Space & Innovation

New Toy for Kids Powered by 'Watson' A.I.

Dino toy will converse with kids and connect to global artificial intelligence via the Internet.  Continue reading →

Conjecturing about the imminent robot revolution isn't even fun anymore. You don't have to make things up, because the robots are settling in all over the place and reality is outgunning fiction every day.

To wit: A new children's toy proposes to let your wee ones grow up with their own A.I. companion - an Internet-connected playmate that can "evolve, learn and grow" with each child.

BLOG: App-Controlled Robot Is Your New Toy

The CogniToys project from Elemental Path is an outgrowth of the IBM Watson Mobile App Developer Challenge. Watson, you may recall, is the artificial intelligence that competed on Jeopardy and is now a ginormous research initiative with hundreds of different applications.

The mobile app contest is designed to give developers access to Watson's massive cognitive computing system via the Internet. Further highlighting the story's sci-fi elements, the prototype version of the toy was extruded on 3-D printers for testing with focus groups.

VIDEO: Can We Fall In Love With Robots?

Robot rebellion jokes aside, the CogniToys dinosaur project is an ambitious foray into the busy "smart toys" arena. The toy - a cuddly green dinosaur for now - uses Watson's cutting-edge natural language processing to converse with kids, creating a unique personality over time based on interaction. Custom modules can be downloaded for educational play, including spelling, vocabulary and math. Age range for the first model is 4 to 7 years old.

The CogniToys campaign is now up and running on Kickstarter (where it's doing quite nicely, thank you) with an eye toward commercial production in November. If all goes well, your pre-schooler could be scheming with a global artificial intelligence by this time next year. What could possibly go wrong?

via Gizmag

Rarely does a day go by without mention of a new kind of robot popping up in the science headlines. We even keep an entire

topic heading

on the subject here at Discovery News. But if the robot revolution really does come to pass, the machines aren't likely to swoop down on us in some sudden and terrifying

Terminator

scenario. Instead, they'll rise up calmly from the weird places they've been secretly infiltrating. Here we take a look at some of the unexpected places where robots have already staked out positions.

Culinary robots like the

Cooki robotic chef

, pictured here, are starting to make their way into both home and restaurant kitchens. The Cooki prototype displayed at this year's Consumer Electronics Show is able to prepare an entire meal from ingredients loaded into side-mounted trays.

Most public and university libraries now have self-checkout kiosks and other automated systems for checking out books. But North Carolina State's

bookBot

delivery system takes it up a notch, using robotic arms to pull items from within a giant stack of storage bins. University officials say the system requires only about 10 percent of the space of conventional shelving.

Scientists at the United Technologies Research Center in Berkeley, Calif., recently unveiled their latest A.I. triumph -- a

laundry robot

that can gather, wash and fold clothes. The team has also taught the bot how to fetch a beer. When this robot turns on us, it's going to be heartbreaking.

Designed to experiment and learn from its mistakes, the robot behind IBM's

Cognitive Cooking

initiative is actually an advanced A.I. from the same team that brought us Jeopardy champ

Watson

. Dishes invented by the bot include Belgian Bacon Pudding and the frankly alarming Austrian Chocolate Burrito. IBM's dedicated food truck can often be found at industry events, serving up the computer-designed vittles.

Not all robots are hi-tech, but when they're this big, they don't really need to be. Tourists visiting the French city of Nantes can check out -- and even ride -- the Great Elephant robot, made from 45 tons of wood and steel. The robot is one of several mechanical marvels built by resident artists in the city's former shipyards.

Royal Caribbean has installed a robotic bartender on its cruise liner

Quantum of the Seas

, which shakes and stirs martinis and other drinks using articulated robot arms. Customers place their orders from table-mounted tablets. In fact, several forward-thinking establishments have deployed robot bartenders, including The

Robots Bar and Lounge

in Illmenau, Germany.

Pharmacies in the UCSF Medical Center in California have been using robots to fill prescriptions for several years now. Statistically, the automated system is less prone to error, administrators say, plus the bots can safely handle dangerous substances like toxic chemotherapy drugs.

Last summer, research teams from two Canadian universities unleashed hitchBOT -- a hitchhiking robot that managed to make its way across the entire country in 21 days. The bot was equipped with an LED screen "face" and gear for communicating with its handlers and posting videos online. HitchBOT is part of a social sciences project studying interactive robots and the psychology of human kindness.

Not a lot of people know this, but many stories in print and online publications are actually written by robots. The Associated Press uses "automation technology" to generate certain kinds of financial reports and sports stories that essentially consist of number-crunching and boilerplate text. A good chunk of the write-ups on Wikipedia are automated, as well. As a matter of fact, this entire slideshow was written and compiled by our new Discovery News Blog-Tron 6000. We kid, we kid.