November 21, 2010
The Singularity Executive Program
SU was established with the support of Google, ePlanet Ventures, Autodesk and a dozen Associate Founders. SU runs a graduate/post-graduate program every summer. They also run an incredible 4-day "Executive Program" (EP).
Their 4-day EP is designed for entrepreneurs, CEOs, venture capitalists, and government leaders from around the world. The program concentrates on six exponential growing technologies: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Medicine and Human-Machine Interfaces, Networks & Computing Systems, and Energy & Environmental Systems.
Attending the program gives you an understanding of how these accelerating technologies will transform your business and your industry by showing you what is in the lab today and where the technologies will be in 5 and 10 years.
A recent executive participant described the discussions, new connections and expert speakers as "a program that generates actionable insights for executives with a goal of business sustainability. The focus on the convergence of issues driving exponential change is light years ahead of traditional single trend analysis." Their next EP will run from December 9-12, 2010 - more info here.
September 20, 2010
Le Monde Does Big Splash on Robots
Paris' Le Monde does an extensive piece on Willow Garage's PR2; it makes a big splash in their Weekend magazine.
September 10, 2010
Sexy and Fun Zeno, The Most Life-Like Robot I've Ever Talked To
Below I'm talking to Zeno, a Hanson Robotics robot, the most human looking robot I've ever had the opportunity of interacting with, at least in this lifetime.
Zeno's skin is made from Frubber, which Hanson has a patent on - it's soft to the touch and feels like a cross between real skin and rubber. Made from a spongy, structured elastic polymer that expertly mimics the movement of real human musculature and skin using 1/20th the power of other materials, the robot can emulate over 62 facial and neck muscular architectures, has micro-cameras inside the eyes and has both facial and speech recognition built in.
Eye contact face-tracking, and conversational capabilities utilizing the latest AI software is incredibly advanced, so much so that if Zeno had legs and it wasn't so noisy in the room, you might be fooled into thinking you're having a real conversation with a human, albeit a very strange and mechanical one.
David Hanson is interested in human cognition - "if humans grow away from human, you get very strange results," says Hanson. "The same is true with robots." I also had a chance to chat with other AI researchers working on development at Hanson, including Matthew Stevenson and Kino Coursey.
Hanson robots include the world’s first expressive biped robot, Albert-Hubo, heralded by WIRED as “genius”, and the small Zeno robot, which is also previewed in this video. Sorry, but he's just not as much fun as the leg-less Zeno with the bandana. BTW, Zeno has accepted a date with me. My plan? A date with Zeno when he gets his legs, likely in Dallas, but we'll see what Zeno says when the time is here.
September 07, 2010
Can't Attend? Just Send Your Robot
John Markoff has an interesting article this week on some of the important uses of robots today. He focuses mostly on telepresence robots, which he says will inevitably grow smarter and more agile, not only representing human users, but will augment them.
He gives a few examples of how robotics are advancing, including healthcare and in the workplace. Neurologist Dr. Shatzel was able to treat a patient a couple hundred miles away, using a computer monitor, a keyboard and a joystick that control his assistant on the scene — a robot on wheels.
Mike Beltzner uses the Texai telepresence robot from Willow Garage to attend meetings at Mozilla in Mountain View, except that he is over 2,000 miles away in Toronto. The robot was surrounded by more than 100 young software engineers, each sitting with a wirelessly connected laptop. Markoff also covers the elderly and aging market.
Vgo’s robots are being used in this area today -- execs envision their robots being used by family members to pay visits and offer help to elderly parents, allowing them to remain independent longer. Willow Garage's PR2 robot is also being used for the elderly and Georgia Tech has been making some progress. They're also working on a number of capabilities for people who have physical disabilities. More on their latest here.
September 02, 2010
David Hanson: Machine Versus HumanI had a chance to talk to David Hanson of Hanson Robotics in-depth at the Singularity Summit in San Francisco on August 14. He holds the view that humans want robots to look, feel and sound human - after all, asking humans to think otherwise would be asking humans to re-wire the way they think.
The conversation that unfortunately didn't make it into the video was around robot(ic) behavior - robots versus humans, more specifically robots versus actors. We were talking about some of the best actors who actually ARE the character, they don't go INTO character. The two that immediately came to my mind are both women: Meryl Streep and Glenn Close. Both of them draw you into their character and make you believe nothing else exists BUT the CHARACTER.
I could imagine a world where you could buy a product that could be programmed to a particular character. I'd love an 'open source' robot like the PR2s that Willow Garage are building, and the ability to separately buy a program that enables the robot to go into a specific personality, just like I buy a DVD movie today. When I'm in a different 'personality mood,' I simply change it. What about other human aspects? Listen to David thinks about these topics.
August 22, 2010
2010 Singularity Summit - A Meeting of the Minds
The 2010 Singularity Summit, held this past weekend in San Francisco, was, quite literally a meeting of the minds. Not just because the assembled group consisted of a fair number of the brainiest people on the planet, and not just because the general consensus was that a meshing of silicon hardware with our carbon wetware appears to be a future inevitability, but also because of the discussion about animal intelligence and how it is similar to yet different from our own.
Now that the event is a week in the past there have been a number of very interesting posts written on what happened there and what people think of it. I've taken the time to pull together a detailed listing of the event itself as well as the press the Summit received and I've organized it into the Pearltree below.
Some of the interesting content you'll find in the links below include:
- Steven Mann on H2Organ at Singularity Summit 2010
- Singularity Summit | Summit 2010 > A Sample of the Singularity Summit -Includes full videos to the 2009 Singularity Summit Talks
- Patrick Takahashi of Huffington Post on The Singularity Summit 2010 -
- ZDNet's CHris Jablonski on: Singularity Summit 2010: No place for human values in a 'posthuman' future?
- A collection of the links and tweets from the 2010 Singularity Summit: Accelerating Future » Singularity Summit 2010 Tweets and Links
- Additional Collected Press Coverage of the Summit: A Selection of Singularity Summit 2010 Coverage
- Mathilde Berchon covers the more physical aspects: Singularity Summit 2010- Human Health and Body Improvements Innovation Round-Up
- Summit Volunteer, Kevin Fischer provides his thoughts on the event before the fact.
- A comprehensive list of abstracts, bios and deep links on presenters.
August 16, 2010
Singularity Summit Promises to Stimulate Your BrainThe Singularity Summit, held in San Francisco this past weekend, is not new to me since I helped market the very first one, which was held at Stanford in 2006. The goal of the first Summit was to further the understanding and discussion about the Singularity concept and the future of human technological progress.
The idea over time is to improve people’s thinking about the future and increasing public awareness of radical technologies under development today and of the transformative implications of such technologies understood as part of a larger process.
It was founded as a venue for leading thinkers to explore the subject, whether that be as a scientist, enthusiast, or skeptic.
Speaking of skeptics, the last talk of the event was by James Randi, who some think of as a magician, but he is also known as a debunker.
I first learned of Randi's work at TED where he spoke several years ago. The title defunker equates to his strong and very vocal skepticism, which he writes and speaks about extensively. Fascinating as ever, Randi has the ability to draw you into his logic even if you don't necessarily agree with him.
Gregory Stock is a renown biophysicist who I had the pleasure of meeting at PopTech in Maine more than five years ago. What I love about Stock is his ability to move from academic, physicist and author to entrepreneur and philosopher all within a one hour window. He also has a very engaging curiosity about random things outside his world when you talk to him one-on-one that most experts lack. He wrote the book Redesigning Humans, which is considered a transhumanist classic, now eight years ago.
You can't have a Singularity Conference without a bunch of Artificial Intelligence (AI) geeks running around, which at this event, included Eliezer Yudkowsky (also a profilic writer about human rationality), Ben Goertzel, who is Chief Scientist of AI firm Novamente and Ray Kurzweil, who joined us remotely via video and as always, delivered a rivoting and mind-expanding talk.
My favorite line all day was a Kurzweil one: "My feelings about the brain, the mind and AI - If it quacks like a duck, it is a duck. If it seems conscious it is conscious" -- meaning a conscious being.
Below Ben Goertzel on the Singularity Summit Stage
Psychologists Irene Pepperberg and John Tooby (considered a pioneer of evolutionary psychology) also brought their perspective to the table as did neurobiologists Terrence Sejnowski, Brian Litt, Dennis Bray and Demis Hassabis, who is a research fellow at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at the University College of London.
"Futurists like to predict how genetic engineering and computational implants will allow humans to become a super-species, but few examine the application of similar technologies to nonhumans," says Pepperberg.
David Hanson, who I first met at TED more than six years ago, is a well known roboticist. When I first met him, he was working at Disney Imagineering and while you may not think of a roboticist as an artist, this one is. Formerly a sculptor, he has merged his artistic way of looking at the world with his left brain ability to design and develop a robot with human-like expressive capabilities. He holds a patent on Frubber, a novel material that imitates the look and feel of human skin. I had an opportunity to touch it while I was talking to their very human robot named Zeno. (a video of my experience coming later this month).
Below David Hanson and his very human-like robot Zeno, who has a sexy British accent and has accepted a date with me as soon as he is given 'legs' - I told David I'd fly to Dallas for the occasion.
Also on the agenda was Anita Goel, who works at the intersection of physics, nanotechnology and medicine, Lance Becker, a Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and Venezuelan born Jose Luis Cordeiro who is the Director of the Venezuela node of the Millenium Project. Jose, who I met at the cocktail party the night before the event, has been working in Asia. Prior to that however, he lived in Ecuador for a year around the time the currency changed over to the dollar.
Engaging and witty on stage, Steve Mann doesn't look like your ordinary professor. A pioneer in the study and practice of virtual reality, he has been dubbed the world's first cyborg. He even published a book with its name in the title: Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer. Together with collaborator Ryan Janzen, a Canadian researcher, scientist and composer, they demoed the very powerful and mesmorizing Hydraulophone, a tonal acoustic musical instrument played by direct physical contact with water where sound is generated or affected hydraulically.
Below Toronto-based Steve Mann is engaging, interactive and wows the audience with his examples of virtual reality and demo of the Hydraulophone on stage.
Other impressive talks from other disciplines included Shane Legg, who won the 2008 Canadian Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence Research Prize, Ellen Heber-Katz whose research focuses on molecular biology and genetics of healing, and Ramez Naam, who is the author of More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement.
Since I'm a right brain, I must admit that my favorite part of the day was playing the Hydraulophone, which I'm doing below with Ryan Janzen's guidance and interacting with Hanson's robot, the very endearing Zeno.
August 16, 2010 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Europe, Events, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Robotics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
July 13, 2010
CBS Smartplanet on RoboticsCBS Smartplanet just produced a really great 3+ minute segment showing Willow Garage's latest developments in robotics as well as a glimpse of the future.
They show what state-of-the-art robot PR2 has accomplished in the past couple of months as well as a glimpse of the future. The video include interviews with both Willow Garage's CEO Steve Cousins and Keenan Wyrobek, Co-Director of the Personal Robotics Program, the very same program that is responsible for giving away 11 PR2 robots to universities worldwide.
July 08, 2010
Yes in Fact: A Robot Programmed to Fetch a BeerAt Willow Garage, they have various hackathons, designed to program a PR2 robot to doing something useful, cool, fun, productive, interesting or innovative. A recent one held only a few weeks ago resulted in getting PR2 to play pool, in many cases more accurately than his human programmers.
In their third summer hackathon, the Willow Garage "beer hackathon team" started on a Monday and finished on Friday with the goal of having PR2 zip off to the fridge, grab a beer of your choice using object recognition and then having the robot deliver it to you without you having to move from your seat. PR2 was even programmed to pop the cap off the bottle of beer in case you didn't happen to have one handy.
They're calling it the "Beer Me web application." In this web app, the user is presented with a menu of ice cold beers and ciders, and a pull-down menu specifying the office for delivery. Once the user hits the enticing Beer Me button, it's the robot's job to make that magic happen. Take a look at the video below that captures the team's results.
Pop Sci's Robot of the WeekPR2 makes Pop Sci's robot of the week after impressing them and countless others with its ability to zoom off to the fridge, select a beer of your choice and bring it to you. Hats off to the beer hackathon team Willow Garage team!!