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the IEEE SSIT Talk on Lethal Autonomous Robots and the Plight of the Noncombatant by Dr Ronald C Arkin

Tues 31 March   2 – 4 pm    James HightUndercroft by Dr Ronald C Arkin, an IEEE SSIT Distinguished Lecturer


ABSTRACT: A recent meeting (May 2014) of the United Nations in Geneva regarding the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons considered the many issues surrounding the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems from a variety of legal, ethical, operational, and technical perspectives. Over 80 nations were represented and engaged in the discussion. This talk reprises the issues the author broached regarding the role of lethal autonomous robotic systems and warfare, and how if they are developed appropriately they may have the ability to significantly reduce civilian casualties in the battlespace. This can lead to a moral imperative for their use due to the enhanced likelihood of reduced noncombatant deaths. Nonetheless, if the usage of this technology is not properly addressed or is hastily deployed, it can lead to possible dystopian futures. This talk will encourage others to think of ways to approach the issues of restraining lethal autonomous systems from illegal or immoral actions in the context of both International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, whether through technology or legislation.


BIOGRAPHY: Ronald C. Arkin is Regents' Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. He served as  STINT visiting Professor at KTH in Stockholm, Sabbatical Chair at the Sony IDL in Tokyo, and in the Robotics and AI Group at LAAS/CNRS in Toulouse. Dr. Arkin's research interests include behavior-based control and action-oriented perception for mobile robots and UAVs, deliberative / reactive architectures, robot survivability, multiagent robotics, biorobotics, human-robot interaction, robot  ethics, and learning in autonomous systems. Prof. Arkin served on the Board of Governors of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) AdCom, and is a founding co-chair of IEEE RAS Technical Committee on Robot Ethics. He is a Distinguished Lecturer for the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology and a Fellow of the IEEE.


Canterbury researching sport to ensure even game


A University of Canterbury engineering PhD student is researching sports, such as table tennis, to ensure closer games for both better and less skilled players.

David Altimira has been researching in the university’s HIT Lab NZ to balance a game by giving the weaker player greater chances of success. He will present a paper to the 11th Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology Conference in Madeira, Portugal, in November.

As part of his project Altimira, who is collaborating with researchers from Melbourne’s RMIT University, changed the size of the table tennis bat and the table to make it more difficult for the better of the two players.

His supervisor, world croquet champion and University sports researcher Dr Jenny Clarke, says sensors were mounted under the table to detect and could project onto the table where the ball bounced and measured factors such as length of rallies and ball speed. He also used a ceiling-mounted camera to monitor other dynamics.

Dr Clarke says the research was aimed at getting more young New Zealanders to exercise. Nearly 11 percent of children in the 10 to 14 age group are obese and in adulthood, the proportion swells to 28 per cent.

David also had a better player using a half-sized bat or for that player to have to aim for a target area much smaller than the usual size of a table tennis table if their lead stretched out to six points.

A challenge can be more important than competition itself, especially if it is for fun. People might not like to play for competition but enjoy being challenged.

The motive behind this research could benefit families where the younger children are generally less skilled. The same applies in a social setting where some friends are much more skilled than others. This new system makes it competitive and fun for everyone.’’

Altimira, who has studied computer science in Barcelona and an internship in Chicago, says he digitally reconfigured one side of the table tennis table to make the target area more restricted for the better player to balance the game up.

This made it harder for the good player so overall we helped encourage people to do more physical exercise, which has mental, health and social benefits. Making it harder does not necessarily mean people will exercise more but by making physical activity more engaging it can increase people’s physical activity.’’


He can't dance but he's fit to print

Robot first of its kind in NZ and the plans are free online.



InMoov is a life-sized humanoid robot whose parts can be 3D-printed.

Meet InMoov. This C-3PO-like humanoid robot won't be able to boogie down, beat you at chess, or even fetch a cup of tea, but it's special for another reason.

It's the first humanoid robot 3D-printed in New Zealand.

Each component of the life-sized robot was downloaded as open-access hardware, and then printed by researchers at the University of Canterbury's Human Interface Technology Lab (HITLab).

"We've never done anything like this on this scale so it's something new and also very exciting," said Dr Christoph Bartneck, a robot expert at the lab.

The creation of French sculptor and model-maker Gael Langevin, the robot can be replicated on any 3D printer, opening up the world of robots to DIY hobbyists.

"Because it's an open-hardware project, it means that all of the blueprints and plans are available online - anyone can download the file and start printing it - and once you've done that you can make your own robot at quite a sophisticated level."

While it has only a torso, head and arms, it can talk, move in complex ways, grasp objects, recognise voices and has several in-built cameras.

InMoov, which aside from other parts costs about $1200 to assemble, is among a growing number of 3D-printable humanoids whirring into the global robot market.

Dr Bartneck said while InMoov's motors could be controlled to move and behave in certain ways, its brain was still empty.

"Hardware is not really the problem anymore - we can build robots reasonably well to do what we want them to do - but the main challenge we have now is the mind of the robot.

"How can it think, how can it be smart, and how can it act in the world?"

As robot engineers grappled with this hurdle, HITLab would be using InMoov as a resource platform for human behavioural studies.

"We have several robots in the lab of various shapes and sizes, but were interested in getting our hands on a life-sized robot."

People responded warmly to smaller, cuter robots, he said, "but once you scale up and have something as tall and maybe as powerful as you, then the way you interact may be more cautious".

"When you interact with humans, the natural tendency is to reciprocate the behaviour. Our question is, how would something like that work with robots?"

Another point of interest was what impacts robots might have on our language in the robot age.

"There are now more phones than humans on the planet, and most of these devices will become voice-enabled, so you can talk to them and they will talk back to you," said Dr Bartneck.

"The same thing will apply with robots - there will be more of them than us - and the question is, wouldn't they have considerable influence in the use and development of our own language?"

Watch a time-lapse video of InMoov being built at University of Canterbury's Human Interface Technology Lab here:

Robot projects will help aged

A suit to assist walking and a robotic arm to open hard-to-reach cupboard doors have been picked by the Government as robot research projects to help the elderly.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is today expected to announce a three-year, $150,000 investment in the two collaborations between New Zealand and Japanese robotics researchers.

One project led by Callaghan Innovation, the University of Auckland's Bioengineering Institute and Shinshu University, will investigate a walking suit to help the elderly with mobility.

The other project, involving the University of Auckland's Robotics Research Group, the University of Canterbury and three Japanese institutes, will focus on a lightweight robotic arm.

Dr Bruce MacDonald, director of the research group, said the arm was still in a concept stage, and a workshop with health sector representatives was scheduled for later in the year.

Robots have been trialled in Auckland and are serving as faithful companions to elderly patients in Gore, especially those needing long-term chronic care. Among other tasks, the healthbots check blood pressure and heart rate and send data to clinicians and caregivers.

NZ Herald


Eugene In Aotearoa - Robot Movie

Eugene in Aotearoa- Robot movie from HITLab on Vimeo.

This is a trailer for Eugene in Aotearoa that Eduardo and Mitchell made for Robot Film Festival 2014 and The Imagine Science Film Festival 2014 

The field of Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) is evolving quickly. Can robots develop emotional intelligence? To what extend robots can influence human behavior? Are humans capable to distinguish between genuine robot emotions and manipulation? Sandra Angelous has been researching Human Robot Interaction for most of her life. Finally she and her team have unified all the behavioural, social and psychological theories behind artificial intelligence. Her research is promising involving cloud computing resources and cutting edge robots that could suddenly change the future of our relationships forever.


Project on making a life-sized robot to study human-robot interactions

Eduardo Sandoval and Tim Pomroy were on Radio New Zealand to talk about there project to make a life-sized robot from 3D printed parts to study human-robot interactions.



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