back to article Boffins demonstrate a different kind of floppy disk: A legless robot that hops along a surface

Those of us who fear future enslavement by robot overlords may have one more reason not to sleep at night: engineers have demonstrated a few of the legless, floppy variety making some serious leaps. Animated pancake-like droids have demonstrated their ability to execute a series of flops in a fashion their creators – soft …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Trollface

    "the soft robotics field"

    So they can jump. Put up a wall they can jump over, and a field of spikes for them to fall on.

    Problem solved.

    1. oldman62

      Re: "the soft robotics field"

      Hmm....everyone thought stairs were the answer to keeping Daleks at bay...look how that turned out...'Elevate'

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Traditional movement - 240 million years old

    That looks very much like a Horseshoe Crab moving around underwater, they scramble over the sand on the beach, but "bounce" a lot like that underwater.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Traditional movement - 240 million years old

      It reminded me of those toy frogs and spiders attached via a tube to a rubber ball you squeezed in your hand for a low tech "remote control" jumping creature.

  3. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Unhappy

    BBC Reith Lectures - Autonomous Killer Robots

    Listen to: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m00127t9

    (Log in account required.)

    This morning he specifically addressed the issue of swarms of killer drones, each the size of a tin of shoe polish. Scary stuff, particularly when the politicians reckon they could be around in 15 to 20 years, the AI experts reckon 18 months to 2 years, and the UK's MoD reckons 'now'. There is also a drone the size of can of Coca-Cola that contains enough explosive to punch a hole through 'feet' of steel plate. A tin-foil hat just ain't gonna be enough.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BBC Reith Lectures - Autonomous Killer Robots

      Sort of, but we currently have suicide bombers, grenades and guns. From a capability standpoint this offers little more than a new (limited) delivery mechanism.

      Since the first artificial neural network came out decades ago, there has been little to no improvement in AI. AI marketing, yes, but in reality today's ML is nothing more than glorified complicated transforms, as it ever has been. I worry less about advanced artificial intelligence than I do about something / someone stupid (building planes incorrectly, driving and messing with their phone, a truck driver losing attention).

      (Out of interest, swarms of killer drones, the size of a tin of shoe polish? Shame about that breeze today eh? Might need another go tomorrow....)

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: BBC Reith Lectures - Autonomous Killer Robots

        Please listen to the Reith lecture, by a world leader in the field, before commenting on it.

        I heard nothing in that lecture that wasn't already possible, or possible in the very near future.

        The shoepolish drones sound entirely possible NOW. You only need 3g of explosive to kill (apparently), and with current MI and tiny drone tech, it seemed completely feasible, and VERY cheap. You could make hundreds for very little outlay, you can target individuals (for example people with particular facial features; gingers, people with bad hairstyles etc), and a single container can hold 1 million of them.

        And they would work fine in a city, where the breeze will have little effect.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: BBC Reith Lectures - Autonomous Killer Robots

          That's lovely the lecture was by an expert as these are so hard to find these days, especially in the world of bigging up AI.

          1. Powering stuff for any length of time, particularly with MI is difficult - whats the range? What's your duration? Where is your shipping container by the way?

          2. Man-made light things that fly in a real environment suffer horrendously from the wind - work fine in a city? No, cities have some of the worst winds due to drafting effects of the buildings, plus the winds are more turbulent.

          3. If you can get a container of naughty stuff anywhere near an area you want to damage, undetected, you wouldn't fill it with little 3g packets of explosives. Generally you're more imaginative and scaled up.

          4. Will this 3g of explosive take out a door or a window as buildings might offer a downside to this mini-warfare. Or a shed. Or an umbrella.

        2. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: BBC Reith Lectures - Autonomous Killer Robots

          Hmm. I've been in many cities and frequently the buildings create artificial channels that cause nodal increases in air movement.

          A certain tower in Manchester that used to be Europe's tallest building was particularly good at creating unexpected levels of wind, much to the chagrin of unaware ladies in flared skirts.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: BBC Reith Lectures - Autonomous Killer Robots

            Bridgewater Place in Leeds was capable of generating such strong gusts that a lorry was blown over, killing a pedestrian. The building owners were supposed to pay for fixes to mitigate the problem. Anyone from Leeds who can comment?

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: BBC Reith Lectures - Autonomous Killer Robots

              I remember seeing on the local news that mitigations had been put in place. I assume they worked since I don't recall any more lorries being blown over there and no more outcry from surprised pedestrians being blown off their feet while walking past it. Considering the weather we've had the last couple days and a week or so earlier, something would have been reported by now :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BBC Reith Lectures - Autonomous Killer Robots

      "There is also a drone the size of can of Coca-Cola that contains enough explosive to punch a hole through 'feet' of steel plate."

      Is there a citation for that? (Seriously, I'm curious, not trying to strike you down.)

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: BBC Reith Lectures - Autonomous Killer Robots

        The lecturer did not give a reference, but I expect that if you searched the right munitions manufacturers' web sites you'd find one. If you consider the explosive power of Semtex and how much plastic explosives have probably 'improved' in the last 20 years or so, and the use of shaped charges*, the 'armour-piercing coke can' is all too plausible.

        (Rather academic to me, of course as my home is built using the standard 'brick and block' construction method.)

        *As I understand it, the shape of an explosive charge can be used to focus a lot of the energy of the explosion in one direction, rather than just creating a 'ball of flame'. This was used for some of the first few nuclear bombs to achieve the desired uniform compression effect of the fissile material and thereafter a self-sustaining chain reaction. Although the first one used a high velocity naval gun to fire a pellet into a mass of fissile material, IIRC.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: BBC Reith Lectures - Autonomous Killer Robots

          Look up HEAT round so see how a shaped charge can be used to penetrate armour.

          Modern tanks and IFVs use composite armour (layers of metal and other materials) or reactive armour (explosives placed outside the main armour that the HEAT round hits which explodes and disrupts the shape of the HEAT explosion) to counter them.

  4. Frogmelon

    The Devil in the Dark

    Star Trek (the original series).

    The "flying pizza" from the episode "Operation Annhilate". :)

    Although I did first think of the Horta from "The Devil in the Dark". :)

  5. Eric Olson

    Head's up, Las Vegas

    First demonstration of a product will be at the Adult Entertainment Expo, probably as an advancement in teledildonics.

  6. MrBanana Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Death comes in circular form

    I for one, welcome our killer pancake overlords.

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Death comes in circular form

      With maple syrup. Mmm.

  7. Chris G Silver badge

    This sounds a lot like the old saw ' When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail'

    AI or ML are not nessecary to achieve a level of threat or panic in a population, as usual a very smart guy is overthinking a simple task.

    If you can afford a container full of small smart munitions, you can also manage to place a series of ground launched cluster bomb type munitions, basically firework technology.

    The biggest threat from AI is the huge number of idiots trying to find uses for it.

  8. Ochib

    Are they all called Zem

    And do they speak in a mixture of willomies, globbers, flurs, and glurries

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