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Spot, Boston Dynamics' robot dog, is finally for sale
The robotics company is allowing select companies to lease the semi-autonomous robot.
- Spot is a quadruped robot that uses a suite of sensors to navigate tough terrain.
- Although it can perform actions autonomously, the robot requires a human operator to complete more complex tasks.
- The consumer robot market is expected to grow by $30 billion over the next several years.
You might have seen Spot — the four-legged, semi-autonomous robot designed by Boston Dynamics — in video clips dancing to Bruno Mars or hauling a truck across a parking lot. Or maybe you recognize the robot dog from that one very disturbing post-apocalyptic episode of "Black Mirror".
Now, a handful of people will see Spot when they go to work: Boston Dynamics has begun leasing Spot to select companies who could benefit from having a robot helper in the field.
"Early customers are already testing Spot to monitor construction sites, provide remote inspection at gas, oil and power installations, and in public safety," Boston Dynamics said in the description of a new video posted to YouTube.
Spot is able to navigate rough terrain and self-right itself after falling, and companies have the option to install different modules onto the robot: a methane detector, mesh radio module, a robotic claw, and a LIDAR rig. Spot's other specs include:
- Top speed: 3 mph
- Average runtime: 90 minutes
- Carrying capacity: 30 pounds
Still, Spot isn't close to being fully autonomous, and completing more complex tasks, like opening a door, requires a human operator with a controller. But the robot can perform some tasks autonomously, such as retracing its steps through a worksite after a human has already guided it through the site.
There's also the undeniable fact that — despite its dancing skills and vaguely dog-like appearance — Spot is kind of creepy and uncanny; it moves precisely, unnaturally, and its canine frame suddenly freezes when it's no longer needed. But uncanniness aside, Boston Dynamics said safety is a priority, and Spot is currently only used in closed, controlled spaces.
"Fundamentally, we don't want to see Spot doing anything that harms people, even in a simulated way," Michael Perry, VP of business development at Boston Dynamics, told The Verge. "That's something we're pretty firm on when we talk to customers."
However, one concern is that Spot wasn't really designed to recognize and interpret specific things in its environment — most notably, humans. So, while Spot is able to navigate rough terrain with exceptional skill, it likely sees humans as just another obstacle on its map.
"Boston Dynamics has always been strong in mechanics and controls, like being able to shift the robot's weight properly," Henny Admoni, who works on Human-Robot interaction at Carnegie Mellon University, told The Verge. "But robots operating in human environments won't really have the option of avoiding humans. Integrating Human-Robot Interaction skills into development at an early stage is probably going to lead to greater success than trying to retrofit human interaction into existing systems."
It's still unclear exactly how much it costs to lease Spot, but Boston Dynamics told CNET:
"Our general guidance is that the total cost of the early adopter program lease will be less than the price of a car — but how nice a car will depend on the number of Spots leased and how long the customer will be leasing the robot."
In terms of dog-like robots, Spot is in many ways the opposite of Aibo, a series developed by Sony since 1999. Unlike Spot, Aibo is designed to be a robotic companion, and many owners say it's not that far off from owning a real dog. The most recent model, ERS-1000, grows smarter over time and actually changes its attitude and level of affection based on the positive or negative reinforcement you show it.
By 2022, the global consumer robot market is projected to grow from $3.8 billion to $34.1 billion, according to a report by research firm P&S Intelligence. The report predicts companion robots like Aibo will be the fastest growing category.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.
Women today are founding more businesses than ever. In 2018, they made up 40% of new entrepreneurs, yet in that same year, they received just 2.2% of all venture capital investment. The playing field is off-balance. So what can women do?
In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.