where Machines meet Biology
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Coursera has a "Computational Neuroscience" massively open online course (or MOOC) starting this week. It should be a great opportunity for programmers to learn about decoding the brain and for brain scientists to learn a little programming. Sign up or pass it along to those you think might be interested!
Sign up for Free: https://class.coursera.org/compneuro-002
While the race continues for robots that are more and more human-like, it's interesting what can happen when we interact with decidedly non-human looking objects that go beyond just interaction and become social. To me, the master of giving inanimate objects life was Jim Henson. He was able to create and perform his puppets in a way that they didn't just represent a living thing; they were actually alive in their own right.
"It's into the same bag as E.T. and Yoda, wherein you're trying to create something that people will actually believe, but it's not so much a symbol of the thing, but you're trying to do the thing itself." --Jim Henson
I recall hearing about this in 2007, when researchers studied the effects of using an interactive, social robot as a dieting coach. Their results were very interesting for anyone interested in what the future of robotic interaction might look like or where robots might soon fit into our daily lives. Somewhat surprisingly, the effectiveness of using the robot to track your food and exercise was significant compared to more traditional means. Now, there are obviously a host apps in this space, but they say that this "real" interaction is still much more effective.
I've been using the weight watchers app for the last few months to track my own weight loss. It's pretty good, as well as the web version, and generally better than the apps I've tried in the past, at least on the Android market. However, the…Continue
Another interesting use for DIY drones. This father has setup a quadcopter and a gps transmitter that the kid wears in his backpack on the way to the schoolbus stop a quarter of a mile away. Great details on the build process, his decision making process and the inherent challenges (failures) which are some of the most valuable for those of us actually building these types of things that have to perform in the real world. Here is a snippet:
So, did it work? Mostly. The copter is skittish when it’s windy, and GPS guidance is good to 10 meters at best. Because my particular front yard is only about 15 meters across, with a long, tree-edged driveway leading to the street, I either have to follow automatically above the treetops—where I can’t really see what’s going on—or else supplement the autopilot with old-fashioned line-of-sight remote control. Which somewhat defeats the original plan of staying warm and dry while a drone does my parenting.…
This article was just on the cover of the NY times. As an Iraq vertan myself, and interested in brain machine interfaces, I've been following brain controlled prosthetics for about 10 years, especially Dean Kamen's DEKA arm he developed for DARPA about 5 years ago. You can see his exciting and moving TED Videos after the break. It looks like the project is thankfully moving forward (I'd heard funding ran out), and that there is now a surgical technique to rewire some of the nerves and muscles in a way that makes the devices easier to use and learn.
I still get choked up seeing these videos and they've had a very deep personal impact on me. We should all be reminded that as exciting it is to see these transformative technologies advance, the profound impact of them will be improving the lives of real, everyday people; They're bigger than just geeky fascination.
Corporal Gallegos, 23, is part of a small vanguard of military amputees who are…
Andrew McAfee had a ted video that I really enjoyed a few months ago about robots taking our jobs. (It's posted in the video section if you'd like to take a look). The premise is that robots are now rapidly replacing human beings in many areas once thought to be human only, and in the words of Steve Jobs, "Those Jobs aren't coming back." I don't think it's a novel idea, but to hear where we are right now and see some of the data he's collected, I find it really fascinating, especially in a time with already large unemployment and jobs supposedly flooding overseas.
In my own work, I've found that even though there is a general surplus of labor. It's extremely hard to get…Continue