90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
The Rise Of Robots In Our Everyday Lives

Robot love, robot work, “killer robots” – we get the latest on robots moving deeper into life.

Kaname Hayashi, a project leader of Humanoid Robots "Pepper," talks with the robot at SoftBank Mobile shop in Tokyo, Friday, June 6, 2014. The cooing, gesturing humanoid on wheels that can decipher emotions has been unveiled in Japan by billionaire Masayoshi Son who says robots should be tender and make people smile. (AP)

Kaname Hayashi, a project leader of Humanoid Robots “Pepper,” talks with the robot at SoftBank Mobile shop in Tokyo, Friday, June 6, 2014. The cooing, gesturing humanoid on wheels that can decipher emotions has been unveiled in Japan by billionaire Masayoshi Son who says robots should be tender and make people smile. (AP)

Human imagination got so far out front, so fast, on robots that robot reality has been vaguely disappointing for a long time.  Isaac Asimov and “WALL-E” and the Terminator put our real robots to shame.  They still do.  But things are changing.  Sensors and chips and AI and mechanics and “the cloud” are coming together to push robot dreams and reality into new terrain.  There is need – we have aging societies that could use the help.  There is risk – talk of jobs lost to robots and “killer robots.”  And there is reality – they’re moving in.  This hour On Point:  the rise of the robots.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Oliver Morton, briefings editor at The Economist. (@Eaterofsun)

Ken Goldberg, roboticist and professor of industrial engineering and operations research in robotics, automation and new media at the University of California, Berkeley. Author of “The Robot in the Garden.” (@ken_goldberg)

Howie Choset, professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotic Institute.

Mark Aaron Goldfeder, senior lecturer at Emory University School of Law.

From Tom’s Reading List

BetaBoston: MIT conference looks at robotics breakthroughs — and big challenges ahead — “Odds are good that no one at yesterday’s ‘Computing the Future’ symposium at MIT, organized to mark the 50th anniversary of computer science and artificial intelligence research at the school, imagined they’d be watching a black-and-white video clip of Julia Child deftly slicing potatoes. But Matt Mason of Carnegie Mellon University showed it to make a point: technology is still far behind humans when it comes to perceiving and interacting with the world.”

Computer World: Why haven’t robots yet changed the world? — “A well-known robotics expert acknowledged Wednesday at an MIT symposium that his field has yet to change the world. After Rodney Brooks, co-founder of iRobot, a former MIT robotics professor and co-founder and CTO of Rethink Robotics, first joked that robotics engineers aren’t smart enough, he avowed that building autonomous, useful robots is really hard — far more difficult than experts in the field had once anticipated.”

The Economist: Immigrants from the future – “DARPA made robots a priority because, like many others, it suspects that the technology may be on the cusp of scaling far greater heights than a nine-step aluminium ladder. It is expressing its support in the unusual, quasi-sporting, highly public forum of the DRC because robotics is a technology unlike any other. As machines that sense their environment, analyse it and respond accordingly, robots lend themselves to showmanship, judged as they are by their actions in the world.”

Watch A Boston Dynamics Cheetah Robot

Watch A Robot Fold Clothes

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Mar 5, 2015
A car passes a memorial for Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson last summer, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in Ferguson. A Justice Department investigation found sweeping patterns of racial bias within the Ferguson police department, with officers routinely discriminating against blacks by using excessive force, issuing petty citations and making baseless traffic stops, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the report.  (AP)

The big Justice Department report finds a pattern of racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department. Now what? We’re back in Ferguson – and beyond — for answers.

Mar 5, 2015
One in four women use psychiatric medication. The reasons for the medication aren't always so clear. (Flickr)

Are American women being prescribed psychiatric drugs – anti-depressants, anti-psychotics — for normal emotions? We’ll hear out one psychiatrist’s bold claim.

RECENT
SHOWS
Mar 4, 2015
This photo taken July 31, 2012 shows a "tiny" house April Anson built in Portland, Ore. For the past couple of months, 33-year-old Anson and her friends have been planning, measuring, sawing and hammering their way toward completion of what might look like a child’s playhouse. (AP)

Tiny houses, micro-apartments. They’re hot. Americans are downsizing.

 
Mar 4, 2015
Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a keynote address at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, in Santa Clara, Calif.  (AP)

Hillary Clinton’s week of bad headlines: about her emails and foreign money going to the Clinton Foundation. We’ll dig in.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Answers To Your Questions On Black Holes
Tuesday, Mar 3, 2015

Yale University’s Priyamvada Natarajan answers your black hole questions in full. (Well, most of them.)

More »
Comment
 
Want To Listen To Lead Belly? Here’s Where To Start
Monday, Mar 2, 2015

Loved our show on Lead Belly, but unsure on where you should start to listen? Jeff Place of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage offers his best picks for a beginning Lead Belly listener.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: February 27, 2015
Friday, Feb 27, 2015

We won’t lead you into a debate on the color of #TheDress (it’s blue and black, end of debate), but we do wonder about the blurring lines between so-called Internet culture and general popular culture. Also, it’s snowing in Boston. Still.

More »
Comment