"robotics" entries

Four short links: 29 September 2015

Four short links: 29 September 2015

Indie VC, Robotics Acquisitions, Music Money, and USG Web Standards

  1. My xoxo Talk (Bryce Roberts) — about indie.vc and the experience of trying something good in the investment world. You won’t believe what happened next …
  2. 10 More Robotics Companies Acquired (Robohub) — companies of all types and sizes are finding strategic reasons to acquire robotic ventures to add to their arsenal of products and services because they don’t want to be left behind.
  3. The Past, Present, and Future of the Music Biz — you might not agree with the conclusions, but the numbers are horrifying^W edifying. The U.S. concert industry has nearly tripled since 1999 (when recorded music sales peaked). Yet, what’s typically overlooked by this narrative is that the vast majority of this growth – 83% to be exact – has gone to non-Top 100 touring artists. In 2000, the Top 100 tours (which included ‘NSYNC, Metallica and Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre) collected nearly 90% of annual concert revenues. Today, that share has fallen to only 44%.
  4. U.S. Web Design Standards — U.S. Digital Service and 18F put together a reusable component library and style guide for U.S. Government apps.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 15 September 2015

Four short links: 15 September 2015

Bot Bucks, Hadoop Database, Futurism Biases, and Tactile Prosthetics

  1. Ashley Madison’s Fembot Con (Gizmodo) — As documents from company e-mails now reveal, 80% of first purchases on Ashley Madison were a result of a man trying to contact a bot, or reading a message from one.
  2. Terrapin — Pinterest’s low-latency NoSQL replacement for HBase. See engineering blog post.
  3. Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot (Nautilus) — As the psychologist George Lowenstein and colleagues have argued, in a phenomenon they termed “projection bias,” people “tend to exaggerate the degree to which their future tastes will resemble their current tastes.”
  4. Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm (Quartz) — The robotic arm is connected by wires that link up to the wearer’s motor cortex — the part of the brain that controls muscle movement — and sensory cortex, which identifies tactile sensations when you touch things. The wires from the motor cortex allow the wearer to control the motion of the robot arm, and pressure sensors in the arm that connect back into the sensory cortex give the wearer the sensation that they are touching something.
Four short links: 4 September 2015

Four short links: 4 September 2015

Next President, Robotic Drivers, Vintage Graphics, and Javascript Scheduling

  1. Lessig for President — it’s time.
  2. Is a Cambrian Explosion Coming for Robotics? (PDF) — interesting list of drivers, including wireless tech, battery efficiency, and worldwide data storage.
  3. How Oldschool Graphics Worked (YouTube) — video series on how ’80s computer graphics effects were built. (via BoingBoing)
  4. Tasks, Microtasks, Queues, and Schedules (Jake Archibald) — today’s dose of javascript scheduling headache.
Four short links: 24 July 2015

Four short links: 24 July 2015

Artificial Compound Eye, Google Patent Licensing, Monitoring and Alerting, Computer-Aided Inference

  1. A New Artificial Compound Eye (Robohub) — three hexagonal photodetectors arranged in a triangular shape, underneath a single lens. These photodetectors work together and combine perceived changes in structured light (optic flow) to present a 3D image that shows what is moving in the scene, and in which direction the movement is happening.
  2. Google’s Defensive Patent Initiative (TechCrunch) — good article, despite TechCrunch origin. Two-tiered program: give away groups of patents to startups with $500k-$20M in revenue, and sell patents to startups.
  3. Bosunan open-source, MIT licensed, monitoring and alerting system by Stack Exchange.
  4. The Rise of Computer-Aided Explanation (Michael Nielsen) — Hod Lipson of Columbia University. Lipson and his collaborators have developed algorithms that, when given a raw data set describing observations of a mechanical system, will actually work backward to infer the “laws of nature” underlying those data. (Paper)
Four short links: 16 July 2015

Four short links: 16 July 2015

Consumer Exoskeleton, Bitcoin Trends, p2p Sockets, and Plain Government Comms

  1. ReWalk Robotics Exoskeleton — first exoskeleton for the paralyzed to receive regulatory approval; 66 bought so far, 11 with reimbursement from insurance. The software upgrades for the ReWalk 6.0 provide a smoother walking gait (with less of a soldier-like marching step), an easier stopping mechanism, and a much-improved mode for ascending and descending stairs. The user wears a wristwatch-like controller to switch the suit between sit, stand, walk, and stair modes. How long until a cheaper version hits the market, but you don’t always get to control where it takes you if there’s a sale on featuring brands you love? (via IEEE)
  2. Bitcoin Trends in First Half of 201594% increase in monthly transactions over the past year. 47% of Coinbase wallet holders are now from countries outside the U.S.
  3. Socket.io p2pan easy and reliable way to set up a WebRTC connection between peers and communicate using the socket.io-protocol.
  4. 18F Content Guide — communications guide for government content writers that bears in mind the frustrations citizens have with gov-speak websites.

Designing the dynamic human-robot relationship

Scott Stropkay and Bill Hartman on human-robot interaction, choice architecture, and developing degrees of trust.

Jonathan Follett, editor of Designing for Emerging Technologies, recently sat down with Scott Stropkay, founding partner at Essential Design Service, and Bill Hartman, director of research at Essential Design Service, both of whom are also contributing authors for Designing for Emerging Technologies. Their conversation centers around the relationship dynamic between humans and robots, and they discuss ways that designers are being stretched in an interesting new direction.

Accepting human-robot relationships

Stropkay and Hartman discussed their work with telepresence robots. They shared the inherent challenges of introducing robots in a health care setting, but stressed that there’s tremendous opportunity for improving the health care experience:

“We think the challenges inherent in these kinds of scenarios are fascinating, how you get people to accept a robot in a relationship that you normally have with a person. Let’s say, a hospital setting — how do you develop acceptance from the team that’s not used to working with a robot as part of their functional team, how do you develop trust in those relationships, how do you engage people both practically and emotionally. How, as this scenario progresses, you bring robots into your home to monitor your recovery is one of the issues we’ve begun to address in our work.

“We’re pursuing other ideas in relations to using smart monitors, in the form of robot and robotic enhanced devices that can help you advance your improvement in behavior change over time … Ultimately, we’re thinking about some of the interesting science that’s happening with robots that you ingest that can learn about you and monitor you. There’s a world of fascinating issues about what you want to know, and how you might want to learn that, who gets access to this information, and how that interface could be designed.”

Read more…

Four short links: 20 February 2015

Four short links: 20 February 2015

Robotic Garden, Kids Toys, MSFT ML, and Twitter Scale

  1. The Distributed Robotic Garden (MIT) — We consider plants, pots, and robots to be systems with different levels of mobility, sensing, actuation, and autonomy. (via Robohub)
  2. CogniToys Leverages Watson’s Brain to Befriend, Teach Your Kids (IEEE) — Through the dino, Watson’s algorithms can get to know each child that it interacts with, tailoring those interactions to the child’s age and interests.
  3. How Machine Learning Ate Microsoft (Infoworld) — Azure ML didn’t merely take the machine learning algorithms MSR had already handed over to product teams and stick them into a drag-and-drop visual designer. Microsoft has made the functionality available to developers who know the R statistical programming language and Python, which together are widely used in academic machine learning. Microsoft plans to integrate Azure ML closely with Revolution Analytics, the R startup it recently acquired.
  4. Handling Five Billion Sessions a Day in Real Time (Twitter) — infrastructure porn.
Comments: 2

The robotic worm

Does the way a brain is wired determine how we think and behave? Recent research points to a resounding yes.

Editor’s note: this is an excerpt from the latest edition of BioCoder; it is republished here with permission. Get your free copy of BioCoder Fall 2014 here.


One of the age-old questions has been whether the way a brain is wired, negating other attributes such as intracellular systems biology, will give rise to how we think and how we behave. We are not at the point yet to answer that question regarding the human brain. However, by using the well-mapped connectome of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans, shown above), we were able to answer this question as a resounding yes, at least for simpler animals. Using a simple robot (a Lego Mindstorms EV3) and connecting sensors on the robot to stimulate specific simulated sensory neurons in an artificial connectome, and condensing worm muscle excitation to move a left and right motor on the robot, we observed worm-like behaviors in the robot based purely on environmental factors. Read more…

Comments: 10

Saul Griffith: build soft, not solid

Soft, or compliant, robots can be safer, lighter, more efficient, and easier to control.

As we get ready to launch the 2015 version of Solid, our conference about the intersection between software and the physical world, I’ve been revisiting some lessons from Solid 2014.

For instance, Saul Griffith, founder and principal scientist at Other Lab, advises that many machines would do well to skip solidity altogether. Soft, or compliant, robots can be safer, lighter, more efficient, and easier to control. In his work with compliant robots, Griffith has managed to substitute intelligent controls for mass—replacing atoms with bits.

Watch Griffith’s entire Solid 2014 talk below. If you’d like to be notified when the Solid 2015 call for proposals goes up and when tickets become available, be sure to sign up for the O’Reilly IoT+ newsletter.

For more videos from Solid 2014, visit our Solid YouTube playlist.

Four short links: 21 October 2014

Four short links: 21 October 2014

Data Delusions, OS Robotics, Insecure Crypto, and Free Icons

  1. The Delusions of Big Data (IEEE) — When you have large amounts of data, your appetite for hypotheses tends to get even larger. And if it’s growing faster than the statistical strength of the data, then many of your inferences are likely to be false. They are likely to be white noise.
  2. ROSCON 2014 — slides and videos of talks from Chicago open source robotics conference.
  3. Making Sure Crypto Stays Insecure (PDF) — Daniel J. Bernstein talk: This talk is actually a thought experiment: how could an attacker manipulate the ecosystem for insecurity?
  4. Material Design Icons — Google’s CC-licensed (attribution, sharealike) collection of sweet, straightforward icons.