GeekSpeak for 2009-12-19

Some Radiation is Not Fun

Geeks Lyle, Al, and Miles cover the latest in shopping robots and Netflix lawsuits. Oh yeah, and cell phones don’t cause brain cancer.

Japanese robot helps out with grocery shopping

A humanoid robot has been deployed to a supermarket in Japan to help senior shoppers with their grocery purchases.

The modified version of the Robovie II robot developed by Japan’s Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, or ATR, is working as a temporary shopping assistant at Apita-Seikadai supermarket in Kyoto until March. It’s another experiment to test the viability of advanced personal robots in everyday situations.

Robovie can wirelessly receive a list of items selected beforehand by the customer, carry the shopping basket, and make recommendations about what to buy.

In the video below, the robot slowly follows a 67-year-old woman around the supermarket, carrying her basket, as they are followed by reporters. Robovie keeps telling the lady that the fruit she puts in the basket looks delicious, to which she agrees. It then suggests lettuce for a salad.

Robovie droid helps lost shoppers

The Osaka-based Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute (ATR) has developed a crowd-monitoring humanoid robot that recognizes when people are lost and helps them find their way.

In a series of demonstrations conducted from January 22 to 24, a souped-up version of ATR’s Robovie humanoid robot monitored people as they passed through a 100 square meter (1,076 sq ft) section of the Universal Citywalk Osaka shopping center. Relying on data from 16 cameras, 6 laser range finders and 9 RFID tag readers installed in and around the area, the robot was able to watch up to 20 people at a time, pinpoint their locations to within a few centimeters, and classify each individual’s behavior into one of 10 categories (waiting, wandering, walking fast, running, etc.).

Robot doppelgangers for sale

Department store operator Sogo & Seibu has announced plans to sell two humanoid robots custom-built to look like the people who purchase them.

Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro with his robot double —
Roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro already got his

The mechanical doppelgangers are available for a limited time as part of a special New Year’s promotional sale at Sogo, Seibu, and Robinson’s department stores. They will be built by Japanese robotics firm Kokoro, which is perhaps best known for its line of Actroid receptionist humanoids.

In addition to providing the robot with the owner’s face, body, hair, eyes and eyelashes, Kokoro will model the robot’s facial expressions and upper body movements after the buyer. The robot’s speech will be based on recordings of the owner’s voice.

Orders will be accepted from January 1 to 3 at any of Japan’s 28 Sogo, Seibu, or Robinson’s department stores. Only two robot twins are available, but given the hefty price tag of 20.1 million yen ($223,000) each, the stores will likely be hard-pressed to find any takers. If more than two orders are received, the purchasers will be selected in a random drawing.

Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab (1950-1951)

This was the most elaborate Atomic Energy educational set ever produced, but it was only only available from 1951 to 1952. Its relatively high price for the time ($50.00) and its sophistication were the explanation Gilbert gave for the set’s short lifespan. Today, it is so highly prized by collectors that a complete set can go for more than 100 times the original price.

Mobile Phones And Brain Tumours

“Even though mobile telephone use soared in the 1990s and afterward, brain tumours did not become any more common during this time, the researchers reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.”

Netflix Leaks Identity, Lawsuit Claims

“An in-the-closet lesbian mother is suing Netflix for privacy invasion, alleging the movie rental company made it possible for her to be outed when it disclosed insufficiently anonymous information about nearly half-a-million customers as part of its $1 million contest to improve its recommendation system.”

podcast of the week: They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants Friday Night Family Podcast

VirtualBox

VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). See “About VirtualBox” for an introduction.


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