"robotics" entries

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.
Comment: 1

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.
Four short links: 25 September 2014

Four short links: 25 September 2014

Elevation Data, Soft Robots, Clean Data, and Security Souk

  1. NGA Releases Hi-Res Elevation Data — 30-meter topographic data for the world.
  2. Soft Roboticsa collection of shared resources to support the design, fabrication, modeling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices. From Harvard.
  3. OpenGovIn many domains, it’s not so much about “big data” yet as it is about “clean data.”
  4. Mitnick’s Zero-Day Exploit Shop — marketplace connecting “corporate and government” buyers and sellers of zero-day exploits. Claims to vet buyers. Another hidden economy becoming public.
Four short links: 21 July 2014

Four short links: 21 July 2014

Numenta Code, Soccer Robotics, Security Data Science, Open Wireless Router

  1. nupic (github) -GPL v3-licensed ode from Numenta, at last. See their patent position.
  2. Robocup — soccer robotics contest, condition of entry is that all codes are open sourced after the contest. (via The Economist)
  3. Security Data Science Paper Collection — machine learning, big data, analysis, reports, all around security issues.
  4. Building an Open Wireless Router — EFF call for coders to help build a wireless router that’s more secure and more supportive of open sharing than current devices.

Four short links: 6 June 2014

Four short links: 6 June 2014

Ethical UX, Personal Robots, Sharter URLs, and Magical Devices

  1. Ethics and UX Design (Slideshare) –We are the thieves of time. This excellent talk challenges you (via Aristotle) to understand what a good life is, and whether you’re designing to bring it about. (via Keith Bolland)
  2. Pepper Personal Robot — Japan’s lead in consumer-facing robotics is impressive. If this had been developed by an American company, it’d either have a Lua scripting interface or twin machine guns for autonomous death.
  3. shrturl — spoof, edit, rewrite, and general evil up webpages, hidden behind an URL shortening service.
  4. Lessons for Building Magical Devices (First Round Review) — The most interesting devices I’ve seen take elements of the physical world and expose them to software.[…] If you buy a Tesla Model S today, the behavior of the car six months from now could be radically different because software can reshape the capability of the hardware continuously, exceeding the speed of customer demand.
Four short links: 1 May 2014

Four short links: 1 May 2014

Cloud Jurisdiction, Driverless Cars, Robotics IPOs, and Fitting a Catalytic Convertor to Your Data Exhaust

  1. US Providers Must Divulge from Offshore Servers (Gigaom) — A U.S. magistrate judge ruled that U.S. cloud vendors must fork over customer data even if that data resides in data centers outside the country. (via Alistair Croll)
  2. Inside Google’s Self-Driving Car (Atlantic Cities) — Urmson says the value of maps is one of the key insights that emerged from the DARPA challenges. They give the car a baseline expectation of its environment; they’re the difference between the car opening its eyes in a completely new place and having some prior idea what’s going on around it. This is a long and interesting piece on the experience and the creator’s concerns around the self-driving cars. Still looking for the comprehensive piece on the subject.
  3. Recent Robotics-Relate IPOs — not all the exits are to Google.
  4. How One Woman Hid Her Pregnancy From Big Data (Mashable) — “I really couldn’t have done it without Tor, because Tor was really the only way to manage totally untraceable browsing. I know it’s gotten a bad reputation for Bitcoin trading and buying drugs online, but I used it for BabyCenter.com.”
Four short links: 29 April 2014

Four short links: 29 April 2014

Robot Legs, CS in Classrooms, Go Robotics, and Game Programming

  1. Bionic Legs Let Patients Walk AgainThe Ekso costs about $100,000 and was purchased with a grant from Baptist Health Foundation. Chara Rodriguez, a physical therapist and neurologic clinical specialist at University Health System, called the machine “the Maserati of the rehab world.” (via Robot Economics)
  2. Roundup of CS in Education Systems (Economist) — Above all, the new subject will require teachers who know what they are doing. Only a few places take this seriously: Israel has about 1,000 trained computer-science teachers, and Bavaria more than 700. Mathematics and computer-science graduates generally choose more lucrative trades; the humanities and social-science graduates who will find themselves teaching coding will need plenty of support.
  3. gobot — Go framework for hardware and robotics comms, with Arduino, Sphero, (and more) backends.
  4. Game Programming Patterns — free online book with programming patterns for game developers.

The robotics industry could use an infusion of new DNA

A melting pot of technologists, makers and product minds will lead to a new wave of robotics companies.

Editor’s note: this post originally published on Chen’s blog Beyond the Bell Curve; this edited version is republished here with permission.

A couple years ago, I dug deep into the robotics space because I thought we were seeing the birth of exciting next-generation robotics companies that would reshape the way our society lives and thinks. Companies like Rethink Robotics, Industrial Perception, and Redwood Robotics emerged to tackle factory and warehouse logistics. Willow Garage was gaining notoriety for being a center of robotics talent and innovation that spawned many of these companies. Meanwhile, Amazon had just acquired Kiva for $775M, driving even more entrepreneurial excitement.

Where are these players now? Rethink had a well-publicized round of layoffs, and Willow Garage ceases to exist. Industrial Perception and Redwood Robotics were part of Google’s robotics shopping spree, and while acquisitions can inspire activity like Kiva’s did, Google’s purchases may have had the opposite effect. In one fell swoop, many of the most entrepreneurial and talented roboticists were shuttered away from the world. I often worry that this has caused the entire field to take a step back, or at least is a major progress inhibitor. No longer will the acquired talent build and support new technology for others to build upon, at least for now. What Google decides to do with the talent they purchased will have big ramifications for how the industry and field move forward. There’s potential for a positive outcome here. Perhaps these groups eventually will leave Google with an understanding of best practices in building and operating a business, something Google is quite good at. Read more…