Science meets art: While 'Painting' this view of the Madrid rooftops,the Tryptech computer program is able to add shade and experiment with different materials


Lookalikes:A copy of Vermeer's Girl With A Pearl Earring,left, and the original

A COMPUTER with imagination - is it the stuff of nightmarish sci-fi or the future of art? A computer scientist who specialises in artificial intelligence has devised a program which could put ordinary PCs in Picasso's league. Dr Simon Colton believes computers have the ability to be creative and could produce their own masterpieces.
He said: 'One of the tests of creativity is using imagination. I want to get the computer to do this to a create a new image.' He has designed software which enables computers to paint from a digital image without human assistance. It can even change the original pictures adding shading and changing the materials used, for example from oils to pastels or chalk, to see if the picture looks better. Although the Tryptych software can currently be used only to re-interpret existing niasterpieces, such as Johannes Vermeer's Girl With A Pearl Earring, or to turn photos into 'paintings', as in the Richard and Judy image below, Dr Colton says getting the program to create its own pictures is maybe months' away. Computer pair: Richard and Judy The computer can already invent scenes using a chosen picture, but the next step is whether it will be able to come up with its own image. Dr Colton said: 'There are a number of programs we call creative.' But artists need not worry about being pushed aside. They won't be put out of business,' Dr Colton added. 'Lucien Freud won't stop painting just because of this. There will always be a premium for human blood, sweat and tears in art.' Dr Colton will demonstrate his invention at Imperial College, London, tonight. [The Metro Sep25,2006] A proud developer watches Murata Boy,a bike-riding robot,negotiate a tricky course in Nagaokakyo,Western japan,yesterday

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The Rise of the Robots

Robot that won't let you get lost in translation


IMAGINE landing at a foreign airport and not speaking a word of the language. Do not worry - help is at hand from your friendly personal robot. Speak to him in English and your frantic request for a hire car or a luggage trolley will be translated into the local lingo. Papero is the first robot able to translate between languages spoken in slang or a colloquial style. The machine, known as the Partner-Type Personal Robot, has a vocabulary of 50,000 Japanese and 25,000 English words. His technology is being tested at Narita Airport in Tokyo in the more compact form of handheld electronic personal digital assistants. Simply speak English into the PDA and it will talk back in perfect Japanese. Chris Shimizu, of NEC which created the technology, said it took years to develop devices which could understand different speech patterns, accents and colloquialisms. 'The accuracy depends on the size and quality of the dictionary but it is usually close to 100 per cent,' he added. The technology will be offered to other airports by the end of the year.

Misunderstood? Papero will help Inset: Handy:The PDA version

A little humanoid help


New plastic pal: Wakamaru, designed as school security measure,greets a group of Japanese children

School bus yellow, more than 1m tall, with almond-shaped eyes, Wakamaru greets the schoolgirl, who giggling, shakes his cupped, plastic hand. Her peers stare, open mouthed around her. The robot identifies the schoolchildren swarming around it by their IC-chip and memorises their faces. Those without the required ID are photographed and news of their presence relayed instantly to relevant authorities. Wakamaru, a humanoid machine by Mitsubishi, isn't the most threatening security guard in the world. But, standing sentry at the entrance to Setagaya Elementary School, it embodies Japanese faith in technology. 'Setagaya School's use of Wakamaru was a bold experiment,' says Timothy N Hornyak, author of Loving The Machine: The Art And Science Of Japanese Robots. 'I expect the use of robot sentinels will become widespread once safety issues are addressed. There are very few cultural issues in Japan regarding adopting robots as everyday partners, tools and friends. It's clear to see on the faces of the children.'

Learning tool
Wakamaru isn't the only robot currently 'in school'. In San Diego, Qrio - posterboy for Japanese robotics - twists and jumps, as he dances with toddlers; next door, Sony's Fumihide Tanaka and Professor Javier Movellan watch kindergarten children put their robot teacher Rubi to bed as her battery runs low. 'I'm convinced educational robots have a role to play in early childhood education,' says Movellan, firmly.
Rubi and Qrio represent the most in-depth experiment of robots in an educational environment to date. The goal is to investigate social interaction between humans and robots. If humanoid robots are to advance, it is crucial they are able to comprehend human social behaviour - and school environments are perfect for studying how humans learn, interact and form relationships at a basic level.

Adapting to life
The results have so far led to the development of an operating system (OS) that attempts to emulate humans' ability to deal with uncertainty. 'In social interaction, however, the tasks need to be continuously re-evaluated,' explains Movellan. 'The OS needs to drop tasks, if necessary, or to create its own. This is not really part of the standard OS make-up. I really think we are turning AI [Artificial Intelligence] upside down,' he continues. 'Instead of focusing on abstract intelligence and chess, AI should look at understanding adaptive behaviour and daily life.' Despite this research, the potential application of child-robot studies remains largely nebulous. Qrio may have become a dance star on the home video broadcasting website but his real commercial potential was lost even on Sony, who recently ceased development. 'The robot can help teachers in the classroom,' defends Tanaka. 'For instance, Qrio can promote physical activities such as dancing.' So, however, can PE teachers and the arcade game Dance Dance Revolution.
Current technology does not allow robotics to fulfil the role of a teacher - or provide security. Nevertheless, in Japan, new schemes are constantly unveiled. Many of them read mostly as advertisements for their developer's ingenuity but Rubi continues to excite as it gathers momentum, Wakamaru - Metro Aug15,2006 branching off into genuinely fascinating sociological studies. It encourages existing research to look further into more practical areas, while touching on a sentiment that has permeated Japanese technological fiction and popular culture since the Edo-period clockwork automaton.

Robots with soul
'I see the mistrust of robots as healthy scepticism about their value,' considers Movellan. 'My experience of the US is that when people see the potential of this technology, they proffer ideas on how to make it more useful. Japanese culture is more comfortable with the idea that everything, including inanimate objects, has a soul of some form. Western religions are not comfortable with the idea of "giving life" to a machine. The problem with this explanation is that it makes sense but, in reality, is probably wrong.'

Edited by BEL JACOBS

Robot bands? We've got 'em [Metro Mar 16,2004]

Robots in battle for Olympic glory


IMAGINE a group of metallic titans sumo wrestling, playing football or plain tearing each other to pieces. Sound good? It's the Robolympics. The event, which took place over the weekend, saw robots run, jump, smash and burn their way through 33 disciplines. One of the most popular attractions was the robotic combat, made famous by TV show Robot Wars. It included everything from 340lb behemoths tearing chunks out of each other to teams of 1lb featherweights swarming tactically. There was also robot football, sumo wrestling and a sprint. But the most intriguing events involved more than brute strength. In one, the machines had to teach themselves how to get out of mazes. In a second, they raced each other down a twisting slalom course. There was no human remote control, however. The robots had to use their own artificial intelligence to process data and learn. The first annual Robolympics, a two-day event in San Francisco, was organised by the Robotics Society of America. Human engineers, mostly Click for moreamateur, pitted their creations against each other for cash prizes. Competitors from 11 countries took part, including America, Britain, Japan, Spain and Australia. RSA president David Calkins said: I've met all types of builders, from welders who construct huge combat robots to people who create sumo androids. So I decided, "I'm going to put you all in the same building at the same time, and you're going to like it".'
[Metro Monday, March 22, 2004]

POP SHOT: What an interesting story about the trumpet-playing robot produced by Toyota (Metro Fri). Equally interesting is the fact they want to go ahead with plans for an entire robot band. Don't we have them already? Girls Aloud, Westlife, Atomic Kitten, Boyzone, etc.
A Sulaiman, Middlesex

 A robot called Cubinator solves the puzzle [Pictures: Reuters]
A blindfolded contestant
An amazing feet: The foot record was 49.33 seconds
Contestants proved the Rubik's cube pizzle could be solved by robots,blindfolded and even using your feet at the World Championships in Hungary yesterday. But it was Yu Nakajima of Japan who took the title with an average time of 12.46 seconds over five attempts,scooping £5,000. In second place was Andrew Kang,from the US,who also set the best time for a single attempt - 10.88 seconds. The world record is 9.86 seconds, set in May by Thibaut Jacquinot of France.
 [Metro Oct8,2007]

Robo muso tackles classics

Point a robot the right way
By Tom Phillips

Puppet on the strings: The robot tackles some Elgar [Pictures: AFP/Getty Images]

IT may not be good enough for the London Phil, but this robot does a neat version of Pomp And Circumstance on the violin. The 150cm- tall (5ft) machine performed the Elgar piece when it was shown to the world yesterday. It is programmed to push strings with its mechanical fingers on one arm while using a bow with the other. The robot is one of a series of devices created by car maker Toyota. Others unveiled in Tokyo yesterday included its wheelchair-like machine which can take hospital patients from one bed to another.[Metro 7 Dec,2007]

What would you do if you met a robot who had lost its way? Well, most people would lend a hand by pointing it in the right direction and helping it get there, according to roboteer Kacie Kinzer. He has been leaving 'tweenbots' - tiny, cute robots with smiling faces and no sense of direction - around New York to see how they would cope on their own in the Big Apple. Each has a flag attached to it, asking for help and giving its destination. As the robot can only roll forwards in a straight line, it requires helpful New Yorkers to steer their new friend towards its goal - while they are secretly filmed. On the first tweenbot journey, the little guy made it safely across Washington Square Park in 42 minutes, with 29 people helping it en route. The video shows pedestrians first reacting with bemusement, then setting the tweenbot right as though it was the most natural thing in the world. According to Mr Kinzer, some people even spoke to the robot - with one man warning 'You can't go that way, it's toward the road', before steering it to safety. See the lost robots

You can speak in tongues instantly


ANYONE wanting to learn a foreign language can forget swotting up on grammar and vocabulary - thanks to a new machine which can make you speak fluently' at the flick of a switch. The automatic translator lets you mouth a sentence in English as the words come out in whichever tongue you prefer. It uses electrodes attached to the face and neck to interpret electrical signals and convert them into speech. The secret of the device's limitless dictionary is that it detects not just words hut also phonemes sounds that form the building blocks of words. To translate from English to another language, a user has only to 'train' the system on the 45 phonemes used in spoken English. The software recognises which phonemes are most likely to appear next to each other and in which order. When it encounters a string of phonemes it is unfamiliar with, it uses this knowledge to come up with a range of sequences that make sense. Most translation systems based on automatic speech recognition need the user to speak the phrase out loud but the new device allows for a more natural exchange. 'The effect is like watching a TV show dubbed into a foreign language, said US researcher Dr Tanja Schultz, of Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. The translator still has some way to go, however faced with a sequence of words it has never heard before, it picks the right phoneme sequence only 62 per cent of the time. 'The ultimate goal is to be in a position where you can just have a conversation,' Dr Schultz told New Scientist magazine.
[Metro Thursday, October 26, 2006]

See Also :  BBC Hot Topics ,AI,Minutest works big on beauty





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