Big dog is a joint project involving DARPA, NASA and Harvard University. It is an all terrain robot that can walk through snow, balance on ice and even avoid toppling over when kicked. Amazing!
Also, as the Berg Blog points out, the part of the video when Big Dog gets kicked provokes the same kind of negative emotions we would feel if seeing a real dog kicked. Is this a glimpse of something much larger – human machine empathy?
Socrata – A variety of data sets with a social vibe.
Timetric - Timetric aggregates statistics from the the world’s leading sources of economic data
Google Public Data Explorer – Anyone can upload data to Google’s newly launched search service.
Infochimps – Find every dataset in the world. Upload datasets and point to others across the internet. Datasets are easily browsed and the metadata is contributed by users.
Datamarket - UN, World Bank, Eurostat, Gapminder and others all contribute to 13,000 dataests (both paid and free).
Data.Gov – American government data
Data.Gov.Uk – UK government data
Get The Data – A forum of data geeks helping you with your data queries.
The internet has led to a boom in collaboration. Across fields as different as politics to programming – online collaboration has effected powerful changes to our world.
But what is collaboration? Etymologically, the first use of the word is credited to Jeremy Bentham – a liberal philosopher who supported animal rights and the abolition of slavery. Recording Bentham’s early use, the OED defined the word ‘collaborator’ as:
‘One who works in conjunction with others; esp. in literary, artistic, or scientific work.’
Here we see that collaboration is woven in with the idea of creativity. In more recent times the word has taken on tones of rebellion. Wordnet includes one of its definitions as:
‘[the] act of cooperating traitorously with an enemy that is occupying your country’
When these two senses are combined we can understand collaboration as creative rebellion.
The arrival of the world wide web has enabled humanity to move forward in leaps and bounds. It has destabilized old forms of power, fundamentally altered the media landscape and connected people all over the world. We are only at the early stages of the digital revolution and we expect further life-changing developments to come.
But what if robots could benefit from the internet in the same way? That is the question posed by the Roboearth project, a venture funded by the EU which intends to start building the world wide web for robots.
The idea behind RoboEarth is simple. Thousands of robots exist behind closed doors, but we never see them because they are usually programmed for very specific functions in very specific environments. Roboearth aims to change that by building a network where robots can upload their programming and connect with other robotic programmes.
The idea is that they will learn from one another and, according to the website, pave the way for “rapid advances in machine cognition and behaviour, and ultimately, for more subtle and sophisticated human-machine interaction”.In an interview with the BBC, Markus Waibel from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, described it as a Wikipedia for robots.
Obviously, all the worries about robots becoming our ‘overlords‘ have been bounding around the internet, and not without good cause. After all, this is the start of a worldwide robotic communication network that could exist independent of human input (kind of like Terminator’s SkyNet).
But I don’t think we need to worry quite yet. The ability for robots to share both environmental knowledge, object recognition and action databases will likely be the first step in robots stepping out of the factory and more into our daily lives.