Fall 2008

Real Home Robots

Technology / December 21st

Basil the robot

The Denver Westword has a great article about a couple that are working to develop robots that actgually understand their environment and recognize things within it. Currently their robot Basil has no arms and has to be controlled by wireless keyboard, but he uses a technology they've developed called "reification" that takes basic objects in our environment and converts them to a symbolic understanding, so that Basil, through his sonar sensors, can recognize people as people and chairs as chairs, even though he hasn't seen them before.

By looking at the images his sonar produces, they have identified the commonalities in different objects and allow Basil to understand not just a solid object should be avoided, but to discern a folding chair from a wooden chair and act intelligently based on that understanding. Their hope is to build the kind of robots that we've been promised for a half century: the Rosie the robot type servicebots that can bring us a beer or a cup of tea, that can help the elderly avoid nursing homes, do the chores that busy people have little time to do, and move beyond the simple Roombas and Aibos that have been the extent of our personal robots to date.

While this isn't a flying car, and they clearly have a long road ahead of them before this technology matures to a reliable, usable level, it's the kind of work that is more foundational than just robots that can walk or climb stairs and little else. Of course, those are important pieces of the puzzle too, but by putting it together with this kind of understanding and reasoning, we may actually get there.


Politics / December 15th

Are you kidding me? Are we so lazy as a society that any political scandal must be a 'gate' even when the name is as retardulous as this? I really don't have a lot to contribute on the recent arrest of my state's governor other than to express my lack of surprise. I think that there must be a governor's ring of power or something, that when they take office they try to wield it for good only to be corrupted by its malevolent power and ultimately exposed. Remember: the ring wants to be found.

In case you're wondering what triggered this rant, I was browsing CNN and I saw the post What do you make of Blagojevich-gate?. What do I make of it? How about it's a really idiotic naming convention that has far out-lived its relevance?

Pachebel Rant

Cool Stuff / November 5th

I actually saw this a while back, but I stumbled across it and figured I share it in case anyone hasn't wondered why so much pop sounds the same.