Archive for February, 2004

Back-up computer is back up

I have an old 1992 Pentium Pro 180 Mhz computer that I use for all my backup storage.  It has 2 120 Gb hard disks and each of my other computers run backups to these hard disks twice a week.  On Thursday morning, I noticed that it had failed to be available for some backups.  The 2 backup hard disks had failed to be recognized by the boot up process.  I unplugged the disk drive cables and and reseated the cables and re-booted.  The 2 drives were again recognized by the boot process, but then the boot up hard disk failed to boot up.

Finally, last night, distraught about the possible demise of my old ’92, I unplugged all the cables and noticed that I hadn’t plugged all of them all the way in.

Success.  Back-ups are back up.

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Eric Rudder – .NET person at Microsoft

http://www.commonwealthclub.org/featured.html#rudder

I went to hear Eric Rudder speak at the Commonwealth Club.  He spoke of his early days working on an Alpha and working on early networking software.  He touted .NET of course, and spoke cautiously of Linux.

I asked him what he percieved as the trend of mobile databases that have to be constantly syncronized versus having constantly available online databases.  I would, of course, like to see a world where synconizing databases is not needed, because I could always, wirelessly access my data from a central web service.  He seemed to think that syncronizing would be around for a while to come…

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CD Distribution

This looks like a cool way to distribute CDs.  Basically, you furnish the tunes, the artwork, and for $5 (paper sleeves) you can sell your CDs at cost via CafePress.com.

What I like about CafePress is that you provide the artwork/logo and they make the products only if they’re ordered.

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Cynthia Breazeal & Sociable Robots

Tonight I went to hear Cynthia Breazeal speak at the Commonwealth Club.  Cynthia is Director of MIT’s Robotic Life Group and spoke on the subject of Social Robots, social interaction and socially situated learning between people and life-like robots.  She was interviewed by Donald Norman (Design Theorist; Author, Emotional Design; Professor of Computer Science and Psychology, Northwestern University).  Cynthia is responsible for an experimental robot named Kismet and a newer one named Leonardo (which was developed in cooperation with the animatronics person, Stan Winston, who was responsible for the robots in the movie A. I.).

 Kismet

 Leonardo

Kismet responds to praise by smiling and to scolding by lowering its head.  It leans its head forward when interested and recoils when scared.  While Kismet doesn’t actually experience emotions, it responds as if it has emotions.  These responses, while they appear to show emotions are very convincing and make it easy for us to communicate with them.

We saw a short film about her work which included footage of an art installation she was commissioned to build that looked like a cyber garden with various plants and flowers that responded to different kinds of stimuli. 

Recently, I saw a documentary about dogs and how they came to become part of human social life.  The documentary raised a hypothesis that humans did not domesticate dogs into human society, but that dogs allowed us to bring them into human society.  In any case it is their social and emotional attributes that make dogs so appealing to us and allow us to be comfortable with them in our social scene.  The same seems to be the case with human/robot interactions.  We will communicate better if we can have an emotional response to them.

I had some questions:

  • I wondered what the downside might be to a “false” sense of attachment to a robot.  The Kismet robot was very adept at appearing to respond in an emotional way and in experiments, people typically responded as if they were talking to a baby.  They became very attached and bonded easily with Kismet’s apparent emotional responses.  What might be the drawbacks to the realization that the ‘machine’ doesn’t even come close to actually having emotions.
  • I also wondered about the idea that perhaps movies like Star Wars and A. I. and the various “embodiments” presented in  popular culture are preparing us to accept variety in robotics.

If you have QuickTime you can watch an incredible movie of Leonardo interacting with a human as it tries to learn.  Amazing.

Here’s a movie that shows a range of expressions.

 

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