Like a mechanical flash mob, the group of about a thousand tiny robots can work together -- like bees or army ants -- in vast numbers without guidance.

By MSN Money Partner Fri 3:10 PM

One of the tiny Kilobot robots that make up the swarm. © Michael Rubenstein/Harvard University
By Robert Lee Hotz, The Wall Street Journal


Harvard University scientists have devised a swarm of 1,024 tiny robots that can work together without any guiding central intelligence.


The Wall St. Journal on MSN MoneyLike a mechanical flash mob, these robots can assemble themselves into five-pointed stars, letters of the alphabet and other complex designs. The researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reported their work Thursday in Science.


"No one had really built a swarm of this size before, where everyone works together to achieve a goal," said robotics researcher Michael Rubenstein, who led the project.

 

The company's Aloft brand is testing a 3-foot-tall robotic assistant in a new pilot program.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 12, 2014 10:36AM

Botlr robot at Starwood Hotel / Courtesy of Justin Solomon
By Justin Solomon, CNBC


Look out, Rosie the Robot: Starwood Hotels' (HOT) Aloft brand has a taskmaster of its own.


His (or her?) name is A.L.O., pronounced "el-oh" -- the hotel chain's first Botlr (short for robotic butler).


CNBC on MSN MoneyStanding just under 3 feet tall, A.L.O. comes dressed in a vinyl-collared butler uniform and will soon be on call all day and night to fulfill requests from guests.


Forget your toothpaste? Need more towels? How about a late-night chocolate bar? All guests of the hotel have to do is call the front desk, where staff will load up the Botlr with requested items, punch in the guest's room number and send it off to make the delivery, navigating hallways and even call for the elevator using Wi-Fi.

 

Here are four cold, hard realities of the social network's privacy policies -- and what you can do about them.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 6, 2014 10:20AM

Using Facebook on iPhoneBy Geoffrey Fowler, The Wall Street Journal


Everyone loves to gripe about privacy on Facebook (FB). Like me, you may have even threatened to quit. But let's be honest -- we're not going to break up with a social network filled with people we care about.


The Wall St. Journal on MSN MoneyInstead, let's do something real: Get a grip on Facebook's 9,000-word privacy policy and take concrete steps to control our information.


I'm raising the issue because privacy on Facebook just took two steps forward and one step back. These relate to digital tracking, one of the creepiest and most confusing aspects of the social network.


Facebook is following you. It now can use what you do outside its network -- when you surf the Web and use other apps on your smartphone -- to target ads at you. Facebook says it needs the extra data to make its ads better.


At the same time, the company is starting to be more transparent. In a first for any major Internet company, it's offering to explain exactly why you're getting every ad you see and to let you control what kind of ads you will see in the future. They don't make these options very easy to find, however.

 

The Tesla founder calls digital superintelligence 'potentially more dangerous than nukes.' Here are some terrifying scenarios that explain why.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 4, 2014 12:16PM

'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' © REX/Courtesy Everett Collectionquartz on MSN moneyBy Adam Pasick, Quartz


Elon Musk, the Tesla (TSLA) and Space-X founder who is occasionally compared to comic book hero Tony Stark, is worried about a new villain that could threaten humanity -- specifically the potential creation of an artificial intelligence that is radically smarter than humans, with catastrophic results. This weekend, Musk tweeted:  

@elonmusk: Worth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.
@elonmusk: Hope we're not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.

Musk is talking about "Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies" by Nick Bostrom of the University of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute. The book addresses the prospect of an artificial superintelligence that could feasibly be created in the next few decades. According to theorists, once the AI is able to make itself smarter, it would quickly surpass human intelligence. 


What would happen next? The consequences of such a radical development are inherently difficult to predict. But that hasn't stopped philosophers, futurists, scientists and fiction writers from thinking very hard about some of the possible outcomes. The results of their thought experiments sound like science fiction -- and maybe that's exactly what Elon Musk is afraid of.

 

With new apps geared toward booking business trips, 2 startup stars of the sharing economy aim to tap into corporate travel.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 29, 2014 12:14PM

Businessman using smartphone in back of car © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty ImagesBy Douglas MacMillan and Craig Karmin, The Wall Street Journal


Airbnb and Uber Technologies popularized the concept of a "sharing economy," in which regular consumers share things such as apartments and car rides. Now they are sprucing up their services to appeal to the buttoned-up business traveler.


The Wall Street Journal on MSN MoneyThe fast-growing technology startups this week each announced new versions of their apps geared toward booking business trips. Both companies also struck deals with Concur Technologies (CNQR), the expense-reporting software used by more than 20,000 companies.


Appealing to corporate clients would give the young technology companies a toehold in the business travel industry, which is expected to generate $1.21 trillion in revenue worldwide this year, according to the Global Business Travel Association.

 

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