Doing The Robot

It’s human nature to always look forward, even if that’s mostly because of the sickly trail of death and devastation we’ve left behind us. So with the CES still bleeping and flashing away childishly in Las Vegas, I thought it might be a good point to focus instead on the more serious world of technology, technology beyond mere entertainment: advanced robotics.

Help the aged

Let’s start with Japan and the menace presented by old people. Japan is in trouble – due to ritual suicide still being a more popular pastime than sex, the young/old balance of the population has reached a critical point. As it stands the number of old and infirm wildly outstrips the number of young and vibrant, and as the young and vibrant are too busy being young and vibrant in karaoke bars while dressed as Hello Kitty, even if they could be arsed to look after the old and infirm, there’s simply not enough of them to do so. Fortunately, it seems, robotics can provide the answer…

Enjoy a good night’s sleep after being carried to your slumber by this metallic monstrosity. Designed as a ‘soft human interactive robot’ by Japan’s RIKEN research centre, RI-MAN’s lot in life is even less than that of an NHS nurse, forced to lump limp old nearly corpses around everywhere. Need to get grandma out of bed while you change the heavily stained sheets? Have the terrifying form of RI-MAN drag her out and down to the garden to sob quietly to herself. Great Uncle Kaito fallen while emptying his colostomy bag and you don’t really want to touch him? That’s okay, RI-MAN is wipe-clean. Sick of having to put up with the constant death rattle of terminally flatulent granddad? Have RI-MAN carry him to the bath and submerge him for slightly longer than the human body can withstand. Oh no, stupid RI-MAN!

Then there’s the similarly tasked RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance), except this one has been designed, wait for it, to look like “a friendly polar bear” – famously the most amiable of the bear family. Standing 1.4-metres tall and capable of lugging up to 61kg of the bed-bound in one go without going crazy and gnawing their head off, RIBA can apparently recognise faces and voices, and presumably stalk weakened prey with all the tenacity of one of nature’s most successful killers.

Robot Whores

But of course the wonderful world of robotics is not just all about terrifying the senile, oh no! Taking a sinister, if not totally unexpected turn, welcome to the dawn of the sex robot…

The first abomination of the human-robot relationship reared its terrifyingly unrealistic head about two years ago and has failed to go away ever since: meet Roxxxy. More terrifying than pretty much anything you could ever imagine putting your penis in, Roxxxy first came into existence when former Bell Labs engineer Douglas Hines lost a friend in the 911 terror attacks and, to both preserve his friend’s personality and allow his friend’s children to interact with him as they grew up, created a female sex robot. Nothing weird so far.

Now the head of True Companion LLC, Hine’s unnatural creation has a proper skeleton to allow it to be positioned like a normal lady, sensors so it knows when it’s being ‘touched’, an internal speaker to let it talk, and a laptop to act as the brain. Brain? Talk? What does a sexbot talk about? Well apparently Roxxxy likes to whisper sweet nothings about Porsches and football before changing the mood slightly by lapsing into some seriously disturbing dialogue about “10,000 tonnes of molten steel and jet fuel”, as though the awful dying memories of Hine’s ex-friend had somehow transferred to her laptop brain. So still nothing weird.

To add extra spice and get you back on stroke after the 911 flashbacks, Roxxxy also comes with different personalities to suit your every sick, sick mood. Choose from Wild Wendy who, frankly, is going to end up with a nasty virus, or Frigid Farah (the Bond Trader from Tower 1) who, given that name, presumably defeats the whole point of paying between $7000 and $9000 for your very own sexbot… no matter how much you fancy Catherine Tate. Catherine Tate? Now that is weird.

Drone wars

More cringing discomfort now in the form of the latest advancement in military nastiness, the EATR – Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot – from Robotic Technology Inc, a steam-powered biomass-eating military robot that can “find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment and other organically based energy.” Is it just me or did you just shudder to the root of your very being on reading that too? So, this thing goes around on its own free volition, hoovering up any ‘biomass’ it might find on the battlefield? Oh Jesus, I’ve just been sick in my mouth…

That seemed to happen to a lot of other people too, prompting RTI’s head of killbots, Dr Bob Finkelstein (real name) to make a statement reassuring us that the EATR would be programmed to distinguish between material signatures and would, therefore, be stuck on a strict diet of sticks and leaves… and absolutely not go around feasting on the bodies of fallen soldiers in a logical bid to prolong its own survival… no matter how low on energy and other options it got… ever. Eurgh, there’s that sick again…

Automated for the people

But don’t panic just yet, this is just one possible, hideously dystopian vision of our cybernetic future, a future where old people are banished to the ice flow to be picked off by robotic polar bears, sex is a grotesque, unfulfilling fumble with a schizophrenic mannequin, and soldiers won’t have to worry about coming home in a box any more. The likelihood is that everything will turn out for the best, common sense will prevail and the robots of tomorrow will be the shiny happy ones that can be seen dancing and playing football on TV, like Johnny Five here, and not a remorseless army of sordid, tawdry plastitutes and flesh-eating cyber-monsters. Probably.

That Was the Year that Was, Wasn’t It: 2011

2011 was a busy old year, so what did you enjoy most? The Royal Wedding? Nah, you’re right, apart from a day off and a chance to ogle an all-new Royalty related arse in the shapely shape of Pippa Middleton, it was all a bit naff. What about the killing of bin Laden? Yeah, that’s more like it – a 10 year game of hide and seek come to a brutal end in, what was described as, a ‘luxury villa’ in Pakistan. I personally would have liked to have seen more images of Barry Obama punching the air and Condoleezza Rice rubbing against the furniture in a orgasmic frenzy of savage vengeance, but you can’t have everything. I would also have preferred the video footage to have been soundtracked with AC/DC, but again…

Which bad-guy bashing naturally leads to the equally drawn-out demise of Libyan golf-buggy fancier, genocidal maniac, and all-round nutjob melty-face, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Defiant, mad as a box of retarded frogs, and as deeply in denial as previous holder of the It’s Not Happening World Championship, Comical Ali, there were rumours that Gaddafi Duck had fled Sirte disguised as a woman, which was well worth mocking until you remembered that he wore dresses every day anyway. In the end he died the way he lived: in a pipe. Or something.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Greece owned up to having fucked up its finances on a whole new level of fuck-uppery, leading to Germany umming and ahhing about helping out before eventually deciding that some kind of hostile takeover of the Greek banking system was called for. Followed by a hostile takeover of Greece, no doubt. They can’t help themselves.

Back in Britain, some criminal who owned a gun but wasn’t holding it at the time got himself shot by the police, consequently the nation went looting. Never before have so many stole so much in the name of so few, well one, one person they didn’t know… or know anything about. Alright far from a political movement over dissatifaction with life in coalition Britain it was all about pinching trainers from Foot Locker and as much tech as their cheap gold jewellery covered pikey hands could half-inch from Currys. Fortunately before long even nicking stuff began to feel too much like ‘work’ and the chaos stopped.

It was also the year of demise for another terror of the people, the News of The World – a newspaper that was simultaneously not about the world or news. Hacking coughs spread and took down journalism’s last bastions of illegal practice in a whirlwind of finger-pointing, back-stabbing, implausible deniability and out-and-out lying as the Murdoch family pleaded laughable innocence and the red-topped, Ross Kemp battering banshee of the red-tops, Rebecca Brooks, was toppled and the 168 year old creaking organ that was easily Britain’s Worst Newspaper was shut down forever, the final edition’s front page emblazoned with ‘Thank You & Goodbye’ which, presumably, came from the end of a phone call they’d hacked.

There was also plenty of natural and unnatural disasters scattered throughout 2011 to keep the remaining newspapers in business until the Leveson Inquiry (not named after Brian Leveson, the writer behind the hilarious My Family) inevitably shuts them all down: Japan with its earthquake, tsunami and subsequent Fukushima nuclear near-Fuk, Thailand with the floods they didn’t love long-time, and America with its annual array of high school and postman-based shootings.

In entertainment – a term I use as loosely as a prolapsed rectum – X Factor history was made when the fixed competition was won by a group comprising three chavettes and a singing pig. Which, come to think of it, would be a better name than Little Mix. But, of course, they’re all winners, aren’t they? – the one who looked like a bloke in a dress, the fat Cocc kid with the stupid hair, the one who thought she was Grace Jones, that stunted, Autistic Irish homosexual, the fat one from Take That, the one that’s not Beyonce, the new Queen of the Chavs and…. wait, no they weren’t winners, were they? There’s only ever one winner – Simon Cowell.

2011 was also the year the terms Tiger Blood, Bi-Winning and Complete And Utter Public Mental Collapse were bandied about all across the papers as Charlie Sheen began his descent into shit-smearing insanity and a teenage American girl called Rebecca Black recorded the worse song ever, worse even than Little Mix’s reimagining of Damien Rice’s Cannonball (for which they will pay), but which finally settled which day came after Friday and overtook the Japanese disaster in the Twitter ratings; unbelievable. Following which, refusing to be outdone, Amy Winehouse poured herself a proper stiff one in a blaze of absolutely no surprise to anyone and now has another number one album. That’s how it works.

What else? Ah yes, the final flight of the Space Shuttle arrived when apathy set in at NASA and what was once all ‘space this and space that’ ended after overwhelming evidence across the globe proved that there’s no intelligent life anywhere and they’d be better off saving the money up in the hope that they can one day buy the country back from China.

Which I think just about covers it. Nothing more I can think of anyway. Feel free to add anything I missed.