Archive for the ‘robotic’ Category

At UIST this Monday: Scopemate, a robotic microscope!

Monday, October 17th, 2011

I am at UIST this Monday to present one of my project along with my mentor Paul Dietz since I joined Microsoft Applied Sciences Group. It is a very quick but efficient solution for the ones who like to solder small components!

Summary
Scopemate is a robotic microscope that tracks the user for inspection microscopy. In this video, we propose a new interaction mechanism for inspection microscopy. The novel input device combines an optically augmented web-cam with a head tracker. A head tracker controls the inspection angle of a webcam fitted with ap-propriate microscope optics. This allows an operator the full use of their hands while intuitively looking at the work area from different perspectives. This work was done by researchers Cati Boulanger and Paul Dietz in the Applied Sciences Group at Microsoft and will be presented at UIST 2011 this Monday as both a demo and a poster!

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The affective intelligent driving agent!

Monday, January 11th, 2010

AIDA is part of the Sociable Car - Senseable Cities project which is a collaboration between the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab and the Senseable Cities Group at MIT. The AIDA robot was designed and built by the Personal Robots Group, while the Senseable Cities Group is working on intelligent navigation algorithms.

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One of the aim of the project is to expand the relationship between the car and the driver with the goal of making the driving experience more effective, safer, and more enjoyable. As part of this expanded relationship, the researchers plan to introduce a new channel of communication between automobile and driver/passengers. This channel would be modeled on fundamental aspects of human social interaction including the ability to express and perceive affective/emotional state and key social behaviors.

In pursuit of these aims they have developed the Affective Intelligent Driving Agent (AIDA), a novel in-car interface capable of communicating with the cars occupants using both physical movement and a high resolution display. This interface is a research platform, which can be used as a tool for evaluating various topics in the area of social human-automobile interaction. Ultimately, the research conducted using the AIDA platform should lead to the development of new kinds of automobile interfaces, and an evolution in the relationship between car and driver.

Currently the AIDA research platform consists of a fully functional robotic prototype embedded in a stand-alone automobile dash. The robot has a video camera for face and emotion recognition, touch sensing, and an embedded laser projector inside of the head. Currently a driving simulator is being developed around the AIDA research platform in order to explore this new field of social human-automobile interaction. The researcher’s intention is that a future version of the robot based on the current research will be installed into a functioning test vehicle.

The robot is super cute, I wonder how it can be more distracting than it is, maybe it should be installed in the back with the kids as a baby sitter, kids would have a blast with it! Don’t miss this video!

Music making machines

Friday, November 20th, 2009

I am such a fan of everyday objects with personality, like in the work of Yuri Suzuki, where music is constructed from daily domestic noises, or technologically advanced machines that produce music like in the pneumatic quintet by Pe Lang and Zimoun. I discovered recently the stunning work of Felix Thorn, the Felix’s machines, music making sculptures.

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Yes, Topobo is out, you can buy it!

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

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Hayes Raffle designed the famous Topobo robotic system for kids during the course of his Master and PhD at MIT. He finally decided to produce it, so you can now get it for your home or school!

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What is it like to sculpt with motion? Topobo is the world’s first construction toy with kinetic memory, the ability to record and playback physical motion. Snap together Passive (static) and Active (motorized) pieces into a creation, and with a press of a button and a flick of your wrist, you can teach your creation how to dance or walk. The same way you can learn how buildings stand by stacking up blocks, you can discover how animals walk by playing with Topobo.

Posted by Cati Vaucelle @ Architectradure

[tags] design research, interaction-design, product-design, technology, children, innovation [/tags]

A toy-cyborg for children!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

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“Stelarc Ken” by Zoe Khamsin.
Now children can play with cyborg toys!

Stelarc is a poet and scientist of contemporary times and his body, that he himself defined as ‘obsolete’, and others has defined as ‘posthuman’, is the end of the religious principle of body’s inviolability. Moreover he made a mutual correspondence between his body and his art, and this led to his iconic definition. The artist creation - ‘Stelarc Ken’ - builds upon the idea of iconic individuals being replicated in toy form.

How to design a reconfigurable artificial sensate skin?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

For the technical area of my general exams lead by Dr. Joe Paradiso, I read Gerardo Barroeta Pérez’s very inspiring thesis in which he presents S.N.A.K.E.: A dynamically reconfigurable artificial sensate skin as well as a series of related work.

The idea is to design a device that inherits the characteristics of human skin. Surveying prior work in materials, flexible electronics, sensing matrices and sensor networks, Gerardo presents a new type of artificial sensate skin: low power, scalable, mechanically flexible, and that extracts a rich set of multi modal sensor data. Also each node in SNAKE is capable of changing its behavior by changing its code. One can use SNAKE as a scalable smart material that covers interactive surfaces!

This Skin is composed of one or many Skin Patches which in turn are composed of one or many Skin Nodes. Each node is able to measure Strain, Pressure, Ambient Light, Pressure, Sound and Mechano-reception. Each Skin Patch can either work as a stand-alone device or as a data extraction device if this is attached to a Personal Computer through a different type of device referred to as Brains. Each Skin Node and therefore each Skin Patch: is Dynamically Adaptable meaning that they can adapt to external stimuli by either modifying their behavior or by completely changing their code. Construction of a sensate skin in such a modular fashion promises intrinsic scalability, where peer-to-peer connections between neighbors can reduce local data, which can then be sent to the brain by the high-speed common backbone.

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Paradiso observed two general trends in sensor networks: Either the individual sensors are routed to a central processing unit or as completely decentralized sensor networks. So in SNAKE, data can be processed locally because each node is given processing power. Each node can also be connected to each other to create a skin like surface to react to the same kinds of stimuli that our skin encounters. The idea of a communication link between nodes is inspired by how our cells communicate with one another. When stimulated they generate an electrical pulse, informing our brain, while also releasing neurochemical transmitters received by neighboring cells.

Each skin patch in SNAKE is a sensor network composed by sensor nodes. Each node is made of a multi layer, flexible circuit substrate that sense six physical quantities: Stain/Bending by using two orthogonal custom made strain gages. Proximity/Activity by using a piezoelectric cantilever. Absolute pressure by using a quantum-tunneling effect material. Ambient light by adding an integrated sensor. Audio by adding a MEMS microphone. Temperature by using an integrated temperature sensor.

Related work in the field

Paintable Computer designed by William Butera for his PhD thesis at MIT. Paintable Computing is: “An agglomerate of numerous, finely dispersed, ultra miniaturized computing particles; each positioned randomly, running asynchronously and communicating locally -Butera”.

Tribble designed by Josh Lifton is a tactile reactive interface built by linked elements assembled in a sphere made up of tiles. The advantage of this work is to be a completely decentralized network; each node is capable of processing its own generated data without the need of a centralized processing unit. The cons is probably its shape, fixed, preventing it of being a scalable smart surface. Also it is power hungry!

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Tribble

Pushpin Computing
The project developed by Josh Lifton & Michael Broxton consists of a hundred of peer-to-peer wireless sensor nodes freely distributed over a table-top interface.

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Pushpin

Recreating the sense of touch have been explored by many other researchers, but all of them rely on a centralized processing unit to process the data extracted from the sensors. For instance, Lumelsky’s sensitive skin, a prototype of a skin patch with infrared lights and receivers used as proximity sensors. Hakozaki created a flexible robot skin to cover wide robot surfaces. Rekimoto presents a capacitive “smart skin” sensor for use in interactive surfaces.

Also prior work as shown artificial sensate skins not implemented as sensor networks but as sensor matrices: each sensor must be individually routed to a central processing unit. This is the case for instance for Takao Someya and his large flexible sensor matrix with organic field effect transistors or for M. Sergio’s textile-based capacitive sensor array that can be used as sensitive skin.

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Takao Someya’ sensor matrix

An artificial sensate skin needs to be flexible. The innovative work of Stephanie Lacour is probably the most prominent example. She has created a new conducting material that can be stretched and still retain their electronic properties this by depositing thin gold layers on elastic rubber substrates. Also one can refer to the work done on the e-paper by Jacobson, micro capsules, filled with electronically loaded white parts that were dissolved in a dark colored oil.

-> Link <- to the .pdf of Pérez thesis.

Posted by Cati Vaucelle @ Architectradure

[tags] electronics, PhD, MIT, research, textile, technology, interaction design, robotic [/tags]

The work of the imagination by Paul H. Harris

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Dr Edith K. Ackermann, professor in developmental psychology and one of the three readers for my PhD general exams -contextual area: psychology- recommended me a book that I am currently reading:
The Work of the Imagination by Paul H. Harris. The author demonstrates how children’s imagination makes a continuing contribution to their cognitive and emotional development. This book is fundamental in synthesizing the research done on children’s imagination and development.

Paul L. Harris is Professor of Developmental Psychology, Oxford University, and Fellow in Psychology, St. John’s College, Oxford. He is the author of Children and Emotion, and co-editor of Developing Theories of Mind, Children’s Understanding of Emotion, and Imagining the Impossible: Magical, Scientific and Religious Thinking in Children.

This entry will be a repository of my notes on the book, as summaries chapter after chapter.

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Intro

The author reminds us on the human radical evolution 40 000 years ago, during the Upper Paleolitic era. The observation was made that even if we could not analyze the brain modification, we noticed a radical change in what humans did with their hands between the Upper Paleolitic era in contrast with the Neanderthal era. These created artifacts testify a cognitive change, a change in temporal organization and planning. The artifacts resemble children’s props for make believe, helping participants to be transported out of reality into some imagined settings.

Chapter 1. Bleuler in Weimar

In 1911, Bleuler distinguishes two modes of thinking: logical or realistic thinking and autistic thinking.

For Bleuler, autistic thinking is not a pathology confined in a group of children, children who exhibit a withdrawal from other people and the external world (as in Kanner, 1943). For Bleuler autistic thinking is a normal mode of thinking in both children and adults. It is evident in dreams, pretend play and reveries and in the fantasies and delusions of the schizophrenic. It is a mode of thought dominated by free association and wishful thinking. In logical and realistic thinking, affective and emotional considerations are tempered by what is recognized as faisible. Then sometimes autistic thinking override logical thinking in normal adults. In Bleuler, at the difference of Freud, the ability to conceive of alternatives to reality is not a primitive process but something relatively sophisticated. For Bleuler, reality-directed thinking comes first and autistic thinking comes later.

For Piaget, autistic thinking is suppressed with the development of logic and the child becomes more rational and objective. Children early on speak from their inner world and this is not yet adjusted to the external world, to the need of their listener. Vygotsky tried to analyze and compare Bleuler and Piaget’s theories and explained that a child learns to make a clean separation between speech for communicating and speech for the service of thinking. It does not mean that autistic thinking is egocentric speech referred by Piaget.

For Piaget, pretend play is an opportunity for the child to secure via fantasy what is not available in reality. “For example he describes how his daughter Jacqueline, having been told that she could not play with the water that was to be used for the washing, took an empty cup, went to the forbidden tub of water, and made pretend movements saying, ‘I’m pouring out water’.” For Piaget, pretend play is a temporary phase of maladaptation.

The author of the book criticizes Piaget in thinking pretend play is a primary mode of thinking nor will it be supressed in the course of development. 1- Pretend play only appears with the 2nd year of life 2-Great apes only do sporadic pretend play so pretend play is only a function of human childhood 3- Pathology studies show that the absence of early imagination is pathological. One syndrome in early childhood autism is the abscence or impoverishment in pretend play.

When children are in pretend play, they draw casual understanding of the physical and mental world. Also adults are absorbed in novels and films… Children’s ability to entertain counterfactual alternatives to an actual outcome is critical for making casual and more judgments about that outcome. So Bleuler’s autistic thinking remains a constant companion to reality based thinking.

Chapter 2. Pretend Play

Pretend Play allows children to offer a way to imagine, explore and talk about possibilities inherent in reality. Piaget, in Play, Dreams and Imitation (1962) describes how in 2nd year children’s pretend play becomes more elaborate (sustained and complex series of pretended actions) and flexible (less dependent on the support). Even though Piaget acknowledges the developmental process of the child through pretend play, he still sees it as negative and destine to give way eventually to logic and rationality. The author argues that this is especially wrong for joined pretense when two children share and communicate on a common make believe object. In joined pretense, the child gives cues of the shared pretense to the partner. For instance, if a cardboard becomes a tap, the gesture of opening water from the tap creates a shared understanding. These pretend objects also have casual power: they can deliver water! The perspective is situated within the pretense framework.

Pretend episodes include casual chains with an unfolding structure much like a narrative, all understood by a 2 years old! It is the same cognitive work as we do in a literal mode. Through studies the author found that for two years old, once a prop has been assigned a make believe identity by a play partner, children produce pretend actions towards the prop. He also found that 2 years old understand the casual power associated with a stipulated entity and use that casual knowledge to use out the consequences of a pretend transformation in their imagination.

The author wanted to know if children will use the objective truth (what is actually there) or the make believe truth in describing a pretend object. In the study, children selected mainly the imaginary outcome, as opposed to objective ones. They used the references used to construct the imaginary world.

Pretend play can incorporate casual chains. Casual chains in which an initial event enables conditions for a next are understood by 2 years old children. For this children need toenvision the outcome of an initial action, for instance, I turn the tap to get water, because of the water the Teddy bear will get wet, and then I need to dry the Teddy bear with a towel! The author’ study showed that two years old can sustain a casual chain in their imagination and describe its outcome.

The author proposes that 2 years old understand some of the essential ingredients in drama and fiction. They recognize that events occur in a make believe framework and not in the real world. This is very different than Piaget who states that pretend play is a representation of reality, that what is being signified is reality itself. However the act of pretense is not to signify. It is only inspired by reality. Children are like novelists, they are inspired by actual events and everyday routines, all material for their imagination. Pretend play or make believe is also different than re-enacting a particular action carried earlier. The author claims that children do possess a genuine imagination while Piaget would see it as a subjective assimilation of reality. When a child would pretend being half a dog-half a bird crawling on the floor, Piaget explained that it cannot be seen as part of children’s imagination but a distortion of the real world. On the other end, the authors claims it is truly imaginative as much as novelist are inspired by reality to create fiction. The author concludes that pretend play is the first indication of a lifelong mental capacity to consider alternatives to reality.

Chapter 3. Role Play

Children incorporate animated being into their pretend play. The author examines children’s ability to imagine and act out the role of a person or creature. This role playing happens with friends, a key form of interaction between friends. Successful cooperation in this type of play calls for considerable sensibility and flexibility. In all cases of pretend play, the child uses or not a prop and uses or not herself as a prop. In role play, a sub category of pretend play, children temporarily immerse themselves in the part they create. They talk from the point of view of the creature, taking the mood and tone of voice that is appropriate, give expression to the emotions, sensations and needs for the adopted role. When children engage in role play, they do not simply remain off stage, directors or puppeteers, they enter into the make believe situation they create and adopt the point of view of one of the protagonist within it.

At 2-3 years old, children can invoke a creature, an imaginary person that becomes a companion for the child, this without the need of prop.

An invisible character, named and referred to in conversation with other persons or played with directly for a period of time, at least several months, having an air of reality for the child, but no apparent objective basis -Svendsen (1934)

Marjorie Taylor (1998) reports that 2/3 of a sample of American children had either an imaginary companion or one projected onto an external prop before age 7. There is no evidence of difference in personality or behavior between children with imaginary companions and children without. However there is an intriguing difference. Children with imaginary companions proved to be more skilled in assessing how people might feel.
For instance, at 24 months BT pretended he was a kitten after having visited his grand mother who had a kitten. Until 36 months he was “meowing” and licking milk. At 30 months his best friend was a dog, an additional role of his.
When a child plays out a particular character, she needs to have a set of meta-theories: theories about the theories that the character holds. Children reproduce routine aspects of human mentation in any character they enact by recruiting their own knowledge base. Studies show however that children do not understand that pretense initially depends on a well informed representation of what is being pretended. With pretend play, children can notice the gap between representation of reality and reality itself, therefore it will facilitate their understanding of mental states. All pretend play involves mental representation so it is helpful for understanding mental states, however only pretend play with animated objects (versus an airplane for instance) correlate with good performance on belief tasks. The absence of mental states at 18 months is associated with a late diagnostic of autism (Baron-Cohen et al, 1996); autistic children perform poorly on false belief tasks compared to normal or retarded children.

It is then role play rather than pretend play that facilitates mental states understanding and autistic children are especially limited in role play. Children who engage into role playing have a predisposition to better be able to view a situation from another person’s point of view. What happened as children get older? When enacting a role, children imagine the world from the point of view of another person. We do the same when we reada biography, an historical novel. We locate ourselves inside the world of the novel rather than the real world and we share the same spatial and temporal framework than the protagonist.

Posted by Cati Vaucelle @ Architectradure

[tags] autism, children, imagination, PhD, pretend play, psychology, theory, research [/tags]

A Health-Obsessed Robot for Health Obsessives

Monday, May 19th, 2008

After leaving us for London, Daisy Ginsberg now designs health obsessed robots at RCA! Daisy uses her Bio Spy concept to express that we develop irrational relationships with machines, mourning dead appliances or resisting unfamiliar replacements. How will we behave when robots are trusted with the most intimate moments of our personal lives? Will the master/slave relationship survive? Is symbiosis with a robot possible? And what are the consequences of offering our most personal data for surveillance? Her questions remind me of my post on jealous computers and the 80’s electric dreams movie, with a special RCA’s touch!

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For the hypochondriac, the BioSpy offers reassuring constant health surveillance, removing the nagging fear of illness. But would such a health aid induce unhealthy behaviour? The user and robot develop obsessive mutual dependence: the user only feels healthy when accompanied by the robot, sharing her most intimate information with it. Meanwhile, recording, storing and analyzing every physical change 24/7, the robot is dependent on its user’s health for its existence.

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After a period of domestic harmony, the robot captures data that indicates serious illness. ‘Fearful’, it mirrors its user’s own neurosis. It logically computes that if it records any more data, it might ultimately result in unplugging. The robot’s erratic behaviour confuses the owner – is it behaving autonomously or malfunctioning? Is the user really ill or is it imagined?

Posted by Cati Vaucelle @ Architectradure

Absolut

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

the official Absolut Quartet ad, shot by Laurent Seroussi and designed by TBWA.
Absolut Quartet ad, shot by Laurent Seroussi and designed by TBWA.

Jeff did it again. We followed his adventures right after he won the competition. Now he completed the proposal and currently exhibits his spectacular robotic work. Music and vodka works in pair and this time beautiful mechanics come into play. Jeff Liebermann and Dan Paluska worked together on Absolut Quartet.

closeup of some of the 100 custom electronics boards fabricated, one for every note.
Closeup of some of the 100 custom electronics boards fabricated, one for every note.

Absolut Quartet, a commission for the Absolut Visionaries project, is a music making machine like no other. The audience becomes part of the performance, while watching something that appears impossible. You can log in to ABSOLUTMACHINES.COM for a chance to interact with the machine. You will enter a 4-8 second theme, and the machine will generate, in real-time, a unique musical piece based on the input melody you have provided.

the marimba shooting mechanisms and closeup of the wine players. photo by sesse lind.

The marimba shooting mechanisms and closeup of the wine players. Photo by Sesse Lind.

You will see this melody played by three instruments. The main instrument is a ballistic marimba, which launches rubber balls roughly 2m into the air, precisely aimed to bounce off of 42 chromatic wooden keys. The second instrument is an array of 35 custom-tuned wine glasses, played by robotic fingers. Finally, an array of 9 ethnic percussion instruments rounds out the ensemble.


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Don’t forget to check the sound machines by Pe Lang and Zimoun, and by Festo.

Posted by Cati Vaucelle @ Architectradure

Demoing ideas!

Monday, March 17th, 2008

Soon my research lab opens its house! It is reserved to corporate sponsors only, but the Media Lab recently started an initiative opened to the public. The initiative, the LabCAST, highlights projects in their latest stages through videos. I recommend watching them!

One of the lab’s primary source of funding comes from more than 60 corporate sponsors whose businesses range from electronics to entertainment, furniture to finance, and toys to telecommunications! So we demo our latest prototypes and research ideas ranging from engineering to social sciences.


“Adventures in Science” illustration by Allan Sanders

A very busy time for us bricoleurs-researchers as we need to put together our latest ideas in a demo-able format. We need to reorganize the demo space, clean the old toys, bring new ones, empty the entire floor, use carpet cleaners, basically make the space looks bright and shiny!

I recently reorganized my research area to bring my projects together, start presenting a story about my line of work. From Psychohaptics a set of haptic garments for health care, to Picture This! a new input device for video capturing and editing! Working on the proposal for my general exams for my PhD I am defining a framework for my research that I hope to present at the open house.

Posted by Cati Vaucelle @ Architectradure
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