Military Robots Can Follow Hand Signals

Brown University researchers have modified iRobots Packbot to recognise such standard hand/arm signals as “follow,” “halt,” “wait” and – of course – “door breach”.

iRobots Warrior X700 Robot

40mm Grenade Launcher with ammo stored in barrel storage for rapid (all at once) firing. A 4 barrel version mounted on the iRobot Warrior X700 tracked “droid” has been demonstrated.

iRobot webpage for the warrior robot program.

0 thoughts on “Military Robots Can Follow Hand Signals”

  1. I read Fantastic Voyage, The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near, and they changed my life. I even found some of his lectures on Itunes and I find myself impatiently awaiting his next book.

    Recently read another incredible book that I can’t recommend highly enough, especially to all of you who also love Ray Kurzweil’s work. The book is “”My Stroke of Insight”” by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. I had heard Dr Taylor’s talk on the TED dot com site and I have to say, it changed my world. It’s spreading virally all over the internet and the book is now a NYTimes Bestseller, so I’m not the only one, but it is the most amazing talk, and the most impactful book I’ve read in years. (Dr T also was named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and Oprah had her on her Soul Series last month and I hear they’re making a movie about her story so you may already have heard of her)
    If you haven’t heard Dr Taylor’s TEDTalk, that’s an absolute must. The book is more and deeper and better, but start with the video (it’s 18 minutes). Basically, her story is that she was a 37 yr old Harvard brain scientist who had a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. Because of her knowledge of how the brain works, and thanks to her amazingly loving and kind mother, she eventually fully recovered (and that part of the book detailing how she did it is inspirational).

    There’s a lot of learning and magic in the book, but the reason I so highly recommend My Stroke of Insight to this discussion, is because we have powerfully intelligent left brains that are rational, logical, sequential and grounded in detail and time, and then we have our kinesthetic right brains, where we experience intuition and peace and euphoria. Now that Kurzweil has got us taking all those vitamins and living our best “”Fantastic Voyage”” , the absolute necessity is that we read My Stroke of Insight and learn from Dr Taylor how to achieve balance between our right and left brains. Enjoy!

  2. “It does not matter if computers use different methods to solve the problems. So long as the problems are solved.”

    Yeah, I’m fine with it. Just don’t call it “intelligent”, okay? Because it’s not. It’s just an engine. A tv set. A calculator. A bunch of human-computed data-bases.

    Intelligence would require same speed of moves-per-second of thought (like 5-50) and still play as good as a human. I dare you to find a machine capable of such!

    There’s a difference between having a 50GB data-base of writings and knowing how to write you know?

    And about letting computers drive our management, yes, I’ve been aware of that, but still it is not “intelligence”. It’s only a series of intelligently design computations of “if ->then” attributed to make automated work. But I’d still keep very intelligent human beings monitoring the decisions. Wouldn’t you?

    It’s very important not to confuse AI with these bots.


    ” Every scientist knows it’s solvable in principle. “

    It’s rather difficult when we have problems even determining what are the principles of it. But yes, I agree that it may be possible. I’d be quite stunned if I ever found out a scientist who “Knew” it was possible. Perhaps faithful or optimist about it.

  3. Would you hire stock brokers to make financial trades based on a set of conditions happening in world markets? The fact that some of them on some shifts could get tired might result in errors.
    Most of the worlds companies have chosen to use computers and programmed trading as cheaper and more effective.

    Smart, dumb, intelligent, just a database, jobs displaced and more effectively done.

  4. Barba,

    For chess you are talking about 1 person Kasparov being able to compete with a better computer (1997 computer, a lot of machines can now get loaded with the software and do as well or better.)

    by 2003, Fritz ran on four Intel Pentium 4 Xeon CPUs at 2.8 GHz and was drawing matches with Kasparov.

    99.99999% of people cannot beat the cheapest PC in chess against one of the better chess playing programs.

    AGI does not have to be better than all humans (although it can be) The economic effects start happening once they are better than an average human and at lower cost.

    It does not matter if computers use different methods to solve the problems. So long as the problems are solved.

  5. GW, may I respectfully disagree?

    AI is not smarter than humans at all. Given your more recent posts, yes, I can see the advantages and the already made solutions for robotic displacements of human labor, and the increase on productivity, but those ain’t particularly difficult AI tasks, are they? You were discussing AI, not robotics. Don’t change the subject. You were proposing that the singularity would come with AI displacing human management.

    When it comes to chess and checkers, you could have a point, but alas, you do not. You see, chess is a tree problem, and quite a big one at that. However, if you put a calculator sufficiently powerful enough to calculate all the moves, then you may be able to make “good” moves, but I would hardly call that “Intelligence”. For the sake of illustration, imagine that Kasparov is able to calculate 50 moves per second. An unreal possibility, but still. Deep Blue calculated dozens of millions per second. And yet, Kasparov outplayed Deep Blue, only fatigue and the surprise effect (unlike DB, Kasparov knew nothing about the opponent’s abilities) did defeat him. It’s like having an army of fifty outplaying an army of fifty million. How’s that even comparable?

    Computer’s aren’t smart nor intelligent. They are only giant calculators performing human-made programs and equations, without self-induced innovation.

    Unlike Chess or checkers, you give the computer a non-tree based problem, full of uncertainties and infinitesimal placements, and see what happens to the machine which calculates things millions of times faster than humans: they short-circuit.

    We are eons far from AI.

  6. Just the process of automatic discovery at a slightly higher level than currently exists would be sufficient as a form of AI to bring about an exponential increase in the economy. Already there are systems for automatic drug discovery,prospecting, algorithms , hypothesis testing,… the list goes on. We’re not that far from vastly more capable systems, even if there is no improvement to current designs and only Moore’s law continues.

    The need for computers to speak, emote, play, cook breakfast/brush our teeth/dress us is just icing on a cake.


    AI is already a multi-billion dollar industry that controls most financial transactions. It is the software tricks of the 60-90s applied as tools.

    You are referring to AGI (artificial general intelligence) where machines are smarter than people or as smart as people in broad intelligence tasks.

    Machines/software are already better than people in many specific tasks. Chess, checkers, expert systems for some medical diagnosis etc… Robotics can also perform tasks like vacuuming (Roomba) and bomb removal etc…

    What matters is the economics – can automation and robotics replace people for jobs and can they enhance human economic productivity (multiply human productivity). I think the answer is clearly Yes and has been in a large scale way since the time of Henry Ford. Will there be more impact in the future. Yes.

    I don’t care about intelligence per se. I care about productivity. Productivity can be measured and is a concept that does not have as much biases built in.

    Talking about productivity shifts means that automation and process improvement all count for helping make the improvement. It also means that humans still have a role. whatever is not automated becomes more valuable. (see the Hanson article).

  8. There only a handful of individuals who think that AGI is solvable in the next few years to decades. There are plenty of transhumanist believers, but few intelligent enough to solve the problem and far more skeptics who believe the problem is too dificult to even try. Every scientist knows it’s solvable in principle. Only the philosophers – who do nothing at all – disagree. And how convenient to be a philosopher who accomplishes nothing. Not all philosophers are like this, even some scientists share this disposition.

  9. You’ve been reading far too much sci-fi, gw…

    I sincerely doubt that AI is just round the corner. There are just too many unknowns about intelligence that we still have to find out, learn and then mimic.

    All these things seem to me as a wishful thinking that comes from christian rapture thinking, rather than common sense and reason.


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