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What I Learned This Week – WILTW #6

What I Learned This Week – WILTW #6

I thought that July was going to slow down on announcement and news, but this week has just proven me wrong…

Robotics and AI related

dps-2.jpg-550x0 Last week we saw that the escape of Promobot might be voluntary, to gain in popularity. My 6th sense was right: Promobot, according to SK.Ru (they translated the news quickly in english), is happy to announce a new english distributor, the opportunity to showcase the robot in an english museum, and “worldwide” popularity. Good move, Promobot.

Why is the EPFL focusing on building the most accurate robot salamander ever? IEEE answers the question: the salamander “represent sort of a transitional animal between fish that swim and quadrupeds that walk, which (evolutionarily speaking) is an interesting place to be.” Moreover, this ability to walk or swim is not located in the brain – the salamander does that by design, relying on the musculoskeletal structure and nervous system. Considering that most of todays’ robots spend a big part of their brainpower trying to just keep from falling over, it’s interesting to understand how carefully and intelligently designing your entire robot can ease the load on the robot’s brain.

Meet the new robot from Boston Dynamics – SpotMini:

SpotMini is a new smaller version of the Spot robot, weighing 55 lbs dripping wet (65 lbs if you include its arm.) SpotMini is all-electric (no hydraulics) and runs for about 90 minutes on a charge, depending on what it is doing. SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we have ever built. It has a variety of sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU) and proprioception sensors in the limbs. These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation. SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, but often uses a human for high-level guidance.

Guessing from the tasks performed in the video, I rather think that Spot Mini was teleoperated. I wish that there was some explanation on what is really autonomous, and what is teleoperated in the video. Adding that the robot isn’t so quite, it left me with an impression of “DO NOT WANT” for my home – it’s great to have engineered such a great robot, but come on, don’t let it be so scary. AIMergence-E4-scene-Innorobo In french – all you ever wanted to know about the french startup A.I.Mergence. I’d love to test one of their robots at home, mainly because I live in an old house, where it’s incredibly difficult to install home automation systems. The robot is said to be working the moment you unpack it and let it do his business… well, I’m eager to know more (and thank you so much Théophile for your kind words about Innorobo!). kuka-midea That’s it, the Dallas-Episode about Kuka and Midea seems to be over. Kuka acquired 10% (Loh) and 25,1% (Voith), this added to the 17,1% they owned before makes more than 52% of the stock. Midea and Kuka unveiled an investor agreement which includes a commitment to keep on the existing headquarters, factories, and jobs. For how long? amazon-picking-challenge Usually, when you talk to roboticists about robots grasping things, you have 3 options : grippers with fingers, grippers working with suction, or something more exotic like the Versaball (Empire Robotics), shaping the gripper around the object. The combination used by the Amazon Picking Challenge winnin team is interesting : they used both a 2-fingers gripper and a suction cup (alongside a depth-sensing camera – quite mandatory for this task). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DS9PY6iaxE Finally! BMW announces a partnership with Intel and MobilEye to build autonomous cars. Congratulations BMW on finally outsourcing competencies – it took you just one more year (BMW, Audi and Daimler partnered to acquire HERE, the Nokia’s mapping unit last year,  while General Motors acquired Cruise Automation 3 months ago). The plan is to release a fully autonomous car by 2021 – a quite realistic wish. The race is on – GM might have a slight advance thanks to Cruise, and might be more efficient to compete with Tesla and Uber. turing-test According to headlines, researchers found a MAJOR flaw in the Turing test:

If a machine were to ‘take the Fifth Amendment’ — that is, exercise the right to remain silent throughout the test — it could, potentially, pass the test and thus be regarded as a thinking entity, authors Kevin Warwick and Huma Shah of Coventry University argue. However, if this is the case, any silent entity could pass the test, even if it were clearly incapable of thought.

I will just stop laughing and explain why this isn’t a big deal – flaws in the Turing test are exposed every 6 months, the last one was “when a computer speaks like a child, it passes the turing test”. Please bear in mind that the Test is only a tool – and, as with every tool, we have to analyze the results before screaming THE AI PASSED THE TEST WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE HALP I’M DYING-PLEASE-PLEASE-PLEASE. Next time, if someone pledges the 5th amendment during a genuine conversation about the weather, this might not indicate that you are speaking with a conscious AI – just with a numbskull 😉


Hello people, in case you don’t know, it’s summer and everybody is enjoying their vacations… Or not. Starship announced a big partnership with Just Eat (Alloresto in France), and other traditional parcel-shipping companies. Yup, we might stumble upon cute robots delivering our packages, groceries and meals soon:

Hermes, which does traditional package delivery is very interested in what I think is one of the core values of robot delivery — namely delivery on the recipient’s schedule. Today, delivery is done on the schedule of delivery trucks, and you may or may not be home when it arrives. With a personal delivery robot, it will only come when you’re home, reducing the risk of theft and lost packages. Robots don’t mind waiting for you.

Exoskeleton-Inflection-Point-and-Where-are-the-Orders-620x264When is the Exoskeleton Industry Inflection Point and Where Are The Orders? A numerous causes are delaying the profitable exoskeleton market – wether it is standards, testing, insurances, proofs that it works, testimonials, vendors and suppliers… but like every totally new piece of technology, it will take time.

Interesting Links

code-review The concept of Code Review –  the peer review for code! As a former scientist, I think that we should use peer review more often. It’s the best way to ensure that everybody in your company feels valued. Github integrates a code review tool, and it’s apparently easy to review some code even with your smartphone. Some people will never cease to impress me. I remember myself struggling during my phd to enhance an eye-tracking so that it could detect pupils when wearing glasses, with just a standard computer webcam: 10917340_985755954786481_7390758634133255483_n If you told me, back in the days, that I could update my code via a smartphone…  Well, time flies.

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