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[DPRG] Hello again DPRG. (Re-Introduction) and long message.

Subject: [DPRG] Hello again DPRG. (Re-Introduction) and long message.
From: Brad garton bgart at iadfw.net
Date: Tue Apr 17 12:49:26 CDT 2012

Thanks for the your thoughts. I guess what got me thinking about this is
I've been reading a lot of posts on multiple Hobby robotics boards and
sensed some frustration from some long term hobbyist developers, they were
older posts by the way, that was a bit shocking to me as I was coming back
in with a different outlook, and it caused me to pause and think about what
my goals were.  Part of it was the feeling that I had left a project that
was important to me unfinished. I am now and have always been interested in
robotics, computers and programming.  Some of my lab projects in College
were robotics applications and I caught the bug at that point.   I
definitely still have a very positive view of the future of robotics!  This
is just an exercise for me to set my priorities and think about how I could
get development done more effectively. 

 

When I originally came to DPRG, I had just left the design and development
world and was looking for projects to do to "stay sharp", while I worked in
a  field job  rather than a design group. For me, robotics was the perfect
project! I could actually SEE something happening with my code, and it was
interesting for that if no other reason.  I soon encountered the difference
between the concept of implementing robotics and reality that sensors and
actuators, generally sucked in 1998.   Pretty soon my situation at work
changed again and I was off to another place (Austin again), and MUCH busier
than before.   The hobby languished, which is frustrating.  As a result I
have not stayed sharp. I have let skills Atrophy that  I would have liked to
stay current in. So I am coming back to development in many ways as a newbie
having missed a lot of new developments the last 10 years. I HAVE seen what
is happing in the DARPA contests, and the JPL Mars bots and a lot of the new
developments in Academia, and it has been very exciting. 

 

In 1998 (in my opinion) all that was really doable and producing good
results in Hobby robotics was Bottom up AI (subsumption).  That was the way
I was going then, and still am.  But there appear to be long term limits
with that approach. As cool as emergent behavior in Subsumption is, and as
much as it still makes sense in basic obstacle avoidance, where is the more
intelligent behavior being developed?  The new developments out of Google
and Stanford, would seem to suggest we need something more.  I don't know,
and I don't think anyone really knows, but I do get the sense that something
new is coming.. and soon.  Maybe ROS is part of the answer.  Maybe
integrating top-down and bottom-up is the answer. Maybe Subsumption still is
the answer but with a lot more levels of behavior.  ROS doesn't exclude that
as far as I can tell.   It would be fun to find out! 

 

It could be also as you suggest that some new idea of what life and
intelligence are needs to come along.  We also seem to be getting closer to
understanding biology in ways that MIGHT produce a eureka moment for  AI. 

 

My problem is and I think a lot of hobbyists have the same issue that this
is a very wide field, and it's hard to bridge that gap between getting a
basic platform to move, and then doing something really interesting. Maybe
the build vs buy question for robotics platforms  is part what I need to
come to terms with. Maybe the field is big enough to do both!  Especially if
it's easy to expose the things we have developed, or could easily develop to
a standard set of interfaces like ROS. ROS and the other platforms like it,
were something I was going to eventually go look at as part of what I wanted
to do this time around. THANKS to DPRG for showing me I need to look at it
sooner rather than later. 

 

I now realize I have spent a lot longer writing, and have once again written
an overly long post  where a shorter one probably was what is desired. I
apologize again.   The Robotics community does get me thinking sometimes,
and that is good!  I guess this is what happens when you quit lurking and
start sharing. 

 

B

From: dprglist-bounces at dprg.org [mailto:dprglist-bounces at dprg.org] On Behalf
Of Quinones, Jose
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 10:08 AM
To: dprglist at dprg.org
Subject: Re: [DPRG] Hello again DPRG. (Re-Introduction) and long message.

 

Excellent topic!

 

You guys have gotten me thinking (again) as to why sometimes I look at
robotics and it almost seems depressing. Don't take me wrong, the truth is
that robotics have come quite a long way in the past 10 to 20 years, but I
think the expectations were set a little bit too high (at least for me.).
Think about the computer. 40 years ago (1970's), and how all we could do was
blink LED's on the first personal computers whereas today we can strap to
our belt a computer with cell phone, GPS, access to the internet, camera
(for both pictures and video), game console, PDA, you name it!

 

When I was growing up, I remember drooling on a continuous basis as I
browsed the HEATH catalog and their HERO line of robots. It was my
expectation that by 2000 we would have butler like robots. At the rates
computers grew, shouldn't that be the case? Well it is 2012 and still what
you see mostly out there when it comes to robots are training platforms for
kids and adults to learn about programming and robotics. Where are the life
size bipeds ala Terminator? Sure, there are a few, mostly under research and
development, but even then they are far from being what we thought your
conventional Richie Boys would be able to buy in 2000. 

 

I have also seen some quite complex platforms out there, but to deem them
cost prohibitive is to think too positively (about 35K last time I checked,
for just a platform with some sensors). And even then, there is really not
that much they can do. For example, in these complex platforms I could make
them carry drinks in a party and the robot would not collide with guests.
But there is no way this robot could be made to actually make the drinks. In
essence I would need to strap a second robot into the mobile robot platform
if I wanted this kind of versatility. Could it then clean the dirty cups,
take the garbage out, open and close the door as new guests show up, etc?
Super simple tasks but it seems you need a single robot to perform each one
of them.

 

The truth is that robotics are neither simple, nor complex. What they are is
life! That is what we are trying to accomplish here. We are the first life
form trying to create life (albeit non biological, in this case) and even
for that there must be a learning curve. We are a brain trying to create a
brain, or at least a fair portion of it.

 

I think that at the end, the successful robot will not be made of a
collection of behavioral algorithms, but a core of algorithms that allow
him/her to gather information and process in a way in which human-like
learning can be achieved. At the moment, there might be computers getting
close to doing this, but they take off entire rooms. Not to worry! The same
happened about 100 years ago and we can put such computer about a dozen
times in the palm of our hands, not to mention power it with batteries. The
singularity is near!

 

Best regards,

 

JIQ

Jose I Quinones

 

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