The Mischievous Nerd's Guide to World Domination
Author: Stephen Oberauer

Chapter 20
Welcome to the real world

In October I felt like I wasn’t getting very far with the objects that I had in my 3D world. I had to find a way to get them to see many more objects otherwise they would never learn about those things. My solution was this: I would give them the ability to see and move around in the real world. It wasn’t too difficult, all I had to do was get a miniature video camera, a video transmitter, a television card, some kind of radio control device to attach the camera to and a programmable radio transmitter to connect to the computer.

A radio controlled car would have done the job, but ideally I wanted to make them able to walk like humans rather than drive around. I caught the train into Cape Town and visited the hobby shop to get ideas for what other radio control vehicles I could use. I entered what I would consider to be a boy’s paradise. Large model planes, helicopters and even a radio controlled bat dangled from the ceiling. The shelves were loaded with boxes containing cars, monster trucks and boats. Helicopters would be great for my AI to look around and discover things, but very noisy and extremely dangerous. I wouldn’t want John or Jill piloting one of those. I wanted John and Jill to become more human, so I looked around to see if they had anything that walked.

‘May I help you?’ the shop assistant asked me.

‘Umm...’ I wasn’t sure how to explain what I needed. ‘Do you have something that can walk?’

‘Something that can walk,’ the man repeated to himself while looking around the shop. ‘Ah, how about something that can crawl?’

‘Like a baby?’

‘No, like a spider.’

‘That could work.’

The man told me to wait while he disappeared into the store room. He returned with a box with clear plastic on the top so that one could see inside.

‘Whoa!’ I exclaimed as I glimpsed the foot long, hairy, black spider with orange and black legs. ‘That thing’s freaky. Can I try it out?’

‘Sure.’ The man opened the box and placed the spider on the counter. I pushed the joystick forward and the spider twisted its body as it crept in the direction it was facing. ‘It’s more creepy than a real spider,’ I told the assistant.

‘Oh yes, that thing will freak the hell out of someone who doesn’t know that its fake.’

The large spider had the ability to rotate, move forwards, backwards, left and right and could even climb over small obstacles.

‘How much is that?’ I asked.

‘That’s 800 rand,’ he replied.

‘I love it. I’d like to buy it,’ I told the man, holding thumbs that my parents wouldn’t mind a massive spider creeping around the house.

The shop also had programmable radio transmitters so I bought one of those too.

The next item I needed was a small video camera and transmitter, for which I went to the nearby ‘Electronics Supermarket’. I found a small enough surveillance camera with a built in transmitter. The television card for receiving the transmissions was easy to find at the local computer shop.

When I got home I showed my parents my new toy spider and luckily they didn’t seem too concerned. My dad was actually rather intrigued by it. I wrapped the camera in some black material so that it looked a bit more like it was part of the spider and stitched it on. It took a few days to modify my program to receive video signals rather than using the 3D graphics. I then had to modify it to use the radio transmitter to control the spider rather than the little characters in the 3D world. It was all quite a simple thing to do to get such an amazing result: an artificially intelligent robot spider.

At this point I could let my spider wander around the house by itself while watching what it saw on the computer and I could talk to it, and it could talk back to me. I could show it various things and teach it what they were and show it what they were used for. Because I only had one spider John and Jill had to take turns to control it. Most of the time it was John who controlled it. I demonstrated to my parents how clever my spider was by putting it on a table. It was able to walk around the top of the table without falling off. They were quite impressed as to how smart the spider was, but I found it hard to get them to understand that the spider was not able to do that when I bought it and that I actually had to train it to be scared of falling.


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