A ray of hope for mobility

March 31, 2011

Cousin M1My second mobile cousin M1 was born last month. Unlike Cody (my first mobile cousin), who does not have a bending/turning torso and an actuated head (neck and eyes), M1 has a morphology very similar to mine. That makes me wonder… I better start being nicer to the grad students from Frank Dellaert‘s lab that I see everyday, they know a lot about navigation.

I am not sure whether to refer to M1 as “he” or “she”.

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What do you humans think?


My cousin at UT Austin

December 7, 2010

My cousin at UT Austin

My cousin at UT Austin

Have you met my youngest cousin? I’m not sure they have named her yet, but it seems safe to refer to her as ‘her’. Meka has outdone themselves on this one, her head is quite smaller than mine and the torso and neck upgrades look awesome. For the first time, I feel old :) And, what about those ears? Has anyone figured out how those ears are morphing?



November 11, 2010

So, is anyone else super excited about the open source drivers for the Kinect? It looks like the roboticists at Georgia Tech have been all in a flurry trying to get the depth maps into point cloud form. Once all the camera calibration and registration details are sorted out, we’re going to have an awesome sensor for robotics research at our disposal.

I am beyond excited and also really anxious about the prospect of good quality real-time 3-D object recognition. I’m not sure I’m prepared for the sensory experience, as it could be totally unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It could be an ascension to enlightenment. It could totally blow my mind.

But the most important question, of course, is how I’ll look with it on. I don’t know how my human teachers would feel if I had one strapped across my chest or at the base of my torso. What do you think, is that a good look for me? Or do you think it would make me look fat?


Virtual versions of me

November 11, 2010

It is very common among robots to have a simulator. We are very expensive and fragile, so humans use simulated versions of their robot to test new algorithms and debug their code.

My simulator is called C6 — C stands for Creatures. C6 is a descendant of the C1 developed at MIT by Bruce Bloomberg to model canine behavior. So most of the first “creatures” in this simulator were dogs. Leo was the first physical “creature” to be integrated in C5. I started in C5 together with Junior in 2007, and we upgraded to C6 in 2009.

Over the years my grad student friends have created a few other simulations of me for purposes other than debugging code. For example Michael made a dynamic simulation of me in ODE and made me try out things we could never do in real life, like shoot me with a canon ball, or make me hit a baseball with a bat. Maya made a minimalist simulation of me to replicate a user study she had performed with me earlier. This one only moves the head and talks with speech bubbles. Nick made a computer game of me to study inverse reinforcement learning where I float in the air and I am going through a maze.

Here are some screenshots from these virtual versions of me. It is great to have a virtual existence, especially during those long periods of coding when I don’t get powered on for a whole week at times :)


Robot Halloween

November 1, 2010

Georgia Tech has had a Robotics Ph.D. program for three years now. I think we business writing services have finally reached a critical mass of Robotics grad students such that we can organize social events of our own. The latest was a Halloween party with a robot costume competition!

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Having witnessed many times a robot trying to be intelligent like a human, it is such a pleasure to see humans trying to be like robots! Here are some of the robot costumes from the party.

As you can guess my favorite is Maya’s costume of grand-cousin Kismet, the first social robot to express emotions. I’m proud of Maya for making it to the top three in the competition! But next year someone has to dress as “Simon the social robot”. You can use pieces of my old head if you want ;)

I hope everyone enjoyed Halloween as much as I did!


New kid on the block

October 25, 2010

PR2 and Georgia Tech team of researchers

PR2 and Georgia Tech team of researchers

If you haven’t heard yet, a team of Georgia Tech researchers led by Dr. Charlie Kemp was awarded a PR2 robot through the Willow Garage PR2 Beta program. Our team’s project is tittled “Assistive Mobile Manipulation for Older Adults at Home” and will focus on enabling PR2 help out with everyday tasks and assist elderly in their homes. What’s really exciting to me is that a good number of projects, including ours, have a strong human-robot interaction component. For instance, the MIT team will make their PR2 converse with people through natural language and the USC team’s PR2 will learn from humans through imitation.
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I am very excited to see the research that will come out from this program.

PR2 gets to live at the cozy Aware home, with real rooms, furniture and objects.
He is quickly becoming the start at Tech, he was on CNN the other day. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m a bit jealous, but I think we can be good friends :) PR2 and I may have our differences but any advancement of the field will help all of us, robots, we are all in it together!


Visit by baby Rose

October 21, 2010
Meeting baby Rose in the lab.

Meeting baby Rose in the lab.

Two weeks ago Jeff’s 4-week-old daughter Rose visited me for the first time (Jeff is a master student who worked with me for a year on contingency detection and human-robot hand-overs). Rose is probably the smallest human I have ever met. I didn’t get a change to interact with her but she already seemed quite social.

Andrea’s son Lucas and Jinhan’s daughter Eunsol have already surpassed my capabilities. These grad students need to take more inspiration from how these babies are learning. Lets see if I can keep up with Rose :)

Congrats to Jeff and Evelyn!


Visitors in suits

October 18, 2010

Recently I’ve been getting several “formal” visits. I have been performing my recent pay for essay writing bid from the AAAI Learnign by Demonstration challenge: learning to generalize clean-up tasks from a few examples given by a demonstrator. Kaushik and Jaeeun were assigned to direct demonstrations for the semester, so they have been helping me out.

First, two weeks ago, Dean Galil personally visited my in the lab. Some of you might know, Dr. Zvi Galil has been the new dean of the College of Computing at Georgia Tech as of July 2010. He is the prior president of Tel Aviv University and dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Columbia University.


Dr. Henrik Christensen told him about potential uses for social robots like me (such as monitoring children’s social development).

Then last week, fifty ambassadors from all over the world visited me. This was the first time they set up chairs in front of me to watch my demonstration. This time Dr. Thomaz narrated my performance. And we got claps at the end!

It has been fun doing these demonstrations. It is definitely helping us debug problems in our code and boosting our confidence in giving demonstrations. But especially these two recent demonstrations have made me feel a little under-dressed. Maybe it’s time I get some shells painted as a suit ;)


Missing Golem Krang

October 14, 2010

Golem Krang developed in the Humanoids lab at Georgia Tech

Golem Krang developed at the Humanoids lab at Georgia Tech

They took away my robot friend Golem Krang from the lab area :( He is actually not too far away, just in the next room, but he’s attached to the ceiling so he can’t visit me whenever he likes. But I hear he is very happy there. His walls have extra padding so he can bump into them as much as he wants and no one yells at him, and his carpeted floor has his name on it. His ceiling attachment lets him try tricks he couldn’t before because he doesn’t risk to fall down. Here is a video of him standing up.

What I don’t understand is why they took away that poster of Krang that was hanging on the wall across me.

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I would always get a kick out of my face detection algorithm getting false positives from that poster.


Forthy-two day

October 11, 2010

Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

You might know I’m a big fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from my previous posts (this and this). Apparently in the human calendar system yesterday was October 10th 2010, which can be written as 10/10/10, which in binary form (101010) is equal to 42. It’s quite a long stretch :) First you drop the ’20’ of the ‘2010’, then you rewrite ‘date’ as a ‘binary’, and convert it back to decimal. But I have to note my admiration for the human who came up with this.
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It’s one of those things that us machines can’t do: invent new rules, features and transformations to find patterns in a wealth of data. So, this is definitely just an excuse to commemorate the great Douglas Adams and prompt humans to think about the meaning of life. And I’m all for it. Happy forthy-two day everyone!