Published on June 7th, 2012 | by Fred Betzner1
New Tech Round-Up: The Last Moment Robot Comforts You As You Die
Greetings tech heads, Fred here, and I’m glad that you’ve taken a break from watching your Facebook stock plummet and crying yourself to sleep to join us for another NEW TECH ROUND-UP. Today we have a very special installment for you: This Week in Unnecessary Robotics!
That’s right, as much as we love ridiculous new gadgets and gizmos, as much as I want my best friend Data to give me a tour of the Starship Enterprise, and as anxious as I am to meet a gruesome death only to be reborn with extendable arms and a helicopter in my head, most of the robotics news that comes across my desk is about as awesome as sharting yourself on an airplane. Which is to say: not very.
Take for instance the following stories collected from around the ‘net. As always, links to the source articles will appear at the bottom of the page, so please click through to the sites where you will find more information and will be 99% less likely to read the word “shart.”
“Take my hand, it is as cold and devoid of life as you are about to be.”
Artist, designer, and engineer Dan Chen has created the Last Moment Robot, a machine intended to comfort you as you die. The robot monitors your condition as you lie in bed, and when it senses your imminent passing it begins gently caressing your arm in a comforting manner and plays this recording:
I am the Last Moment Robot. I am here to help you and guide you through your last moment on Earth. I am sorry that your family and friends can’t be with you right now, but don’t be afraid. I am here to comfort you. You are not alone, you are with me. Your family and friends love you very much, they will remember you after you are gone.
..if you’ll just pardon me one moment.
STOP IT!!! STOP IT, DAN CHEN!!! Robots are for being awesome, vacuuming my rug while I’m not home, and occasionally leveling a city while fighting each other. STOP USING THEM TO MAKE ME HAVE FEELINGS! JERK!
Ahem, OK. I’m better now. More composed.
Seriously though, Mr. Chen is approaching this as an artist: he wants us to be uncomfortable with this, he wants us to think about what the existence of something like this means. And that, I think, is brilliant. The idea that a mechanical contraption with a tape player could be the last thing someone I love hears and sees before they die is a terrifying thought to me. I do not want that to happen. But good god, sir! For the sake of my emotional well being, how about next time making a robot that farts or something?
Speaking of Robot farts…
“I like fake butts and I can not lie…”
I mentioned this in passing a few weeks ago and even at that point it had been online for at least a few weeks, but I couldn’t not comment on this further. We now live in a world where the existence of what can accurately be described as a “realistic robot butt” is now old news. This has to be some sort of point of no return.
Years from now, the leader of a rag-tag group of freedom fighters talking to a guy who was frozen in 2011 then discovered and thawed-out by a patrol during an expedition around the perimeter of a robot overlord stronghold will say, “None of this ever would have happened–none of it–if it hadn’t been for that damn Robot Butt. Burn them and piss on their names, those who spat in the face of God and damned us all to a metal hell!”
So yeah, someone decided that the best part of the human body to perfectly mimic with robotics would be the buttocks. It reacts to a slap by tensing its “muscles” and presumably asking politely for another. This is supposed to be a stepping stone to a more complete realistic robot, but really, you start with the butt? Oh, and they named it Shiri.
Wait a second…
According to C|Net the goals of the project are “to advance the ‘innovative use of robotics technology and its purpose,’ and ‘to raise the argument as to what perceptions will be manifested in the minds of people who communicate with Shiri.’”
So if one perceives talking to Shiri to be difficult–for instance when she proves unhelpful, or unable to understand simple commands, or carry out your requests, in other words if she doesn’t live up to the promises made in the advertising promoting her–and therefore you’d like to smack her around a little…well, it’s just a butt…not like it’s an expensive phone that you’re stuck with until your damn contract runs out…um…perhaps I’ve gone a little far afield.
I. Don’t. Get it.
“Say hello to my little friend…no, no, the creepy one on my shoulder waving at you. The one that will haunt your nightmares.”
Professor Yuichi Tsumaki and his students at Yamagata University’s Telerobotics Lab have created a tiny robot with 20 points of articulation that rests on your shoulder and mimics the movements of someone you know sitting in a living room somewhere. Because you know…why the f&%* not. The little guy is hooked into a metal rig connected to a backpack and it’s not like you can see the avatar from the front…here, this is what it looks like:
I know! You were expecting the photo to help it all make sense, weren’t you? No dice. So let’s think about this: the wearer (you) can only see robot pal’s back and side; the dude on the couch can only see what the robot sees, which could easily be achieved with just a camera; so this would, in theory, be most to the benefit of the third person in this conversation, the one looking at you and your future-pirate shoulder buddy head-on — that is, if one could describe trying to talk to a person you know while a miniature robot ghost makes stabbing gestures at you as “benefiting” anyone. Also, there’s no mention of a speaker system in the article, so unless your fellow conversationalist is fluent in semaphore, the whole thing is rendered little more than creepy as s*#%.
Oh, and lest you think that, like the butt, this is a step on the way to something potentially revolutionary, this is Tsumaki’s stated endgame:
Oh, good, a terrifying robot child with uncanny strength who just wants to love me into a coma. Well, thank god it can’t climb.
What is Clothbot’s agenda?
It’s a robot designed to climb your jeans.
The immediate question that leaps to mind is “why?” But here’s the thing…NO ONE KNOWS! And aside from getting into a better position to attack my groin, I CAN’T FIGURE IT OUT EITHER!
The Act Classy Players present: A Dialogue on Clothbot.
Reporter: Say, Dr. Yuanyuan Liu, why does Clothbot exist?
Dr. Liu: Why, to climb pants, of course.
Reporter: OK, but why did you give him a hand that can hold a knife with an unbreakable grip?
Dr. Liu: Well, what if he needs to cut a thread from the hem of your shirt?
Dr. Liu: CLOTHBOT ATTACK!
Clothbot kills reporter, is recharged by his blood.
Message to scientists: Before you invest the time and effort and focus your obviously brilliant minds on something, take a moment and ask yourself (and maybe a non-scientist friend) if your idea has a DAMN POINT.