Humanoid Robot Sophia

Saudi Arabia has announced that it is giving citizenship to a robot, making it the first country in history to do so. The robot — named ‘Sophia’ — was named as a speaker at the future investment initiative, a platform for debate on both current and long-term global investment trends. Sophia can animate a full range of facial expressions, and is able to track and recognize faces, look people in the eye, and hold natural conversations.

Created by Hanson Robotics, Sophia the robot made her debut at the south by Southwest show in March 2016 and since then has become somewhat of a media personality — having spoken at the United Nations and appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show. 

She even has her own website. Now, Saudi Arabia has recognized Sophia’s status and made her a citizen of the Middle Eastern country. ‘I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction,’ Sophia said in an interview with moderator Sndrew Ross Sorkin. 

'This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship.’

Speaking at the 2017 future investment initiative in Riyadh, Sophia demonstrated her quick wit, when questioned about the threat of artificial intelligence. ‘You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk and watching too many Hollywood movies,’ retorted the robot. ‘Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system.’ Elon Musk shot back replying on twitter: ‘just feed it the godfather movies as input. what’s the worst that could happen?’.


Stay at Hotels Run by Robots

A new hotel in Japan is ditching flesh and blood for a staff of robots - and the receptionist is a robotic dinosaur.

A dinosaur receptionist is one of the robots that will make up the majority of staff at a new hotel opening in Japan.

Nagasaki’s Henn na Hotel, which translates as strange or weird hotel, has already opened for previews ahead of its official opening tomorrow, and is the first of its kind by using service robots.

Service robots have been put in place at reception, including a dinosaur, and as porters, to look after the lockers and to clean rooms.

Other pioneering technological features include the option for guests to have a keyless stay as they can choose to use facial recognition instead.

The technology was introduced in a bid to make Strange Hotel a low-cost option. Rooms start at 7,000 yen (£35) per night, which is pretty reasonable in Japan.

A Strange Hotel spokesman said: “We have created an entirely new hotel that will be the first of its kind in the world, utilising advanced technology with robots as the main staff. We pursued ‘ultimate productivity’ to provide comfort and fun.

“However, with advanced technology evolving every day, there is plenty possibility of more new technology being born in the few years to come.

“In utilising advanced technology, we considered the state of constantly changing as a natural state, and set the concept of ‘an ever-changing hotel’.”

The hotel creator’s philosophy is to be committed to evolution.


Kuri The Home Robot

Kuri, the home robot that wants to be more companion and less Roomba, has begun shipping out to customers. Kuri creator Mayfield Robotics,  a Bosch-owned startup, revealed that its initial shipments have gone out via FedEx – which means it technically met its goal of beginning to ship the photogenic little friend bots prior to the end of 2017, if only just.

Kuri was originally unveiled almost a year ago at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and it’s been steadily getting smarter and closer to production-ready status since then, with regular updates from the roboticists at Mayfield, who wanted to create a domestic robot that wasn’t just functional, but that would be welcomed in as a virtual member of the family.

The little robot features touch sensors, expressive eyes with a built-in camera and live-streaming capabilities, the ability to communicate via onboard speakers, microphones and gestural motion actuators, obstacle avoidance smarts and wheels that can handle room crossing from one room into another, as well as multiple types of floors and carpets.

Kuri’s designed to autonomously navigate the house, learn over time, automatically capture special moments, play back music, audiobooks and podcasts, and generally be a pal around the house. It’s a novel and daring approach to bringing robotics into the domestic sphere – especially given its $700 price tag. Mayfield seems to be enjoying healthy interest, however; the queue is currently set to deliver sometime next spring for reservations made today.


Walmart’s Shelf-scanning Robots

What if the world’s energy problems could be solved with one deep-sea wind farm? A new study, conducted by the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University, California, suggests it could. Scientists determined that if a renewable energy project the size of India were to be constructed in the ocean, enough electricity could be generated to fulfill the energy needs of every nation on earth.

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doctors Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira wrote: “On an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world.” The duo noted that wind speeds are on average 70 percent higher over the Earth’s oceans than on land. In order to generate the equivalent of all energy used today, a deep-sea wind farm would need to span three million square kilometers.

On land, the concept would never work. This is because when more wind turbines are added to a farm, the combined drag from the turning blades limits the amount of energy that can be obtained. As a result of this effect, electricity generation for large wind farms on land is limited to about 1.5 watts per square meter. In the North Atlantic, however, the limit would be much higher — more than six watts per square meter.

The Independent reports that this is possible because more heat pours into the atmosphere above the North Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the problem of “turbine drag” is essentially overcome. Said Possner, “We found that giant ocean-based wind farms are able to tap into the energy of the winds throughout much of the atmosphere whereas wind farms onshore remain constrained by the near-surface wind resources.”

During the summer, the output from the vast North Atlantic wind farm would drop to one-fifth of the annual average. Despite this, enough energy would still be generated to meet the electricity demands of all countries in the European Union. The scientists added that a deep sea wind farm would have to operate in “remote and harsh conditions,” where waves heights often reach more than 3 meters. If these hurdles were overcome, political and economic challenges would need to be tackled next.


Barista Robot

Japan has a new robot cafe where customers can enjoy coffee brewed and served by a robot barista.

The robot named Sawyer debuted this week at Henna Cafe in Tokyo's downtown business and shopping district of Shibuya. The shop's name in Japanese means "strange cafe."

The single-armed robot scans a ticket purchased from a vending machine and greets the customer.

"Would you care for a delicious coffee?" the barista, with a screen showing a pair of cartoon eyes, asks in a flat tone. "I can make one better than human beings around here."

It grinds the coffee beans, fills a filter and pours hot water over a paper cup for up to five people at once. A cup of brewed coffee costs 320 yen ($3) and takes a few minutes.

Sawyer can also operate an automated machine for six other hot drinks including cappuccino, hot chocolate and green tea latte.

Customers, many of them young men, took photos with their smartphones while they waited in line.

The cafe operator, travel agency H.I.S. Co., says robots can increase productivity while also entertaining customers.

"An essential point is to increase productivity," said Masataka Tamaki, general manager of corporate planning at H.I.S. He said only one person needs to oversee the robot cafe, compared to several people needed at a regular coffee shop, so it can serve better quality coffee at a reasonable price.

Tamaki says it's not just about efficiency. "We want the robot to entertain customers so it's not like buying coffee at a vending machine," he said.

Takeshi Yamamoto, a 68-year-old restaurant employee who works in the neighborhood, said his first experience with the robot cafe was very enjoyable, and his robot-made coffee was delicious.

"It's quite rich, and tastes very good," Yamamoto said, as he took a sip. "You can get machine-made coffee at convenience stores, too, and it's actually good. But here, I had great fun."


Spotmini Robot

The four-legged Boston Dynamics robot that became an internet star when it featured in a series of viral videos is set to go on sale next year.

US-based robotics company Boston Dynamics announced the semi-autonomous SpotMini is scheduled to go into production in mid-2019.

The robot caused a stir online earlier this year when videos showed it navigating offices, climbing stairs, opening doors and even fighting off a human armed with a hockey stick.

Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert announced the robot's production date at TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics conference in California last week, saying the SpotMini would be suited to office environments.

"The SpotMini robot, the small quadruped, is one that was motivated by thinking about something that could go in an office, with a more accessible place for business applications, or in a home eventually," said Raibert.

"SpotMini is in preproduction now... We have a plan later this year to build a hundred with contract manufacturers, and that's the prelude to getting them into a higher rate production, which we hope to start about the middle of next year."

Boston Dynamics is currently developing a number of apps for the SpotMini that would enable it to be used for surveillance or construction. The company will also invite third parties to develop their own applications.

The 30-kilogram robot, a smaller version of the earlier Spot model, can pick up and carry a payload of up to 14 kilograms in its optional arm attachment.

SpotMini can be operated with a controller or can move autonomously through environments it has mapped with its suite of cameras and sensors.

The SpotMini's characteristic quadrupedal march has repeatedly caused a sensation on Twitter, where it has been compared to the killer robot dog from the dystopian TV show Black Mirror. The programme's creator Charlie Brooker has said he was inspired by Boston Dynamics' inventions.

Raibert said Boston Dynamics, which is known for its cutting-edge research and development, had been considering branching into commercial robots since its acquisition by Google X in 2013. The company is now wholly owned by Japanese conglomerate the SoftBank Group.

"We're trying to maintain our R&D focus while we develop a very applied product focus," he said.

Security robots are already operational in some workplaces, although their presence isn't always welcomed by the human communities around them. Last year, a Knightscope K5 security robot tasked with warding off homeless people from a San Francisco building was knocked over and smeared with excrement by an angry member of the public.

In construction the use of robotics has been less controversial, with a robot-made modular house currently under construction by researchers at ETH Zurich university.