Automatons for the people
A robot round-up, courtesy of this me-fi
, Japan's premiere consumer robot show saw the latest round of domestic technology on display (BBC summary here
). Of course, no-one needs
a robot in their lives - we've got on pretty well without them for a while. But the expectation is there, a seed sowed by countless fictions, whether literary or cinematic, and few now doubt that domestic robots will eventually become commonplace.
The huge popularity of Sony's
set the pace. Originally intended as a limited-edition technological showcase
(and priced accordingly), the interest generated by the robot dog (later cat, apparently) swiftly spawned cheaper, better second and third generation models. People love their AIBOs (webring
), and other, increasingly sophisticated robot pets
are swarming onto the market (related: Can a dog tell the difference?
What happens when AIBO meets a real dog: movie
. AIBO football
But will a robot ever be more than an expensive toy? For now, as one might expect, all eyes are on Japan. No-one quite knows what shape robots will ultimately take, so in order to make an emotional connection with what is essentially a mobile computer, anthropomorphism seems to be the best option (especially in a nation that worships cute). The other option is to imitate humans: leading the pack is Honda's Asimo
, a compact humanoid robot with a growing cult following. Still too expensive for the domestic consumer, and with little purpose in life save for climbing stairs and opening the NY stock exchange, Asimo is just a hint of things to come.
Other manufacturers aren't imitating us at all. Epson's tiny robot
seems to suggest swarms of intelligent machines (as long as they're not robotic crickets
), while Sanyo's Banryu
is an early attempt to create a robot with a purpose. The Banryu is a sort of surveillance device (for obsessives
who want a little bit extra), designed to lumber around your home sniffing out gas leaks, intruders, domestic terrorism and all the other things people obsess about from work. It'll then take a snapshot of the problem and send it to your mobile phone, so you get a little pixellated view of your smouldering bedroom. It's a great idea in principle, but one can't help wonder whether the target market would rather hold out for something with a bit more bite
. We have no idea what this
does at all.
Elsewhere. Paltry fuel efficiency
increases should allow for a few more years of SUV inflation. The UK branch of the World Monuments Fund
has lots of info about threatened buildings, but unsurprisingly the risk levels don't come close to certain hotspots: Erbil Citadel
, Nineveh Palace
. More conservation matters: one of SITE Architects' iconic BEST stores is apparently under threat
Unrelated. Faux innocent
illustration from Japan. See also the Cool Museum
, who has an eye for this sort of thing). Maison Neuve
is a magazine of ‘eclectic curiosity’. Pig Iron Malt
is a literary zine, while Fictionline
is a short story competition with lots and lots to read. Finally, Delve
is an 'exploration of visual culture', featuring great photography. We especially like Noah David Smith's Cars
and Ofer Wolberger's Anywhere
), both classic examples of 'No-place' photography. Issue 3 is devoted to the letter 'H
', Sesame Street-style.