Sunday, October 5, 2008

More GHC Cross-posts

The conference is over, and this is the first chance I've had to cross-post my other blog entries. If you would like to learn more, I highly encourage you to check out the GHC blog, and the GHC website. I hope we've encouraged more people to attend next year!


Multi-Robot Intelligence

This talk was given by Manuela M. Veloso from the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University. Since I've always wanted an Aibo and even worked on a robotics competition last year, there was no dilemma for me about which talk I would attend!

The talk started with some examples of robots at work in CMU: the Roboceptionist, robots helping the elderly, and even dog and humanoid robots playing soccer! Dr. Veloso then discussed what makes a robot: integrated intelligence. Basically, there are three components:
  • perception: the processing of sensory data
  • cognition: learning and action selection
  • action: the motion and manipulation of the robot.
Multi-robot soccer was invented to help scientists work on the multi-robot problem, in which robots perform a task by working together. We saw an example of "Small-Size" Robot Soccer, which has 10 robots and a golf ball, with five robots per team. It was neat to watch the video of the robots, called the CMDragons, actually playing soccer! Dr. Veloso's major breakthrough was to include teamwork in the game-play, in the form of passing. She then explained some of the details behind the robots' visual signal interpretation.

Dr. Veloso also gave some examples of soccer strategy for robots. She showed a video where the robots completed four passes and a chip-kick before scoring. The funny thing is, this had never been observed in the lab prior to the competition! Dr. Veloso also showed videos of Aibos playing soccer and explained the difference between the teamwork problem when the robots can and can't communicate with each other.

Did you attend Dr. Veloso's talk? Are you interested in robotics or working on these problems in robotics? Let us know!


Mary Lou Jepsen's Keynote

Mary Lou Jepsen is the CEO of Pixel Qi, a for-profit spin-off from the One Laptop per Child project. Mary Lou began her talk by discussing children in developing companies and why giving them laptops increases their opportunities in life. Children and teachers reported that they love their laptops, with one child saying "I love my laptop more than my life".

Challenges to providing laptops such as OLPC are:
  • price: needs to be low
  • low power: many places in the developing world often don't have power sources that most laptops require
  • network: these places often aren't connected to the internet either
  • other infrastructure
  • lifetime: it will need to last
  • distribution: how to get the laptops to the children/schools?
One other interesting thing Mary Lou showed us was that GDP climbs when teledensity, or the density of cellphones in a population, increases.

Mary Lou also discussed some of the technical challenges, especially with respect to power consumption. Using a Linux OS is 160th the size of Vista, so using that required less hardware to run. They also found a way to turn off the CPU in 1/10th of a second, and wake it back up in the same time with a keyboard event or packet from the internet.

One major problem the laptops faced when first mass-produced was that they didn't ever come out of hibernation! Luckily they were able to fix the problem within three weeks, and since then, about 1 million have been deployed, with millions more ready to go.

The price of the laptop is expected to drop to $100 by next year. I've always wanted an OLPC, but haven't got one yet. Do you have an OLPC? If so, what are you using it for? Do you like it? Let us know in the comments below - maybe you can convince some of us to buy one!


Wendy Hall: ACM & Women in Computing

Wendy Hall is the first person outside of North America to be elected President of the ACM. One thing she announced during her talk is that the ACM is going to be elevating the ACM-W within the organization this year, which is exciting news. They also have an ACM-W Ambassadors program which is really neat. This year there will be an ACM Women's Council, chaired by Elaine Weyuker. The ACM Women's Council will give us a voice at the top levels of the ACM, which is also really cool.

I'm curious if you are a member of ACM, or if you've participated in ACM-W. If so, what is the best part about these organizations for you?


Student Groups Networking: Come Integrate Your Ideas Today!

Hi everyone! Hope you're having a great time at the conference so far!

A bit of shameless self-promotion again! Our BOF session (entitled "Integrating Ideas: Together We Can Build a Better World") is today at 5:10 and we'd really love to see you there. Come contribute to our discussion on student groups, whether you are part of one or would like to be! We truly believe that by helping each other build these groups and by sharing our ideas, we can build a better world.

We'd also like to mention that we are building a collaborative website for sharing ideas post-conference. It's nowhere near complete and we need you to help make that happen! If you would like to collaborate with us and share your ideas, send an email to: kjtsouka AT gmail DOT com. If you don't want to become a site member at this time, you can also leave a message on our forum to ask questions or give answers. Whichever you choose, we'd love to hear from you!

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