you weight. This ridiculous CNN article, which actually dives into the health concerns of sitting all day, proclaims you can even run with the wearable chair strapped to your legs. 

#RoboApoc Rating – 1. The promotion video above explains how the wearable chair is good for employees (keeps them injury free) and employers (keeps workers injury free and efficient), the only problem is they show a factory worker on an assembly line. Ha. Humans don’t work on assembly lines (in the US), robots do.


friendly robots

4. Human friendly. The 7th International Workshop on Human Friendly Robotics is happening in Pisa, Italy in October.  I learned about the workshop when I was researching CYBERLegs (more about cybernetic legs in a forthcoming posts). Apparently the workshop will address, “The technological shift from classical industrial robots, which are safely kept away from humans in cages, to robots, which are used in close collaboration with humans.”

#RoboApoc Rating – SKYNET! If there is a workshop to intentionally talk about  Human Friendly Robotics there must a be a fairly large trend of Not Friendly Human Robotics, and by looking at the webpage for this workshop, the friendly side could use some help.

5. The Silver Set. In an article for Harpers Magazine this month, journalist Jessica Bruder writes about the growing trend of seniors who take to the highways in RV’s and campers in search of seasonal work. In an interview with Alternet Bruder mentions CamperForce, an program that specifically recruits “work campers” for seasonal work in the company. Beyond the insanity of making seniors give up their homes and roam the country in search of work, there is the added old news that (two years ago) bought Kiva Systems Inc., a integrated warehouse management system that includes robots that follow stickers on the floor bringing products to pickers and packers.

#RoboApoc Rating – 8. The semi-robotization of what was previously considered unrobotizable (because of the human spacial relations skill that robots can’t replicate) is frightening enough. Combine this technological advancement with pushing vulnerable seniors back into the workforce and you have what many are predicting is the future of work in this country – temporary, contingent, precarious, seasonal. What is most troubling about this is that as technology rapidly evolves and companies keep up; workers, the organizations that traditionally protect workers, policy, and culture are not moving quickly enough. The robots are already here, and they are making our jobs easier and less.




Robot #Fail? – This week in the #RoboApoc

This is a semi-weekly feature that scours the internets for news of the Robot Apocalypse (#RoboApoc). I rate each item on a scale of 1 to Skynet


Hold still, you might feel a pinch.
Hold still, you might feel a pinch.

1. Robot #Fail?  This week everyone in the world reported that robot based bladder surgery isn’t better than human based surgery, it is the same. The #RoboApoc naysayers  are shouting from their mountain tops “See? We were right. No #RoboApoc here.” Really though? To me it seems the predictions around how robots in this particular arena would perform in relation to humans were wrong, but the forward march of the #RoboApoc is clear. Robots performing on par with humans is an advance for robots, these types of advances will continue. Also if robots perform better at particular tasks and cost less than workers who do the same tasks, then guess who wins.

#RoboApoc rating – 6 Robots- 0, Humans – 0.

3d printing + human muscle = biobot
3d printing + human muscle = biobot

Continue reading “Robot #Fail? – This week in the #RoboApoc”

Beetle buildings vs. the Terminator – This week in the #RoboApoc

This is a semi-weekly feature that scours the internets for news of the Robot Apocalypse (#RoboApoc). I rate each item on a scale of 1 to Skynet

1. Handy Hank… the robot. As much as I love talking about robots I love dreaming about buildings. Buildings of all sorts. I’m especially interested in alternative buildings, odd buildings, rebel buildings. Thanks to the weirdos at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design, my two loves started dating in the form of a pavilion in the shape of a flying beetle. The building itself is not a robot (not yet) but it was built by a robot. Unlike humans, the robot can weave composite materials into structurally sound shapes.

#RoboApoc Rating – 5 While this innovation has the potential to put builders out of work, there still seems to be a bunch of human labor in the creative concepting, the design, and even the construction. And this building is just awesome. I am thinking about the potential to construct lightweight sustainable housing that could be used as we flea the coasts when the water rises, or even currently in disaster response situations. 

Continue reading “Beetle buildings vs. the Terminator – This week in the #RoboApoc”

This Week in the #RoboApoc

This is a semi-weekly feature that scours the internets for news of the coming Robot Apocalypse (#RoboApoc). I rate each item on a scale of 1 to Skynet

1. Mind Reading AC –  This week I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time in the Apple Store, Tekserve, and Best Buy when my intrepid partner in crime (my computer) gave up the ghost in the machine.

This AC can read your mind.
This AC can read your mind

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This week in the #RoboApoc*

Liz Stinson over at Wired reported on self-assembling robots that create furniture on demand. The basic idea is that these module and mobile robots can self-assemble into different forms or furniture, and can even create supplements to existing furniture.

It is fun to fantasize about what this means for personal use: small robots attaching themselves to my coffee table so it can serve drinks at my next dinner party (how nouveau bourgie, a butler without all the classist implications); my robot furniture rearranging itself  into futuristic configurations that are both beautiful and functional (IKEA beware).

Continue reading “This week in the #RoboApoc*”