Episode 181 – Robotic Rockband

Baby, don’t hurt me.  Or order things on my Amazon Echo when I don’t want them.  Michael and Michael start off this episode talking about the South Park season premiere, which plays a prank on the viewers by the audio dialog of the show launching commands on the viewer’s voice controlled devices (such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home).

I for one, welcome our new rockin’ robotic rockband overlords.  And when you watch the video of Nigel Stanford’s Automatica, we think you will too.

Michael and Michael wrap up this episode talking about the recently concluded NASA Cassini mission and reminisce about their favorite space missions.

Selected links 

Uproxx Article: The ‘South Park’ Season Premiere Caused Havoc With People’s Amazon Echos and Google Homes — http://uproxx.com/technology/south-park-premiere-amazon-echo-google-home/

Slashfilm article: Cool Stuff: ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ Illustrated Edition Gets Animated on Kindle —  http://www.slashfilm.com/animated-harry-potter-kindle/

Automatica by Nigel Stanford — https://nigelstanford.com/Automatica/

TechCrunch article: Watch this robot rock band destroy their instruments — https://techcrunch.com/2017/09/14/nigel-stanford-automatica/

CYMATICS: Science Vs. Music – Nigel Stanford — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3oItpVa9fs

NASA article: The Saturn System Through the Eyes of Cassini — https://www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/the-saturn-system.html

NASA e-books — https://www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/index.html

Kotaku article: Nintendo Will Release Its Classic Arcade Games On Switch — https://kotaku.com/nintendo-will-release-its-classic-arcade-games-on-switc-1808933486

What are the hosts’ favorite space missions?

Michael M — Apollo 11 — https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo11.html

Michael R — Maven — https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/maven/main/index.html
Mars Satellites — https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/main/index.html
Mars Rovers — https://mars.nasa.gov/mer/home/


Episode 178 – L33T Learning Siri


Just say no to enabling autonomous bots & drones with the ability to apply lethal force.  Following on last week’s episode 177, Michael & Michael start off with a continuation of the discussion on the Pandora’s Box of armed robots.

Moving on to a happier topic, while still staying on the machine learning concept, the pair talks about how Siri and other voice interactive systems have been improved with deep learning.  Not just recorded scripts, but actual intelligence, and more natural interaction is apparent when you listen to how far things have come since the earliest days of Siri — listen to the examples from the Apple Machine Learning Journal article, and we think you’ll agree.

Understanding that you’re talking with a bot vs a human is important to help avoid the uncanny valley where the interaction becomes weird vs expected — perhaps this is why Michael R preferred the Australian accent reminiscent of J.A.R.V.I.S, and how in Star Trek and other science fiction, interaction with the computer was prefaced with “computer!” before issuing a request.

Feedback loops getting faster & faster, which is really evident in machine learning examples applied to games.  When the machine — the program — is experimenting with the game to learn, and figure out what is rewarded, what is not rewarded, and determine a heuristic model for playing the game, which for a human is for fun and for the machine learning example is to maximize the outcome.  The example from the O’Reilly article was particularly intriguing to Michael M who wondered why the AI playing the game did not scoop up each and every present while playing the game.  Michael R made the interesting point that if the machine learning algorithms assume that there’s an infinite number of presents ahead, it makes more sense to quickly move forward and grab the presents because there are more ahead of you than behind.  The screenshot above is from a machine learning model playing Super Mario Kart, where it is easy to see how machine learning quickly gets better and better with successive plays of the game.

Closing out this episode, Michael and Michael include David Ma’s videos of food imagined in the style of  famous directors, a funny song about waffles and a discussion on Zork.  Hope you enjoy these tasty treats!

Selected links 

last week’s show, E177 — What could possibly go wrong? — http://gamesatwork.biz/2017/08/31/episode-177-what-could-possibly-go-wrong/

An open letter to the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons — https://futureoflife.org/autonomous-weapons-open-letter-2017

We don’t have long to act — https://qz.com/1058280/we-do-not-have-long-to-act-teslas-tsla-elon-musk-and-others-warn-the-un-about-autonomous-weapons

Six Colors article:  Deep Learning Improves Siri’s voice — https://sixcolors.com/link/2017/08/deep-learning-improves-siris-voice/

Apple’s Machine Learning Journal:  Deep Learning for Siri’s Voice: On-device Deep Mixture Density Networks for Hybrid Unit Selection Synthesis — https://machinelearning.apple.com/2017/08/06/siri-voices.html

Uncanny Valley — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

J.A.R.V.I.S. — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Jarvis#J.A.R.V.I.S.

O’Reilly article:  Bringing gaming to life with AI and deep learning — https://www.oreilly.com/ideas/bringing-gaming-to-life-with-ai-and-deep-learning

YouTube:  Super MarI/O Kart Commentary — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9Y_I9vY8Qw

Food by Favorite Directors (Sort Of) — https://www.subtraction.com/2017/08/14/food-by-famous-directors-sort-of/

YouTube:  What if Alfonso Cuaron made pancakes?  — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_hpJHNt4IE

Do You Like Waffles?  By Parry Gripp — https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/do-you-like-waffles/id468568946?i=468568983

MIT Technology Review — The Enduring Legacy of Zork — https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608670/the-enduring-legacy-of-zork/

MIT Technology Review article:  Siri for Business — https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600990/siri-for-business/


Episode 177 – What could possibly go wrong?

This episode has it all — from virtual reality, to augmented reality to mixed reality to real reality. Starting off with UPS’s VR driver training for their truck fleet, journeying to the Apollo astronaut training efforts with the Zeiss Model VI Planetarium Projector and the excitement of Apple’s recent World Wide Developer’s Conference, Michael and Michael discuss the exciting developments caused Tim Cook to say that he’s so excited about it, “I just want to yell out and scream.” Michael and Michael reminisce about the early days of the US Army’s use of there.com to provide a “real” virtual reality experience with soldiers in the field playing the roles of people at a checkpoint, to train others on the tactics being used by both regular people and enemy combatants. The video above is from the episode of The Screen Savers on the US Army’s use of there.com.

To file under the title of this episode, an octocopter drone equipped with optical recognition, recoil-handling aerodynamics and an ability to fire rifles, grenade launchers and the like is being developed. What could possibly go wrong indeed.

Closing out on a much happier note, one of the games that Michael M is excited to be playing soon is Unstable Unicorns, a Kickstarter that he backed in the early days that is now up to $672,000 in pledges, and there’s still time to get in on this fun.

Check out the show — check out the games!

Selected links

Boy Genius Report article: UPS is going all-in on VR — http://bgr.com/2017/08/15/ups-vr-htc-vive/

Early space journeys began at Morehead Planetarium — http://www.unc.edu/spotlight/early-space-journeys/

there.com — https://www.prod.there.com

ZDTVfan’s YouTube channel with old The Screen Savers episodes — https://www.youtube.com/user/zdtvfan/featured

Jim Grosse on Massively Multiplayer Simulator for Asymmetric Warfare using There.com on Tech TV’s The Screen Savers — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGyOHTrh0wM

Patently Apple article: Apple’s Next iOS will deliver a Big Win for Apple Regarding Augmented Reality that Leapfrogs Microsoft’s HoloLens — http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2017/08/apples-next-ios-will-deliver-a-big-win-for-apple-regarding-augmented-reality-that-leapfrogs-microsofts-hololens.html

Bloomberg Businessweek article: Tim Cook on Donald Trump, the HomePod, and the Legacy of Steve Jobs — https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-06-15/apple-s-tim-cook-on-donald-trump-the-homepod-and-the-legacy-of-steve-jobs

Apple’s WWDC iOS 11 Wingnut AR Surreal Demo — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAsxW5YtWrM

ARKit demo pictures from Michael R in E172 — http://gamesatwork.biz/2017/06/19/episode-172-shining-a-light-on-ar/

Magic Leap — https://www.magicleap.com

Wired Article: Why ‘Gorilla Arm Syndrome” Rules Out Multitouch Notebook Displays — https://www.wired.com/2010/10/gorilla-arm-multitouch/

TechCrunch article: Minibar Delivery alcohol marketplace picks up $5 million in funding — https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/15/minibar-alcohol-marketplace-picks-up-5-million-in-funding/

Somabar — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/somabar/somabar-automated-craft-cocktail-appliance

Tech Crunch article: A defense company puts a machine gun on a drone — https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/17/a-defense-company-put-a-machine-gun-on-a-drone/

Daniel Suarez book Kill Decision — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kill_Decision

What are the co-hosts playing these days?

Unstable Unicorns — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ramybadie/unstable-unicorns

Exploding Kittens — https://www.explodingkittens.com

Imploding Kittens — https://shop.theoatmeal.com/products/imploding-kittens-expansion-pack


Episode 172 – Shining a light on AR

Michael and Michael are back — and take a long careful look at the newest capabilities that Apple is bringing to light in augmented reality with the new iOS 11 operating system.  Michael R has already downloaded the development framework, and has started bringing into mixed reality the digital test objects, to great effect.  The pictures included in this post are from Michael R’s experiments with the framework thus far, and it is quite amazing to see the fidelity of the objects, as well as the recognition by the software of the planes, shadows & angles of placement.  There much to be very excited about here, and once the digital augmented reality experience is not through the screen of an iPhone, but in a more natural way (dare I even bring up the possibility of contact lenses again?) — then, then we are really onto something.  Until that point, this version of augmented reality is an interesting step in the right direction, but the consumption cannot be via holding a phone at arm’s length or wearing a ski goggle-esque contraption that distances the person from the reality they are looking to more deeply engage with.

Robots are not just for vacuuming your floor — they are also quite useful for teaching ballroom dancing, and in determining the skill level of the human student, the artificial intelligence can quickly adapt the lessons to be challenging for whatever level the student is at.  And speaking of  AI, the recent Microsoft acquisition Maluuba has crushed Ms. Pac-Man using a new method called Hybrid Reward Architecture to more effectively manage the very difficult problem of balancing the multiple rewards (and threats) in a game like Ms. Pac-Man to achieve the maximum score.

Staying on the Microsoft theme a moment longer, the team discuss Minecraft as a platform, his where multiple operating systems and devices are now converging on a common Minecraft environment.

Binky has loomed large in the news this past week — what started as a joke has turned into something more.  In this app, you can experience all the joy of social media likes & shares but not have anyone ever see your posts.  Michael M is reminded of Ian Bogost’s Cow Clicker social media game.

Selected links 

Apple ARkit — https://developer.apple.com/arkit/

Apple ARkit WWDC video — https://developer.apple.com/videos/play/wwdc2017/602/ 

Ballroom dancing robot — https://twitter.com/qz/status/874061192196534272

Ms PacMan — http://time.com/4819067/microsoft-pac-man-maluuba/

Maluuba — http://www.maluuba.com

Hybrid Reward Architecture for Reinforcement Learning — https://arxiv.org/pdf/1706.04208.pdf

Minecraft — http://www.businessinsider.com/minecraft-unites-all-platforms-2017-6

Binky — https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/10/binky/

Cow Clicker — https://cowclicker.com

BikeSphere — http://bgr.com/2017/06/14/bikesphere-michelin-safety/


Episode 171 – Jelly Jelly Bo Belly

Zoolander phone


This episode is chock full of tasty treats, of the cellphone and robotic kinds!  Michael & Michael start off with a conversation about the Kickstarter for the Jelly phone — a 4g cell phone that is running Android Nougat (Michael M still believes it should have been Nutella) and can handle two SIM cards for, wait for it, under $100 unlocked.

The pair talk about the new capabilities expected to be included with Apple’s Swift Playgrounds when announced at WWDC next week.  The ability to code in a simple-to-learn language and have that code execute in real 3d life — in a Sphereo BB-8 or a Lego Mindstorms robot would be just great.

Speaking of robotics, the Draper DragonflEye concept of marrying a live dragonfly with a mind-controlling solar powered backpack brings to mind other variations of insect robotics — from the selfie drone Nixie, to a full cast of drones that will follow you around.

Maximizing screen real estate by extending the MacOS desktop to a nearby iPad Pro captures the attention of the pair, and Michael M gives his thoughts about two solutions that he’s been working with over the past week.

Closing things out, Michael M surprises Michael R with a game he’s playing that is not 8-bit.

Selected links 

Jelly phone — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jellyphone/jelly-the-smallest-4g-smartphone

Nutella — https://www.nutella.com/en/us

Eater article:  America’s First Nutella Cafe Opens With Lines of Chicagoans — https://chicago.eater.com/2017/5/31/15719018/nutella-cafe-chicago-open-lines-michigan-avenue-millennium-park

Motorola’s StarTac phone — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_StarTAC

MacRumors article: Swift Playgrounds Will Soon Be Able to Program and Control Robots, Drones, and Toys — https://www.macrumors.com/2017/06/01/swift-playgrounds-robots-drones-instruments/

Pine64 — https://www.pine64.org

Raspberry Pi — https://www.raspberrypi.org

TechCrunch article: Draper’s DragonflEye cyber-bug takes flight — https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/01/drapers-dragonfleye-cyber-bug-takes-flight/

Business Insider: This Incredible Selfie-Taking Wrist Drone Just Won $500,000 — http://www.businessinsider.com/nixie-wearable-drone-wins-intel-contest-2014-11

Nixie — http://flynixie.com

Airdog — https://www.airdog.com

droneguru.net article: 9 Best Drones That Follow You [Crystal Clear Video] Summer 2017 — http://www.droneguru.net/8-best-drones-that-follow-you-follow-drones/

Episode 150 — Cyber Dementors — http://gamesatwork.biz/2016/10/23/episode-150-cyber-dementors/

Robotic cockroaches — http://www.businessinsider.com/cram-robotic-cockroaches-disaster-recovery-2016-2

Daily Mail article:  Student creates cyborg cockroach that he can control with his thoughts…. — http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3112404/Student-controls-cyborg-cockroach-MIND-Video-shows-insect-guided-maze-powered-thoughts.html

Smithsonian article: A Visit to Seoul Brings Our Writer Face-to-Face with the Future of Robots — http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/visit-seoul-writer-future-robots-180963238/

Quarantine, a Greg Egan novel — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarantine_(Greg_Egan_novel)

Air Display 3 by Avatron Software — https://itunes.apple.com/app/id967502646?ign-mpt=uo%3D8

Duet Display — https://www.duetdisplay.com

Game Michael M is playing 

Mini Metro — https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mini-metro/id837860959?mt=8


Episode 169 – Virtual Surgery & Artificial Black Boxes

Michael and Michael take a spin from the physical to the virtual, starting with an article by Scotty Allen, describing how he constructed an iPhone 6s entirely from parts he bought in markets in China.  Moving into the virtual space, the pair discuss the merits and benefits of a syringe with haptic feedback to help surgeons learn the amount of pressure needed to inject a patient, in what appeared to be way too close to reality.  Squeamishness aside, this use case is particularly well suited to the virtual reality training space, as it combines visual and physical feedback, developing the appropriate muscle memory needed to perform the surgery successfully.

Rounding out this episode, Michael and Michael talk about the importance of transparency in artificial intelligence algorithms, particularly for audibility.  As machine learning allows for enhancements to decision making, blockchain recording of the decisions can provide the benefit of how the AI made the decisions it did at the time it made those decisions.  A fascinating potential blend of these technologies.

Hope you enjoy!

selected links 

Strange Parts: How I Made My Own iPhone – in China! — https://strangeparts.com/how-i-made-my-own-iphone-in-china/

New Scientist: Virtual syringe lets surgeons practice piercing skin and muscle — https://www.newscientist.com/article/2127828-virtual-syringe-lets-surgeons-practise-piercing-skin-and-muscle/

MIT Technology Review: The Financial World Wants to Open AI’s Black Boxes — https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604122/the-financial-world-wants-to-open-ais-black-boxes/

Games we’re playing

Bacon Escape — https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bacon-escape/id1199364353?mt=8

Shooty Skies — https://shootyskies.com


Episode 167 – Robotic Physics


Michael and Michael start this episode with big robots.  As in extra huge robots.  Like Mecha-sized robots.  The articulation of the robot Jeff Bezos piloted was reminiscent of the one that the character Eileen Ripley piloted in the Aliens movies (see video above).  Michael R was also reminded of the NASA Valkyrie robot, and it’s mission to go to Mars ahead of humans to set up the environment for human habitation.  Walking on two legs, and being roughly human-sized, the form factor is well suited to ensuring that the habitat structure such robots would build would be on the appropriate scale and work for the humans to follow.

The team also looks at a few learning games, starting with Big Bang Legends, which teaches the players about particle physics, and uses a SaaS subscription method the game company Lightneer calls “Learn to Play” that replaces video ads with a monthly fee.  This game reminded Michael M of DragonBox, a game that his kids really enjoyed that taught them algebraic skills while they weren’t really looking.

Michael R gave a shot at compiling the ported Pokemon Yellow Game Boy game to Apple Watch, but did not succeed during the recording session — will be interesting to see how it goes!

Rounding out the show, and just as Michael R predicted in the last episode, Michael M has been playing the new Nimblebit Bit City game, and, again, just as Michael R predicted, has been crushing it.

selected links 

PC Mag article: Jeff Bezos Pilots a Giant Robot — http://www.pcmag.com/news/352476/jeff-bezos-pilots-a-giant-robot

TechCrunch article: In a Massachusetts warehouse, NASA’s Valkyrie robot helps lay the groundwork for Mars settlements — https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/18/nasa-valkyrie-robot/

NASA’s Valkyrie robot — https://www.nasa.gov/feature/valkyrie/

Mecha — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mecha

Robotech — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macross

Mashable article: This game is teaching particle physics to five-year-olds — http://mashable.com/2017/03/23/big-bang-legends/

Big Bang Legends — http://www.bigbanglegends.com

DragonBox — http://dragonboxapp.com

Making Giovanni, a Game Boy Emulator for the Apple Watch — http://gabrieloc.com/2017/03/21/GIOVANNI.html

Nimblebit’s Bit City — https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bit-city/id914343148?mt=8


Episode 154 – Heroic Wearable Brain Robots

Michael and Michael share their insight on games for good, specifically on games that have an additional benefit to the fun of playing them.  Sea Hero Quest is a game sponsored by Deutsche Telekom together with University College London, University of East Anglia and Alzheimer’s Research to help with early diagnosis of dementia.  Michael and Michael discuss the possibilities of a software layer which could be placed on top of (or alongside) other games that could capture similar data points for researchers.

The pair then turn to wearables, and the interesting way that mobile and Internet of Things devices can be used for purposes such as the detection of earthquakes as exemplified by the MyQuake Android app, and how quantified self wearables can be harnessed for similar data capture and analysis.

Recalling the Douglas Adams quote of how to fly, and that walking really is controlled falling, Michael and Michael watch the video (above) of the Boston Dynamics Atlas robot walk across a treacherous field — pretty amazing.

Speaking of amazing, Michael R has found a puzzle game like no other either Michael have played before called TraptionBakery — where you attempt to bake a loaf of bread, Rube Goldberg machine-style.  Check it out!

selected links 

Sea Hero Quest — http://www.seaheroquest.com/en/
Techcrunch article:  Neurotrack Brain Scans — https://techcrunch.com/2016/12/01/neurotrack-takes-brain-scans-home/
Neurotrack — https://www.neurotrack.com/
Techcrunch article:  Motorola wont release a new smartwatch anytime soon — https://techcrunch.com/2016/12/01/motorola/
MacRumors article:  Fitbit reportedly close to acquiring Pebble — http://www.macrumors.com/2016/11/30/fitbit-buying-pebble/
Techcrunch article:  Earthquake sensing mobile app, MyShake — https://techcrunch.com/2016/12/01/earthquake-sensing-mobile-app-myshake-captures-hundreds-of-temblors-large-and-small/
Washington Post article:  What personal fitness trackers tell us about earthquakes —   https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/08/25/what-personal-fitness-trackers-like-jawbone-tell-us-about-earthquakes-public-health-and-just-about-anything-else
TechCrunch article: Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot walks over rubble — https://techcrunch.com/2016/12/01/atlas/

Games the hosts are playing 

Michael R — TraptionBakery by ProperBostin — http://www.properbostin.com/traption_bakery/
Post & video on the building of the game — http://www.properbostin.com/anoraks/tb/index.html

Michael M — Dungeon Boss by Big Fish Games — https://itunes.apple.com/app/dungeon-boss/id776132132?mt=8
join the guild “Knights of the Shrubbery”