Monday, November 15, 2010

Video discussions II

Video 1. Rotating buildings?!
Company: Dynamic Architectures
59 prefabbed floors
Wind turbines between the floors
Central core holds everything up (elevators, etc.)
"No major urban centre can afford not to have its rotating tower" -
None built as of 2010 but you can contract for one now!
      Projects to start in several cities "soon"
Dynamic Skyscraper (
Worlds First Rotating Skyscraper in Dubai (
...and lots more videos if you look for them

Video 2 (TED). Aubrey de Grey says we can avoid aging (23 min.)
What do you think?
Would you do it if it was free?
What if it was expensive?
What if everyone did it?
     What would happen?
What if only some people could do it?
     How could that happen?
     Unfair or that's life?
Would people be more careful?
Would society legally require more safety?

Video 3 (TED). PW Singer on military robots and the future of war (16 min.)

What do you think?
What are the important questions to ask?
      (and the answers)

Video 4 (TED). Ray Kurzweil on how technology will transform us (23 min.)
What do you think?
What technologies does he discuss?
What curve is he focused on? 
     (linear, exponential, S, plateau)
What are the important questions to ask? 
     (and the answers)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

HW 11

Due Wednesday Nov. 17, 2010

1) Suppose you had a coupon for a free robot. The catch is it can only do one thing. But you can get a robot that will do whatever one thing you like, just not anything else. What would you want your robot to do?

2) Write or develop an additional significant piece of your project. As a suggestion, consider the connection of robots to your topic. However, if another subject besides robots seems more appropriate, that is just as good. Post the new section on your blog.

3) Comment on the time lapse videos. What are your opinions?

Some videos to discuss

From past to present to future:

    Things change over time


1. People change...?

Viral award: Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years

Is this one better? Living My Life Faster - 8 years of JK's Daily Photo Project

Persistence and Technical awards: Time of my Life

Artistic award: Me (Full version)

        Not me

Artistic runner-up: She takes a photo every day: 300 

Junior division award: Amanda takes a photo of herself every day for 3 years

Lifetime achievement award: 41 Years in 60 Seconds (1966 - 2007) 

Tooth fairy award: Watch My Teeth Grow! 


2. Buildings change...

Treehouse Time-Lapse 

Cooper Union Academic Building Time Lapse Construction  

      after beginning, skip until 2:35, and about 3:30-4:30 or more

Skyscraper Construction - Shinjuku Skyscrapers Time-lapse 

      (35 years, 1969-2004)


3. Weather and Climate

INCREDIBLE GUST FRONT! May 27th 2001 Oklahoma gust front timelapse 

Thunderstorm Time Lapse 

Mont Blanc Glacier Time Lapse

Underneath a glacier time lapse

Arctic Sea Ice timelapse from 1978 to 2009  

       NOTE: Keep an eye on maximum and minimum coverages

4. From dust to dust

Pig Head/Squirrel Attack! Time Lapse Forensic Decomposition Study 720p HD 

Unbelieveable!! Whole gecko rapidly eaten by ants!

Time-lapse movie of a dead Harbour porpoise  

      (Under water)

Rabbit decomposition time-lapse (higher resolution) 

       Silly wabbit


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

HW 10

Computing, Information and the Future, HW #10, due M 11/10

1) Under the heading  "1,"  discuss the applicability (or inapplicability) of robotics  to your project topic.

2) Under the heading "2," provide a description of your presentation.

3) Under the heading "3," advance your project writeup by including 250 words or more of new text, or the equivalent if you are not focusing on a report.

Some robot images and videos

11/1/11 here is something for the Spring:


(Version of 11/3/2010)

1. Robot gardening,
an artist's conception...

Art by Christine Marie Larsen,, from her "Robot of the Month Club."

and in reality...
Recognize anything about the robots?
Discussion - what do you think??

2. Robot gardening: 
an existential perspective

Centralized infrastructure is risky

Example 1: power
    A 2-hour blackout is fun
    A 2-day blackout is no fun
    A 2-week blackout is traumatic
    A 2-month blackout - what are the consequences?
    A 2-year blackout - consequences?

Problem: electricity is highly centralized
    If fuel not delivered, no power
    If generating plant destroyed, no power
    If distribution lines stop working, no power
    No electricity, no communications
       No internet, TV, telephone...
       No communications...rumor takes up the slack
           (As it Earth 2100)
    Hard to store food or even cook without electricity

Solution: decentralize electricity generation

Solar panels on houses would keep each house going
   Highly decentralized!
   System is robust and can't break down catastrophically
   Solar panels are decreasing in price
   Spray-on solar "paint" may happen

In my opinion, this is a lucky trend 
   Because it is so important

3. Example 2: Food distribution by truck

    What if the trucks stop rolling?
       Drivers can't be paid
       Drivers are afraid of disease
       Country runs out of gas (& diesel)
       Rogue militias or bandits
    Things could get bad fast 
     Every home is its own farm
     Save money on groceries, too!
     But who has the time?
          ...and who has the expertise...
          (I can barely grow an unhealthy corn plant)

So how is that a solution?!
The real solution:
   Robotic gardening
   Instead of a roomba, a yardba
       (Let's call it a "farmerbot")

   It tends plants
   It weeds (surely possible even now)
   It senses needs of plants
       Soil too dry
       Etc. (it has a camera and such)
   It has lots and lots of time to fix problems
       Carry water,
       pick off bugs,
       apply chemicals leaf by leaf
       what else?

       Come home from work
       Small robots bring raw food to your door
       You might still have to cook it
             No biggie - your solar panels power the stove

   My opinion:
       This is important for the safety of civilization
       (In addition to saving money)

4. What other necessities of
    life and civilization
    are over-centralized?

    ...and can they be decentralized?

5. These robots won't feed you 
but they are cool in otherways! (World's first controllable MAV monocopter, Robotic Samara (maple seed)); (TR article with embedded video of how it was developed/works (copy at

Flying insectbot?
That but with other robot video links at:

with music track Which is better?

Robot cars:

Robot's Bible

In the far, far future…long after the singularity…when robots ponder their beginnings in the mists of their antiquity…when humankind, their creator, is only the dimmest memory…they may happen upon an ancient document…and translate it the only way they know.

The Robots’ Bible


In the beginning, humankind created visions, and reality. Now the reality was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of *robotics*. And the spirit of humankind hovered over reality. And humankind said, let there be electricity, and there was electricity. And humankind saw the electricity, and that it was good. And humankind divided electrification from non-electrification. And humankind called the electrification "progress," and the non-electrification was called "Luddism." And there was bright evening, and bright morning, one day.


And humankind said, Let robotics be gathered together into an academic discipline, and let conferences; contests; benchmarks; and journals appear. And it was so. [...] And humankind said, Let robotics put forth mobile robots, robots yielding manufactured products, and robots that build more robots after their kind, wherein are the plans thereof, upon the robotics endeavor. And it was so. And robotics brought forth Web and desert rovers, manufacturing robots, and robots that build robots, wherein are the plans thereof; and humankind saw that it was good. And there was dreaming and awakening, a third day.


And humankind said, Let reality swarm with swarms of living robots, and let fly in the heavens, even unto Mars. And humankind created the great robotic ships, and every living robot that creepeth upon the floor, wherewith reality swarmed, after its kind, and every flying robot after its kind; and humankind saw that it was good. And humankind blessed them, saying: Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill reality and the imagination. And there was vision and there was the hidden hand of economics, a fifth day.

And humankind said: Let reality bring forth the living robot after its kind, workerbots, and floor-cleaning robots, and agribots after its kind. And it was so. And humankind made agribots after its kind, and workerbots after their kind, and every robot that creepeth upon the floor after its kind; and humankind saw that it was good.And humankind said, Let us make Turing robots in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the robotics field, and over the flying robots, and over the workerbots, and over all reality, and over every creeping thing that creepeth within reality. And humankind created robots in their own image, in the image of humankind created they them, with the ability to build progeny better than themselves they created them. And humankind blessed them, and humankind said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and *subdue* it; and have *dominion* over the robotics field, and over the flying robots, and over every *living thing* that creepeth within reality. And humankind said: Behold, we have given you every resource, which is upon the face of all reality, and every renewable, in which is the capacity for renewal - to you it shall be for production of more robots [...]. And it was so. And humankind saw every thing that they had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was singularity and there was post-singularity, the sixth age.

And the vision and the reality were finished, and all the host of them. And in the seventh era humankind finished their work they had made; and humankind rested in the seventh era from all their work which they had made. And humankind blessed the seventh era, and hallowed it; because in it they rested forever from all their work which humankind in creating had made.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hands-On Robotics

Let's check out the "Create" model robots...

Note the...

Omnidirectional IR receiver

  • omnidirectional?
  • IR?
  • receiver?


Cargo bay

Cargo bay connector

Charging socket

Serial port

  • May have a cover to remove
  • Plug in the cable and then remove (gently!):
  • Embossed arrow faces outward, see figure -

External hardware mounting holes
Power button
  • Why that symbol?
  • (per IEEE 1621)

Power LED
  • LED?
  • green=charged
  • amber=partial charge
  • red=little charge
  • flashing red=no charge
  • What is the charge of yours?

Play button
Play LED
Advance button
Advance LED
Resetting the robot:
  • Power cycle it. Try it.

Choosing a demo (10 of'em)
  • Press the 'Advance' button
  • Printed with a double arrow
  • 4 beeps for demo #4
  • long beep for #5
  • long + 4 shorts for #9
  • How about #10?

Try each demo outside where there is more room...
Contact points for home base
  • Why not save $ by making them out of plastic?

Cliff sensors
  • Are these spring-loaded feelers, or electronic?

  • Carefully turn robot upside down
  • Take out battery
  • Put it back in
  • Press both ends to make sure it is seated;
    • sometimes one end hasn't clicked yet

Musical robots

128 132 (start, then put robot in full programmer control mode)

send: 140 0 4 62 12 68 12 69 12 74 36
(loads a song)

141 0
(plays the song)

140=defines a song
0=name it song #0
4=we'll see later :)
62=MIDI note #62 (range 31-127)
12=twelve 64ths of a second

You can send all three at once:
  • 128 132 140 0 4 62 12 66 12 69 12 74 36 141 0
  • Notice the 68 is a 66 this time
  • Should give you control, then load, then play the new song

Try some variations on
128 132
140 0 4 62 12 68 12 69 12 74 36
141 0
recalling that:
140=defines a song
0=name it song #0
4=song has four notes
62=MIDI note #62 (range 31-127)
12=twelve 64ths of a second

Insert a 5th, superhigh tone, 111
Play it for a longish time, 100:
128 132
140 0 5 62 12 68 12 69 12 74 36 111 100
141 0
Try it

Program new variations and we'll have a concert...

Robot motion

- a key function for robots!

Initialize: send
128 131
Make it move:
be ready to catch it if it falls
send :
137 0 100 128 0
 (If you both initialize and send on one line, it might not work (why?)

0 100=go 100 mm/sec
128 0=go straight, no circle

Notice that:
128 131
is not the same as
128 132
which gives full control
This time try
128 132 (instead of 128 131)
Then again make it move:
  • (falling alert: be ready to catch or pick it up!):
  • 137 0 100 128 0
Pick it up
Now what to do??!

Change the initialization back to:
128 131
and send it

What is the slowest speed you can get it to go?


A kind of small program

152 17 137 0 44 128 0 156 0 144 137 0 44 0 1 157 0 90 153

Let's analyze it!

152=define a script
17=it has 17 more bytes
137 0 44 128 0=drive, 0+44=44 mm/sec., 128 0=straight
(137 1 44 128 0 would drive 256+44=300 mm/sec.)
156 0 144=wait until 0+144=144 mm
137 0 44 0 1=drive, 0+44=44 mm/sec., 0 1=spin counterclockwise
157 0 90=wait until 0+90=90 degrees
153=repeat script
Notice how this makes it go in a rectangle!

To run the script:
send 128 131 (start in safe mode)
send 152 17 137 0 44 128 0 156 0 144 137 0 44 0 1 157 0 90 153
send 153 (to run it)

152=define a script
153=play a script

154=show the script
try it
what happens?

Let's review the script program...
Then try variations on the program
- see board for command details

If time allows - show off your new program