Passengers looking for a less human touch when it comes to drinking on planes will want to pay attention to the SkyTender.
The high-tech drink dispenser comes courtesy of SkyMax, a German tech company. They say the robot can mix and pour more than 30 different drinks (both hot and cold). Anything from pop to coffee, cocktails and even wine are all fair game and available at the touch of a button. As reported by psfk.com, the SkyTender made its maiden voyage recently on a flight from Cologne, Germany to Palma, Majorca with the German airline WDL Aviation.
The robot bartender aims to cut costs and increase cabin crew efficiency by serving drinks on the spot, as opposed to flight attendants taking orders. The machine also cuts down on the waste associated with aluminium cans, thanks to the 10 cartons of flavoured syrup housed inside the trolley. Also inside the seemingly mundane exterior of the cart lies a computer, a touch screen, a tank of CO2 and water, based on SkyMax's video.
But SkyTender's appeal extends further than heavy drinkers and robot lovers. According to Mashable, the robotic trolley could save airlines "around $1,500 per month per trolley". A fully-stocked SkyTender can sling 235 drinks, each in 160 mL cups. No word on whether the robot can do anything about irritating passengers, but SkyMax's General Manager Oliver Koth says the trial run was a success.
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Learn From Their Surroundings (And Wait Tables!)
The Hasegawa Group at the Tokyo Institute of Technology <a href="http://www.diginfo.tv/2011/08/01/11-0158-r-en.php" target="_hplink">has created a robot they say can think, learn from its surroundings, and act on its own,</a> thus setting in place the plot for every apocalyptic robot movie ever. It uses an artificial intelligence technology called a self-replicating neural network, or SOINN (Self-Organizing Incremental Neural Network), and takes into consideration its past experiences in similar situations and its environment before it takes action. Above, watch SOINN in work as a robot acts as a waiter to pour some ice water. Table for 10? (That's robot for 2).
Take Care Of You When You're Old
Say hello to RIBA-II, the "<a href="http://www.researchsea.com/html/article.php/aid/6391/cid/2/research/riba-ii__the_next_generation_care-giving_robot.html" target="_hplink">next-generation caregiving robot.</a>" This friendly guy uses "<a href="http://www.researchsea.com/html/article.php/aid/6391/cid/2/research/riba-ii__the_next_generation_care-giving_robot.html" target="_hplink">high precision tactile sensors</a>" and "<a href="http://www.researchsea.com/html/article.php/aid/6391/cid/2/research/riba-ii__the_next_generation_care-giving_robot.html" target="_hplink">flexible motor control technology</a>" to lift up people who are infirm or elderly in a variety of ways -- off the bed and into a wheelchair, into a sitting position to eat a meal, or <a href="http://www.researchsea.com/html/article.php/aid/6391/cid/2/research/riba-ii__the_next_generation_care-giving_robot.html" target="_hplink">up from the floor if they've fallen</a>. As someone who is not a morning person, I'd personally like to use RIBA-II as an alarm clock, to lift me up from my bed and into a hot shower to start my day right every time. <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyNa7b4eHRo" target="_hplink">Check out RIBA-II in video action on YouTube here</a>.
Build iPhones (And Take Your Job)
Foxconn, the Taiwanese parts company that produces Apple's iPhone and iPad, wants to add 1 million robot laborers to its factories by 2014, <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-07/30/c_131018764.htm" target="_hplink">according to a report by Xinhua News</a>. Perhaps instead of spending money on new robots, <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/25137/20100526/foxconn-suicide-toll-rises-to-nine-harsh-work-conditions-criticized.htm" target="_hplink">Foxconn should be focusing on improving its notoriously harsh working conditions.</a> Foxconn currently employs 1.2 million workers; they have not said how many will be let go in favor of the machines.
Discern Oaky Notes In Wine
<a href="http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-07-electronic-tongue-cava-wines.html" target="_hplink">According to Physorg</a>, researchers at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain have developed a robotic tongue that uses sensors and a nifty algorithm to identify different cava wines that it "tastes," producing "<a href="http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-07-electronic-tongue-cava-wines.html" target="_hplink">classifications similar to those of a sommelier</a>." As someone who can't tell the difference between Gaja and Franzia, I find this very impressive -- though it won't be a true replica of a wine connoisseur until it can look down its nose at me and judge me for my apparent lack of culture and class.
Okay, so no humans can breathe fire (peanut gallery, hold your tongues). But this robotic pony, <a href="http://www.lvl1.org/2011/08/01/thank-you-maker-faire/" target="_hplink">the adorably named Butterscotch</a>, can do so much: walk around; swivel its head; shoot flames out of its mouth. It is controlled by Wiimote and was unveiled by robotics group LVL1 at <a href="http://makerfaire.com/" target="_hplink">Detroit's Maker Faire</a> in late July 2011. Let us hope we never have to go to battle against this strange new species.
Listen To Your Phone Calls From The Sky
Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins first displayed their WASP flying drone spy-plane at the 2010 <a href="http://www.blackhat.com/" target="_hplink">Black Hat conference</a>. The thing flies and has both an onboard HD camera and a Linux computer the size of a cigarette pack that is really, really good at hacking into encrypted networks. And now the thing has been updated with even more spying power: <a href="http://blogs.forbes.com/andygreenberg/2011/07/28/flying-drone-can-crack-wifi-networks-snoop-on-cell-phones/" target="_hplink">according to Forbes</a>, Tassey and Perkins have added a feature that allows the WASP to "impersonat[e] the GSM cell phone towers used by AT&T and T-Mobile to trick phones into connecting to the plane's antenna rather than their carrier[.]" Yep, that means it can listen in on, transmit, and record your conversations and text messages, all while flying above you like a little toy airplane (it's 14 pounds and 6 feet long and 6 feet wide). Moral of the story: If you see a yellow toy flier in the sky above you, don't make a phone call divulging all of your treasonous secrets. Now is not the time.
Fall In Love
"Lovotics is a robot inspired by the psychology and biology of humans in love," says the video's narrator, and that's a pretty apt description: Researchers at the National University of Singapore <a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/26953/" target="_hplink">have created Lovotics</a>, a fluffy white ball of a machine that comes to know and remember people it interacts with and emits different colors to show its love (just like humans?). The team of researches hopes that as Lovotics falls in love with you, you, too, will fall in love with Lovotics. The<a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/26953/" target="_hplink"> Technology Review </a>adds, "After industrial, service and social robots, Lovotics introduces a new generation of robots, with the ability to love and be loved by humans." Maybe there is hope for humans and robots to co-exist, after all.