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Human Rights Watch is Apparently Terrified of Military Robots, But You Shouldn't Be

Human Rights Watch, an international organization that advocates for human rights around the world, published a report about a week ago warning against the development of autonomous armed robots and suggesting that they be preemptively banned by international treaty. We're unashamedly pro-robot around here, but this is an issue that I do take very seriously, and there are some good reasons why I think that attempting to ban autonomous armed robots is a mistake.

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The Robots Are Coming . . . to Your iPad

Robots for iPad app screenshot featured robots

We know you love robots. We love robots, too. In fact, who doesn't love robots? Robots are one of those things that capture the imagination of people of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities. So we're really proud to unveil this project. Robots for iPad is an app featuring the world's coolest robots. If you want to know how robotics is going to change the world, this app is for you.

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Video Monday: Rat Heart Robots, Cheap UAVs, and Disney's Humanoid

As you may (or may not) not have noticed, I've been on vacation for the last couple weeks getting acquainted with manta rays, Komodo dragons, suicidal Balinese on mopeds, and quite possibly malaria, dengue fever, and/or intestinal parasites. I'll keep you updated on those last three. Many, many thanks to Erico Guizzo, Angelica Lim, and Frank Tobe for filling in so capably, and I can only hope that y'all won't be too disappointed to have me back.

To get back into the swing of things, we'll be playing a little bit of catch-up today, with a run-through of some robotics news from the last few weeks that you may have missed.

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Toshiba Unveils Robot for Disaster Response

Toshiba Quadruped Robot for Disaster Response

Robots played a key role in assessing damage and radiation levels at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, crippled by the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan more than a year ago. But so far all the robots relied on tracks to navigate inside the reactors, in addition to aerial vehicles used to observe the site from above. None of the robots had legs. Now Toshiba is about to change that. The company announced yesterday that it plans to send a quadruped robot to the disaster site. Is this Japan's answer to BigDog?

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HEARBO Robot Has Superhearing

We live in a world of sounds, full of beautiful music, birds chirping, and the voices of our friends. It's a rich cacophony, with blaring beeps, accented alarms, and knock-knock jokes. The sound of a door opening can alert us to a friend's arrival, and a door slamming can alert us to an impending argument.

HEARBO (HEAR-ing roBOt) is a robot developed at Honda Research Institute–Japan (HRI-JP), and its job is to understand this world of sound, in a field called Computational Auditory Scene Analysis.

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Robot Mirrors Our Emotions To Be More Social

We all have that friend: The one who understandingly pats us on the back when we feel down, or shares our excitement when we're brimming with joy. They share our frowns when we've been wronged, and say "I've been there" when we confess our worries. Psychologists have long known that this kind of empathy is an important social construct for building relationships, and now researchers are testing whether it can bring us closer to robots, too.

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Where Are the Elder Care Robots?

Robot & Frank
A scene from the movie "Robot & Frank."

In this guest post, Frank Tobe, a robotics analyst and publisher of The Robot Report, describes the technologies that are beginning to come to market to help the elderly live in their homes as long as possible.

In 2003, BusinessWeek interviewed Joseph Engelberger, the robotics pioneer who helped invent the first industrial robot. The article was entitled "How Robots Lost Their Way." Included in the story was a plea for money to build an eldercare robot that Engelberger thought could be built with then-current technologies, rented for $600 per month, operated at a cost of $1.25 per hour (compared to healthcare homeworkers who cost around $15 per hour) and developed at a cost of less than $700,000.

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IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:

Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
Jason Falconer
Angelica Lim
Tokyo, Japan

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