The rise of robots, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, and smart ma­chines

NOVO - - FUTURE WORLD - by An­gus MacPher­son, Fu­tureWorld

Right now, a 15 year old robot is wan­der­ing around on the sur­face of Mars. Cars are driv­ing them­selves. Ware­houses are buzzing robot hives. Robots in Sin­ga­pore just de­vel­oped su­per­hu­man Ikea fur­ni­ture as­sem­bly skills. Th­ese are not fan­tasies of the fu­ture. They are real. And it’s hap­pen­ing now. Fu­tureWorld is a Toronto event ex­plor­ing how ma­chine learn­ing, ro­bot­ics, and AI are trans­form­ing our world. Fea­tur­ing pre­sen­ta­tions and demos on the fu­ture of ro­bot­ics and AI from cre­ators, re­searchers, in­dus­tri­al­ists, and vi­sion­ar­ies, it of­fers a glimpse of what’s pos­si­ble and what’s on the hori­zon.

Fu­tureWorld: de­sign­ing the ro­botic fu­ture

As ro­botic and AI prod­ucts dif­fuse into our lives, they’re chang­ing how we work and play, how we in­ter­act with tech­nol­ogy, how we live. The im­pacts are pro­found. News feed al­go­rithms have al­ready trans­formed our politics; just imag­ine how self driv­ing ve­hi­cles will change how we build cities. The shape the changes will take - how the sys­tems will work and how hu­mans will re­late to the ma­chines of the fu­ture - are ques­tions of de­sign. Com­mu­ni­ties of hack­ers, re­searchers, en­gi­neers, and artists around the world build robots and ex­plore th­ese ques­tions. In June they’re com­ing to Toronto for Fu­tureWorld to share their sto­ries. Th­ese are just a few of the speak­ers you’ll find at Fu­tureWorld, which runs on June 9th, 2018 at OCAD Univer­sity in Toronto, On­tario.

Bobak Fer­dowsi and the robots on Mars

You may re­mem­ber Bobak from such ex­trater­res­trial events as 2012’s Mar­tian land­ing of the Mars Science Lab­o­ra­tory (aka Cu­rios­ity). In his role as a NASA Jet Propul­sion Sys­tems Engi­neer, he’s had an insider’s view and per­sonal im­pact on the robot-me­di­ated ex­plo­ration of the so­lar sys­tem. (And, yes, he is “Mo­hawk Guy”.)

Cu­rios­ity is a towering hu­man achieve­ment. It de­liv­ers stun­ning pic­tures of Mars that in­spire peo­ple around the world. But it is also a very high value sys­tem built on decade old tech­nol­ogy, op­er­at­ing on a 10-20 minute com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­lay in a very hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment. It is a robot that stretched the lim­its of hu­man in­ge­nu­ity. Bobak’s post has given him a unique per­spec­tive on what it means to de­sign, build, de­ploy, and in­ter­act with it. While the world watches. (That Wil­liam Shat­ner pe­ri­od­i­cally drops by the of­fice is a nice perk.)

Ryan Gariepy: mo­bile robots at work

Back on Earth, Ryan Gariepy’s mo­bile robots are be­ing put to work. With deep roots in the wider ro­bot­ics com­mu­nity, and hav­ing made his bones build­ing mo­bile plat­forms for re­search with his com­pa­nies, OTTO Mo­tors and Clearpath Ro­bot­ics, he is a leader in the rise of ubiq­ui­tous au­ton­o­mous mo­bile robots. As CTO, Ryan drives the vi­sion of fill­ing ware­houses and fac­to­ries with help­ful

self-driv­ing plat­forms that in­ter­act with peo­ple, al­low­ing them to fo­cus on higher value tasks.

Given the ob­vi­ous risks in­her­ent in large pieces of metal driv­ing around on their own, Ryan is keenly aware that, as a cer­tain web slinger teaches us, with great power comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity. His team takes ad­van­tage of state of the art tech­nol­ogy to bring sys­tems out of the lab safely.

Soug­wen Chung makes art with robots

In the stu­dio rather than the fac­tory, Soug­wen Chung ex­plores new forms of hu­man robot in­ter­ac­tion, cre­at­ing art in col­lab­o­ra­tion with robot arms and ma­chine learn­ing al­go­rithms. Her sys­tem watches her draw, cre­at­ing neu­ral net­work models of her style and tech­nique which a robot arm im­i­tates.

The loop of ac­tion and im­i­ta­tion turns into an it­er­a­tive duet be­tween the hu­man artist and the ma­chine. Draw­ing with robots in this way, she cre­ates hy­brid hu­man-robot art­work that hints at the ways ro­bot­ics and AI will ex­pand and ex­tend hu­man po­ten­tial. It pro­vokes some clear ques­tions about where the work of the hu­man ends and the robot be­gins. But, as th­ese strange and won­der­ful draw­ings make clear, hu­man-robot col­lab­o­ra­tions can be­come far more than the sum of their parts. We’ll also be wel­com­ing An­dra Keay, man­ag­ing direc­tor at Sil­i­con Val­ley Ro­bot­ics; Lisa Win­ter a Bat­tleBot robot builder, artist, rapid pro­to­typer, ma­chin­ist, as well as ro­bot­ics engi­neer and PM at Huawei; Jared Fick­lin, the chief creative tech­nol­o­gist at ar­gode­sign; and Josh Bon­gard, the direc­tor of the Mor­phol­ogy, Evo­lu­tion & Cog­ni­tion Lab­o­ra­tory at the Univer­sity of Ver­mont.

Ro­bot­ics and AI are in the smart ma­chines around us. Th­ese are the peo­ple who are de­sign­ing them, and think­ing about how we’ll live with them. They’ll dig deep into ques­tions of what robots are, what they are be­com­ing, and what they can be.

Bobak Fer­dowsi Sys­tems Engi­neer, NASA Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory

An­dra Keay Man­ag­ing Direc­tor Sil­i­con Val­ley Ro­bot­ics

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