"robots" entries

Four short links: 5 November 2015

Four short links: 5 November 2015

Robotic Delivery, Materials Science, Open Source Project Management, and Open Source Secret Management

  1. Starship — robotic delivery, from Skype co-founders. Pilot in the U.K. next year, in U.S. the year after. (via Brad Templeton)
  2. Materials that Couple Sensing, Actuation, Computation, and Communication (PDF) — very readable rundown of the ways in which materials can be designed to sense, compute, actuate, and communicate. You should read this because if the Internet of Things is going to be big, then the real breakthroughs and leaps forward will be in the Things and not the Internet. (via CCC Blog)
  3. Taiga — open source agile software project management tool (backlog, kanban, tasks, sprints, burndown charts, that sort of thing). (via Jef Vratny)
  4. Confidant — a secret management system, for AWS, from Lyft. If you build services that need to talk to each other, it quickly gets difficult to distribute and manage permissions to those services. So, naturally, the solution is to add another service. (In accordance with the Fundamental Theorem of Computer Science.)
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Four short links: 30 October 2015

Four short links: 30 October 2015

Cyber Threats, Secrecy Hurts R&D, Robot Bee, Long Live ChromeOS

  1. Emerging Cyber Threats Report (Georgia Tech) — no surprises, but another document to print and leave on the desk of the ostrich who thinks there’s no security problem.
  2. Apple’s Secrecy Hurts Its AI Development (Bloomberg) — “Apple is off the scale in terms of secrecy,” says Richard Zemel, a professor in the computer science department at the University of Toronto. “They’re completely out of the loop.”
  3. Swimming Robobees (Harvard) — The Harvard RoboBee, designed in Wood’s lab, is a microrobot, smaller than a paperclip, that flies and hovers like an insect, flapping its tiny, nearly invisible wings 120 times per second. It can fly and swim.
  4. Android and Chromestarting next year, the company will work with partners to build personal computers that run on Android, according to sources familiar with the company’s plans. The Chrome browser and operating systems aren’t disappearing — PC makers that produce Chromebooks will still be able to use Chrome. Security gurus sad because ChromeOS is most secure operating system in use.
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Four short links: 19 October 2015

Four short links: 19 October 2015

Academic Robot Kit, Countertop Biolab, Generous Interfaces, and Universal Design

  1. Open Academic Robot KitA common set of parts, specifications, and software to catalyse the design, construction, dissemination, and re-use of robots in an academic and research environment. (via Robohub)
  2. Amino: Desktop Bioengineering for Everyone (Indiegogo) — a counter-top sized biolab that enables anyone to grow living cells to create new and interesting things – like fragrances, flavours, materials, medicine, and more.
  3. Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections (Mitchell Whitelaw) — Decades of digitisation have made a wealth of digital cultural material available online. Yet search — the dominant interface to these collections — is incapable of representing this abundance. Search is ungenerous: it withholds information, and demands a query. This paper argues for a more generous alternative: rich, browsable interfaces that reveal the scale and complexity of digital heritage collections. (via Courtney Johnston)
  4. The Universal Design (Christine Dodrill) — there need to be five basic primitives in your application: State – What is true now? What was true? What happened in the past? What is the persistent view of the world? Events – What is being changed? How will it be routed? Policy – Can a given event be promoted into a series of actions? Actions – What is the outcome of the policy? Mechanism – How should an event be taken in and an action put out? […] All you need is a command queue feeding into a thread pool which feeds out into a transaction queue which modifies state. And with that you can explain everything from VMWare to Google.
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Four short links: 12 October 2015

Four short links: 12 October 2015

Unattended Robots, Replicable Economics, Deep Learning Learnings, and TPP Problems

  1. Acquiring Object Experiences at Scale — software to let a robot examine a pile of objects, unattended overnight.
  2. Economics Apparently Not Replicable (PDF) — We successfully replicate the key qualitative result of 22 of 67 papers (33%) without contacting the authors. Excluding the six papers that use confidential data and the two papers that use software we do not possess, we replicate 29 of 59 papers (49%) with assistance from the authors. Because we are able to replicate less than half of the papers in our sample even with help from the authors, we assert that economics research is usually not replicable.
  3. 26 Things I Learned in the Deep Learning Summer School20. When Frederick Jelinek and his team at IBM submitted one of the first papers on statistical machine translation to COLING in 1988, they got the following anonymous review: The validity of a statistical (information theoretic) approach to MT has indeed been recognized, as the authors mention, by Weaver as early as 1949. And was universally recognized as mistaken by 1950 (cf. Hutchins, MT – Past, Present, Future, Ellis Horwood, 1986, p. 30ff and references therein). The crude force of computers is not science. The paper is simply beyond the scope of COLING.
  4. The Final Leaked TPP Text is All That We Feared (EFF) — If you dig deeper, you’ll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding, whereas almost everything that benefits rightsholders is binding.
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Four short links: 1 October 2015

Four short links: 1 October 2015

Robot is Meaningless, Building Analytics, Real World Challenges, and Reclaiming Conversation

  1. The Word Robot is Meaningless and We Need to Stop Saying ItAs more and more household tasks become automated, the number of robots in our lives is growing rapidly. And the rise of connected devices raises a thorny semantic question: namely, where does “automated process” stop and “robot” begin? Why is a factory machine that moves car parts considered a “robot,” but a Volkswagen with a much more sophisticated code base is just a Jetta?
  2. Building Analytics at 500px An ETL script that has to turn messy production data into clean data warehouse data will naturally be extremely messy. Use a framework like Luigi or a tool like Informatica. These have well-known coding styles and constructs, and are also widely used. It will still be messy. But it will be comparable to known ways of doing ETL.
  3. Systems Computing Challenges in the Internet of Things — I love that while there are countless old institutions engaging consultants and writing strategies about “digital,” now there’s a white paper from a computer group fretting about the problems that the Real World will cause them. Maybe they should just choose the newspaper solution: the real world is just a fad, don’t worry, it’ll pass soon.
  4. Reclaiming Conversation (Review) (NY Times) — review of Sherry Turkle’s new book. When we replace human caregivers with robots, or talking with texting, we begin by arguing that the replacements are “better than nothing” but end up considering them “better than anything” — cleaner, less risky, less demanding.
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Four short links: 17 September 2015

Four short links: 17 September 2015

Google's Code, China's Pledge, MD5's Cracks, and Toyota's Robotics Hire

  1. Google’s 2 Billion Lines of Code (Wired) — 85TB, 45,000 changes/day in Google’s DVCS “Piper.” They’re looking at Mercurial.
  2. China Extracting Pledge of Compliance from US Firms (NY Times) — The letter also asks the American companies to ensure their products are “secure and controllable,” a catchphrase that industry groups said could be used to force companies to build so-called back doors — which allow third-party access to systems — provide encryption keys or even hand over source code.
  3. MD5 To Be Considered Harmful Some Day (Adrian Colyer) — walkthrough of Dan Kaminsky’s paper on the growing number of cracks in MD5.
  4. Toyota’s Robot Car Plans (IEEE Spectrum) — Toyota hired the former head of DARPA’s Robotics Challenge. Pratt explained that a U.S. $50 million R&D collaboration with MIT and Stanford is just the beginning of a large and ambitious program whose goal is developing intelligent vehicles that can make roads safer and robot helpers that can improve people’s lives at home.
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Four short links: 14 September 2015

Four short links: 14 September 2015

Robotics Boom, Apple in Communities, Picture Research, and Programming Enlightenment

  1. Uber Would Like to Buy Your Robotics Department (NY Times) — ‘‘If you’re well versed in the area of robotics right now and you’re not working on self-driving cars, you’re either an idiot or you have more of a passion for something else,’’ says Jerry Pratt, head of a robotics team in Pensacola that worked on a humanoid robot that beat Carnegie Mellon’s CHIMP in this year’s contest. ‘‘It’s a multibillion- if not trillion-dollar industry.’’
  2. What the Heck is Angela Ahrendts Doing at Apple? (Fortune) — Apple has always intended for each of them to be a community center; now Cook and Ahrendts want them to be the community center. That means expanding from serving existing and potential customers to, say, creating opportunities for underserved minorities and women. “In my mind,” Ahrendts says, store leaders “are the mayors of their community.”
  3. Imitation vs. Innovation: Product Similarity Network in the Motion Picture Industry (PDF) — machine learning to build a model of movies released in the last few decades, We find that big-budget movies benefit more from imitation, but small-budget movies favor novelty. This leads to interesting market dynamics that cannot be produced by a model without learning.
  4. Enlightened Imagination for Citizens (Bret Victor) — It should be painfully obvious that learning how to program a computer has no direct connection to any high form of enlightenment. Amen!
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Four short links: 9 September 2015

Four short links: 9 September 2015

Bricklaying Robots, Photographic Insecurity, Quantum-Resistant Crypto, and Garbage Subtraction

  1. Bricklaying Robot Lays 3x Speed of Humans (MIT TR) — The robot can correct for the differences between theoretical building specifications and what’s actually on site, says Scott Peters, co-founder of Construction Robotics, a company based in Victor, New York, that designed SAM as its debut product. (via Audrey Watters)
  2. When a Photo Ends Your Security (Bruce Schneier) — the TSA’s master key was shown in a Washington Post photo spread, so now it can be recreated from the photo.
  3. Online Security Braces for Quantum Revolution (Nature) — PQCRYPTO, a European consortium of quantum-cryptography researchers in academia and industry, released a preliminary report on 7 September recommending cryptographic techniques that are resistant to quantum computers […] It favoured the McEliece system, which has resisted attacks since 1978, for public-key cryptography.
  4. The New Wave is Garbage Subtracted (Adam Trachtenberg) — Adam found some amazingly prescient writing from Esther Dyson. The new wave is not value-added; it’s garbage-subtracted. The job of the future is PR guy, not journalist. I’m too busy reading, so why should I pay for more things to read? Anything anyone didn’t pay to send to me…I’m not going to read.
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Four short links: 21 August 2015

Four short links: 21 August 2015

Web Experiments, Virtual Time, Reading Postmortem, and Chinese Robot Companies

  1. Doing Science on the Web (Alex Russell) — Minimizing harm to the ecosystem from experiments-gone-wrong […] This illustrates what happens when experiments inadvertently become critical infrastructure. It has happened before. Over, and over, and over again. Imma need therapy for the flashbacks. THE HORROR.
  2. Virtual Time (Adrian Colyer) — applying special relativity to distributed systems. Contains lines like: All messages sent explicitly by user programs have a positive (+) sign; their antimessages have a negative (-) sign. Whenever a process sends a message, what actually happens is that a faithful copy of the message is transmitted to the receiver’s input queue, and a negative copy, the antimessage, is retained in the sender’s output queue for use in case the sender rolls back. Curl up with your intoxicant of choice and prepare to see the colour of infinity.
  3. Lessons Learned from Reading Postmortems — (of the software kind) Except in extreme emergencies, risky code changes are basically never simultaneously pushed out to all machines because of the risk of taking down a service company-wide. But it seems that every company has to learn the hard way that seemingly benign config changes can also cause a company-wide service outage.
  4. 194 Chinese Robot Companies (Robohub) — Overall, 107 Chinese companies are involved in industrial robotics. Many of these new industrial robot makers are producing products that, because of quality, safety, and design regulations, will only be acceptable to the Chinese market. Many interesting numbers about the Chinese robotics biz.
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Four short links: 12 August 2015

Four short links: 12 August 2015

Economic Futures, Space War, State of Security, and Algorithmic Fairness

  1. Possible Economics Models (Jamais Cascio) — economic futures filtered through Doctorovian prose. Griefer Economics: Information is power, especially when it comes to finance, and the increasing use of ultra-fast computers to manipulate markets (and drive out “weaker” competitors) is moving us into a world where market position isn’t determined by having the best offering, but by having the best tool. Rules are gamed, opponents are beaten before they even know they’re playing, and it all feels very much like living on a PvP online game server where the referees have all gone home. Relevant to Next:Economy.
  2. War in Space May Be Closer Than Ever (SciAm) — Today, the situation is much more complicated. Low- and high-Earth orbits have become hotbeds of scientific and commercial activity, filled with hundreds upon hundreds of satellites from about 60 different nations. Despite their largely peaceful purposes, each and every satellite is at risk, in part because not all members of the growing club of military space powers are willing to play by the same rules — and they don’t have to, because the rules remain as yet unwritten. There’s going to be a bitchin’ S-1 risks section when Planet Labs files for IPO.
  3. Not Even Close: The State of Computer Security (Vimeo) — In this bleak, relentlessly morbid talk, James Mickens will describe why making computers secure is an intrinsically impossible task. He will explain why no programming language makes it easy to write secure code. He will then discuss why cloud computing is a black hole for privacy, and only useful for people who want to fill your machine with ads, viruses, or viruses that masquerade as ads. At this point in the talk, an audience member may suggest that bitcoins can make things better. Mickens will laugh at this audience member and then explain why trusting the bitcoin infrastructure is like asking Dracula to become a vegan. Mickens will conclude by describing why true love is a joke and why we are all destined to die alone and tormented. The first ten attendees will get balloon animals, and/or an unconvincing explanation about why Mickens intended to (but did not) bring balloon animals. Mickens will then flee on horseback while shouting “The Prince of Lies escapes again!”
  4. Algorithms and Bias (NYTimes) — interview w/Cynthia Dwork from Microsoft Research. Fairness means that similar people are treated similarly. A true understanding of who should be considered similar for a particular classification task requires knowledge of sensitive attributes, and removing those attributes from consideration can introduce unfairness and harm utility.
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