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Beyond the Uncanny Valley

The far side of the uncanny valley rises steeply, assaulting our psyche as our artificial human likenesses creep ever closer toward perfection. But what happens when we actually emerge on the other side? What happens to human society when video footage is no longer the gold standard? Robert and Joe investigate. See more »

Sexbots: From Objectification to Therapeutic Surrogates

Sex between humans and machines is nothing new in the world of science fiction. Their forms range from angelic mechanoids to victimized humanoids, but the robotic lover is almost always an expression of purely human anxieties. Yet as real-world technology advances, we’re left to ponder the emerging form of the sex bot -- and the possibilities range from mere animate fetishes to therapeutic surrogates. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Christian consider arguments for and against the embrace of synthetic paramours. See more »

Melded Minds Control Robots in 'Pacific Rim'

Robert Lamb ponders the science behind "Pacific Rim." Mind meld with him. See more »

What is self-healing plastic skin?

How can plastic skin feel the world around us and heal itself? Find out in this science post from Robert Lamb. See more »

Step right up and behold a marvel of 18th century robotics! See the Jacques de Vaucanson's fabulous digesting duck, the clockwork miracle capable of reproducing the biological miracles of ingestion, digestion and defecation! In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and I dive into the history books for more on how the pooping duck may have worked and just what it's creator was thinking. Plus, you'll learn about the nightmarish cloaca bot. See more »

Radiolab's recent "A Clockwork Miracle" episode concerns a sixteenth-century mechanical monk, but Jad also briefly mentions the wonders of a robotic pooping duck from the 1700s. Yep, you read that right: a centuries-old automaton designed to digest food and poop it out like a duck. The fabulous digesting duck was the handiwork of Jacques de Vaucanson, a French engineer who excelled in the creation of automatons -- specifically "philosophical toys" (curios that combined science and amusement) composed of clockwork gears and moving parts. Here are just two of his creations leading up to the duck: See more »

Anyone who has ever played "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots" knows that artificially intelligent machines exist to punch the bejesus out of each other for our viewing enjoyment. Really, what other uses would we have for one of humanity's greatest scientific accomplishments? Sure, saving lives and cleaning up nuclear disaster zones is great, but how are we supposed to bet on that? First, let's look at a few examples from our sci-fi pop culture. Up first? The trailer for the upcoming film "Real Steel," which apparently features Hugh Jackman, Kate from "Lost" and Liz Lemon's dentist in supporting roles opposite a bunch of punching machines. See more »

Like most males of my demographic, I've been playing a lot of "Red Dead Redemption" of late on the old Xbox 360 and am suffering from a severe hankering to use excessive cowboy speak at work. So I'll go ahead and say it: If you kind folks wanna catch an earful about worms, dirt and some right clever tin cans, then I reckon these here podcasts will suit 'ya fine as cream gravy. See more »

Did you know that some high schools give out a varsity letter in robotics these days? And that some schools send off their robotics teams to matches with a hearty pep rally? You get what you celebrate, says FIRST President Paul Gudonis, who was kind enough to talk with us the weekend of the FIRST Championship, held here in Atlanta, about a month ago. And this podcast, we were celebrating the sport of competitive robot building. See more »