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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Right Round Round Round

Enjoy unsolved mysteries?

Here's one for you: why do people travel in circles when they can't see a fixed landmark?

Apparently, difference in limb lengths doesn't explain this behaviour (eg. driving the car) so this remains an unsolved question.

I wonder if you'll see the same circling movement if you make the blindfolded person lie down on a skateboard, so as to position the inner ear balance organs 90 degrees to the usual orientation.

Or if there is still circling if you give the subject a fixed auditory landmark, like a tall loudspeaker.

Via Mind Hacks.

Would you like to know more?

- A Mystery: Why Can't We Walk Straight? (

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Beware Of Geeks Bearing Fembots

Latest development by Hiroshi Ishiguro's group: the Actroid-F.

Now attempting to bridge the uncanny valley with fast facial expressions!

The multiple eye blink demonstration from 1:26 - 1:33 is very impressive. To me, one major reason why androids today look so stiff is due to the sluggishness of the actuators.

People don't slowly move their heads and facial muscles into position; they sort of "snap" into it.

In that respect, the current Actroid-F appears to have the fastest motor response of any android so far. Older videos of the Actroid-F in April still show the slow eye blink and head movement, so something must have been enhanced since then, be it faster motors and/or software.

Also, I think there is one point in this video where the Actroid briefly slips across the uncanny valley.

It's at 1:46, when after repeating a series of mechanical-looking mouth movements, the Actroid suddenly shifts attention to the left in a snappy, human sort of way.

In that instant, the robot seemed to be alive.

Looking at the progress so far, this is merely a little taste of what is to come.

Would you like to know more?

- ACTROID-F: Android robot that coexists with human (AIST Channel)