Swift Playgrounds adds new robots for budding coders

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Swift Playgrounds
Dive into coding with Swift Playgrounds.
Photo: Apple

Swift Playgrounds, Apple’s code-learning app aimed at youngsters, got a huge update today with the biggest new set of features sent the app came out in 2016.

With the Swift Playgrounds 2.0 update, coders get access to a host of new robots, as well as the ability to subscribe to third-party level creators so you can find and download new levels faster.

Catch the weird, wonderful and wacky gadgets of CES 2018, on The CultCast

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Forephus
This ping pong machine is part cyborg, part Forrest Gump.
Photo: Engadget

This week, on a jam-packed, tech-tastic episode of The CultCast: We’ll tell you the weirdest, wackiest and most wonderful products revealed at CES 2018, the world’s craziest consumer electronics show. We’ve dug deep to bring you some strange ones!

Our thanks to Casper for supporting this episode. Learn why Casper makes the internet’s favorite mattress, and save $50 off your order at casper.com/cultcast.

Watch a robot perfectly fit an iPhone screen protector

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l_os_pepperduaro-02
Air bubbles? There's a bot for that!
Photo: ITMedia

Virtually everyone’s had the experience of trying to affix an adhesive screen protector to their new iPhone, only to screw up and put it on at a jaunty angle, or with unwanted air bubbles showing on the surface.

Fortunately, Kawasaki has created a dual-arm manufacturing robot, called “duAro,” that’s able to do the job better than we could ever hope to.

Check out the weirdly hypnotic video below to see the robot in action.

Robotic assistant makes you glad Siri is just a voice

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Nadine robotic assistant
Robotic assistant Nadine has the kind of face we can imagine only half-covering a soulless, plastic endoskeleton after the explosion failed to kill her.
Photo: Nanyang Technical University

Anyone who’s been wringing their hands in anticipation of the day we’ll each have a physical, robotic assistant to schedule our days and keep us company should be careful what they wish for because the future is here, and it is creepy.

“Nadine” comes from scientists at Nanyang Technical University in Singapore, and its face looks very similar to its creator’s, Professor Nadia Thalmann. But its terrifying, pruny hands come from somewhere else, like the nightmares we had when we were eight and watched director David Cronenberg’s version of The Fly even though our parents specifically told us not to.

You can see Nadine in action in the video below.

Robo-dog Santa sleigh will haunt your Christmas

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Ho, ho, horrifying?
Ho, ho, horrifying?
Photo: Boston Dynamics/YouTube

Robots are cool, but there are some things visionary engineers in the robotics field should not mess with – like eight tiny reindeer.

Boston Dynamics put their famous robotic dogs through another test – harnessing three Spot bots to a sleigh, pulling a waving Santa-like figure (not the real Santa, but a real person dressed as Mrs. Claus). The Google-owned company posted a video on YouTube of the prancing robo dogs, apparently showing the world once again that even the job of Rudolph can be replaced by a robot.

Japanese helper-bot is as adorable as it is ridiculous

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This guy has traded in his smartphone for a RoBoHon.
This guy has traded in his smartphone for a RoBoHon.
Photo: Sharp/YouTube

Now if Cupertino really wanted to make Siri something special, they would give her a head, arms and legs, and make her dance when she plays music.

Sharp Electronics has either jumped ahead of Apple or jumped the shark tank with an animated robotic smartphone called RoBoHon. It does everything your current smartphone does but with moving appendages, an adorable, futuristic face and a sweet voice to make it a very personable sidekick.

Architects behind Apple’s spaceship campus set their sights on Mars

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Foster + Partners want to take on Mars.
Foster + Partners want to take on Mars.
Photo: Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners is currently making a name for itself by designing Apple’s new spaceship campus and flagship stores, but once it’s done taking over Earth, the London-based architecture firm wants to help NASA create human colonies on Mars.

Norman Foster’s firm revealed its plans for a 93-square meter habitat that would be 3D printed from the loose soil and rocks on the the martian surface. The firm’s designs were shortlisted as a finalist for the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge hosted by NASA and America Makes.

This is the same architecture firm that designed Apple’s spaceship in Cupertino as well as most of the flagship Apple Store. While the structures presented in the Mars plan are vastly different from what Apple uses, it shows the kind of crazy ideas that go into modern architecture, some of which can be implemented in one way or another here on Earth.

Here’s how the firm says it would put 4 astronauts on the red planet:

Computer engineer wins 1,000 Twitter contests with Python script

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twitter-bot-contest-winnings
A simple Python script later, Hunter Scott was entered into 165,000 Twitter contests.
Photo: Hunter Scott

Computer engineer Hunter Scott wrote a Python script to enter virtually every Twitter contest started over the span of nine months. The bot ended up entering him in about 165,000 different “RT to win” contests and more importantly, he won close to 1,000. On average, he won four contests per day every day.

Woz and other big thinkers call for ban on AI weapons

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Starting a Terminator-style AI arms race is a bad idea.
Starting a Terminator-style AI arms race is a bad idea.
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Autonomous weapons that have the power to track and kill targets with Terminator-like efficiency aren’t just a Hollywood fantasy anymore.

Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and hundreds of AI and robotics researchers say the technology to build autonomous weapons that select and engage targets without human intervention is feasible within years, not decades. And we need to ban it now.