LeWeb'13: Aldebaran, Left-Brain Robots [en]

Robots to enhance our emotional life. Body language — humanoid robots. Aldebaran sold 4000 robots around the world, to research labs, universities, etc…

App store for robots. In 10 years time, will robots be teaching our kids? Personalized learning and education.

Bruno Maisonnier shares his vision of a world filled of robots 10 years from now. We are today with humanoid robots where we were at the end of the nineties with mobile phones.

LeWeb'13, Aldebaran Robot 2

LeWeb'13, Aldebaran Robot 1

Drive, Practical Wisdom, Money and Congress, Alone Together [en]

[fr] Quelques lectures, vidéos, podcasts.

A few random thoughts about stuff I’ve been reading. Or maybe, random pointers to stuff I’ve been reading. Or watching.

I had a chat the other day with a friend about needing to make time for “serious reading” (that I want to do!) and we both decided to try and fit in 30 minutes of reading during lunch break when we didn’t have meetings or appointments. I think this has motivated me to get back on the podcast-listening and talk-watching track too. Interestingly, I’m seeing collisions between the various things I’m reading/listening to/watching from various sources.

Anyway. Start with Drive, the book I’m reading. It’s about motivation. I’m around page 30 so far, and it’s talking about the intrinsic/extrinsic motivation stuff I’m so interested in since I bumped into it whilst reading The How of Happiness. Now read I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave, a rather chilling account of what happens on the other end when you order stuff online (physical stuff, that is stored in warehouses, and needs to get to you). No place for intrinsic motivation of any kind in there.

And here’s a TED talk by Barry Schwartz (the guy who wrote The Paradox of Choice) on using our practical wisdom. What’s that? Quoting from memory, it’s about wanting to do the right thing, and knowing where and how to bend the rules to do the right thing. Barry gives examples of how rule-ridden our culture (particularly American culture) has become.

And in the same vein, watch Larry Lessig explain how money corrupts congress, and how it can be stopped. Sobering.

This morning I decided to listen to an RSA talk (I subscribed to their podcast ages ago but haven’t yet really listened to anything). I picked one with a title that appealed to me: Alone Together, title of a book by Sherry Turkle. She talks about two things, mainly. Robots is the second. It’s a huge topic: how willing we are to enter into relationships with machines designed to imitate the behaviours of living/sentient/caring beings — and the consequences of that.

But that’s less interesting for me right now than her thoughts on always-on mobile connectedness: smartphone in hand, we always have the option of bailing out of our lives with each other. She gives the great example of the 15-year-old birthday party. When everyone wants to leave, it gets uncomfortable. They have to talk to each other. Say that they’re leaving. Now, they just “disappear” into Facebook and avoid having to confront that uncomfortable moment.

We have this capacity to leave where we are physically to go someplace else, which is easier. And avoid facing moments where maybe we need to learn something as a human being — growing moments.

Later in the discussion, she talks about our inflated expectations of responsiveness from one another. This is a topic that’s dear to my heart. I strongly believe that we should not cave in to being “always available” and “ever responsive”. Sherry says that before e-mail, when professors were asked if they would contribute to a publication, the average response time was 3 weeks. Now it’s 1.5 days. We’re not thinking anymore. We’re responding as fast as our fingers can type on our Blackberries. She suggests trying to answer an e-mail with “I’m thinking” to see the reaction. Maybe I’ll try. 🙂

Update 16h45: oh yes, forgot this one. More hours does not mean more productivity.

Lift12 Mobile: Nick Heller [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of Nick Heller’s session — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

Moore’s Law.

lift12 1100306.jpg

Survey: who has one mobile phone? two? two without an iPhone?

Exponential growth. What do we need for computing?

Singularity: prediction that computing/computers will become more intelligent than humans, which means we cannot predict the future.

What does this mean? The robots are coming!

They have a bit of a bad name (SF movies… scary technological beasts). But they’re not all scary.

iPhone: brought about significant change, and it was only 5 years ago. Switzerland and Singapore have the highest per capita penetration of iPhones.

5 billion mobile phones in the world. 1.2 billion or so people on the mobile web.

More and more mobile internet users start with a search (50%).

Something that wasn’t easily predicted was the growth of applications (apps). 2010 to 2011, 3 times growth for Apple, 10 times for Android.

steph-note: lots of numbers, can’t catch them all

People don’t just interact with their mobile. Desktop, television, tablet…

Defining mobile trends of our time: Social, Local, Commerce.

Tremendous opportunities around aggregating and making sense of data (big data).

Mobile device features: sensors! What differentiates the phone from the desktop computer. steph-note: think “robot”!

The camera acts as eyes, the skin is the touchscreen, speaker = voice, gps = location, cloud = brain.

Where is it going from here? Are we approaching the technological singularity? Nick predicts that we’re going to see real-time translation in the coming years. steph-note: I don’t think so, see how crappy automated written translation still is, after all those years we’ve been saying “it’s going to be here soon”. Oral won’t work before written works, right?

Health diagnostics built directly into the device. steph-note: think Up by Jawbone even if it was a disaster.

Dime-sized silicon chips that detect gasses. Most sales to the military, but how about fitting a chip like that into a mobile device? Detection is limited only by what is in the database. Imagine a phone that would notify you that the pollen count is high where you are.

Democracy. Aiding the electoral process. Nick things we’re very close to getting there.

Automated apps. Why can’t my coffee maker start when I get up, why can’t the bus ticket be automatically purchased as I’m walking towards the stop? It’s about the internet more than the mobile device. => The Internet of Things

Nick would argue that the robots have already arrived, but they’re friendly.



Lift11: Sabine Hauert, Robotics today [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence Lift11 à Genève.

Live and India-lagged notes from the Lift11 Conference in Geneva. Might contain errors and personal opinions. Use the comments if you spot nasty errors.

Robots = start wars, Asimov… A lot of hype.

“I read that robots can feed on dead bodies.” “Robots can marry us”, “We’ll be marrying them” — heck.

The question: why is that?

There is a reality gap. Roomba vs. the fantasy humanoid-cleaning-robot.

Sabine’s objective with this talk: grind the hype down to reality.

Hopes: robots will help us live better, work better, explore new frontiers (do things that we couldn’t do before).

How robots can help improve our quality of life

Luke-arm for amputees. Not only move through nerve interfaces but actually feel.

Autonomous cars. Avoid 1.2 mio people killed world-wide on the years every year. And be greener! Acceptance barrier? We don’t want to give control to our cars… but actually it’s going to be gradual. We’re starting to see things like auto-park, auto-speed… building up towards truly autonomous.

Robots that fold your towels.

Work better

Huge trend this year with telepresence robots. Video-conference is a pain. What you really want is mobile telepresence robots that you can log into, and move over the Bob and talk to him. Remove meetings. Also used for kids who had leukemia — allowed them some kind of “attendance” in school.

Warehouse robots. The shelves come to the person gathering the material for the order, rather than walking towards the shelves.

Warehouses are cool for robots because they’re structured. Agriculture too.

Explore new frontiers

Her PhD project.

Flying robots: stick their nose in the air and they fly off, and create a communications network in the air. Startup sensefly.

Space robots, of course. Contest: put a robot on the moon, drive 500m, and stream video. (Prize: 30 mio)


First, bodies: how do we make robots better adapted to their task? Example, gripper formed of a balloon filled with coffee beans. Soft, put it over a glass to seize it, suck the air out, it becomes rigid.

Brain: how do we make them learn? RoboEarth — robots can have their web too. Share information and experiences and recipes.

Interactions: how de we make them interact with us in a human-centred way?

Acceptance: robot products at the beginning are not called robots. Cf. Roomba. Now we’re starting to see robots being called robots. It’s become sexy. Eventually it’ll disappear: we’ll call our robot-cars cars, our robot-vacuum-cleaners vacuum-cleaners…

Law: what is the legal framework. You can teach stuff to a robot. But what if the result is bad? (broken arm for example) — who wants to take the liability? Parallel to what happened in the software industry (you can’t attack Microsoft if you lose your data).

Ethics: what do we want robots to do? Do we want them to have life and death decision? (robot-guns)

Conclusion: real robotics are pretty far from SF, robots will be able to change the way we live and work, allow us to discover new frontiers, and be ubiquitous.

Impact on jobs: those that are dull, difficult, dangerous (+ 4th D Sabine can’t remember) — hopefully we’ll have less of those, and more in other areas — just like the industrial revolution.