Christian Long

Dennis Hong: My Seven Species of Robot

In TED Talks on May 24, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Extra credit reflection by KEITH C.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Dennis Hong:  My Seven Species of Robot

Note to Mr. Long and my classmates: 

If you don’t have time to read the entire post, make sure you take a peek at the last paragraph or watch the last minute of the video of how he argues with what Sir Ken Robinson said in that one talk about how “school kills creativity” that was shown to us in class.

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I found the ideas of Dennis and his team and how the created these different species of robots to be very compelling. One of my favorite species of robot that he introduces is the STriDER. The reason that I am so interested in this robot is because of how Dennis relates its movements to the natural swing of the human body. When Dennis explains how his robot is biologically inspired, he first explains the basic of how we walk. He described our walk as simply swinging our legs alternately like a pendulum and then catching the fall of the legs that come back and contact with the ground. Dennis also explains how we build up with the potential energy to convert it to kinetic once we initiate our step. This is something that I have never really thought about. His robot is biologically inspired because it following the same concept of passive dynamic locomotion. His spider looking robot swing one of its legs while balancing on the other two. This robot walks in a surprisingly natural way when you see the animated clip of what they hope it will be capable of in the future.

In presenting his next robot, Dennis makes the bold statement of, “reinventing the wheel.” When I first heard this I was quite sure he could live up to this statement however, after seeing the clip of this ingenious robot I think he has. This robot, IMPASS, uses a laser range finder and camera systems to identify the height of the object that it is approaching. Once it has this information stored, it carefully plans how long the spokes need to be and how to time the climb. IMPASS can also easily change direction by shortening or lengthen the spokes on either side of the robot. Rather than have a fixed axes such as one in your car, the wheels on the IMPASS can individual move for more efficient steering.

Then toward the end of the video Dennis introduces my personal favorite robot, DARwIn. In 2006 DARwIn 2a was created. What was so amazing about this robot was the fact that it had artificial intelligence. It was attached with, “ 1.5 gigahertz M chip, two Fire wire cameras, eight gyros, accelerometer, four torque sensors on the foot, and lithium power batteries.” All of that pretty much means that this spoiled little robot can recognize the environment around him and interact with it. To me this is truly amazing. This little robot can actually locate the ball that is near their feet and kick it into a goal. The most mid-blowing part about this robot is that it is not controlled at all and there are no power cords. Dennis then explains that these autonomous robots even have their own soccer cup where they compete. Dennis hopes that the advancement and improvement of these robots will progress and by the year 2050, they will have developed human sized robots and these robots will challenge the world cup winners and beat them. At first the proclamation doesn’t see very likely, but after you think about how far the have come in only a few years it seems more plausible.

This topic of creating human size robots that have artificial intelligence makes me wonder if there will ever be a day when people go to a sports game to watch robots play robots. This has its up and downs with way you look at it. Of course on of the major plus would be that these robots would probably not desire high wages that the professional athletes of our day do. However robots without flaw or emotion wouldn’t be as fun to watch.

Lastly I found Dennis’ “comeback” if you will, to Sir Ken Robinson’s talk, about how school kills creativity, to be interesting. Dennis describe school as the major foundation that allows someone to achieve and intellectual status from which the can use this knowledge to be even more creative. Dennis stresses the importance of these core classes and education in general to be able to solve the problems of the time.

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