The Drones are Coming

The drones are coming and not just by air either. In the next few years, an explosion of drones is expected to invade the U.S. by air, by water, and even underground. Here’s more from Robert Beckhusen at

It’s been 10 years since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) started up operations. During that decade, DHS has moved to the forefront of funding and deploying the robots and drones that could be coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

DHS funds research and development for surveillance robots. It provides grant money by the hundreds of thousands to police agencies to buy their own. And sometimes it’s bought and deployed robots — for their skies, the ground and the waters — of its own, usually concentrated along the border. It’s not clear how many of those robots police operate, and law enforcement isn’t by any means the only domestic market for the ‘bots. But the trend lines point toward more robotic spy tools for law enforcement in more places — with more DHS cash.

But it’s not going to be simple. The Federal Aviation Administration is cautious about opening the skies to unmanned vehicles — so much so that Congress and the Obama administration ordered it to ease up on restrictions by 2015. But not all spy robots fly. DHS is also developing robots that resemble fish, and deploys tunnel-bots deep into drug-smuggling tunnels along the border…

(See the rest at

The Turk: History’s First Chess Computer?

Two centuries before Big Blue, there was the Turk, history’s first chess computer. From 1770 to 1854, this mechanical marvel played and defeated all sorts of challengers, including many top-ranked chess players as well as Benjamin Franklin. It wasn’t until 1857 that the Turk’s secret was revealed…it was a giant fake. Here’s more from  Krešimir Josić at the University of Houston:

The Turk was touted as an early robot that could play chess at the highest level. Built in Vienna in 1770 by the inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen, the machine consisted of a large pedestal, housing intricate machinery on top of which stood a chessboard. To this box was attached the upper half of a men dressed in oriental robes and a turban. Each performance began with an elaborate introduction to convince the audience that the Turk is really a machine. The automaton would then face a challenger.

The Turk first dazzled the court of the empress Maria Theresa in Vienna. The machine moved its own pieces, and would instantly recognize illegal moves by its opponent. It offered a surprisingly good game of chess! The automaton soon became a sensation, toured Europe and North America, and was matched against some of the best chess players of the time…

(See the rest at the University of Houston)


Deep Blue vs. Garry Kasparov

In 1997, Garry Kasparov, perhaps the greatest chess player of all time, squared off against the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. This epic rematch has since been called “the most spectacular chess event in history.” Who won this “Man vs. Machine” battle?

Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov: Round 1?

With two six-month exceptions, Garry Kasparov was ranked “chess world number one” by the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) from January 1984 to January 2006. Although there is room for debate, he is widely considered the greatest chess player of all time.

In 1996, he played an IBM supercomputer named Deep Blue in a 6-match series. Grandmaster Joel Benjamin lent his expertise to the computer by helping to develop its “opening book.” On February 10 of that year, Deep Blue won its first match against Kasparov, making it the first form of artificial intelligence to defeat a reigning world champion. However, Kasparov won three and drew two out of the next five games, giving him a 4-2 victory.

Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov: Round 2?

Although Deep Blue was beaten, it wasn’t finished. Programmers upgraded the computer and set up a six-game rematch with Kasparov in May 1997. Kasparov was ready but so was the machine. It could evaluate 200 million positions per second and was capable of searching anywhere from 6 to more than 20 moves ahead.

Predictably, this match was closer than the previous one. After five games, each player had one victory and there were three draws. With the score knotted at 2.5 apiece, man and machine settled in for the final bout.

The final game lasted less than an hour. And when the dust had cleared, Deep Blue had won handily. At last, machine had defeated man…or had it?

Did Garry Kasparov lose Confidence? Or did Deep Blue Cheat?

Kasparov’s loss was hard to explain. He opened in somewhat questionable fashion. Worse, he switched up his his moves and fell into “a well known book trap.” Chess historians speculate that Kasparov was tired and had lost confidence. He was also unhappy with the fact that he was denied access to Deep Blue’s recent games while the team that operated Deep Blue could study hundreds of his own. Finally, over the course of the series, he’d chosen to play numerous openings and defenses designed to catch Deep Blue off-guard. While these moves worked to some degree, they also forced him to play in ways that were unfamiliar to him.

However, Kasparov also had a darker theory. He claimed to have seen evidence of human creativity in the second game, which would’ve been against the rules. IBM denied the allegation but strangely, initially refused to show him Deep Blue’s logbooks. Eventually, Kasparov went onto Larry King Live and challenged Deep Blue to a third match consisting of ten games which would not be sponsored by IBM. If he lost, he promised to recognize Deep Blue as the world champion. IBM, oddly enough, refused and dismantled its chess playing machine.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

In January 2003, Kasparov went to war with Deep Junior, a machine capable of considering three million moves per second. The series began in similar fashion to the 1997 one, with three draws and each side winning a game. In the rubber match, Kasparov played to a draw. He would achieve the same result against a separate computer in November of that year.

A sizable percentage of observers believe that computers can now regularly defeat grandmasters and indeed, high-profile games in 2005 and 2006 offer nothing to contradict that notion. Meanwhile, Kasparov has since moved onto politics, namely in opposition to Vladimir Putin. Will he ever return to defend mankind’s honor against machines? Only time will tell.