Japanese Convenience Stores Introduce AI-Powered Shelf-Stocking Robots

Family Mart, Japan’s second-largest convenience store chain, recently started using AI-powered robots to restock shelves, as a way to deal with the country’s fast-shrinking workforce.

The decline in labor population is one of the biggest threats to businesses operating in Japan, and some have already started looking for ways to replace human workers. Case in point, major convenience store chain Family Mart, a company has recently teamed up with Tokyo-based robotics company Telexistence to introduce AI-powered robots in hundreds of its stores across the country. The new “employees” will be in charge of replenishing drinks in refrigerators and are expected to make human workers’ jobs easier and, in some cases, replace them completely.

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Japanese Robotics Company Creates Humanoid Heavy Machinery

A Japanese robotics company has been getting a lot of attention for its unique heavy machinery – a humanoid industrial robot that can be remote controlled by a human.

With so much focus on artificial intelligence and concepts like ‘the singularity’, we sometimes forget that robots have been around for a long time and that they can be pretty valuable tools even without advanced machine learning or even the possibility to move around on their own. Think about the industrial robots in modern automated car factories, or those mine-clearing robots that help human lives, just to name a couple of examples. Now, one Japanese company is trying to bring attention back to these humble creations with an ingenious humanoid heavy-duty robot capable of performing all kinds of useful chores while also appealing to fans of mecha manga and anime.

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Chess-Playing Robot Breaks 7-Year-Old Boy’s Finger During Moscow Tournament

A computer-operated robotic arm reportedly grabbed and broke the finger of a seven-year-old boy during an exhibition chess match at the Moscow Open, last week.

Chess is probably one of the safest sports anyone can play, at least as far as potential bodily harm is involved. But when one of the players happens to be a powerful robotic arm and the other a 7-year-old-boy, things can apparently get pretty violent. In what has been described as an unprecedented incident, a chess-playing robot recently grabbed and broke the finger of a young boy during an exhibition match. The video of the shocking incident has been doing the rounds online and putting into question the safety of having children play against mechanical, computer-powered opponents.

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Japanese Inventor Creates Creepy Spider Night Lamp, Freaks Out the Internet

A Japanese IT engineer has created a creepy nigh lamp that crawls on robotic spider legs and leads you to the toilet in the middle of the night.

Don’t you hate when you have to answer nature’s call in the middle of the night? It’s pitch dark, you don’t know where you’re going and you don’t want to disturb the whole family by turning on the lights. Wouldn’t it be nice if a smart night lamp could light up the way from your bed to the toilet? Well, be careful what you wish for, because some night lamps can be downright disturbing. Case in point, this robotic spider lamp created by a Japanese IT engineer as a side project that has been freaking out Twitter for the past couple of days.

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Man Falls in Love With Humanoid Robot, Hopes to Marry It

An Australian man who has given up on finding a human partner claims to have found the next best thing – a humanoid robot named Emma.

Ever since his mother died a decade ago, Geoff Gallagher from Queensland, Australia, had only his dog, Penny, to soothe his loneliness. But then, a couple of years ago, he read an article about robots powered by artificial intelligence and decided to look into them. He found some intriguing commercially-available models, but at $AUD 6,000 ($4,350) each, they weren’t exactly cheap. Still, they looked so lifelike, could move their head and neck, smile, and even talk, so he decided they were worth the shot. He was not disappointed…

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Tech Company Will Pay $200,000 to Use Your Face and Voice on Its Robots

Russian robotics company Promobot recently announced plans to buy the rights to use someone’s face and voice on its robots forever for the price of $200,000.

Known for producing hyper-realistic, humanlike robots, Promobot is currently developing “a humanoid robot-assistant which will work in hotels, shopping malls and other crowded places,” and is in the market for a “kind and friendly” face to use on it. To that end, the Russian startup has announced that it is ready to pay $200,000 to anyone willing to transfer the rights to their face to Promobot forever. The company clarified that it will accept applications from people of all races and genders, with the ‘age 25 and over’ being the only requirement mentioned.

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Man Singlehandedly Builds Eerily Realistic Robot Arm Powered by Synthetic Muscles

A Polish robotics engineer recently posted a series of intriguing videos of what looks like a dextrous android arm powered by synthetic muscles.

Łukasz Koźlik, who goes under the moniker Automaton Robotics online, is a talented robotics engineer from Poland who has spent the last few years creating an incredible synthetic muscle arm that moves eerily like a human one. A firm believer in the idea that muscle mimicry is the key to fast, efficient, and affordable robots, Łukasz has been building on the concept of McKibben muscle, or pneumatic artificial muscles, creating a synthetic muscular system that allows robots to move their fingers and palms in a similar way to humans.

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You Can Now License Your Face to Be Used on a Humanoid Robot

If you’re short on cash and don’t mind selling the rights to your face, you can stand to make £100,000 ($130,000) by licensing your mug to a robotics company to be used on one of their humanoid robots.

According to a recent blog post by London-based outsourcing company Geomiq, a robotics company is currently looking for a “kind and friendly” to put on a humanoid robot once it goes into production. This will potentially entail using this person’s face on thousands of robots around the world, so the company is willing to pay no less than £100,000 ($130,000) in licensing fees. The robot in question is designed to be a “virtual friend” for elderly people, and is scheduled to go into production next year.

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Japanese Speed-Dating Event Has Potential Matches Sitting in Silence While Robots Do the Talking for Them

Based on the premise that people who are having trouble finding a romantic partner probably lack the confidence and experience to properly interact with a potential match, a Tokyo-based robotics association recently hosted a speed-dating party where human participants sat in silence across a table from each-other while tiny robots spoke on their behalf.

The bizarre event took place in Tokyo, Japan, and was organized by the Contents innovation Program (CiP) Association, which specializes in developing AI, robotics and other technology, according to The Japan News. In a series of videos posted on YouTube, potential matches can be seen sitting across from each other, but instead of talking, they just sit there quietly with their gazes focused on two little robots placed on the table between them. They just sit in silence while these robotic assistants ask each other questions and provide answers, based on information pre-loaded into their system from a 45-question survey participants completed prior to the event.

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14-Year-Old Boy Designs His Own Prosthetic Hand for Just $100

Unable to find a prosthetic hand that fit him him properly, Leonardo Viscarra, a 14-year-old boy from Bolivia, decided to build one himself, using 3D-printing technology.

Leonardo was born with an undeveloped left hand. As a fetus in his mother’s womb, the boy’s right hand was caught in the placenta and unable to develop properly. He was diagnosed with amniotic band syndrome at birth, and could never use his left hand for basic tasks like picking up or grabbing objects. However, an incident during his childhood sparked an interest in assembling and building things, which ultimately helped him achieve his goal of one day gaining almost full use of his undeveloped hand.

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Meet FORPHEUS, the World’s First Robot Table Tennis Tutor

An advanced robot developed by Japanese electronics company Omron has recently been certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s first robot table tennis tutor. FORPHEUS (Future Omron Robotics Technology for Exploring Possibility of Harmonized Automation with Sinic Theoretics) used machine learning to asses the skills of a human player, adjust its game accordingly and provide tips to help opponents improve their technique.

Unveiled at the Ceatec electronics show in Japan in 2014, FORPHEUS has come a long way in the last three years, especially after developers made a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. Originally designed to showcase Omron’s sensor technology, the table tennis-playing robot has now become a Guinness-certified tutor thanks to machine learning. It analyzes data like the human player’s movement, the speed of the ball and the trajectory to determine his opponent’s skill level with around 90% accuracy. FORPHEUS then uses this information to adjust its play style – slow and and easy for beginners, faster and more unpredictable for advanced players.

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Hong Kong Designer Creates Functional Scarlett Johansson Robot

Graphic designer Ricky Ma is making headlines for creating an incredibly realistic life-sized robot that resembles the beautiful Scarlett Johansson. The homemade cyborg can mimic a limited set of human movements using it’s head and limbs, and even respond to a set of programmed verbal commands spoken into a microphone. He’s even taught it to wink and say “thank you” when complimented on its looks.

Having grown up watching animated films featuring robots, Ricky had always dreamed of building one of his own. And now, at age 42, he’s managed to do just that, working from the balcony of his Hong Kong home. He had to teach himself everything about robotics from scratch, and spent over $50,000 building his first female prototype.

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15-Year-Old Becomes Youngest Person to Create Functional Life-Size Humanoid Robot

Inspired by the 2011 sci-fi film Real Steel starring Hugh Jackman, Greek teenager Dimitris Hatzis has become the youngest person in the world to build a 3D printed life-size functional robot. 

15-year-old Dimitris’s feat was a part of ‘InMoov’, an open source project run by French sculptor and designer Gael Langevin. The project provides a design that is “replicable on any home 3D printer with a 12x12x12cm area.” Using these instructions, Dimitris spent over 1,400 hours planning, experimenting, printing, and assembling the robot. Over the course of a year, he made 475 printed parts using about a kilometer of ABS plastic and painstakingly put them together to form the droid that he now calls ‘Troopy’.

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Meet Hitchbot, the Robot Hitchhiking His Way Across Canada

While picking up hitchhikers is generally considered unsafe, Canadian motorists are going to find it difficult to refuse this cute, fun-loving robot. His name is Hitchbot, and he’s about the size of a six-year-old child. Equipped with a GPS, 3G wireless connectivity, a camera, and a built-in child booster seat in its bum, he will soon try to catch rides all the way across Canada – from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

Throughout the coast-to-coast journey that starts on July 27, Hitchbot will be completely by himself. He is expected to find rides by signalling with the only movable part of its tiny body – his arm. He can talk too; researchers are expecting him to be able to charm his way into getting the rides that he needs. Along the way, he will even share all his adventures via social media. “It’ll sort of be like having an out-of-control teenager in your car, taking pictures of you and posting them on Facebook,” said David Harris Smith, the brains behind the project.

“Simply put, I am a free-spirited robot who wants to explore Canada and meet new friends along the way,” Hitchbot declares on his website. According to Smith, “Hitchbot can ask people if they have a story they would like to share with others and this would be posted as video to Hitchbot.me. We will moderate posts to avoid inappropriate content.”

hitchbot

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Get Served by a Robot Bartender at Germany’s Robots Bar & Lounge

Some bars use intriguing names just to attract clients, but the Robots Bar & Lounge in Ilmenau, Germany really lives up to its name. This unique venue not only has a technology-inspired decor, but also a humanoid robot bartender that mixes drinks and makes small talk with patrons.

The Robots Bar & Lounge just opened late last month, but it’s already hugely popular in the town of Ilmenau thanks to Carl, an unusual bartender who fits right in the techie atmosphere of the place. Carl is a humanoid robot built by mechatronics engineer Ben Schaefer out of parts from disused industrial robots. Schaefer says that although progress has been made in the field of robotics artificial intelligence is still in its infancy, but by placing a robot in an environment where it can observe and interact with real humans it’s much easier to test the programming and make necessary improvements than it would be in a closed laboratory. Apart from evolution, Carl’s secondary goal is to bring humans and robots closer together, and prove that “scenes from science-fiction movies are quite possible”. So far, the likable bartender is doing a great job, entertaining clients with his drink-mixing skills and the occasional small-talk. Unfortunately, his speech recognition skills and ability to interact are very limited at the moment, but like all bartenders he is a very good listener. To make sure he doesn’t bump into things and spill the drinks on his clients, Scahefer equipped Carl with a belt of sensors.

 

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