The Roundup (S03E17)

This week we’ve got slightly extended coverage of the impending Robot Revolution (All Hail Our Robot Overlords), and a couple of bits that really made us stop and think.

What we were thinking was “How bonkers are you?”

Read on to find out more.

European Parliament adopts Net Neutrality

eureopean-union-net-neutrality-resolution-1On the 17th November 2011, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for net neutrality, stating that it should be enshrined in law.

So what is net neutrality, and how does it affect people. Well …

Network neutrality is a principle that advocates no restrictions by Internet service providers or governments on consumers’ access to networks that participate in the Internet. Specifically, network neutrality would prevent restrictions on content, sites, platforms, types of equipment that may be attached, and modes of communication.” – Wikipedia

In the simplest terms it means that governments and ISP’s do not have the authority to “censor” the internet.

One of the biggest requirements of the new resolution is that “”internet service providers do not block, discriminate against or impair the ability of any person to use or offer any service, content or application of their choice irrespective of source or target”.

It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the UK government and ISP’s like Virgin, BT, etc, especially with regards to ongoing cases like that of the Newzbin 2 website.

Mongolia wants artificial glacier to cool capital

mongolia-ulan-bator-artificial-glacierApparently the Mongloian capital of Ulan Bator gets really hot during the Summer, but rather than air-conditioners, the government is instead looking at ways to creat an artificial glacier to cool the city down.

The aim is to buld articial ice sheets or Naleds, which oocur naturally in the far northern climate. EMI-ECOS are planning to try and replicate the way that Naleds are made by drilling holes through the ice that forms on the Tuul River.

We wish them luck, but we still think that this is a demented idea that could be solved quickly and cheaply using fans and air-conditioners.

The Robot Revolution: HAL Exoskeleton to Anti-radiation suit

cyberdyne-hal-suit-anti-radiationSeveral years ago the Japanese company Cyberdyne released a robotic exoskeleton the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL), which was designed to help people with muscle diseases and disabilities. The suit works by enhancing what the body is already capable of through motors, sensors, and various other bits, and it seems to have gone down reasonably well with the people it was designed for.

Tungsten is one of the few wearable materials that can stop radiation, but the problem is that in order to provide adequate protection it will be very heavy.

Now add the two together, and what you’ll eventually get is an armoured exo-suit.

Check out the video to see the HAL robotic suit in action (without the tungsten modification that is).


The Robot Revolution: Robots controlling humans

robot-control-human-armResearchers at France’s Montpellier Laboratory of Informatics, Robotics, and Microelectronics have developed a rather simple method to allow a robot to control the actions of a human, or more specifically, their arm.

It’s more a proof of concept at this stage, but it uses motion sensors and eleoctrodes attached to the person’s arm.

As always, the researchers are hoping to see similar techniques used in rehabilitation, and to help those who suffer from disabilities so that they can accomplish basic tasks.


The Robot Revolution: Titanoboa versus Mondo Spider

titanoboa-versus-mondo-spiderBack in 2007 a team of artists based out of Vancouver’s eatART Lab built what they called a “kinetic sculpture” of a spider that was “piloted” by a person. As if that wasn’t enough to get the keepers of the Defense Departments techno-zoo drooling, the same team are back with their new “art project” – Titanoboa.

So what happens when a 1700 lb steel spider meets a 50ft robotic snake? It sounds like the plot from a B-movie, the whole encounter is fairly peaceful, unless you’re afraid of snakes, spiders or robots that is.

Take a look at them in action.


WTF Award & The Robot Revolution: Bear pillows stop you snoring

jukusui-kun-robotic-bear-pillow-to-stop-snoringMeet Jukusui-kun. He’s a polar bear whose sole purpose in life is to stop you snoring.

No, really.

One of the creations of Dr Kabe from Waseda University’s Kabe Lab, Jukusui-kun (Deep Sleep), was unveiled at this year’s International Robot Exhibition, held at Tokyo Big Sight. The polar bear shaped “pillow” is designed to help sufferers of Sleep Apnea Syndrome by delivering a gentle prod or tickle the sleeper’s face when necessary. An equally furry hand sensor that monitors blood oxgen levels acts as a control device that lets Jukusui-kun know when it should take action.

Yes, it sounds like a crazy idea, but it’s also a rather cute one too.


WTF Award: £200,000 Laboratory grown hamburger 

mark-post-invitro-meat-lab-grown-hamburgerGrowing a hamburger in a lab sounds like something you’d find in a mad scientist’s recipe book, unless your name’s Mark Post, a vascular biologist at the University of Maastricht.

He plans on using stem cells harvested from leftover material at abbatoirs to “grow” muscle strips using by “feeding” them a mixture of sugars, amino acids, lipids and minerals. Once the strips reach the required size, they will be layered until they reach the thickness of the average burger, but because there’s no blood they’ll look more like scallops than actual meat.

He also plans to prevent them wasting away by stretching the muscles between two velcro tabs, and the resistance this provides will help to build up the strength of the muscle.

The whole thing could very well lead to “meat-free meat”, but right now it sounds … weird.

WTF Award: EU bans claims that water can prevent dehydration

european-union-bans-bottled-water-dehydration-claimsIn yet another stunning piece of bureacratic legislation, the European Union has forbidden producers of bottled water from stating that water can prevent dehydration.

It follows a three year investigation that concluded that symptoms of dehydration were not something that could be controlled by drinking water.

Fair enough, but if that’s the case, why send water to regions affected by drought? Granted things like salt deficiency also play a part in dehydration, but the key element is always water. Politicians and scientists across Europe have criticised the decision, stating that it goes against common sense and the evidence of human history.

Then again, it’s not really that much of a surprise, especially when you consider that the EU also passed laws banning straight bananas and bendy cucumbers (both of which were repealed in 2008 after lots of international ridicule).



Co-founder of The Geek Show Podcast Network. Chief Editor and Executive Producer of, and tangentially overburdened host/co-presenter of several shows on the network. When I'm not engaged in production, journalistic shenanigans or the quagmire that is media criticism I watch movies, interesting TV shows and anime, I also enjoy the arts (you know, classical music and stuff), write many, many things, play and collect a lot of video games, read lots of manga, comics and books, and generally enjoy wallowing in the mass of entertainment media like a hippo in mud. I can also cook.

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