HRP-4C Robot, Proof of Concept

The HRP-4C Robot (pictured right - photo, Yahoo News) that recently strutted down the catwork at a Japanese fashion show is a very exciting development in humanoid, robot technology because, as far as I'm concerned, it's 'proof of concept'.

What I mean by that is it looks good enough and is functional enough as a piece of hardware to say the technology is there to build human like robots. Stating the obvious really but that's what 'proof of concept' actually is, a working example of an idea. Watch the video below to see HRP-4C in action.


Video posted by sys2074

This humanoid fashion model is 158 cm (5 ft 2 inch) tall, weighs in at 43 kg (95 lb) can walk, talk and even express some facial emotions was developed by Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

The only thing that really spoils its human like appearance is that the robots hands are currently not automated from the wrist down. No doubt this will be addressed on future models.

That aside, it shows we're not far from realizing the movie style, humanoid robots we've dreamed about for decades. This one in particular is very reminiscent the early NS-4 model robots that appeared in the Will Smith movie, I Robot. Especially in the way they walk.

I know we're still a long way off from a true humanoid robot that is completely autonomous. I doubt HRP-4C can even see where she's going (I tried to find out but I'd hazard a guess that she's operated via remote control rather than truly independent of human assistance).

However HRP-4C is a great base to try and build the extra technology into. The main point I was trying to make is that a fully intelligent robot, with current technology could look more like C3PO from the Star Wars movies than R2D2.

Watchmen Movie (2009) Don't read the novel.

I've come to the conclusion that reading the graphic novel of Watchmen prior to seeing the movie is a really bad idea. I'm very glad that I didn't (and at the time of writing this haven't read it).

I wasn't familiar with Watchmen, the movie or the novel, until the anticipation for this movie's release started creeping into the conversations of the Batman On Film podcast team. Their interest in this DC comics title and film first piqued my interest, then I saw the trailer in the cinema and thought it certainly did look promising.

Then I listened to the BOF Podcast for Watchmen with their in depth analysis of the film. I wasn't concerned about their podcast containing spoilers because, not being familiar with any of the characters, I doubted much of the details discussed would stick in my mind - I tend not to remember things that I have no vested interest in.

One thing that did stick was that everyone involved in BOF's podcast seemed to feel that this movie would be difficult, complex and confusing for someone who hasn't read the novel. Hence I went into this movie expecting to come out with no idea about what I just saw.

My partner, who went into this film with next to zero knowledge of Watchmen other than what I could relate just prior to the movie, not only liked this film but picked up on a key plot point long before it was revealed near the end of the film. Not only that - we both agreed that we found Christopher Nolan's, The Dark Knight, harder to follow than Watchmen (on first viewing).

I didn't find Watchmen hard to follow in the least. Hence my conclusion that reading the novel prior to the movie is actually a bad idea. Guest BOF Podcaster, F.J. DeSanto (co-producer of THE SPIRIT and writer of DC's THE SPIRIT comic book) put it best when he described Watchman as "a kind of cliff notes for the Watchmen graphic novel".

If you haven't read the novel then this is a great introduction and gives you somewhere to go to find out much more about these characters and what makes them tick. I know this because I know director, Zach Snyder, had to leave a lot out and change a few plot points in order to create a coherent movie that would fit into the time he had to tell the story. I know this because that's what the BOF podcast team told me on their show.

I also know that the expected DVD versions of this film will be longer and include more scenes that were cut from the theatrical release. All great news for people who enjoyed the film, never read the novel but want to learn more about characters that may never have another film made about them. Watchmen is a 'one shot' comic book series, published back in 1986-87 (later released as a graphic novel) after all.

For those of you that have read the graphic novel, you have the disadvantage of referencing all the movies visuals and plot points back to what you've read. Filling in the blanks, noticing the changes and matching the cast to how you imagined them as you read the book. I'm glad I'm not in your shoes. By all accounts the novel is better, more complex and detailed than the film. I have that to look forward to. I have somewhere to go after having seen the film.

This hasn't been a review of the film. You can find plenty of those all over the place. This movie tends to polarize people. You either like it or you don't.

I have a theory that those who don't completely miss the point, such as in this review by Daniel M. Clark: Watchmen: I Am Never Going To The Movies Again. I think Daniel must've been watching in some alternate 2009 because the film he describes sounds nothing like the film I saw.

Daniel - the superhero costumes were supposed to look terrible - especially in the early days of costumed heroes. The second generation of heroes did have better outfits that were a little more practical (except for Silk Spectre II - but even she thought her outfit was ridiculous).

I didn't think the acting was bad either - again not even Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman) who copped a lot of flack from the BOF podcast team.

It's at this point you can see I'm starting to defend a film that I thought was pretty good. Don't listen to the bad reviews, see it for yourself. If you can wrap your mind around the idea that this is an adult superhero movie that is very graphic in it's violence and nudity but quite intelligent with what it's trying to convey, you'll be okay. You may even like it.

Most importantly though. If you haven't read the novel. Don't. It'll simply make you far too critical of the film if you do. Just enjoy the film as it is then find out what you missed in the novel afterwards.

Ellen DeGeneres Interviews Portia de Rossi

March 16, 2009 will go down in history as either an important day in gay and lesbian relationships or, if you're like me, it'll be just another Monday.

I'm not a regular Ellen TV show watcher, the show's just a bit too light entertainment for me, but Ellen herself is one of the funniest comedians around, so I'll watch once in a while.

I was very interested when Ellen announced that she would be having her partner and wife, Portia de Rossi, on the show. Not because she's Ellen's partner but because she's kind of the 'forgotten' Aussie in America. She's not known in Australia in the same way as Nicole Kidman or Simon Baker or even Julian McMahon whom Portia stared alongside in the US TV show Nip/Tuck. Perhaps it's her openness about being a lesbian or perhaps it's because she's mostly played supporting roles rather than lead, I don't know? Whatever the reason she's been consistently working as an actress in the USA since she first appeared on the US TV show Alley Mcbeal in 1998.

Hence to see her on Ellen's show last Monday was something to look forward to. Especially since she has a new comedy show premiering called Better Off Ted.

I've never seen Portia do comedy. She's known for playing cold but determined and driven female characters and, by the sounds of things, Better Off Ted isn't going to be a stretch other than the comedy angle.

Anyway, if Ellen and Portia's rehearsal video, which aired on Ellen's show the Friday prior to the interview, is anything to go by Portia's fantastic at comedy. In fact I found the rehearsal video to be even more interesting and fun than the official interview.



The official interview on the Monday was a lot of fun too and Portia stayed on to play a round of the Newly Wed Game and to sing Sonny and Cher's, I got you babe. You can see those clips on Ellen's TV show site.



Getting back to my opening sentence, for those of you that feel Ellen and Portia's appearance together on TV as a happily married, same sex couple was a milestone, you may like to read Ellen DeGeneres interviews Portia de Rossi, who "also happens to be my wife" from Gay and Lesbian web site, After Ellen.

I can see how Ellen and Portia are helping to bring same sex relationships into main stream acceptance without being too in your face about it. Sort of a softly, softly approach. However I don't want to go into that too much here. Sure it was a lot of fun seeing Ellen interviewing her partner/wife but really I was just interested to finally see Portia being herself, having never seen her in an interview before.

DC: Batman's Future in Comics

I came across this video thanks to the Batman on Film web site. It's an interview with several key players over at DC comics talking about the Future of Batman in the comics.

For those of you not in the know we are currently at a crossroads in the comics where Bruce Wayne is no longer Batman due to events that happened in Batman RIP and Final Crisis. That's as much as I can tell you because I don't read Batman comics at all. I'll tell you more about why after the video.

DC: Batman's Future in Comics


Batman on Film's founder, Jett, is clearly not happy with this new era as he lets fly in his recent post on his site, BATMAN IN COMICS: BOF's mad as hell and ain't going to take it anymore!

For my part, this video highlights exactly why I don't read Batman comics and I agree with Jett's call for at least one Batman Comic title that simply tells good Batman stories with Bruce Wayne as Batman, Alfred as his Butler and maybe, just maybe Robin appearing every now and then.

The problem I have with Batman comics (aside from the fact that each individual issue is expensive) is that there's too much going on. I never know when it's a good time to jump in nor which titles I should follow?

Now it's even more confusing with all these cross-over stories that are being talked about in the video... It may be a fresh start for Batman but it'll be a non-starter for me. I mean, please, they've got Bat Woman replacing Batman in Detective and Alfred (the butler) managing a team of fresh superheroes - what a confusing mess!

At least with the films (and even the animated series) you know what to expect going in. There's no real cross overs, everything is self contained. You don't have to know what happened six months earlier to know what's going on or, if the series does rely on prior knowledge, it's easy enough to catch up.

I've been a Batman fan for close to 35 years. I've never really read a Batman Comic to remember it and I haven't seen anything that would get me started now. As far as I'm concerned, if it didn't happen on film then it didn't happen in the Batman Universe. Batman On Film Forever!

Biker Gangs Unite in Gawler for Poker Run

I went out for my regular walk this morning and headed onto the path following the main road into Gawler (my home town), South Australia. Unusually this morning the streets were lined with people, families with cameras, video cameras and as well there were, seemingly hundreds of police. Police in cars, on bikes, even in helicopters. The main road was almost completely at a stand still with the number of vehicles.

All this fuss just to see me take my morning walk?

Well, no. The Gypsy Joker Poker Run is an annual event that starts in Gawler and tours the Barossa Valley. For those last few of you on the planet that have never heard of the Gypsy Jokers they're considered an 'outlaw' Biker Gang (or a Biker 'Association' depending on who you talk to). Each year the event attracts probably around 100-200 Gypsy Joker members and about the same number of Police to make sure nobody gets out of hand.

This article, Reckless' bikie run angers police, that appeared in the Sunday Mail after the 2007 Poker Run will give you some idea of the event. The comments on the article are typical of the public reaction which is often in the negative towards the police.

The photo you see here is of the 2007 run and was taken on the main road that runs through the centre of the town of Gawler. I don't have any photos from this year because, frankly, a large group of bikers is about as impressive as the Tour Down Under Bicycle race (which also runs through Gawler each year) which I make no effort to view either. Hence I didn't wait around for the bikers to actually start their run. I digress...

The purpose of this article was to highlight the fact that this years run was a little more unique and probably an Australian (if not world wide) first. To protest against some new laws that the South Australian Government is introducing, known as the Serious and Organised Crime Control Act (more commonly known as the 'anti-bikie' legislation), the Gypsy Jokers are uniting with members from several rival Biker groups as explained in this article from The Age Newspaper, Rivals unite to protest anti-bikie laws.

Whilst I didn't stop to watch the run I did see all the bikers gathered at the Gawler-Barossa Race Track, just around the corner from where I live. I would estimate their numbers had to be close to a thousand (but that's assuming everyone there was in fact a bikie gang member - couldn't tell from the distance away I was).

One of the main features of these poker runs is, in fact, the police presence, which is welcome but, as these new laws come in, seemingly is becoming more hostile.

Rather than just maintaining the peace, police make a point of pulling over every single bikie and checking them for drug possession, breath testing and checking their bikes for defects. One assumes it's meant to act as a deterrent in the hope that bikers just won't bother next year however all it really achieves is massive slow down of traffic (to a crawl) and disrupts our town more than it would if police simply took a hands off, observational approach.

Personally I agree with the bikers to be protesting these laws because, whilst they're supposedly focussed on biker gangs, the wording of them is said to be some what ambiguous and could be used far beyond their intended purpose.

The laws haven't officially been introduced yet (as far as I'm aware) and so far their effect is to unite rival gangs into a common purpose and promote negative public sentiment towards police. i.e. nobody likes it when they're pulled over for breath testing or having their vehicle checked for defects.

Good going South Australian Government. You've turned the annual Poker Run into a major tourist attraction. I can imagine if this years run is truly successful - and there's no reason why it shouldn't be as the rival gangs can't afford to justify the reasons for these laws - then I can imagine next years run will be even bigger.

Mardi Gras in Sydney started out like this. Originally it was a protest that was faced with much police harassment, today it's one of the biggest parties on the planet. Could the Gypsy Joker Poker Run end up being Mardi Gras for the bikers and other petrol heads?

Time will tell.

All I can say is that I saw as many people excited to see a procession of this many bikers as I've ever seen for any kind of parade through Gawler. This town is far from threatened by the bikers. In fact we seem to embrace their presence and welcome the economic boost they bring to the region. It's good that the police are present but their aggressive approach seems to be misguided.

Jeff Simmermon : "Foreign Soil" (Internet Relationships)

Some of you may be aware that I'm someone who has been through the whole experience of Internet relationships - going from online to offline. I met my current partner, Enigma, online back towards the end of 1999. By May of the following year I'd moved half way across a continent to at least live in the same town and ultimately the same house.

For anyone who has ever done this kind of thing then this video by Jeff Simmermon perfectly captures many of the thoughts and anxieties that people trying to transition relationships from online to offline and in person face.

Thanks to Boing Boing for sharing the video.

Jeff's Description of his video:

Back in 2003, way before online dating was remotely acceptable by the general public, I met a woman from Perth online. I ended up selling all my stuff and flying from Virginia to meet her in person in Sydney.

I told this story at The Moth's story slam at Union Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I actually won the slam with it, which is a big deal for me.

To learn more about the Moth, visit them online at http://www.themoth.org

For more stories, art, and web weirdness, check out my blog at http://www.andiamnotlying.com

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