This week saw news about robots being introduced to strange new environments. One is incredibly deep, the other phenomenally shallow, but both are populated by bizarre and unnerving creatures, and scientists still have a lot of questions about each.

Making preparations to go deep is Nereus, a robotic submarine that can operate in both human guided and autonomous, free swimming mode. When it launches, it will make just the third recorded voyage to the Challenger Deep, plunging 11,000 meters to deepest known portion of the ocean floor. A project of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Nereus is equipped with a manipulating arm and basket for taking samples from the sea floor, like Japan’s Kaiko sub did several years ago. Nereus, however, will be untethered and operating on it’s own for at least a part of the mission.

While Nereus plumbs the limits of the deep blue sea, reseachers at the Interactive Robots and Media Lab at the University of the United Arab Emirates are hard at work on Ibn Sina, a robot who will explore relationships between humans and robots on Facebook. After creating it’s own simple profile, Ibn Sina, who looks human, can converse simply and recognize faces will reach out and touch people it meets in it’s home at the university on Facebook, looking to build relationships with them through simple interaction. The implications are obvious for anyone who has ever worried that all their friends on facebook may be imaginary. In time, they may be, and if Ibn Sina is any indicator of things to come, it may be sooner than any of us thought.

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