Robot Olympics, Machine Learning and an Interview with a Robot


A few articles on robots and AI caught my attention over the past few days.

The first World Drone Prix was held in Dubai earlier this month with a 15 year old winning the $250,000 prize. The final race of that event can be seen in the video below.

After the success of that event, the organizers revealed that they plan a larger Robot Olympics every two years starting in December 2017. This event will be held under the auspices of The World Federation of Future Sports, which is an initiative of Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation.

At present there are nine planned competitions:

  • driverless car racing
  • robotic soccer
  • robotic running competitions
  • manned drones racing
  • robotics swimming
  • robotic table tennis
  • robotic wrestling
  • drones races
  • cybathlon competition.

We most likely will be seeing more competitions like this. If this “Olympic” competition succeeds, then it is likely that we will see many rapid advances in the associated robotic technology.


The training of AI systems has been a challenge requiring days or even weeks of time. Researches at IBM proposed that the learning time can be greatly reduced if “resistive processing units” (RPUs) are employed instead of the traditional microprocessors.

These units include resistive RAM (RRAM) allowing data to be stored closer to the processing unit. This RRAM requires less power than conventional RAM, has a longer expected life and is denser to manufacture. Using this technology 1TB of memory could easily be built into an one inch square component. The resulting machine built from RPUs would be massively parallel and expected to be up to 30,000 times faster than conventional system.

This kind of technology would open up many new uses for Artificial Intelligence and make their deployment far easier.


At SWSX in Austin earlier this month Sophia, a human-like robot from Hanson Robotics was on display. The robot was able to carry on simple conversations, employing facial expressions. The built in cameras allow the robot to keep eye contact and to detect emotions.

Sophia is a long way from a robot that looks indistinguishable from humans, but watching the video above is a little eerie. The technology going into robots is advancing rapidly.

It is hard to predict just what the world will be like in 10 or 20 years. I am sure that we will all be working with robots of increasing sophistication and ever closer human appearance.

Does this make you feel creepy or are you looking forward to working more with robots?

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