Click visits 500 Years of Robots at the Science Museum in London. Plus how Cuba is getting online and top tech for cats.
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Few things say the future better than robots.
We seem to be in an era of massive advances at the moment.
This week, a leaked video from Boston Dynamics shows
off its latest machine, called Handle, something its founder
described as "nightmare-inducing".
Rolling on with the wheel theme, Piaggio, known for its desperate
Rolling on with the wheel theme, Piaggio, known for its vespa
motorcycles, has revealed a new robot servant called Gita.
This robo-suitcase follows its owner's every move,
using cameras in its body and in the user's belt.
But sometimes it's good to look at where we've come from.
The Robots Exhibition at London's Science Museum
is a 500-year history of humanity's attempts to create robots that
resemble us and our behaviours.
There are more than 100 robots here, including some old friends that
we've met before.
And this amazing swan, made from silver, is all the more
incredible because it was made over 200 years ago, in 1773.
It's incredibly fragile inside.
One of the issues is, how do you get a machine that
old to work.
So we've had two weeks of highly esteemed conservation colleagues
piecing things back together.
How does it work?
You've got a whole series of these silver rings,
almost stacked one on top of the other.
They are designed to move as it moves as well.
The earliest robots worked in a clockwork fashion.
Clocks are the earliest self-regulating devices,
so they are robots, effectively.
If you accept that these clockwork creations are indeed robots,
then you can also argue that the earliest robots were clocks.
It was these mechanical marvels that made the Industrial Revolution
possible, mobilising hundreds of workers to be at the same place
at the same time, enabling goods to be transported,
trains to run accurately, and allowing industry to become
an efficient machine.
The Industrial Revolution was also the catalyst for massive social
change across the world, bringing about the rise
of the working class, and sparking ideas like capitalism and Marxism.
Now, in the West, Cuba found itself at the epicentre of this shift.
It was the poster child for communism in the West,
right in the back garden of the US, the heart of capitalism.
Richard Taylor has been to Cuba to see how the island is now moving
with the times.
The iconic images are strikingly familiar.
Cuba today still feels in some ways otherworldly,
stuck in a 50s time warp.
Life for most of its 11 million citizens is simple.
They've been living in a state enforced digital wilderness.
A decade ago, you needed a permit just to buy a PC.
Today, if you're lucky enough to own a smartphone,
chances are it's offline.
There's no mobile data, so Cuban apps are designed to work
without a connection.
Until recently, even basic internet access could only be found
at desktop computers inside state communication centres.
Long queues persist but now people are coming to buy internet
scratchcards which can finally get them online elsewhere.
In this Havana park, small gatherings of Cubans
are all enjoying the internet.
But getting online is slow, unreliable and,
perhaps unsurprisingly, censored.
Luiz Rondon Paz is a self-proclaimed hack-tivist, and as a former
government IT administrator, he knows the system well.
Everything in Cuba is restricted, filtered, as the rest of the world.
Basically, they censor everything that might
threaten government power.
It might be porn, gay, or political things.
Basically, most political things.
But the biggest barrier for locals - the price.
A single hour of full web access costs $2,
three days' salary.
They don't have the time to see what's the internet,
really, because of the price of the internet.
And they push them to do what they need to do,
which is Facebook, communicate with their families and make
a free phone call.
The government says expanding the internet is a priority
and central Havana is now conducting trials of in-home net access
for 2000 properties.
And it boasts of a growing number of public wifi hotspots,
too, around 300 in total, and growing.
Still, not exactly blanket coverage for a country 700 miles wide.
Cuba blames its ageing communications network
on the six-decade old trade embargo with the US.
Critics say that's a convenient excuse for a communist state that
fears losing control over information.
Relations with America are now at best uncertain
in the post-Obama era.
In the aftermath of the President's historic visit here two years ago,
prospects for American companies doing digital business
on the island have improved.
Amongst them, Google, company boss Eric Schmidt inking
a deal in December that gives Cubans fast access to content from services
like YouTube and Gmail.
The thing is, when you are running an internet-based business,
the last thing you want to do is traipse across town
to find a connection.
So some Cubans who are fed up with the government strategy
on access have come up with inventive solutions.
The results are found on rooftops in towns and cities
across the nation in the form of pole-mounted antennae
which are pointed towards the local communications centre,
giving them internet access and even wifi.
The practice isn't exactly legal but as I discovered that minor
detail doesn't deter Cubans from getting their information fix.
This is the paquete semanal, literally the weekly packet.
It refers to a highly organised service in back streets and front
rooms across the country, giving locals content downloaded
often only hours earlier via satellite.
There's pirated movies, news shows, documentaries,
dramas, magazines and mobile apps.
It's hugely popular with customers who can fill their USB drives
with an entire terabyte, hundreds of hours, for the price
of a single hour online.
And the rise of the paquete is the price the Cuban regime itself
is paying, a reaction to the state dogma of keeping
its people restricted.
Cuban authorities should be less afraid of the free flow
of information because the need for information is a hunger.
People need information and people will get information,
no matter if you are going to provide it or not.
There is a political need to understand differently
what the internet means.
Progress is undoubtedly too slow for many Cubans.
But recent overtures do at least give some people
here cause for hope.
Hello and welcome to The Week In Tech.
It was the week that Samsung's Chinese factory supplying
batteries for the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 suffered a blaze.
Luckily no one was hurt.
Twitter announced its new anti-abuse policy, which will introduce safe
search, collapse potentially troubling replies and aims
to prevent abusive accounts being reopened.
And YouTube is launching live video streaming from their mobile app
but only for channels with over 10,000 subscribers.
Uber have employed a former Nasa engineer and are working
on a flying car.
Yes, a flying car, that they say could be ready in five years.
Although there are a few obstacles to overcome,
like the authorities allowing them to actually fly.
We've seen a few ideas of how to take quad copter drones out
of the sky but here is something for heavier duty drones.
Project Sidearm has been developed by the Pentagon's research wing.
It aims to safely grab unmanned aerial vehicles from airspace
using a crane type setup.
And finally, there's a new way of finding love,
by sharing hate.
New dating app Hater matches users by the things that rile them,
with topics including bad pavement etiquette,
rent costs, and even politicians.
I'm sure that first date will be a laugh a minute.
There are plenty of friendly faces at the Robots Exhibition
at London's Science Museum.
There are some which are different enough to look
unthreatening and lovable.
And there are some, well, some really quite unnerving.
Currently, the European Commission is considering the ethical issues
that robots raise, including whether they should have a kill
switch, whether they should have rights, and whether they should be
considered as electronic persons.
And what about those ethical, or even life or death decisions?
This is a representation of an experiment in which one robot
was programmed to save one of two smaller bots from falling
down a hole.
If one was in more danger than the other, their big brother
would save it.
However, if both smaller robots were equally in danger,
big bro would often freeze with indecision.
In that split second where the robot is going,
"Oh, no, there is an equal chance of both dying,
I don't know what to do", something kicks in,
in the human brain.
We are drawing on our attachment to the things that
might need saving.
We're drawing on maybe a set of moral beliefs or values.
We're not entirely sure what is going on in there but we can
do what feels right in that moment.
So, for now, robot ethics raise more questions than they answer.
But while robots are learning how to avoid causing real harm,
some humans seem way ahead in causing virtual harm.
In video games at least.
Sword fighting game For Honour is an unusual medieval mash up
which pits knights, Vikings and samurais against one another.
This is Bodiam Castle.
What better place to come and get hands-on with a video game
all about swordplay than here?
There's just one thing preventing that from happening, though.
At 6ft nine, and weighing nearly 30st, Icelandic strongman Thor
is this closest thing the game creators could find
to a Viking warrior.
Fans of Game of Thrones will be familiar with him as Sir Gregor,
better known as the Mountain.
In order to play the game, it's going to be a case of Mark
versus the Mountain in a series of challenges.
The game allows players to assume the role of a range of different
characters, from heavy hitting, muscle-bound warriors,
to nimble lightweight assassin-type characters.
But in the real world, how important is brute strength?
Well, if a warrior can't even lift their weapon,
how are they going to fight with it?
So a test of strength against a guy who competes
in the World's Strongest Man.
Sure, I can do that. All right.
Hold on. I've got to hold it here, yeah?
Right, get into position. Fantastic.
Like this. Hold it as long as possible.
OK, I think I'm doing all right. Straighten your arm.
Straight. Oh, my word.
That is really... Straighten your arm.
Come on! Hold it.
Excuse me while I go and have a lie down.
I think I've pulled something.
Oh, my word. You captured zone A.
You captured zone A.
Next up, combat.
Medieval warriors didn't have to worry about health and safety.
We do, so plastic goggles are on.
Fortunately, my opponent is made of straw.
My task is to do as much damage to this dummy with this sword
as I possibly can.
That's not bad.
I'll show you how it's done.
So the second round belongs to Thor, but I think the tide may
turn in round three.
Thor has bested me in a test of strength and in martial skills.
However, this is my arena.
Welcome to my dojo.
So we're going to have a one-on-one duel.
His character is, of course, a Viking.
Mine is a medieval knight.
The match will be best of five.
When it comes to getting hands-on with the game,
there's not a chance that the big fella is going to beat me.
Or is there?
This is not filling me with confidence here.
Game face on.
Here we go.
This is a bit more like it.
The thing about this game is you can't just button bash.
You won't get very far at all.
It's got a very fluid combat system.
At the heart of it is matching the stance of your opponent
and countering it.
You have to think a little bit more tactically.
How do you like the taste of them apples?
He did me in about two hits.
I've got the upper hand, I've got the upper hand!
I actually won.
I will see you, sir, in Valhalla!
Thank you, Thor, that was a very challenging game indeed.
We are in the middle of nowhere and if I could ask you for one
favour, that would be great.
Can I get a lift back to London?
Sure, why not?
Come on, jump on.
I had thought of a slightly different sort of lift,
but there you go.
Ever wondered what cats get up to when no one's there?
Meet Roxy and Zara, who seemed agreeable to taking part
in some gadget testing.
If you've ever wanted to watch, talk to or even play with your cats
when you're not with them, then this could help.
Once the device is connected to your home wifi, you can
login anywhere you can get your phone online.
There's a laser game to play, snacks at the tap of an icon,
and a function to proudly make and share videos and cat snaps.
This rather unusual looking setup works in quite a similar way.
There's a camera so you can see the cats remotely.
Also the ability to give them food wherever you are.
Plus this toy, which is apparently something that cats
might like to play with.
Zara and Roxy were possibly slightly intimidated by the jolting
of the feathery thing, and the app was extremely
temperamental, making setup a rather tedious experience.
But when it came to the cat reactions, maybe us being there
was a distraction for them, so there's a chance the devices
could have fared better if they were home alone.
I think the food dispenser, if they'd been hungry,
might have attracted more interest.
They found the whole thing a little bit unsettling.
This smart collar has been around a little while now
and is available for cats and dogs.
It allows owners to keep an eye on temperature,
pulse, breathing rate, heart rate variability and even
the positions a pet is in, so could be particularly beneficial
if there are health concerns or an injury to keep an eye on.
Don't worry, it's OK.
I know my friend's cats are not willing to wear any sort of collar
and I have to say this one is pretty large.
Look how much bigger than a cat I am, and my activity
tracker is only this size, so I can see it could be
a little bit intimidating.
Meanwhile, there seems to be a game of cat and mouse
going on here, the latter played by a remote control rodent.
Although it actually consists of the cat being chased
by the mouse, which probably says it all about my day's filming.
That was Lara, and this is Maria, the first blockbuster robot
from the ground-breaking 1927 film Metropolis.
The visual effects in that movie were absolutely stunning,
given that it is actually 90 years old.
Next, we are going to continue our look at some
of the visual effects behind the latest blockbuster movies.
We have Adam Valdes, BAFTA and Oscar nominee,
to tell us more about the visual effects he used to bring back
to life The Jungle Book.
A lot of people have asked me, "Why would you do a movie
in the jungle and not just go to the jungle, or some jungle,
some set that plays for a jungle"?
And I think the real answer is, you can't find the place
in reality that we've made, you know.
We made something special.
Every time you see the world in Jungle Book, someone
has fabricated plants, trees, the dead twigs and leaves
on the floor, all of it.
And it's only really when this around around him makes him feel
present within it that the magic trick comes off, that you believe
that this is just a photograph, that we went somewhere and shot it.
So we take a shot like Mowgli saying goodbye to his mother and we say,
John really wants some sort of physical contact.
It needs to be an intimate moment, their eyes need to be
locked onto each other.
We can't have a feeling that he's acting to a tennis ball,
a stick or some marker.
We really need to feel the scene emotionally.
You can locate the positions of his hands, the puppet
for the mother wolf.
And we can track it really carefully in three dimensions
with our computer software.
That way we make sure the contact is correct,
and then we simulate the fur on the mother's neck.
And we actually replace the better part of his hand
with the digital double of his hand, so that the CG hand and the CG fur
of the mother wolf are actually in the computer together,
and when we put our lighting on that and create the final images,
they really look connected.
The magic trick is blending the hand into his arm.
It's easy to focus on the fact that we pulled off two main things,
these talking animals that people felt emotions from and this complete
3D world we had to create, and that those two things
are really major accomplishments.
Starting off, I did not know if either of them
were going to work.
The very first time I combined photography of Mowgli
with a digital background, the background was grey,
not even photo realistic.
But it was just seeing an image come together
where we had planned a shot, filmed it, brought it home, put it
together with the digital world.
The kid was walking along this curvy branch.
And he looked like he was there.
And I thought to myself, "OK, maybe this is going to work".
You know, "Maybe he's really going to look
like he's in this world".
The render power required to generate a movie like this,
I think it was 240 million renderer hours, or something like that.
Which means if it was one computer it would have taken 3000 years,
some number like that.
These individual frames that you see can be 40, 50,
60 hours on a computer just rendering one frame.
The difference between a video game and our imagery is that the video
game uses hardware on your computer to generate in real-time an image.
And they are amazing, what they are doing.
To go from there, however, to complete fool your brain,
fool your eye realism, requires quite a lot more
computation, because you're simulating the behaviour
of materials and light.
And that has come so far in the last five years.
I think we'll see more and more imagery where we really start to not
be able to tell the difference between something that's
computer-generated and real.
And that can be a little spooky in one sense,
but it's pretty fascinating for creative people.
That was Adam Valdes on the magic behind the Jungle Book.
And that's it from Robots at the London Science Museum.
I'll put a load of photos up on Twitter for you to browse
through at BBC Click.
Thanks for watching and, yeah...
We'll be back.