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Electronic Frontier Foundation

Judge Wipes Out Safe Harbor Provision In DMCA, Makes Cox Accomplice of Piracy ( 209

SysKoll writes: The DMCA is well-known for giving exorbitant powers to copyright holders, such as taking down a page or a whole web site without a court order. Media companies buy services from vendors like Rightscorp, a shake-down outfit that issues thousands of robot-generated take-down notices and issues threats against ISPs and sites ignoring them. Cox, like a lot of ISPs, is inundated with abusive take-down notices, in particular from Rightscorp. Now, BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music are suing Cox for refusing to shut off the Internet access of subscribers that Rightscorp accused of downloading music via BitTorrent. Cox argues that as an ISP, they benefit from the Safe Harbor provision that shields access providers from subscribers' misbehavior. Not so, says U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady. The judge sided with the media companies ahead of trial, saying Cox should have terminated the repeat offenders accused by Rightscorp. Cox's response is quite entertaining for a legal document (PDF): its description of Rightscorp includes the terms "shady," "shake-down," and "pay no attention to the facts." O'Grady also derided the Electronic Frontier Foundation's attempt to file an amicus brief supporting Cox, calling them hysterical crybabies.

Netflix Remaking Lost In Space ( 166

An anonymous reader writes: Classic sci-fi show Lost in Space is making a comeback. Netflix is developing a new version of the series, according to Kevin Burns, the executive producer in charge of the project. "The original series, which lasted three seasons and 83 episodes, is set in a futuristic 1997 and follows the Robinson family's space exploration. After the villainous Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) sabotages the navigation system, they become helpless and, yes, lost. (The robot tasked with protecting the youngest child, the precocious Will, utters "Danger, Will Robinson!" — a phrase that still tortures this reporter.)" Burns has been trying to bring the series back for more than 15 years, and it looks likely he'll finally get his chance.

NASA Selects Universities To Develop Humanoid Robot Astronauts ( 21

MarkWhittington writes: NASA announced that it is sending copies of its R5 Valkyrie humanoid robot to two universities for software upgrades and other research and development. The effort is part of a continuing project to develop cybernetic astronauts that will assist human astronauts in exploring other worlds. The idea is that robot astronauts would initially scout potentially hazardous environments, say on Mars, and then actively collaborate with their human counterparts in exploration. NASA is paying each university chosen $250,000 per year for two years to perform the R&D. The university researchers will have access to NASA expertise and facilities to perform the upgrades. Spoiler alert: the robots are both going to Greater Boston, to teams at MIT and Northeastern University respectively.

MIT Helping NASA Build Valkyrie Robots For Space Missions ( 35

An anonymous reader writes: NASA announced that MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is one of just two institutions that will receive "R5," a six-foot, 290-pound humanoid robot also known as "Valkyrie" that will serve on future space missions to Mars and beyond. A group led by CSAIL principal investigator Russ Tedrake will develop algorithms for the robot as part of NASA's upcoming Space Robotics Challenge, which aims to create more dexterous autonomous robots that can help or even take the place of humans "extreme space" missions. While R5 was initially designed to complete disaster-relief maneuvers, its main goal is now to prove itself worthy of even trickier terrain — deep space exploration.

The Next Gold Rush Will Be 5,000 Feet Under the Sea, With Robot Drones ( 129

merbs writes: In Papua New Guinea, one well-financed, first-mover company is about to pioneer deep sea mining. And that will mean dispatching a fleet of giant remote-operated robotic miners 5,000 feet below the surface to harvest the riches scattered across ocean floor. These mammoth underwater vehicles look like they've been hauled off the set of a sci-fi film—think Avatar meets The Abyss. And they'll be dredging up copper, gold, and other valuable minerals, far beneath the gaze of human eyes.

Louis Friedman Says Humans Will Never Venture Beyond Mars ( 378

MarkWhittington writes: Dr. Louis Friedman, one of the co-founders of the Planetary Society, is coming out with a new book, "Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars," an excerpt of which was published in Scientific America. Friedman revives and revises a version of the humans vs. robots controversy that has roiled through aerospace circles for decades. Unlike previous advocates of restricting space travel to robots, such as Robert Park and the late James Van Allen, Friedman admits that humans are going to Mars to settle. But there, human space travel will end. Only robots will ever venture further.
United Kingdom

Bank of England's Andy Haldane Warns Smart Machines Could Take 15M UK Jobs ( 291

New submitter Colin Robotenomics writes In an important new paper based on a speech at the trade union congress in London, Andy Haldane Chief Economist at the Bank of England and Executive Director of Monetary Analysis and Statistics has examined the history of technological unemployment and has given a thorough review of the literature and implications for public policy. The media will likely focus on the number of jobs that can be displaced and not necessarily Haldane's points on new jobs being created – both of which are highly important as is 'skilling-up'. His report reads in part: "...Taking the probabilities of automation, and multiplying them by the numbers employed, gives a broad brush estimate of the number of jobs potentially automatable. For the UK, that would suggest up to 15 million jobs could be at risk of automation. In the US, the corresponding figure would be 80 million jobs."

Even the CEO's Job Is Susceptible To Automation, McKinsey Report Says ( 176

colinneagle sends word that according to a new report it's not just blue collar workers who need to be concerned about being replaced with a robot, top execs should be worried too. According to Network World: "Global management consultants McKinsey and Company said in a recent report that many of the tasks that a CEO performs could be taken over by machines. Those redundant tasks include 'analyzing reports and data to inform operational decisions; preparing staff assignments; and reviewing status reports,' the report says. This potential for automation in the executive suite is in contrast to 'lower-wage occupations such as home health aides, landscapers, and maintenance workers,' the report says. Those jobs aren't as suitable for automation, according to the report. The technology has not advanced enough."

The Dawn of the Robotic Chef ( 50

pRobotika writes: When Moley announced its robotic kitchen back in April, the media jumped on the story as a promising glimpse into the future. But how realistic are robot chefs? Robotics' professionals are understandably skeptical but, if Moley manages to overcome one major issue, their approach could have real potential. Why? Because their kitchen is basically a flexible robotic workcell, and in manufacturing that's nothing new.

Google's Robotics Group Lacks Leadership ( 43

An anonymous reader writes: Google has been snapping up promising robotics companies for the past several years, placing them in a division internally called "Replicant." But the division itself is struggling to come together, not having consistent leadership since Andy Rubin left in 2014. One robotics employee said, "The technology pieces we have are incredible. We just have to commit to a particular direction to go in and focus." While Google has accumulated bleeding-edge hardware and software systems, it hasn't been able to bring them together yet in any meaningful way. "Sources say that after Rubin left, there was no one who knew how to tie all the disparate acquisitions together. Rubin had provided a destination, but the team no longer had a road map or a guide to get there."

ABC's 'BattleBots' Reboot Will Come Back For a Second Season ( 37

An anonymous reader writes: Good news if you're a fan of watching robots fight or just flail around in a corner. ABC has renewed BattleBots for a second season. According to The Wrap: "Following the summer ratings hit "Celebrity Family Feud," the six-episode first season of "BattleBots" earned an average of 5.4 million total viewers and a 1.7 rating among adults 18-49. Season 2 will keep the single-elimination tournament format of the first, but will double the size of the field to include expert roboticists, garage builders, families on a mission and past winners returning to defend their turf."
The Almighty Buck

Another $1 Million Crowdfunded Gadget Company Collapses ( 109

An anonymous reader writes: In 2012, a company raised over a million dollars on Indiegogo to build a robotic dragonfly. It was originally supposed to be delivered in 2013. Unfortunately for backers, the company seems to be struggling to complete the project. They haven't been able to resolve issues with the drone falling apart after just a few seconds of flight. Unless they locate investors soon, they're going to run out of funds to continue work at full force. They're in the process of uploading all design work and their knowledge base, in case they have to officially cancel the project. They say some part-time work will continue as long as funds allow. The TechCrunch article warns, "This is just the latest example of how consumers need to be more careful with crowdfunding. There are no guarantees with crowdfunding and there is more risk involved than what's advertised."

Ocean-Mapping Robots Could Help Uncover Mysteries of the Deep Blue ( 21

An anonymous reader writes: A swarm of pumpkin-shaped robots is being developed to map oceans, gathering maritime data for use in tourism, reef monitoring and anti-terrorism among other applications. The Eve robot – or Ellipsodial Vehicle for Exploration – was created by Sampriti Bhattacharyya, a robotics engineer at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT). Inspired by the loss of the Malaysia Airlines plane, the scientist envisions her yellow robots travelling below the water's surface, using their sensors to detect and monitor underwater happenings – both individually and collaboratively.

Self-Driving Delivery Robots To Hit Sidewalks of London In 2016 ( 98

An anonymous reader writes: Estonian start-up Starship Technologies is taking a different approach to automated delivery with a ground-based self-driving robot. Headquartered in London and launched by two ex-Skype founders, the robotics company has unveiled its suburban pavement-strolling bot which can travel at a speedy 4mph. Starship claims that the 40-pound machine could deliver packages in 5 to 30 minutes from local retailers and restaurants. The company argues that a grounded approach to automated delivery will remove some of the safety concerns linked to flying drone systems, as the robot is much less likely to cause harm.

Farmer Coalition Offers $250K Prize For Blueberry Picking Robot ( 112

Hallie Siegel writes: Having spent many a back breaking hour in deep woods Ontario picking wild blueberries in summer time, I can only imagine the challenge of farming and harvesting these awesome little flavour nuggets. Blueberries are in record demand (probably my son alone accounts for a significant percentage of that!) so it's no surprise, really, that a coalition of farmers has banded together to offer a prize for automated blueberry picking solutions. We've seen competitions and challenges spur innovation in other areas of robotics — think robocar — why not blueberry picking? Can't wait to see the results of this one.

Robots Teach Each Other New Tricks ( 27

schwit1 writes with this story from the MIT Technology Review about a robot at Brown University who was taught to perform a task from another robot at Cornell. According to the article: "the ability to acquire and then share knowledge is a central component of human culture and civilization. A small milestone in the exchange of robot knowledge has now been demonstrated by two bots working in different academic research labs. Researchers at Cornell University previously devised an online game, called TellMeDave, through which volunteers can help train a robot to perform a task and associate different actions with commands given in everyday language. By guiding the robot through a task, a volunteer trains a machine-learning algorithm so the robot can perform the task again. And this learned behavior is stored in a central repository called RoboBrain that's accessible by other robots (see 'The World's First Knowledge Engine for Robots')."

Europe and Russia Are Headed Back To the Moon Together ( 65

MarkWhittington writes: Russia is turning its attention to the moon again for the first time in about 40 years. The first Russian mission to the moon since long before the end of the Cold War will be Luna 27, a robot lander that will touch down on the edge of the lunar South Pole as early as 2020. Russia is looking for international partners to help make Luna 27 a reality and may have found one in the European Space Agency, according to a story on the BBC. "The initial missions will be robotic. Luna 27 will land on the edge of the South Pole Aitken basin. The south polar region has areas which are always dark. These are some of the coldest places in the Solar System. As such, they are icy prisons for water and other chemicals that have been shielded from heating by the Sun. According to Dr. James Carpenter, ESA's lead scientist on the project, one of the main aims is to investigate the potential use of this water as a resource for the future, and to find out what it can tell us about the origins of life in the inner Solar System."

China Looks To Deep Space Missions, Including More Lunar Landings and Robot Ants ( 65

MarkWhittington writes: China has already landed a rover on the moon and has launched numerous crewed space missions in low-Earth orbit. It is looking ahead to building a space station and landing more probes on the moon, including the lunar farside. According to a story in Xinhua, the Chinese are already looking beyond to deep space missions to destinations including the moon, Mars, and asteroids. The idea is that China will not be a respected space power until it starts accomplishing things in space that no other country has done before.

Replacement of Writers Leads Gartner's Predictions ( 113

dcblogs writes: Gartner's near-future predictions include: Writers will be replaced. By 2018, 20% of all business content, one in five of the documents you read, will be authored by a machine. By 2018, 2 million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment. This may seem Orwellian, but certain jobs require people to be fit, such as public safety workers. By 2020, smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions. This is based on the belief that the world is moving to a post-app era, where assistants such as Apple's Siri act as a type of universal interface.