Automatic Parking Robot: just park your car and Ray will do the rest!

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A robotic parking system recently debuted at the Dusseldorf Airport in Germany, and while it’s not the first automated parking system to see the light of day, it is among the first to prioritize elegance and design. Most robot parking solutions have thus-far been rather warehouse-like, made with big yellow and blue steel girders and large, visible mechanical parts. Your average BMW owner would probably be much more likely to trust Billy the valet with his brand new paint job, whether or not that’s a justified view. Big, moving pneumatic platforms tend to have a dour, steam-ejection aesthetic, and people don’t generally like watching their $100,000 car get shunted around like boxes at an Amazon factory — but what about a slick, friendly robot named Ray? That’s a solution that could capture the lucrative luxury market.

The user experience on Ray is seamless — just park your car in Ray’s little area, pay for parking, and walk away. The system performs a 3D scan of the vehicle, and Ray adjusts its tines and tires to perfectly slide beneath each car and lift it by the tires. When holding a car aloft, Ray does not take up much more space than the car itself, allowing the system to pack vehicles densely without blocking anything off. You don’t need to remember where you parked, because you won’t be going there anyway; Ray will retrieve your car and bring it to the pickup area when you’re ready to leave. In many cases, this means the system will have your car waiting for you when you walk out of the terminal, since your flight schedule is logged with the airport.

Check out the video below for some shots of Ray in action.

The creators at Serva Transport Systems, which created the system, say that Ray can pack up to 60% more cars into the same parking area. That’s an impressive claim, and not a difficult one to believe if you’ve ever tried to navigate a large, chaotic parking garage. Not only does Ray pack cars more closely together, but it can plan elaborate and efficient layouts no collection of human drivers, or even valets, would put up with.

Of course, there are downsides to Ray — such as the fact that, right now, getting a robot to park your car will cost you almost $40. If you’re choosing Ray over a human valet service though, that might not be such an enormous fee, as tips and valet fees are often quite hefty themselves. Many people are more comfortable ordering machines around than people, and getting more drivers to use parking services (human or robot) should increase efficiency. Additionally, Ray is fully insured against any damage it might cause to a car, so drivers needn’t worry about too much about hypothetical hiccups in the self-driving software.

Cool, but certainly not the parking robot from Minority Report.Ray can also only lift cars just high enough to move them, which means it can’t do any multi-level stacking of automobiles. Ray can dramatically increase parking density in a given area, but it can’t take advantage of any vertical space — though it could theoretically drive cars up and down ramps between floors of a parking garage. The incredible Volkswagen autopark system at Autostadt Wolfsburg (which you can see below) certainly marries the aesthetic and technological sides of robot parking quite effectively, though the costs are prohibitive; one of Ray’s biggest advantages is that it can go to work in virtually any parking area with minimal need to retrofit.

Right now, people are paying for novelty and to subsidize a nascent industry, but costs should come down soon enough. When they do, high-traffic facilities all over the world may find that buying a few automatic parking robots is cheaper, easier, and more readily embraced by the public than building 60% more parking area.

Sex Robots: The Future of Prostitution?

Will sex robots be the future of prostitution within decades?

A pair of New Zealand researchers say yes, finding that robot prostitutes are already being conceptualized and could “revolutionize” the sex tourism business by 2050.

The reasoning is simple: Safer and less complicated!

Ashley Dupre Playboy Cover

THE REAL DEAL: Ashley Dupre has nothing to do with this story. She’s just hot, and was once a real prostitute. Sex robots have their work cut out for them.

The researchers envision an imaginary sex club in Amsterdam called Yub-Yum, where sex tourists pay 10,000 euros ($13,191) for massage, lap dances and straight sex acts from these lifelike sex robots strutting around the club.

The club would resemble others in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, the researchers wrote, saying Yub-Yum would contain “sexual gods and goddesses of different ethnicities, body shapes, ages, languages and sexual features.”

Sexually transmitted diseases and infections would be non-existent because the sex robots would be made of bacteria-resistant fiber that would be flushed of human fluids after the sex acts. You may vomit (or get turned on) on cue.

While the New Zealand study is bad news for prostitutes, who would soon join the ranks of the unemployed, Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, a legalized brothel near Las Vegas, scoffed at the findings.

Nothing beats the real thing, he says.

“Those Australian researchers ought to come to the Bunny Ranch to see what real American sex is like – there’s no duplicating it,” Hof told CBS Las Vegas.

“At the Bunny Ranch, we say ‘it’s not just the sex, it’s an adventure’ – and often times it’s more about the adventure than it is the sex itself.”

This is true … although robots could presumably be adventurous, wouldn’t that just be a little weird?

Harvard Scientists Unleash the Robot Bees !

Harvard Monolithic Bee (© Courtesy of Pratheev Sreetharan/Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory)

Are the days of the killer robot insects upon us? Well, hopefully not yet — but we might be a step closer, thanks to the work of a team of scientists at the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory and their “monolithic bee.”  Hexagonal metal disks a bit smaller than a quarter house the “bees,” which pop up and out of the sheet, more or less like a pop-up book, complete with actual wings. (The researchers report being inspired by origami folding techniques.) Meant to fly as part of a larger swarm, each bee body could potentially be outfitted with “chips all over that. I can build in sensors and control actuators,” Professor Robert Wood told The Daily Mail . Presumably he meant to add “for the good of all mankind” rather than “sort of like in every movie you’ve ever seen about technology that eventually destroys mankind.”