The Week's Best Robot Videos: A Polite Bartender and a Cranky Vacuum

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 11 2012 4:30 PM

The Week's Best Robot Videos: A Polite Bartender and a Cranky Vacuum

Every Friday, Future Tense rounds up the best robot videos of the week. Seen a great robot video? Tweet it to @FutureTenseNow, or email us.

This week, robots take a spanking, learn bar etiquette, and reluctantly clean the room.

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The Polite Bartender Bot

Robot bartenders are all the rage. A few weeks ago we saw a toy bot that couldn’t pour a drink, and last week Carnegie Mellon University showed off a more functional bot for fetching drinks and snacks. Now, from the EU-funded JAMES Project, comes a bot designed to bartend in a “socially appropriate” manner. Specifically, the bot knows to serve people in the order they step up to the bar—it then acknowledges them and lets them know they’ll be helped shortly. How polite! If this could bring an end to line-jumpers, and if we could all save the cash we drop on tips, the age of the robot bartender could be a pretty great thing.

The Vocal Vacuum Bot

Nobody really likes vacuuming, so why expect a vacuum to enjoy its job? Cocorobo, which combines the Japanese words for “heart” and “robot,” can communicate with users in several ways—not least of which is talking back. In this demonstration, when asked how it’s doing, poor little Cocorobo says it just wants a break. And when it’s told to clean up? “OK, OK …” The bot, made by the Japanese electronics company Sharp, can also send photos and stream video to smartphones, so you can get an up-close look at your dirty floors. Sharp hopes to expand the bot’s functions to connect with other household devices so it can turn on the lights, the A/C, or the TV. Starting in June, you can travel to Japan to pick up your very own Cocorobo for about $1,600, which is a small price to pay for a machine that does the chores you both hate.

The (Sort of NSFW) Cheeky Bot

How many times have you looked at a robot and thought, “That’s cool, but can I spank it?” Right, well, apparently that thought crossed someone’s mind at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo. Shiri is designed to respond to touches and slaps like a human butt, and its “muscles” also mimic their human counterparts to clench and twitch in the ways you might expect. It also “represents emotions with visual and tactual transformation of the muscles.” One of the stated goals of the project is “to raise the argument as to what perceptions will be manifested in the minds of people who communicate with Shiri.” I’m going with “weird,” but if your mind manifested a different perception, argue away.

Via Mashable.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Adam Sneed is a researcher for Future Tense at the New America Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @atsneed.

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