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NPR tomorrow

Update: You can listen to the segment here.

I’ll be on NPR’s “Day to Day” tomorrow, discussing Jerry Baber’s vision for an armed robotic army.


Watch Baber’s back-yard arsenal in action

In my recent New Yorker story (still just an abstract online), about Jerry Baber’s shotgun-toting robots, I describe a few of Baber’s demonstration videos — some of which have been viewed a couple million times on YouTube. But it’s hard for a paragraph to do them justice, so I’m including here a sampling of my own favorite Baber vids (in addition to the one I posted yesterday, which gives a nice overview of the AA-12 in action).

First, this surprisingly little-viewed footage covers the entire armed robot “family”:

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Recovery.gov: Free the data! But are they actually gathering it?

Obama’s signature on the stimulus bill yesterday brought with it further complaints that the new administration isn’t living up to its transparency pledges. It seems that the White House is having trouble squaring the need for emergency legislation with their explicit promise to post bills for five days before the President signs them. A better question, which Micah Sifry raised again last week, might be: what’s the point of fulfilling this promise? Any useful public input into the process would need to happen before the bill hits the President’s desk.

But with the stimulus bill’s approval also comes the full launch of Recovery.gov, which holds out hope for the kind of transparency we actually need. Naturally, the site features Obama’s trademark blue-box Web design. And some of the initial features like the spending breakdown charts and the recovery timeline are interesting, as others have observed.

But the true measure of the site will be in the amount and the detail of the data, about how the money is actually spent and how many jobs are actually created. Read More


Bullets and batteries

“Shoot!,” my latest piece for The New Yorker, hit the streets today. It’s available to subscribers on the Web, but everyone else will have to shell out for a copy, retro-style. It’s a profile of one Jerry Baber, an engineer from Piney Flats, Tennessee, and his work. That work being the making of gun parts, and from those parts building the AA-12 — a stainless steel fully-automatic 12-gauge shotgun — and with that shotgun helping to create several small, fully-armed and remotely-controlled air and ground robots that he believes will change the future of warfare.

As Baber likes to say of his creations, which he keeps in his workshop and often unleashes in his backyard, “I asked them what they wanted for Christmas, and they said, ‘bullets and batteries.’”

I’ll be posting some of Baber’s videos here, along with some additional passages that didn’t make the article’s final cut. For now, I’ll leave you with a little introduction to the AA-12: