Our weekly round-up of all things robot looks at Google’s new face-scanning password system, a gecko-like robot and some wearable eyes.
A large amount of technology is, and has been pretty much since the invention of radio, for our entertainment. And despite complaints about how focused everyone is on their screens, and about how it’s killing social interaction and is generally indicative of the dystopian brokenness of modern society, a lot of us are starting to feel like we’re actually less beholden to our devices than we used to be. After all, where once you had to rush home every evening when your favourite show was on, putting it before work, family and basic hygiene on your schedule, now you can just roll in whenever and log onto iPlayer, 4OD or YouTube.
This is a more extreme variation of facial recognition which Google is hoping will replace passwords.
But with Google’s new idea for Android smartphones, many users could soon be duped into themselves becoming the performing monkeys submitting themselves to their device’s icy judgement. All sensationalism aside, though, this is a more extreme variation of facial recognition which Google is hoping to replace standard passwords with. It goes beyond normal face recognition, requiring a “facial landmark” – in other words, not only a specific face but a specific expression too. And thus we have a harrowing vision of our future – people allowing their smartphones to judge them daily on the quality of their gurning. No exaggeration.
To accommodate the ever-expanding definition of what constitutes unnecessary effort, the Japanese innovator Dr Hirotaka Osawa, from Tsukuba University, has come up with the arresting contraption below. It’s designed specifically for the purpose of what Hirotaka dubs “emotional labour”, which essentially refers to the arduous task of having a socially acceptable expression in your eyes at all times. The rationale behind this device, AgencyGlass, is to help the socially awkward, or simply people who are required by their job to look friendly and approachable, to put those around them at ease. As Osawa puts it, “This emotional support reduces a user’s cognitive load for social manners.” Whether this will actually do that or just give people that deep unease when they encounter anything wedged deeply within the uncanny valley… well, just watch the video really.
In the long tradition of roboticists shamelessly copying designs from the animal kingdom, Stanford University have come up with Stickybot. This intrepid little robot, which has feet specially designed to adhere to any surface, like a gecko’s, will doubtless prove to be the future of spying on your neighbours, or at the very least creeping them out while they’re home alone. But there’s more to this than just a walking robot with little bits of tape attached to its legs: Stickybot uses an artificial version of the skin found on geckos which uses tiny fibres to bond with even the very smoothest of surfaces. The video below shows it in action.
Like with many environmental disasters that people stopped talking about some time ago (Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, etc), the after-effects Fukushima disaster of three years ago are very much a current preoccupation for the people who actually live there. The innocently named “Drone Adventures” team went there recently in their drone-mobile to find out just how the irradiated area has been recovering, as can be seen in the video below. Enjoy!
Photo: Flickr, Linus Bohman