Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What is a Robot?

A dream. The common definition of a robot, as situated and embodied, is incredibly broad.  Robots, or parts of them, are developed constantly and subsumed into other ‘things’ or technical assemblages. Your car is a robot. Increasingly, so is your phone.

I say that a robot is whatever a roboticist is working on. But really, most robotics research is absorbed into other things, and what we call a robot has a lot to do with a vision. A dream of a robot that is personable and a slave to human needs. A robot has an animal or humanoid body that we can relate to socially.

We are on the verge of changes in robot technology and development that will revolutionize what a robot is. It starts as toys, hidden technologies and transparent interfaces. It started with the Kinect, the smart phone and the cloud.

Now, you might say I’m a dreamer…. but here are some really great recent examples of the increasing democratization of robotics technology that indicate the fundamental ways the ground is shifting as we move into SME and consumer robotics.

DragonBot from MIT’s Personal Robotics Group is powered by an Android smart phone. Kombusto, the DragonBot is blended reality, living on your phone as well as in the fur. Being a cloud based robot, Kombusto can learn from other robots/interactions. (Image from IEEE Spectrum article Wed Dec 14)

Parrot AR drones, Romotivs and Sphero, utilising smart phone controllers, also open the door to cloud based robotics and crowd sourced learning for devices. Another approach is Brainlink, using smartphones – or other interfaces – to hack existing infrared controlled devices, via a bluetooth ‘brainlink’ to imbue cheap toys with extra intelligence. Brainlink is only $125, open source and eminently hackable. They also won an educational award at Maker Faire earlier this year.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why women have to work harder to do startups | VentureBeat


This article by Julia Hu is spot on the money. It takes money to succeed, not talents that women have proven they have. More women run successful small businesses, but anything that requires asking for funding is harder for women.

It isn't about changing women any more. It's about changing what is effectively a boys club for funding into something more flexible. Something that can see why women are underfunded, undervalued and RIPE FOR ACQUISITION.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

We are entering a new space | The Robot State

We are entering a new space

I am fascinated by the changes in our situated awareness made possible by the merges in gaming and personal technology. Chris Chesher discusses the impact of gaming on sat nav systems in the journal Convergence and how we are entering a new space as we share our control systems with our game environments. I’d like to go further and suggest that our self awareness is shifting as we incorporate visual displays onto mirrored surfaces, ranging from the rapidly becoming pervasive rear view mirror/backup monitor/sat nav, to these newer technologies in R&D.

There is a qualitative shift from the ‘shopping’ style magic mirrors, which show you with different outfits, watches etc. Shopping mirrors function as a ‘paper doll’, you are selecting outfits for yourself much as you would in real life. However, the use of mirrors as channels for other information changes the space that you (in a mirror) are in. The more you switch modes the more you are changed. All the way to the complete carnival mirror changes below!

Via Pop Sci | An Augmented Reality Mirror That Alters Your Appearance

excerpt… Using a webcam hooked up to custom PC software, a pair of researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, have created an augmented reality “mirror” that morphs your facial features at will.

Unlike existing applications that overlay virtual features onto real-world video, this program doesn’t add any synthetic elements to the video feed. It creates a 3D model of the user’s face, tracks their features, and then subtly warps the video. The user can then see how they would look with a smaller nose, wider mouth, or Powerpuff Girl eyes.

Via Mashable | via Augmented Mirror of the Future Reflects You and Your World.

excerpt… The New York Times‘s R&D Lab has developed a digitally enhanced mirror that allows you to interact with personalized data during your morning routine.

Unfortunately, the mirror won’t be making its way into your local Restoration Hardware any time soon. Rather, it’s a proof of concept designed to explore “how the relationship between information and the self is evolving and how media content from the New York Times and others might play a part,” The Lab’s team explained on a page outlining the project.

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State of the Technological World

State of the Art

A snapshot of the rapidly changing world of computing, communications and technology. Related Article »


In just four decades the Internet has spread to much of the world. Now, the shift to high-bandwidth connectivity and the global availability of supercomputing is accelerating.

Related article: A High-Stakes Search Continues for Silicon’s Successor

Related article: Creating Artificial Intelligence Based on the Real Thing



Cellphones are proliferating rapidly in much of the developing world. The use of smartphones and other Internet-connected devices is still low, but should rise quickly in countries like China, which will soon have the world’s largest domestic market for Internet commerce and computing.

Related article: Vast and Fertile Ground in Africa for Science to Take Root



China is the dominant maker of computers and consumer electronics, and is readily able to adapt and improve on technology innovations made elsewhere. But innovation within the country has been limited by government controls and the relative lack of intellectual property protection.

Related article: China Aims for High-Tech Primacy



The synthesis that made Silicon Valley—the concentration of science and engineering talent and venture capital—is now beginning to proliferate in the developing world. China’s growing venture capital market is now the second largest in the world.

Related article: With a Leaner Model, Start-Ups Reach Further Afield


Remember that YouTube only started in 2005. That most businesses only used the internet for email in 2000 (if they used it at all!). That phones used to be just phones, not mobile phones let alone mobile internet devices.

As William Gibson famously said, 'the future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed.' It's worth considering the distribution of technological advances. It isn't always where you think.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

VALE Lynn Margulis 1938-2011

Lynn Margulis 1938-2011
"Gaia Is A Tough Bitch"

I have found Margulis' comments about culture and science to be very astute.

"If science doesn't fit in with the cultural milieu, people dismiss science, they never reject their cultural milieu! If we are involved in science of which some aspects are not commensurate with the cultural milieu, then we are told that our science is flawed. I suspect that all people have cultural concepts into which science must fit. Although I try to recognize these biases in myself, I'm sure I cannot entirely avoid them. I try to focus on the direct observational aspects of science."

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nasa finds new planet


I always wanted to go to another planet. I wonder what the travel time is and when Virgin will offer flights to Kepler-22b?

excerpt from "Nasa finds planet that's just about right for life" by Seth Borenstein on suff.co.nz

Nasa has found a new planet outside our solar system that's eerily similar to Earth in key aspects.

Scientists say the temperature on the surface of the planet is about a comfy 72 degrees. Its star could almost be a twin of our sun. It likely has water and land.

It was found in the middle of the habitable zone, making it the best potential target for life yet.

The discovery announced Monday was made by Nasa's Kepler planet-hunting telescope. This is the first time Kepler confirmed a planet outside our solar system in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold habitable zone.

Twice before astronomers have announced a planet found in that zone, but neither was as promising. One was later disputed; the other is on the hot edge of the zone.

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