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Beer, Robot.
December 21, 2008 6:35 PM   Subscribe

A robo-building long-haired Ph.D'd old hippie couple takes its baby to the bar.
posted by darth_tedious (25 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Marge: [points to chips, wires, LEDs etc] See all that stuff in there, Homer? That's why your robot never worked.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:53 PM on December 21, 2008


"I'll have a beer, Quaker State on the rocks for my pal here..."
posted by jonmc at 7:02 PM on December 21, 2008


The plan is this: The Gundersons will ask Basil to go to the bar, request a couple of stouts from the bartender, and then, once they're placed on the titanium tray perched on his head, bring them back to his creators. They haven't told him how to do this — there's no set script in his processors that tells him to roll a certain distance southwest, speak a certain command, then come back. He'll have to figure it all out on his own, using a basic knowledge of bars and beers and so on, reasoning skills and an ability to understand certain parts of the world. When his sonars capture the image of a person, for example, he knows it's a person, not just a nameless object to be avoided. And he knows that, in this case, that person wants a beer.
This is where I scrolled to the top to check the date. Seeing it isn't 4/1, I call bullshit. Seeing they (or at least Jim) isn't just a PhD but an actual roboticist (i.e. not an English major with a tech fetish) I can only assume this is all the fault of an exceptionally dim journalist. Or a university that's a little free with the degrees.
posted by DU at 7:14 PM on December 21, 2008


Robot children are the only kind of children that should be taken to a bar.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:15 PM on December 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Really interesting topic / robot. Terrible article:posted by signal at 7:36 PM on December 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


5 bucks says signal's name is Basil.
posted by davelog at 7:44 PM on December 21, 2008


You know, you talk about robots going into a bar, and the URL says WestWorld, and here I am thinking of Yul Brenner...
posted by cavalier at 8:11 PM on December 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


I love the 21st century. It's like they're writing newsreports from my dreams.
posted by The Whelk at 8:30 PM on December 21, 2008


I just discovered the golf-bots that made a cameo in WALL-E aren't all that far off. The itty-bitty Lebowski....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 9:00 PM on December 21, 2008


Fry [to Bender]: But I'm not a robot like you. I don't like having discs crammed into me--unless they're Oreos, and then only in the mouth.
posted by neuron at 9:54 PM on December 21, 2008


You know, you talk about robots going into a bar, and the URL says WestWorld, and here I am thinking of Yul Brenner...

Crikey. That's what I assumed too. Hence my quote from The Simpsons take on Westworld.

DU, FWIW I like your bullsh*t theory.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:57 PM on December 21, 2008


I liked the story. People being clever and doing stuff. And dreaming. And trying to make dreams a reality.
posted by gomichild at 12:00 AM on December 22, 2008


DU: "... I call bullshit. Seeing they (or at least Jim) isn't just a PhD but an actual roboticist (i.e. not an English major with a tech fetish) I can only assume this is all the fault of an exceptionally dim journalist. Or a university that's a little free with the degrees."

The journalist isn't being particularly careful, but his description is close to accurate. The robot knows where it is, knows where the bar is, and knows how to order a drink. Of course it's been programmed to accomplish this task, but the neat thing is that they aren't just initiating the script that says "go 10 meters southwest, say this thing, return to home base". It's interacting with its environment in a more meaningful way. Not just arbitrary things like asking what kind of drink to order and knowing that it will need money to pay for the drink, but the real innovation of maneuvering through a room of people. It recognizes people and tables and chairs, and is plotting its course and accomplishing its task while taking these things into consideration. It's the difference between having a pneumatic tube that will shoot a beer from the fridge to your couch and having a dog that will fetch your slippers.

What they've got so far isn't particularly wowee-wow, but the direction is exciting because they are demonstrating useful serve-o-tron intelligence. They train it by letting it sense an object. They tell it what that object is called and how it should interact with that object. Kind of like how people understand the world. Right now it's just at the level of "this is a chair, walk around it" and "this is a person, but not the person at the bar... walk around it and say excuse me". When it is trained to know all the objects in a house, you very quickly get to a level where (even if the place is a mess and you've just redecorated) you can tell the bot to "Take out the trash" and it will be able to find its way to the kitchen (avoiding pets and roommates), get the trash can (even though it's a foot away from its normal spot), and let you know that the bins weren't there (because you never brought them in last week) instead of just pouring the trash out by rote.

This is a very necessary step towards useful household robotics that the greater industry doesn't seem to be pursuing. There are robots that perform specific tasks (weld a piece of sheet metal to this car door frame, vacuum the floor, act like a puppy), but not much in terms of general service. There's no way to get from here to there without the steps these people are taking. A robot will need to recognize a table and a wine bottle before it can fetch a wine bottle and put it on the table. It's awesome that someone is actually doing this work, and on their own dime. If the world turns out to be just, they will be gazillionaires.
posted by team lowkey at 2:39 AM on December 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


huh. and all this is apparently taking place about six blocks from my house?! I had no idea... COOL!
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:11 AM on December 22, 2008


I would lean towards describing this as evolutionary vs revolutionary. Path finding, object avoidance have all been done. Object identification (as in the Grand Challenge, road, not road, obsticle) have been done as well.

It is cool though.
posted by garlic at 7:36 AM on December 22, 2008


Path finding, object avoidance have all been done. Object identification (as in the Grand Challenge, road, not road, obsticle) have been done as well.

None of those things has been done well.
posted by callmejay at 8:55 AM on December 22, 2008


"Reification" is touted in the article as a revolutionary concept, "the missing piece between advanced robotics technologies and artificial intelligence" but it seems dangerously close to common sense. The article seems to indicate that they're just creating abstract definitions of concrete objects, such as defining a person as having 2 legs. Isn't this the first thing we learn in object-oriented programming? What's really the novel approach here? I suspect there may be some really interesting and new ways to go about this, but the article's not giving any hints.
posted by naju at 9:44 AM on December 22, 2008


Other robot bar protocols:

Shape: Miller Lite: Ingestion Routine= 30seconds. Return: Woot
Shape: Rectangle, parallel to floor surface + plastic hollow spheroids bouncing upon same: Begin task Arc-to-cup, subset "Ivy League Rules"
Sensor 12 detects atmospheric waves of high intensity and frequency= 1. Shake lower extremity rhythmically. 2. Throw hands in air, wave them.
Shape: Female Class HB7:Initiate Neg Hit Sequence A-F
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:46 AM on December 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


team lowkey, thanks for the excellent summary, but never mind the robot. I want the pneumaitic tube that shoots a beer to me on the couch.

And if it can toss me martini's I'll be right at the front in embracing this brave new world.
posted by happyroach at 9:53 AM on December 22, 2008


I keep getting kicked out of the bars I bring my robot to. Of course, they keep telling me that it's not a robot, it's a dog covered in aluminum foil.

Which is ridiculous because it takes a hugely advanced robot to do something as complicated as convert ordinary waste mass like kibble into a valuable organic fertilizer. And that isn't "barking", it's clearly a combination collision avoidance warning system and security protocol.

Stupid bartenders. Just because my robot leaked coolant all over the bar once, they continue this pointless ban. It's totally unfair I say.

No go on robot, go fetch a rubber bone for you to work your mighty hydraulic jaws on.
posted by quin at 10:17 AM on December 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


So...a hippie, a chemist, and a robot walk into a bar...
...stop me if you've heard this one...
posted by ThusSpakeZarathustra at 10:25 AM on December 22, 2008


callmejay -- Identifying the object you're trying to avoid as a chair, table, or wall isn't going to make the avoidance any better either.
posted by garlic at 11:57 AM on December 22, 2008


Basil (his name rhymes with "dazzle")

Really now, did they HAVE to spell that out?
posted by joelf at 1:00 PM on December 22, 2008


Maybe. Perhaps they were worried people might think was supposed to rhyme with "raze-whole". As in, "I'm a killer robot and I will raze this whole fucking place to the ground!"
posted by quin at 1:06 PM on December 22, 2008


Really now, did they HAVE to spell that out?

For the Americans who've never watched Fawlty Towers but who've regularly used the herb in cooking, perhaps. But I don't know what they'd have been doing reading this in the first place.
posted by Spatch at 6:06 AM on December 23, 2008


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