This article was originally published in The Economist on July 21st 2012
Only a few of the many thousands who applied to carry Britain’s Olympic torch in the relay that finishes on July 27th made the final selection. But one application (albeit unsuccessful) stood out. James Law, a computer scientist at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales, nominated iCub, his metre-high humanoid robot.
Competition to build athletic machines is intensifying as greater processing power makes them nimbler and handier. Disembodied arms at the University of Tokyo pitch baseballs, and bat them back, with uncanny accuracy. Engineers in Munich have built a pool-playing automaton that can pot five balls in a row. Their counterparts at Zhejiang University in China boast a pair of humanoid table-tennis players. (They can rally with a human for 145 strokes, and with each other for about 180.) Read more
This article was originally published in The Economist on July 7th 2012
Fans of smutty websites may resist giving personal information to porn barons. But they should feel safe entrusting it to their government. On June 29th the Department for Education temporarily suspended a public consultation on proposals to make internet pornography harder to access. It had found that its website was leaking respondents’ confidential answers and e-mail addresses on the net. Read more