Category Archives: robotics

AI 2017 — poker milestone passed/ crumbled

hi all. AI technology is really exploding in the last few years. the last big post/ compilation on the subj here was ~½ year ago and the links piled up in a blur since then. the main trigger for this post: the game of poker now seems to have “folded” to computer supremacy. a new paper was published on Deepstack and its highly competitive play, and Libratus is $800K up in a recent match against top experts (top players). my understanding is that there is still some weakness in multiplayer games and that the new breakthru is for 1-1 games, human vs computer, but presumably that razor-thin human edge might also melt away quickly.[a]

poker was a very good game for humans wrt our inherent/ evolved psychology. we (top humans that is) seem to have an intuitive grasp of how to bet based on the strength of cards, including the use of bluffing. it took computers until the 21st century to master this stuff. but it looks like they just passed the threshhold again. in a small surprise, it wasnt done by Deepmind but which is behind many other near-monthly, even verging on weekly breakthroughs.[c]

maybe not by total coincidence, the winning Libratus algorithm involves training a neural network to accurately estimate the search tree, quite similar to the Deepmind Go strategy that made huge headlines just a year ago. the media hasnt picked up on the poker competition as much as it did with Go… is it because cautious/ publicity shy academics have less PR instinct than google? or less budget? but maybe that “relatively low profile” will change in the weeks/ months ahead. hopefully there will be a very high profile contest that again captures widespread public interest/ imagination.

it seems the top poker competitions are typically held in Las Vegas afaik… what would it take to get the computers in that? wouldnt be cool if say Vegas (or some other high profile gambling center) decided to publicize it to attract attn/ tourism? but would the computer algorithms be competitive in the top multiplayer games? there have been increasing/ huge audiences for poker over last few years, not sure what all the factors are in in this surge (internet gambling might play a role…)

its neat to see academia still at the top of competitive research in AI. but that seems to be thinning somewhat over last few years as the massive corporations Google[b], Microsoft, Apple,[g] Facebook, Intel [f] and misc other corps [e] are snapping up AI talent like its a feverish arms race, and to some degree it is. theres also very fast/ dynamic startup/ other merger activity going on, and new research laboratories being founded.[h]

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attack of the (job!)killer robots survey

hi all. robots have been attacking people for over a decade now, they’re called drones, and the public outcry has not been too substantial. however, maybe the slumbering masses are starting to wake up to a related threat, job-killing robots.

this is a very complex topic that has been bubbling at the edges for years but 2016 finally seemed to mark the transition/ jump/ tipping point into mainstream consciousness. and theres some alarm/ panic, with headlines reflecting it.

despite this headline on this blog, despite the headlines elsewhere, it is really not a topic to be taken lightly. it has international implications. its affecting global economies. its tightly connected with the last few decades shift of globalization and neoliberalism, both of which seem these days (with Brexit/ trump upsets) maybe to be showing signs of aging and “long in the tooth”. it seems to be tied up with the future of technology, economics, and governments/ politics (eg whitehouse/ trump)![l] hence its one of those devastating crosscutting trifectas, aka “perfect storm”. its even starting to show up in intelligence agency strategic predictions/ alarm bells, and they are not pretty.[k1]

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sparkfun robot autonomous vehicle competition/ combat robotics, boulder 2016

sparkfun➡ ❗ ⭐ 😎 😀 💡 hi all sparkfun 2016 was last wknd sat sep 17th. what a blast! got the big robot fix and geek (over?)dose for a long time.

as mentioned before in this blog (last summer), sparkfun is an amazing company with a lot of really dedicated/ passionate members. its grown massively in only about a decade. they have very impressive warehouse/ facilities with nice features such as several classroom areas.

a huge unexpected highlight for me (got there just in time) was the presentation by Casey Kuhns (aerospace engineer!) and Zachary Goff of the POISON ARROW battlebot. their robot is built incredibly well in short timeframes. they have to glue snap connectors together otherwise they break apart during collisions that have as much kinetic energy as in car crashes. they showed a highlight of launching another 250LB robot 8ft in the air. they also had a flying drone that could shoot down flames. it was impressive to watch but seemed to have a lot of trouble honing in on targets.

to a large room/ ~50 count rapt audience with lots of kids, they detailed the fascinating building and insider/ behind the scenes aspects/ figures of its creation. lots of great/ riveting slides/ videos. they revealed the ABC battlebot cage cost $3M. builders got $10K from the show, and they didnt mention much prizes on the show, it didnt seem to be much of a consideration for them.

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warbotics 2016- Obama releases casualty figure, magic number 116

drone_takeoffhi all. now seems as good a time as any to write on this topic. the dallas killer robot taking out a sniper alarmingly blurs the line between military and civilian/ police use of robotics. but hey, thats always been what americans are good at right? we seem to have long had some pretty “mixed up boundaries” on use of (lethal) force esp compared/ contrast with other countries.

every few years there is a small outbreak or commotion over use of military drones. drones have probably killed a few thousand over the many years that theyve been used. by a massive sleight of hand the military classifies nearly all casualties as “enemy combatants” based on their proximity to the target. hey, tail wagging the dog right? that was an old brilliant satire movie from many years ago that nobody remembers anymore anyway.

anyway within last few weeks, obama officially finally released figures after many years of empty promises and footdragging and theres a smattering of headlines and editorials.[a]

the magic number is 116.

so now we can all just heave a massive sigh of relief, write it down on a yellow sticky note and put it on the refrigerator or whatever. 116 is not that bad. and obama can pat himself on the back for his amazing forebearance and (trying to get the right word here)… restraint. and oh yeah, that favorite military word, precision. oh lets face it whatever number he came up with, hed get all kinds of criticism on it right? clearly its a total no-win sitation for him. and hey, its not his problem in less than a ~½year anyway. whose the next commander in chief anyway? we can be sure either hillary or donald will do a better job, right? 😮 👿

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robotics 2016—dallas bomber, tesla autopilot, google reorg, etc

IFhi all, its a lot of very big news for robotics in 2016, this captures top developments, and this post is timed with the tesla crash that made huge headlines the last few weeks and is causing major/ intense spotlight-level scrutiny of tesla, musk, and automated driving capabilities in particular.[b]

have long predicted that there would be a 1st fatality due to auto driving tech and that day has now come to pass within the last few weeks. note the media is focused on one crash in particular but (my understanding) there were two separate crashes.

the other recent massive headline is the extraordinary improvised-on-spot use of a robot to deliver c4 explosive to “take out” a dallas sniper (using the sanitized/ near-euphemistic police language, essentially eerily the same as military terminology), causing some major headlines and controversy.[a] calling the robot a “bomber” seems like a strange new use of the english language, but probably the closest possible… the word “bomber” now referring to a non-human, semiautonomous entity/ machine but not an inanimate object either! science fiction meeting etymology/ everyday vernacular can be like that at times… headlines say “killer robot”… the picture is from [a9], a 2009 miami shot of a similar robot.

it would seem that the military use of robotics and civilian uses, up until now quite distinct, just got blurred to a frightening degree. but again this is mostly predictable. how long before terrorists mount plastic explosives on flying drones? am surprised ISIL has not already tried.

so we are getting a “rubber meets the road” scenario with robotics and its causing mass shockwaves. and am predicting this is only the beginning. with tesla, it sounded like an “accident waiting to happen” for those who track this kind of stuff. [b9] is esp informative/ relevant.

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