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Robots Can Now Join a Game of Charades

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Robot plays Charades

At the next family gathering, instead of teaming up with your uncle or aunt in a game of charades, you might pick Alter3. This humanoid robot uses prompts from GPT-4 to take different actions. The text-based prompts are converted to code and then the robot instantly spurs to life, performing a range of movements.

Alter3 is the work of researchers from the University of Tokyo. Videos of the robot that have been uploaded online show how the team successfully got Alter3 to perform all kinds of movements, from playing a guitar to drinking to even reacting to a joke.

It’s quite unsettling because the robot has a human-like face and hands. Even though we know it’s not a person, when you see Alter3 moving like a human, you feel an emotional reaction. The robot has an expressive face and is capable of displaying different emotions, from fear to anger to laughter.

In one video, the Japanese robot is instructed to react to a joke. The stone-faced robot instantly breaks out into a chuckle and starts moving its arms and reaching for its belly. The hand movements effectively mimicked how many people react when they laugh, making its movements appear fairly authentic.

Alter3 is also capable of acting out complex scenes, making it an ideal charades partner. It can perform scenes from movies or TV shows or combine multiple movements together. 

One of the more complex prompts the Japanese robot was able to act out was, “I was enjoying a movie while eating popcorn at the theater when I realized that I was actually eating the popcorn of the person next to me.” Alter3 leans over, takes a big handful of popcorn, and tosses it into its mouth. Then, the robot reacts in horror as it realizes what it’s done. Alter3 shakes its head in disbelief before breaking out in tears of laughter.

In another advanced prompt, the robot acted out this scene, “In the park, as I jogged, the world seemed to narrate an ancient tale of survival, each footfall echoing eons of existence.” Alter3 displayed awe and wonder on its face with an open mouth and wide eyes. The robot started to mimic a job. Then it turned its head from left to right, looking around before opening and spreading its hands wide.

Alter3 tapped both its feet and placed its hand on its heart before making sweeping motions with its arms. Finally, the Japanese robot closed its eyes and continued to look in astonishment before coming to a rest.

Roboticists at the University of Tokyo hope that their research will help make robots’ physical actions more realistic, which will help integrate them into society. By making robots more human-like, people will feel more comfortable interacting with them and treat them kindly and with empathy.

How Does Alter3 Work?

Alter3 is hooked up to the large language model GPT-4 and is provided text prompts. These text prompts are turned into code, which Alter3 translates into physical movements. The Japanese robot has over 40 moving parts, including arms, body, and head, which are powered by air pistons.

The researchers requested that GPT-4 convert the movement into specific actions. Then, once they had a list of actions, they asked GPT-4 to turn into the Python programming language. The large language model was able to convert both simple and complex requests into movement. Alter3 then instantly read the code and acted out the movements in full.

While Alter3 has complete control over its facial expressions and limbs, including the dexterity to mimic playing the guitar, its movements are still a little jerky. The robot hasn’t quite got the fluidity of human movement down, but it’s not that far off. 

Also, while the movements are impressive, these are inevitably somewhat limited as it is totally reliant on the large language model to feed it instructions. However, the robot does show some level of autonomy and spontaneity due to the enormous richness of the language corpus in GTP-4.

Watching the Alter3 move gives you almost the same feeling as watching a child. It’ll be interesting to see just how realistic humanoid robots become over the next 20 years. Imagine what the world will be like when you can’t easily distinguish between a robot and a person.

Read more: The S1 Robot Is Strong and Fast!

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Cyprus Computer Society to Host Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad

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Minoan Robot Sports

The Robot Olympics is coming to Cyprus. The Cyprus Computer Society has added all kinds of fun sporting events to the Robotex festival. This new robot sports series, dubbed the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad, will be held in Cyprus for the first time ever.

The Hellenic Educational Robotics Organisation and the Cyprus Computer Society are working together to put on an epic robot sporting spectacle. The competition will take place at the Sports Centre of the University of Cyprus on June 29 and 30, 2024.

Everyone is free to enter the event. All ages, including students and adults, are encouraged to join. It only costs €50 per team to participate. 

What Events Are in the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad?

The Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad will feature robot sumo, car racing, maze escape events, line following challenges, shot put, archery, and more. The robots are going to be exhausted after being put through so many challenging competitions.

Robot sumo, or Pepe sumo, will be the most hotly contested event. This robot sport started in the 1980s in Japan and has now spread around the world with hundreds of thousands of participants.

In robot sumo, two autonomous robots are placed in a circle and then attempt to push each other out. Whoever remains in the circle wins, just like in sumo wrestling. Despite its simplicity, it actually requires some serious engineering skills. Participants need to design a robot that can not only locate the opponent but also detect the edge of the circle and avoid being pushed out!

The maze escape event will be another competition to keep an eye on. The robots will be dropped into a maze and use their sensors to figure out where they are and find a way out. Whichever robot can emerge from the maze the fastest wins. 

While the maze escape may seem like a fun game, it actually has some serious real-world applications as well. Roboticists are currently designing robots that they hope will one day perform search and rescue missions. Being able to navigate unknown and complex terrain is an essential skill these search and rescue bots need to master.

What Do the Winners of the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad Get?

The winners will earn a spot at Robotex International in Estonia, which will be held in Tallinn from December 6 to 7, 2024. Again, they’ll get to put their robots on display against the best teams from all around Europe.

At Robotex International in Estonia, the winners will get to rub shoulders with industry leaders and potentially score internships. The latest robotics technology will be on display, and there’ll be a host of startups looking to recruit talent.

Diversity and Gender Equality a Cornerstone of Event in Cyprus 

The organizers of the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad have made a concerted effort to get girls and women involved. There are also special events for school children hosted by the robots for an Inclusive Society organization. 

The school children will build Lego robots and compete in different challenges. There are categories for elementary and high school children. Apart from the robot building and sports competitions, there’ll also be interactive exhibitions and music performances, so attendees of all ages will enjoy the festival. The Cyprus Computer Society is doing a great job inspiring the next generation!

Cyprus’ President Believes in the Power of Robotics

The Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad is being sponsored by Nikos Christodoulides, the President of Cyprus. The event, organized by the Cyprus Computer Society, has managed to attract a number of major public and private sector sponsors.

The Bank of Cyprus and XM are sponsoring the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad. Other big companies and institutions helping fund the event include Neapolis University Pafos, Hellas Sat and Huawei, ZEBRA Consultants, and Novatex Solutions Ltd.

We’re in the very beginning of robot sports. Events like the Minoan Robot Sports Competition Global Olympiad give us a glimpse into the future, where the most famous athletes may not be human at all. Don’t be surprised if, in 30 years, more people will be tuning in to watch the Robot Olympics than the traditional Olympic Games! 

Read more: How Robots Can Positively Impact Sports

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Drone

From Passion to Full Time career — how Thomas Bitmatta changed his life — and so can you

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Changing Passion in a lucrative career

Thumbnail from YouTube interview with Thomas

There’s a moment in life when you stand at the edge of a decision. 

Before you, lies the comfortable, the known. Behind you, the whisper of what could be beckons — a call to adventure that won’t silence. For Thomas Bitmatta, known in the drone racing skies as BMS Thomas, that moment wasn’t just a fleeting thought. It was a crossroads. And his choice? To leap.

Thomas’s story isn’t one of overnight success or serendipitous luck. 

No. 

It’s a narrative hewn from the bedrock of passion, a relentless pursuit of mastery in the fast world of FPV (First-Person View) drone racing. In the grand scheme of life’s pursuits, Thomas chose a path less taken, and it has made all the difference.

The Ascent Begins

Imagine, for a moment, a hobby. 

Now watch as that hobby turns into an obsession, that obsession into a calling. This is the genesis of BMS Thomas’s journey from an intrigued enthusiast dabbling in drone flights to becoming a beloved icon in the global drone racing community.

“Today, I bring you the story of a dreamer who dared to chase his dreams across the skies.”

Thomas’s story began quietly in Australia, sparked by a simple YouTube video. 

Fast forward through years of tinkering, learning, and countless flights, and you find the moment where hobby crossed into destiny. Thomas didn’t just enter the world of drone racing; he redefined his life’s trajectory with a racing drone’s throttle.

Racing Against the Wind

In conversation, Thomas shared insights of his early days, reminiscing about the makeshift races in Melbourne, the allure of the Japan drone league, and his subsequent ascension to international fame. Each race, each flight was more than competition; it was a chapter in his ongoing tale of self-discovery and perseverance.

“It’s more than just flying,” Thomas reflected. “It’s about pushing boundaries, both the drones and my own.”

His journey highlights not merely the evolution of a racer but the transformation of a life through passion. Amidst talks of tracks, technicalities, and tournaments, there’s a subtle yet profound message: dedication, coupled with a love for one’s craft, can elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Navigating Through Turbulence

Yet, the path was not free of challenges. In his chase for passion, Thomas navigated through rough moments — balancing the demands of competitive racing with the rigours of building a career. Sponsorships didn’t come easy, nor did the recognition. It demanded more than skill; it required visibility, influence, and a deep-seated belief in the value of his pursuit.

“And then, something clicked. The right place, the right time, and suddenly, the support came.”

Thomas’s narrative serves as a beacon for anyone standing on the brink of pursuing their dream. It’s a testament to the truth that success, in any field, is a concoction of passion, persistence, and a willingness to forge ahead despite the odds.

Can you do it as well?

Today, BMS Thomas continues to race, not just as a competitor but as an inspiration. His journey tells us that to follow one’s passion is not to walk a path free of obstacles, but to navigate through storms, propelled by the heart.

“If there’s anything my journey has taught me,” Thomas said, “it’s that dreams are not just fleeting whims. They are the seeds of our future.”

See, life, much like drone racing, is not about the fear of falling. It’s about the thrill of flight, the pursuit of passions, and the unwavering courage to chase the horizon, no matter where it leads.

And so, to anyone teetering on the edge of decision, remember BMS Thomas. Remember that when passion takes flight, the sky’s not the limit — it’s just the beginning.

Watch the full interview with Thomas here

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The World Robot Championships Are Coming to the Netherlands in July

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World Robot Championship

Over 3,000 roboticists from 45 countries are heading to Eindhoven University of Technology from July 17 to 21, 2024, to take part in the World Robot Championship. They’ll put their autonomous robots to the test in a number of competitions, including soccer, rescue, and home based tasks. Organisers expect over 400 teams to participate and 50,000+ spectators.

The event isn’t just about intense competition. The goal of the World Robot Championships is to accelerate the development of affordable and reliable robot technology to aid in the betterment of society. There will be numerous workshops and demonstrations, including interactive displays for children. 

RoboCup Soccer

Soccer is by far the most popular event at the World Robot Championships. In this event, two teams of five robots play two 15-minute halves. They use a standard FIFA ball, and whoever scores the most goals during the allotted time period wins!

All the robots are 100% autonomous, the roboticists aren’t allowed to control the bot football players at all. They’re custom-designed and divided into different leagues based on weight and size.

The robots are decked out in sensors and powered by AI. They’re capable of playing strategically, identifying the ball, goal, teammates, and other opponents. Currently, the robots play soccer like three-year-olds, but it’s an amazing feat of engineering that, without assistance, they can dribble, shoot, and pass.

The founders of the organization have a very ambitious goal. They want to create a team of robots that can defeat the reigning human World Cup champions by 2050. We can’t wait to see the robot version of Messi effortlessly dribbling past the world’s best human players and slotting goals with ease.

RoboCup Rescue

One of the major potential use cases for autonomous robots is search and rescue. Robots can venture into environments that are too dangerous for human rescuers and, thanks to their superhero-level strength, save people from disastrous situations.

In the RoboCup Rescue, robots are tested on their ability to navigate challenging environments autonomously. They’re judged based on proficiency in performing complex tasks such as moving obstructing objects, turning off switches, and picking up and carrying away injured people.

This competition has been taking place for over 20 years. Even though progress is slow due to the sheer complexity involved, scientists hope that within 50 years, there will be robot first responders who can consistently outperform humans. 

RoboCup Home

Everyone dreams of having their army of robots that can effortlessly handle household chores. In this competition, you’ll get to see exactly how far away that reality is.

In the RoboCup Home, robots undertake a range of challenges, including rearranging messy rooms, serving breakfast, putting away groceries, and even welcoming guests. Roboticists believe that within a few years, their robots can help people with mobility issues. 

Again, the robots are fairly rudimentary, and we’re still a long way from a robot butler who can do the gardening, wash your clothes, and then whip up dinner. However, these autonomous robots are progressing very quickly. Within 40 years, we’ll probably have robot servants who can handle basic household chores.

The Netherlands Has Become a Hub for Autonomous Robots

The Netherlands may be a small country with just 17 million people, but they punch well above their weight when it comes to robots. Just in Eindhoven alone, there are five RoboCup teams, including the multiple-time world champion Tech United (TU/e). There is also RIF (Fontys) Robot Sports (VDL), RoboHub (Fontys), and Falcons (ASML).

Dutch Universities are at the forefront of AI and robotics. And it seems the next generation is in safe hands, as hundreds of Dutch high school students will also take part in competitions for juniors. Don’t be surprised if the next Telsa or Boston Dynamics comes out of the Netherlands in the next 10 years.

The World Robot Championships kicks off on July 17 and is taking place in Eindhoven at the University of Technology. You’ll get to see the latest autonomous robots and see them compete in soccer and domestic chore competitions and even perform search and rescue missions.

If you can’t attend, don’t worry; many of the events will be live-streamed and uploaded to YouTube. Don’t forget to check out the RoboCup, where miniature robots Messis and Ronaldos will be mesmerizing spectators all over the pitch!

Read more: Are We Entering a Robot Golden Age? NVIDIA’s CEO Thinks So!

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