Allergies might never be a concern again.
- University of Portsmouth researchers held play sessions with real dogs and their biomimetic counterparts.
- The more time school children spent with the robot dog, the higher their opinion of him.
- Robotic dogs could offer an entirely new line of emotional support animals.
Credit: goodmoments / Adobe Stock<p>Study supervisor, Dr Leanne Proops, knows the emotional impact that real dogs have on children and adults alike. Yet many people suffer from allergies, while others are on high alert for diseases transmitted across species. There's also liability concerns; lawsuits over biting dogs happen. And, of course, the expense of animals is prohibitive to some. Robots could fill a void.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This preliminary study has found that biomimetic robots -- robots that mimic animal behaviours -- may be a suitable replacement in certain situations and there are some benefits to using them over a real dog."</p><p>Move over Animal Assisted Interventions. Welcome to Robot Assisted Interventions. </p><p>As the authors note, robot pets already exist. A <a href="http://www.parorobots.com/" target="_blank">robotic seal named Paro</a> is designed to keep seniors company. Social robots help stroke victims during rehabilitation and have proven useful in communicating with autistic children. </p><p>Despite the fascination, this story doesn't end like the film "Her." The pre-teens preferred the real animals, not the metal imposter. That said, the more time they spent with the robot, the fonder they became of him. The team chose dogs for this pilot study given their ubiquity and our longstanding positive relationship with them. </p><p>As part of the study, each participant filled out a questionnaire about their biophilic beliefs. Interestingly, animistic beliefs played a role—how willing they were to ascribe agency to the robot. The "realer" the robot felt, the more positive the affect. </p><p>Moving forward, robot support animals could help people unable to care for or be around actual animals. As Proops concludes, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This is a small-scale study, but the results show that interactive robotic animals could be used as a good comparison to live dogs in research, and a useful alternative to traditional animal therapy."</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
A new MIT report proposes how humans should prepare for the age of automation and artificial intelligence.
- A new report by MIT experts proposes what humans should do to prepare for the age of automation.
- The rise of intelligent machines is coming but it's important to resolve human issues first.
- Improving economic inequality, skills training, and investment in innovation are necessary steps.
1. Increase private sector investment in skills and training<p>The group pinpoints the importance of private sector investment in training employees, especially with the purpose of increasing the upward mobility for lower-wage and less-educated workers. This will particularly affect minority workers, who are overrepresented in this group. The report estimates only about half of employees get training from their employers in any given year. </p>
2. Significantly increase federal funding for training programs<p>The report advocates getting the government to fund training programs that can help lead to middle-class jobs for workers who don't have a four-year college degree. </p>
3. Support community colleges<p>The research team thinks community colleges should be supported by the federal government's money and policies to advance programs that connect employers to the education being received by students. The policies should be aimed at raising degree completion rates at community colleges. </p>
4. Invest in innovative training methods<p>Demonstration and field testing programs that work out new retraining and reemployment ideas should be given particular focus, according to the MIT scientists. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Innovation improves the quantity, quality, and variety of work that a worker can accomplish in a given time," <a href="https://workofthefuture.mit.edu/research-post/the-work-of-the-future-building-better-jobs-in-an-age-of-intelligent-machines/" target="_blank">wrote</a> the report's authors. "This rising productivity, in turn, enables improving living standards and the flourishing of human endeavors. Indeed, in what should be a virtuous cycle, rising productivity provides society with the resources to invest in those whose livelihoods are disrupted by the changing structure of work.</p>
5. Restore the real value of the federal minimum wage<p>The report spotlights the growing economic disparity between low-paid workers and the rest of society. Compared to Canadians, for example, low-paid Americans earn 26 percent less. Government policy should make sure people in traditionally low-paid service jobs like cleaning, groundskeeping, food service, entertainment, recreation, and health assistance get adequate pay and some economic security. To that end, the researchers propose that the minimum wage should be raised to at least 40 percent of the national median wage. This value should also be indexed to inflation. </p>
6. Modernize and extend unemployment insurance (UI) benefits<p>Several measures are recommended to improve unemployment insurance and extend it to workers that aren't usually covered. The report suggests allowing workers to count their most recent earnings to determine eligibility, determining eligibility based on hours rather than earnings, dropping the requirement that unemployed seek full-time work (because many hold part-time jobs), and reforming partial UI benefits from the states. </p>
7. Strengthen and adapt labor laws<p>Labor laws need to be both improved and better enforced, states the report. Contraction of private sector labor unions makes it harder for rank-and-file workers to bargain for wage growth that matches the growth of productivity growth. How workers are represented needs to be innovated as much as the technologies. Current U.S. laws "retard the development of alternative approaches," write the researchers. For example, due to racial politics during the New Deal, sectors of the American workforce like domestic workers and agricultural workers are unable to participate in collective bargaining.</p>
8. Increase federal research spending<p>In a proposal aimed at fostering innovation and making sure its benefits are experienced by workers, the MIT group thinks it's key to increase government spending on research, especially in areas not addressed by the private sector. These tend to involve longer-term research that addresses the social impacts of new technologies, zeroing in on major national problems, climate change, human health and similar larger research topics. Investing into research on human-centered AI, collaborative robotics and the science of education should be a part of this approach.</p><p>Small and medium-sized businesses should receive targeted government assistance to allow them to increase productivity via the new tech, advises the MIT team. </p>
9. Expand the geography of innovation in the United States<p>Innovation is increasingly "concentrated geographically," think the researchers. For a country that has so many universities, entrepreneurs, and workers that are spread throughout, the benefits of innovation should be made available not only to more workers, but also to more of the country's regions. Each state can have its own Silicon Valley.</p>
10. Rebalance taxes on capital and labor<p>Innovation is necessary in the tax law as well, according to the report. It's important to change the manner in which the current tax code "unduly favors investments in capital" by eliminating accelerated depreciation allowances, applying corporate income tax equally to all corporations, and instituting an employer training tax credit.</p><p><a href="https://workofthefuture.mit.edu/research-post/the-work-of-the-future-building-better-jobs-in-an-age-of-intelligent-machines/" target="_blank">Read the full report here.</a></p>
They're made from stretchy, electroactive polymer films.
- The contact lens is made mainly from stretchy, electroactive polymer films.
- It's able to recognize subtle electrooculographic signals that we generate in the tissues near the eye.
- Samsung also recently filed a patent to develop what appear to be smart contact lenses.
Cai et al.<p>For now it's just a prototype — one that's too big to fit in the human eye, and which requires people wear conspicuous electrodes on their face. But the researchers suggested the system could someday be used "in visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely operated robotics in the future."</p><p>Samsung also appears interested in developing smart contacts. The South Korean company was recently <a href="https://www.wareable.com/ar/samsung-smart-contact-lens-augmented-reality-7459" target="_blank">granted a patent for lens technology</a> that could include augmented reality, projecting light directly onto the user's retina, motion sensing and a camera. The patent also includes a tiny antenna, suggesting it might be able to pair with an external device like a smartphone.</p><p>But even if developers can surpass the technological hurdles, it'll take years before any smart contact lens proves safe enough to make it market. </p>
Some say the proliferation of sex robots could lead to less demand for prostitution, but not all agree.
- A Toronto-based sex robot brothel plans to open another location in Houston.
- Some critics argue that the proliferation of sex robots would lead to increases in prostitution and sex trafficking.
- Others say that such technology could help some people find a degree of much-needed companionship.
How would sex robots affect rates of prostitution?<p>One argument, to which <a href="https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/technology/calls-mount-for-regulation-of-sex-robots" target="_blank">Gavriel subscribes</a>, says that increased availability of sex robots would reduce the demand for human prostitutes. It's an idea tangentially related to the <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-sex/201601/evidence-mounts-more-porn-less-sexual-assault" target="_blank">longstanding body of research</a> that shows countries tend to see decreases in sexual assaults and rape after they legalize porn.</p><p>In his bestselling book <em>Love and Sex with Robots</em>, A.I. researcher David Levy explores the future of human relationships with robots and suggests that sex robots could reduce prostitution rates, or even someday render it obsolete.</p><p>But that's "highly speculative philosophy," according to Richardson.</p><p>"The reality is that it will just become a new niche market within the pornography industry and within the prostitution trade," she said in an <a href="https://www.feministcurrent.com/2017/06/02/interview-kathleen-richardson-makes-case-sex-robots/" target="_blank">interview</a> with <em>Feminist Current</em>. "If people buy into the idea that you can have these dolls as part of your sexual fetish, it will become another burden that actual living human beings will have to undergo in the commercial sex trade."</p><p><img src="https://assets.rbl.ms/18653893/980x.jpg"></p><p><em>A sex doll sold by Kinky S Dolls.</em><br></p><p>Richardson elaborated on this idea in her paper.</p><p>"...studies have found that the introduction of new technology supports and contributes to the expansion of the sex industry," she wrote. "Prostitution and pornography production also rises with the growth of the internet. In 1990, 5.6 percent of men reported paying for sex in their lifetime, by 2000, this had increased to 8.8 percent."</p><p>However, those rates aren't necessarily causally linked.</p><p>Richardson also wrote that if sex toys, such as RealDolls and blow-up dolls, actually led to lower prostitution demand then we would have already seen decreases, but "no such correlation is found."</p><p>Still, that last point might soon become invalid as a sort of apples-to-oranges comparison if technology can produce artificially intelligent and lifelike sex robots unlike anything the industry has seen before.</p>
An illusion of companionship<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODY1NDMxMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTA4NDExMH0.FKivxOigePM6JijyRIgmterXIYpDCg9Aq-a4SaZDltk/img.jpg?width=980" id="82a9c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="38eee6a16139c4b6922090b34586f98c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Image: Film4, from the 2015 film 'Ex Machina'" />
Image: Film4, from the 2015 film 'Ex Machina'<p>Critics argue that the proliferation of sex robots would serve to reinforce the objectification of women in men's minds, and also reduce the ability for some men to empathize, a necessary component of healthy social interaction.</p><p>Houstonian Andrea Paul voiced a simpler <a href="https://news4sanantonio.com/news/nation-world/sex-robot-brothel-to-open-in-houston-neighborhood" target="_blank">objection to the brothel:</a></p><p>"There's kids around here and it's a family-oriented neighborhood and I live right here and to have that here is just gross."</p><p>Gross, sure. But to Matt McMullen, creator of the <a href="https://www.realdoll.com/" target="_blank">RealDoll</a>, the future of sex robots looks a bit more uplifting.</p><p>"My goal, in a very simple way, is to make people happy," McMullen told <a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/abyss-creations-ai-sex-robots-headed-to-your-bed-and-heart/" target="_blank"><em>CNET</em></a>. "There are a lot of people out there, for one reason or another, who have difficulty forming traditional relationships with other people. It's really all about giving those people some level of companionship—or the illusion of companionship."</p>
Miles away from the site of the site of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea, eight teams raced skiing robots down a mountain for a chance to win $10,000.