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Ivan Kirigin's views on Robotics & Culture: future. perfect. progress.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

In Soviet Russia, the Robots Remote Control YOU!

Note that my tag-line is not intended to be automating human choices, but mechanizing human thought :)

I should change it.

Seminar on Dangerous Ideas - Harry Potter's next wand

Sounds like a good talk. They should work on getting lighting to shoot out of the wand.


Harry Potter
Dangerous Ideas Seminar Series Fall 2005
Speaker: Larry Rudolph
Speaker Affiliation: MIT CSAIL
Host: Metin Sezgin
Host Affiliation: MIT CSAIL

Date: 10-25-2005
Time: 1:00 PM - 2:00 AM
Refreshments: 12:45 PM
Location: D449 Kiva

Title: Harry Potter's Next Wand: Should it be digital?

Harry Potter and other wizards preferred input-output device is a wand rather than a laptop, PDA, or cell phone.
This informal presentation will discuss the merits of a portable computer that looks more like a wand or walking stick rather than the current pack of playing cards.

A stick or cylindrical tube can be held in the hand and carried around.
It allows many arrays of sensors to be placed along the length at
precise, equally spaced locations. It seems ideally suited for many
input/output functions.

Many people have strong opinions about form factors, and this proposal oppears to challenge them. Must we continue to make interfaces smaller and smaller?
Must we continue to make them rectangular? Must they all be approved for use on an airplane? Come to the seminar and express your opinion.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mr Soccer Robot Football

Robot Soccer!

Technically, this is Remote Controlled robot soccer, as the robots aren't autonomous, but this is an excellent idea. They should make a second gen version with a hybrid of autonomous and RC players.

I wonder how well this will do. If it seems like it would be easy to hack, I might buy one. I wouldn't mind setting it up so that the robots shuffle armies around in a game of Risk.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Velociraptor Dino Not So Vicious

The simulated velociraptor leg:

The test on a pig carcass:

We need more robots-simulating-dinosaurs.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Grand Challenge Is About Off-Road Driving

This is probably a pretty innocent mistake, but many commentators have seen the Grand Challenge only through the lens of automated civilian driving – the kind most people do every day.

Let me just point out that there is a world of difference between off-road dessert driving and freeway driving. There are also huge differences between freeway and city driving.

Dessert driving is very hard, even for humans. Driving on a rocky, dirt road that you’ve never seen before, for those used to nice, paved roads, is a challenge. In most cars, you couldn’t top 20mph, making the average speed of Stanley, 19.1 mph, seem pretty good.

Off-road, there are few mobile obstacles, many large obstacles, many obscured obstacles, very tight turns, steep inclines, no road signs, no lanes (or lane markers).

On paved roads, you have signs, smooth curves, lane markers, barriers on the road edge, reflectors in the lanes and on the side of the road. Unfortunately, you also have other drivers, and sometimes pedestrians. You are also traveling, on average, at much higher speeds. This changes something called “look-ahead distance”, i.e. how far ahead you need to look for threats to avoid them. This is actually the governing reason why high-speed roads are so smooth; even if you could, going around a corner at high speeds means you probably can’t stop by the time you see there is a reason to stop.

Despite these obvious differences, there is a much better reason to differentiate between road driving and off-road driving. The former is much further along! It has deserved comments by the main stream, but didn’t have a “race” to catalyze the media.

For example, look towards CMU’s Robotics Institute’s NavLab project. It is a decades old project. They have cars that can go freeway speeds in suitable conditions. If you really want a revolution in civilian driving, go to their page, watch some movies, and call your favorite car company, asking them to incorporate the technology.

Automated driving is also making big splashes in trucking. This should be expected, as the sensors required are more expensive, but the benefit is higher. Currently they are in the form of safety systems that monitor the driver. They can detect lane drifting, and even weariness in the driver’s eyes. This is a good example and this is a good resource.

Monday, October 10, 2005

"Splashpower wants to cut the charger cord"

You can use them while jogging, take them into the woods or ride with them on the open sea, but portable gadgets still need to head back to base every time their batteries need recharging. The power cord remains the final connection to the wired world for many devices now that technologies like Bluetooth are replacing data cables — but it too might be going away if a U.K. start-up gets its way.

Splashpower Ltd., established as the result of a business competition at Cambridge University, has developed a wireless charging system that uses electromagnetic induction to accomplish wireless charging of devices.

“It’s basically the concept of creating a magnetic field that goes parallel to the surface of the pad rather than out of the pad and this has many benefits,” said Lily Cheng, chief executive officer and cofounder of the company, speaking at a news conference. “It enables us to deliver a very uniform output across the pad and enables us to make a receiver coil that is very thin.”

This could be huge. A big reason robots lack deployment on par with their abilities is that their abilities are very shortlived due to poor battery technology. In certain environments, most notably the home, this could change if charging were constant.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

DARPA Grand Challenge 2005 - Results

It looks like Stanford's Stanley and both CMU entries have made it past the finish line in this year's Grand Challenge. I'm pretty sure Stanford will get the $2M, but both schools should expect big opportunities from this.

Follow the link for the latest info. Check by here later for a more in-depth analysis of what this means for the military & civilian applications begging for automated transportation.

Friday, October 07, 2005

More robotic education

Robotic Education is an excellent idea. There are a number of very good things about it.

The interaction could be unsupervised by a human adult; "unsupervised playtime" is supposed to be an essential component to boosting creativity and critical thinking. I'm not sure whether a somewhat un-intelligent robot counts as supervision.

The robot could get an excellent idea of the state of development and potential for growth of the child. Specifically tailored education could result.

Constant availability to answer questions and instruct is a huge bonus. Rather than dumping kids in front of televisions, they will interact with an educator, and like it.

A stronger interest in engineering and robots will appear.

Last but not least: dance lessons.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

"Robotic-vacuum maker, BU team up on antisniper device"

IRobot demonstrated the system, called REDOWL (for Robot Enhanced Detection Outpost with Lasers), at the Association of the United States Army convention in Washington yesterday. Testers struck pieces of metal to simulate gunshots. REDOWL quickly aimed its infrared camera and laser rangefinder at the source of the noise, just as it did in tests at a Medfield gun range.

REDOWL is based on iRobot's PackBot, a battery-powered lightweight robot already in active service with the armed forces. PackBots are used to explore dangerous terrain or enter buildings to search for booby traps.

Glenn Thoren, deputy director of the Boston University Photonics Center, wondered if an antisniper system could be mounted atop a PackBot. He used laser rangefinder gear from Insight Technology Inc. in Londonderry, N.H., and sound-detection equipment developed by BioMimetic Systems, an acoustics start-up company founded by Boston University. The REDOWL also includes a Sony digital camera that can zoom in on distant objects or people, and display infrared images at night. When REDOWL's microphones detect a gunshot, the device calculates the source of the sound, swivels the camera, illuminates the target with either visible or infrared light, and uses a laser to calculate the range.