Posts Tagged ‘Robots’


Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Besides writing software of all sorts, another fascination of mine since I was a kid has been robotics. Recently I finished reading the book “Almost Human:Making Robots Think” by Lee Gutkind. The book was written during a period spanning 2003 to 2005, and published in 2006. Before iPads or even iPhones being sold! A lot has happened in the field of technology since the publishing of the book, and I can only imagine what strides they have made since then. It would be interesting to go and find out what new is going on at the Robotics department in CMU, and how much further they have progressed in their efforts since then.

One interesting take-away was the concept of in-experienced, and slightly naive, yet bright (usually young) individuals tackling really hard problems with no apparent sets of preconceived notions of what isn’t possible. I think it is a valuable lesson to balance applying past experiences plus keeping and almost child-like view of a problem to come up with innovative solutions.

One other thing that struck me was how disorganized and uncoordinated the efforts to develop the hardware and software was. Part of the problem is that no one really knows what is going to work, so both the software and hardware built by trial and error. The problem was that so often they ran into a lot of software integration problems. Not necessarily with interfacing with the hardware itself, but with coordinating with other software modules with the robot. I got the feeling, and it could be from just the way the book was written, that not a lot of real engineering went into the software. It truly was just hacked together with varying levels of quality and success.

I recommend the book for anyone who finds the field of robotics at all fascinating. I’m sure in a few short years, everything they attempted to accomplish will seem almost basic and obvious as they move forward coming up with new amazing technology. But ultimately, as usual, software is key.