Archive for January, 2012


Posted in Mortal Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2012 by Mortal Mikey

Watching a video online yesterday got me thinking about robots and the new possibilities of AI’s within them. It also made me think. Are we really that stupid?

I believe so.

From the beginning of the robot fascination, a decade or so after the beginning of the 19th century, ideas quickly began to turn a little sinister. The reason being is that if you intend to create a robot that can perform the functions of a human and have it built to last for an incredibly long long time, with next to no care for human survival at all, you can expect a lot of hassle.

Now, you instantly start thinking of  a few things from your recent past, mainly films. i-Robot, Terminator, 2001 A space Odyssey and short circuit. In a nutshell robots will mess you up and that’s partly because we made them and partly because we’re really that stupid.

Big corporations at the forefront of technology have used the money they earn from selling us overly priced, cheaply made plastic things that light up and thrown it at robots and AI. Usually what is showcased for example, is a piano playing, break dancing, skipping, helpful little robot with a smiley or vacant face, finished with a colourful paint job. The only reason these things haven’t started to dig mass graves for us is because we’ve yet to find a safe and compact way of storing massive energy.

In the 1987 film, Robocop, the lead role in the film plays a cop and is brutally murdered in a warehouse by a bad ass gang. When located, he is then whisked off by medical staff and put through a process to create a new prototype “cyborg” cop. Part man, part machine, all cop, was the tag line of the film. Alex Murphy (the cop who was killed) is haunted by the residual memories of his past, up until the point where he took a bullet to the head and had his body replaced with a suit of silvery blue armour. He lived on, albeit with a basic digestive system, he survived by eating a nutritional paste (a bit like baby food), this was enough, combined with the rest of the suit, to go about his cop duties.

Thankfully he didn’t want to harm everyone he meets, due to some of the memories that lingered, instead he sets about systematically murdering anyone involved with the gang who gave him a head full of lead. Cyborgs, being part man, part machine, are in my opinion something we should develop as much as possible…so that even the most handicapped person could enjoy super human strength and the ability to smash through walls.

Right now we have computer brains that are learning all the time, they are somewhat stationary, for now, but it’s all to obvious where this is leading. There are robotic experts trying to re-create the human skeletal system using machines…they are also giving these robots the ability to learn. Take a look at this video from Japan, I have no idea why the decided to make it look like a hairless pale child but given what the Japanese usually get up to, this isn’t all that weird.

Developments in silicon skin have reached a point where an android covered in the synthetic skin are hard to spot in a crowd. I heard recently about an android in Japan that was sat in a chair before a meeting commenced, programmed to simply fidget, blink and breathe. It was only when pointed out to the guests that they were in presence of an android, that they realised. The robot, who looked female, obviously would have given the game away if she spoke, because it would be through speakers and her face moves like that of a person with a melted plastic bag over their face.

Here is a robot showcasing the movement and the synthetic skin.

I have always been a very visual person, even as a child. As an engineer myself, my opinion is that I think we’re a long way from recreating the fluid movement of a human being, in a robot. If you take a look into the natural geometry of the human body i.e the golden ratio, studied by the late great Leonardo da Vinci and any great architect or artist worth their salt,. The perfect form of the human body and the biological mechanics within it are mind boggling. It’s hard to comprehend with the sheer size of some people today, that there is a natural mathematical rhythm to everything but there is. To replicate muscle structure, bone strength and combine it with balance, is very very difficult…not only because we produce our own perfectly balanced power source through consuming burgers and beer but because it is simply one of the most complex arrangements of space junk we’ve ever seen.

Take a look at this short video below to see some of the natural occurrences robotics engineers world wide have to recognise.

Where was I?

To ensure the absolute destruction of the human race, we need to crack on. AI is improving at a staggering rate, one can only imagine what the first artificial intelligence that learns at a geometric rate will be sat in but i’m not sure we’ll like it. Some home truths are bound to be exchanged and god help the thing if we literally plug it into our internet.

This leads me onto mention just how small robots can be.

At a molecular level scientists have managed to create robots so small, they could perform tasks inside your body, with no sedation whatsoever. The subject of Nano technology may or may not ring any bells but quite simply, it is the art of creating materials from the very core elements of our universe. Using atomic sized building blocks, new materials can be created with unreal characteristics. Take the simple example in the video below of a spray on material that creates an instant water repellent surface.

Science fiction writers have already predicted how we could potentially kill ourselves with nano technology but as always, we plough on, into the unknown like a blind bee keeper. Prince Charles knows a thing or two about these predictions, he has given out the warning that a “grey goo” could potentially eat the world.

“It offers a nightmare vision straight out of science fiction – the destruction of the environment, perhaps even of the world, by robots smaller than viruses, able to share intelligence, replicate themselves and take command of the planet. “

A quote taken straight from this article in the Gaurdian. A threat bigger than his ears

The subject of the grey goo, otherwise known as utility fog and other hypothosised theories of tiny nano robots, is pretty freaky. In the weaker installment of the four Terminator films, Terminator 3’s bad guy was in fact a woman. Now, i’m a big fan of the films and as far as ideas go, this was hot shit. Sadly Jonathan Mostow ruined it with his take on dark “humour” and it became a bit of stain on the franchise. Nevertheless, the female terminator or T-X model was a combination of nano technology and futuristic alloy’s. She had the ability to control other mechanised objects and could shape shift to what ever she saw fit for purpose. Imagine a world where this is a possibility, a woman who can not only make herself look like *insert your ideal woman here* but could also wipe your computer and control your car remotely or just punch her fist through your face. It’s all hypothetical, obviously but judging by what you can easily put together yourself by looking on Youtube and the like, is that we haven’t paused long enough, to recognise that we’re literally creating our own demise.

But not all of the future of robotics or AI technology is a bleak one. Forever running parallel to the fairly blatant military applications of these creations are also the robots that will be helping us out in daily life. Anything from firefighting robots, medical robots (currently being used for major operations) and post natural disaster robots. There is still someway to go before we have to consider fallout shelters and shotguns.

I leave you with this

My Gaming History ‘Part 3’

Posted in My Gaming History on January 14, 2012 by Mortal Mikey

Before I begin the next part of my gaming history, I have to mention something that I read online yesterday.
It was one of those really damning reports of gaming and violent content. This kind of story has risen it’s head from time to time ever since graphics looked like more than just cubes.
It was deemed in the experiment, that violent video games had effected the brains activity after just one week of play. But this time, this was said to be the first “credible” scientific evidence that there is/was an effect. They were using an MRI scan too…money well spent.


I won’t go into too much detail about how the “male” only subjects were forced to play violent games, like it or not and after a week of not playing, brain functionality appeared to restore to normal.
If parents are really worried about their children being effected by computer game violence, they should first learn to take the ratings stated on the box, seriously. By the time I was eighteen, I had played a fair amount of games with guns but the last thing I wanted to do, was join the army or follow a life of crime. It sounded like far too much effort to me.

Fuck this shit

Secondly, science gave us computers. During times where we see more and more freedoms extinguished in the first world, we have expressed our wild imaginations, creating all manner of video games because we’re experimenting. Remember that science…jog on.

Before kids can even operate a control pad for a games console, you can observe them in various situations, quite blatantly smacking, biting, hitting and throwing all manner of things for what seems to be no reason at all.
Funny how science doesn’t point the finger at the least developed countries, the countries where they have literally banned a console, like the Nintendo NES, for suspecting it is a western super computer, capable of destroying their society. Instead they’ll settle for hate tribes, child rape and stoning people to death for not believing in a sky fairy, created in their minds.

Like Santa, without the presents

This kind of story has more holes in it than Osama Bin Laden. Sometime in 2009 for the first time in my life I decided to get rid of my games console (mainly due to the fact I was unable to afford to eat). I had never been without a games machine since birth and I can honestly say that the only positive effects were that I saw more sunlight.
It doesn’t take a scientist to predict that in the future we won’t be leaving games at all, we’re already seeing players playing times rise exponentially.
Eventually we’ll be fully submerged in a bath of neurological violent wonderment, free to experience whatever we choose for however long we like, defecating in a Microsoft licensed colostomy bag being fed nutrients unlocked via the completion of achievements.

Luke…dinners ready

As the violence in videos games to me is fairly comical, I’ve never put down the controller thinking I’d quite like to go into town and kick a stripper in the face with a work boot, because she didn’t show me her tits.

Why not perform an experiment in the opposite room and scan the brains of young men watching endless world news casts and see how brain function is effected when subjected to stories out of their control. Displaying images of older generations still tripping over their dicks about who has the most army and who is today’s ‘odd one out’. Remember, it’s the same older generation who weren’t brought up on video games, the same older generation who thought smoking made you stronger and black people belonged in the jungle.

Judging by the length of that rant, my intended write up on the next instalment may have to spill over into part four. I’ll begin again, where I left off.

The Mega Drive was released whilst I still owned the Master System and the NES. They were both too good to throw out even though the 16bit cloud was looming overhead. It was always great at this time (as you had much experience with the games) to invite your friends around and win triumphantly at all of them, whilst laughing at them trying to play the game with the “other” pad, with only 85% functionality from a spilt Coke incident.

Many battles were fought on these two player platforms, friendships were tested. Infuriating games like Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers on the NES. A seemingly innocent platform game based on Walt Disney’s childhood favourites.

How wars begin

It’s a tough game when playing solo, so a friend is a welcomed partner, or so you’d think.
The characters were able to pick up and throw just about any objects placed in the game world, including, your partner. During a particular hard traverse over some precarious landscapes, you would be overcome with the urge to throw your friend off the edge of the screen, thus resulting in a scrap, no doubt in your mums living room. If you haven’t noted the sarcasm re: violence, at this point, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

0600 Hours, December 25th 1992, the Mega Drive was unwrapped from its polystyrene womb.
Little did they know, this new; evermore powerful machine, was aptly named. Mega, meaning fucking brilliant and drive meaning, drive, found in a computer i guess.

Mega Genesis

So the Mega Drive had a much better name in Europe. The yanks decided due to legal reasons it should be renamed the ‘Sega Genesis’. Genesis meaning ‘the time or circumstances of something’s coming into being’ not to be mistaken with the first book found in the bible. But seeing as though a massive percentage of the yanks still believe the world was created in a week, you could see this as a bit odd.
In my case, the console came ready to roll with Altered Beast, a game where you are brought back to life to punch zombies in the head to save a someone’s daughter. Kinda sounds biblical doesn’t it?

The Mega Drive looked fucking cool, as did most things from SEGA. A far cry from Nintendo’s NES which was basically a toaster laid on its side with a flip down lid. We’d come a long way since the days of the VIC-20.
The Mega Drive was packing heat too. Powered by the cutting edge 16/32-bit processor from Motorola, boasting video performance never seen in a home console. A massive 512 colour palette, 64K Video Ram, 64K Work Ram. All punched through your pathetic six inch mono speaker by a combination of Yamaha and Texas instrument sound boards. This console sparked off not only one of the biggest console wars in history but made such a mark in Europe and North America, an accurate sales figure is hard to find. Ranging from as low as 29 million units to 40 million units sold. Nintendo’s NES was beaten like a bad step child.
SEGA reigned supreme, that was until two years later, the Super Nintendo was released. It is still to this day debated which was the better console, each having their own unique qualities and titles.
The last licensed game for the Megadrive was released in Brazil in 2002. The legend lives on with games being emulated on PC and MAC, with releases also appearing on PS3 and Xbox today.
I could go on and on about this console alone, as it has had such a following but this would be straying off course a little.

There was an abundance of games available at the time and some pretty reasonably priced too. This was due to the fact the console had already been around for two years after its initial release in Japan in 1988.
I remember popping open the large game case of Altered beast and flicking through the booklet, wondering ‘just how close to the arcade is this?’. I was pleasantly surprised, the music, the art work and the game play were satisfying, even on this early title.

Vintage Beast

It’s a shame to lose such a well crafted, well balanced simple gaming affair that you experienced on the 16bit machines. We do of course have such a range to chose from today but the old feel of the 4th gen consoles could be compared to that when reading an old book, rather than a Kindle.

In terms of difficulty, Altered Beast made Bayou Billy look like a game of catch, unfortunately with the same combat techniques. This was serious platforming.
You begin your story being rudely awoken from death by a god of some description, who wastes no time in telling you exactly what he needs from you, since he granted you life again. His daughter has been kidnapped by some bald chap who looked like Captain Jean luc Picard, in a dressing gown.

239 lives should do it

The game appears to be set in a ancient fantasy land, much like that of the Golden Axe title of the time. Mythical beasts and zombies come at you from the moment you brush off the dirt from the ditch you were lying in and you must punch, kick, jump and kick your way out. At various stages in the level you are able to kick a blue two headed dog to death and retrieve a magic floating orb.
By doing so your character looks to the screen, shouting the infamous line, “POWER, UP!” Your vest rips open and you grow in strength. This will happen a total of three times during a level before the transformation happens. Take note, just like gym culture in real life, the body enhancements gives the character huge muscles but your head, unfortunately, stays the same size.

Like sending the marines into a peasent village

When the fourth and final orb is collected, you are shown a short animation of the transformation from muscle maniac, to wild beast. In this first instance you turn into the wolf man and with it, you gain some extra combat abilities.

You can now fire balls of flame from your hands in both directions, with the secondary attack you can now rush across the screen, invincible to oncoming attacks, breaking foes into lumps of meat and bone. For a brief moment you feel like a god, literally, the level becomes your playground as you smash enemies left and right.
Sadly the fun is cut short, when the pale bald man you have been sent to kill appears in front of you emanating electricity, which you cannot get passed. You’re lead to believe this is all you will have to face until the music stops, the man laughs at you and is then engulfed in smoke as he turns into…a ten foot tall ogre, rooted to the ground by corpses of the dead, with the ability to continually throw his own head at you until you die.

You’re not the princess!

After some hundred or so fire balls to his body, he bursts once again into smoke before opening up a hole in the ground to which a large bald head of a man appears again, to laugh at you whilst taking your special powers away and giving back your vest.
Remember, all of this happens in level one.

I apologise for not even beginning to mention the items at the end of part 2. I will continue in the next part of my gaming history with the full run down of my Mega Drive experience.
Shit’s about to get real.