Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Robot Holidays!

A great video from some friends at the Autonomous Systems Lab at ETH.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

COMPETITION: Most awesome interactive water installation = free Microsoft Surface.

The User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) 2013 conference just posed this year's student competition. UIST is one of the best conferences to see new research in interface technology and sensing technology applied to real-time systems. It is also a great opportunity to meet amazing people working in industry and academia in a very small venue.

The student competition is meant to be a fun way to engage students, and give them an opportunity to flex their creative muscles and get a few moments in the spot light, since the submissions and awards are seen by most of the attendees.

This year is using computer controlled water as an interactive interface and sponsored by Microsoft Research. If you are selected to participate, you will get a free PumpSpark Kit that includes everything you need to make an interactive water widget. If you are one of the selected winners, you will receive a Microsoft Surface. Check out the video below, and see if you want to try your hand at the competition. Official contest page here.

It's always great to take a little time to step away from thinking about traditional computers, and mobiles phones and imagine how unusual materials could become a highly interactive input and output medium. The only reason computers look and feel they way they do, is because someone else made them that way. There's no inherent reason why they HAVE to stay the way they are today.

One of my favorite works in this genre is a project called Sandscape done in 2002 by Hiroshi Ishii's Tangible Media group at MIT Media Lab. Using an expensive laser scanner and projector, people could interact with the sand to create digital landscapes that react in real-time via computer simulation. A tremendous amount of technology completely disappears. The user merely plays directly with the sand. (Today, this can be replicated quite cheaply with a Kinect)

SandScape 2002 from Tangible Media Group on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Industrial R&D + Academic Research = MOAR Future!

A little less than than a year ago, I transfered to a new group within Motorola called Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) which was setup after the Google acquisition of Motorola last year (yes, Google owns Motorola now).

The person hired to run this new group is Regina Dugan, who was previously the director of the Defense Advanced Research and Projects Agency (DARPA). This is the same organization that funded projects such as ARPANET, the DARPA Grand Challenge, Mother of All Demos, Big Dog, CALO (which evolved into Apple's Siri), Exoskeletons, and Hypersonic Vehicles that could reach any point on earth in 60 minutes.

It's a place with big ideas powered by big science.

The philosophy behind Motorola ATAP is to create an organization with the same level of appetite for technology advancement as DARPA, but with a consumer focus. It is a pretty interesting place to be.

One of the ways DARPA was capable of having such a impressive portfolio of projects is because they work heavily with outside research organizations in both industry and academia.  If you talk to a university professor or graduate student in engineering, there is a very good chance their department has a DARPA funded project.  However, when companies want to work with universities, it has always been notoriously difficult to get through the paperwork of putting research collaborations in place due to long legal discussions over IP ownership and commercialization terms lasting several months.

To address this issue head on, ATAP created a Multi-University Research Agreement (MURA). A single document that every university partner could sign to accelerate the collaboration between ATAP and research institutions, reducing the time to engage academic research partners from several months to a couple weeks. The agreement has been signed by Motorola, California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Texas A&M University, and Virginia Tech.  As we engage more research partners, their signatures will be added to the same document.

"The multi-university agreement is really the first of its kind," said Kaigham J. Gabriel, vice president and deputy director of ATAP. "Such an agreement has the potential to be a national model for how companies and universities work together to speed innovation and US competitiveness, while staying true to their individual missions and cultures."

This may seem a little dry.  But to me, what it means is that I can approach some of the smartest people in the country and ask, "do you want to build the future together?" and all they have to say is, "yes."

Let's do it.

Full press release here.