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Google Rumored To Be Pulling Its Team From The DARPA Robotics Challenge

According to a source who has participated in the Pentagon-funded DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), Google is pulling its team from the competition.

If the rumor is true it would be a significant move on Google’s part, bolstering the company’s claims that it has no interest in seeking funding from the military.

The withdrawal might also quiet some of the anxiety that arose this past December, when the news first broke that Google was purchasing Boston Dynamics, a firm whose robots were funded primarily by the Pentagon. Google, it could be junior-sleuthed, was getting into military robotics. The search giant’s own assurances, that it wasn’t interested in being a military contractor, were deftly ignored by professional hand-wringers. The Guardian wrote that, along with gaining “world-leading robotics capability,” the acquisition added “significant links to the US military…” And while journalists trotted out the standard array of Terminator references, the Boston Dynamics deal inspired media theorist Douglas Rushkoff to note that, “some of Google's recent forays are waking people up to the fact that evil is in the eyes of the beholder.” (The rhetorical bait-and-hook title of his CNN column: “Is Google redefining “don’t be evil’?”)

The purchase also meant that Google had fully bought its way into the DRC, arguably the most ambitious robotics competition to date, with teams from around the world developing bots that can function as first responders. In the physical trials that punctuate the multi-year competition, machines—most of them two-legged humanoids—are scored on their ability to cross uneven terrain, drive a vehicle, use power tools, and accomplish other tasks relevant to disaster response. In the weeks leading up to the DRC’s first trials (a qualifying event this past December, with the finals planned for December 2014), Google had already dominated coverage of the event. It’s acquisition of Tokyo-based SCHAFT Inc., one of the companies in competition, meant that Google had an official horse in the race. But Boston Dynamics played an even more crucial role in the DRC, having been contracted to provide various teams with its humanoid Atlas robot. Google was now both a competitor and contractor in the highest-profile robot showdown since the last DARPA Challenge, a driverless car race held in 2007.

SCHAFT and its S-One humanoid wound up placing first in last month’s trial, qualifying for $1M in additional funding from DARPA, and becoming the clear frontrunner for the $2M top prize in the finals later this year. Google has what appears to be the best-performing team in the competition. And now, it seems, that team is bowing out.

Though our source isn’t privy to Google’s decision-making, the stated reason for the withdrawal of SCHAFT was straightforward: Google does not want additional military funds. After all, continued participation in the competition would mean receiving funding (and, potentially, winnings) from the Pentagon.

Google declined to comment on what it referred to as “rumor and speculation.” But the company did confirm that it is not pursuing new military contracts.

And really, why would Google court the defense industry? “That just doesn’t represent nearly a big enough market to interest Google,” says Brian Gerkey, CEO of the Open Source Robotics Foundation, which was contracted by DARPA to provide robotic simulation software for the DRC. “Even the companies these days that are selling robots to the Defense Department are looking for other markets to sell robots to. You only ever need so many military robots in the world, and the size of that market pales in comparison to the consumer market.” iRobot, for example, has delivered some 5000 bots to the US armed forces, more than any other single company. And yet, iRobot has also sold roughly 8 million Roombas, and its profits are now based largely on its various domestic robots, which accounted for 82 percent of the company’s revenue in 2012 (up from 60 percent in 2011). “Philosophy and ethics aside, that’s why [Google] wouldn’t even bother. You can get higher margins on the military side, but you’re just not going to do the volume,” says Gerkey.

Since Google has committed to honoring existing robotics contracts, including Boston Dynamics’ $10.8M deal to build and maintain Atlas robots for the DRC (four of which are guaranteed a spot in the finals), its presence will still be felt at the competition. And, of course, anything is possible between now and the expected announcement from DARPA, such as Team SCHAFT simply surrendering its funded position, and joining the ranks of comparatively scrappy, self-funded bots in the finals. But if Google is serious about putting its new lab to work on some sort of robotic moon shot, then SCHAFT’s engineers might be too busy to regret the more immediate shot at glory they passed up.

Source: http://www.popsci.com/blog-network/zero-moment/google-rumored-be-pulling-its-team-darpa-robotics-challenge

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Founded by Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov in February 2011 with the participation of leading Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs and systems.

The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimale conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies. 

The main science mega-project of the 2045 Initiative aims to create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality. We devote particular attention to enabling the fullest possible dialogue between the world’s major spiritual traditions, science and society.

A large-scale transformation of humanity, comparable to some of the major spiritual and sci-tech revolutions in history, will require a new strategy. We believe this to be necessary to overcome existing crises, which threaten our planetary habitat and the continued existence of humanity as a species. With the 2045 Initiative, we hope to realize a new strategy for humanity's development, and in so doing, create a more productive, fulfilling, and satisfying future.

The "2045" team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one’s individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality.

An annual congress "The Global Future 2045" is organized by the Initiative to give platform for discussing mankind's evolutionary strategy based on technologies of cybernetic immortality as well as the possible impact of such technologies on global society, politics and economies of the future.


Future prospects of "2045" Initiative for society


The emergence and widespread use of affordable android "avatars" controlled by a "brain-computer" interface. Coupled with related technologies “avatars’ will give people a number of new features: ability to work in dangerous environments, perform rescue operations, travel in extreme situations etc.
Avatar components will be used in medicine for the rehabilitation of fully or partially disabled patients giving them prosthetic limbs or recover lost senses.


Creation of an autonomous life-support system for the human brain linked to a robot, ‘avatar’, will save people whose body is completely worn out or irreversibly damaged. Any patient with an intact brain will be able to return to a fully functioning  bodily life. Such technologies will  greatly enlarge  the possibility of hybrid bio-electronic devices, thus creating a new IT revolution and will make  all  kinds of superimpositions of electronic and biological systems possible.


Creation of a computer model of the brain and human consciousness  with the subsequent development of means to transfer individual consciousness  onto an artificial carrier. This development will profoundly change the world, it will not only give everyone the possibility of  cybernetic immortality but will also create a friendly artificial intelligence,  expand human capabilities  and provide opportunities for ordinary people to restore or modify their own brain multiple times.  The final result  at this stage can be a real revolution in the understanding of human nature that will completely change the human and technical prospects for humanity.


This is the time when substance-independent minds will receive new bodies with capacities far exceeding those of ordinary humans. A new era for humanity will arrive!  Changes will occur in all spheres of human activity – energy generation, transportation, politics, medicine, psychology, sciences, and so on.

Today it is hard to imagine a future when bodies consisting of nanorobots  will become affordable  and capable of taking any form. It is also hard to imagine body holograms featuring controlled matter. One thing is clear however:  humanity, for the first time in its history, will make a fully managed evolutionary transition and eventually become a new species. Moreover,  prerequisites for a large-scale  expansion into outer space will be created as well.


Key elements of the project in the future

• International social movement
• social network immortal.me
• charitable foundation "Global Future 2045" (Foundation 2045)
• scientific research centre "Immortality"
• business incubator
• University of "Immortality"
• annual award for contribution to the realization of  the project of "Immortality”.

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