So Let it be Written, So Let it be Done!

April 16, 2008

And Gladness Filled the Land

Filed under: kamakula — kamakula @ 12:06 am
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If I could sing, I’d sing the song of happiness.

Yes, I can shout, I proclaim my heart is full.

My worries quenched, my soul is happy,

because my friend, my friend is here to stay.

If I could draw, I’d draw us sitting together.

If I could paint, I’d brush a mural.

I’m glad I met you and that I can be there for you,

to put a smile, to brighten up your day.

Nate’s father once told me that good friends are hard to come by. I know that to be true, given that I’ve had very few at any given time. I’m really blessed that at this point of my life, I’ve got five on that list. This is the most I’ve ever had at a time. People I can discuss almost anything with, perhaps not with any one particular person, but amongst all of them. Friends that share my ambitions, my politics, my confusion, my happiness, and my pain.

A few minutes ago, I realized that my worries were unfounded. You have no idea how happy that made me. I thought that it didn’t bother me too much. That I was shouldering it ok. But clearly, there is a huge weight off my chest. Another friend, from the past with whom we’re slowly getting reacquainted has mentioned a few times in the past couple days that I sounded different. I suppose that despite my abilities to deadpan jokes, when I feel hurt, when I’m worried, or concerned, I’m unable to hide that from others. Or maybe it was so fresh, I didn’t have time to bury it deep inside like other things.

I hate scabs. . . they cover wounds, heal over, yes, but they still leave an ugly mark. I’m glad there is one less for me. This must be my reward for working so hard these past two days. I’m definitely going to keep it up. Perhaps this week will continue to delight and surprise me even more than it already has.

Oh, another cool thing. So, I participated in the olympiad at Trinity with the RIT robotics club. Myself, Alex, and Alan. Well, turns out we won second place! The team (including me) each won an AVR butterfly! Even more awesomeness, MDRC also won the spirit of competition award.

I find it interesting that the groups I get involved with, particularly those involving robotics, always tend to win awards like this. We may not always do well in the actual competition, but we always come out as knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. I suppose I’m attracted to similar kinds of people. We always get involved in too many things, stretching ourselves in classwork, robotics, helping with homework, and other things. I’m really proud of those guys.

Since I need to visit Rochester some time in the next month or so to pick up my prize and some stuff I forgot in Hartford, I really need to think of a way that I can show these guys how impressed and proud I am. Definitely need discuss with Nate on how we can surprise MDRC.


April 14, 2008

Context is Everything

Filed under: kamakula — kamakula @ 1:05 pm
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For a while, the term “scamming on a squirrel” has come up in conversation with some of my friends. Since I’ve always been good at context clue exercises, I was able to figure out the meaning without knowing the reference and could continue the conversation. However, this past weekend, when they made other references that could not be puzzled out, they finally told me where it was from: An online series called We Need Girlfriends that has actually been bought by CBS. I’ve supposed to have been finishing up my DSP project (sorta due today) but instead have spent the last 2.5 hours watching the first nine episodes.

So, I left the room/office where I have desk space to goto the library (because the room doesn’t have an AC outlet and my laptop battery died [coincidentally, this is why I stopped at episode 9]) and I my train of thought continued along the show, friends I’m going to have watch it, and stuff in my life and I realized that context is very important.

In almost all elementary, middle, and high school english courses with the exception of senior english (which focuses exclusively on literature and analysis, rather than grammar and vocabulary), one of the major skills we hone is that of using context clues to infer meanings or determine the appropriate word to complete a sentence.

However, context is important to almost all interactions in life. We use it to tell when someone is being serious or sarcastic and plan our reactions accordingly. However, there are times when those skills fail us. I’m starting to realize that this occurs when I use incorrect assumptions to inform my view of the context of a conversation or interaction. This generally occurs due to a snowball effect.

There is something I want to happen and I color my view of what’s going on through the subject lens of my desires, and not necessarily the objective one of reality. And while realizing this and giving more conscious thought to it will be useful, particularly in interactions and relationships with the opposite sex, as soon as I wrote the title for this post, I realized that context is also very important for robotics and artificial intelligence.

There are many big problems in robotics/AI that are awaiting solutions. For example, there is a computer vision problem of training a robot (or computer) to identify human beings in any given picture. Or really anything. One recent example I saw was a picture of a rabbit in a front yard or something. Now, I knew from the caption or whatever I read that there was a rabbit there, however, when I first looked, I didn’t see it.

Similar things happen to us all the time. The phrase “it was in the last place I looked”, aside from being extremely redundant (how many times do you continue looking after you’ve found something?), also highlights this. Whenever I’m looking for something, I check where I expect to see it. I have an idea of what should be in what place. In other words, I form the context of the environment in which my thing resides, then start looking. Show me a forest picture and ask me to identify animals, I may quickly point out the rabbits. Show me one of someone’s messy bedroom and ask me to identify animals, I may miss the brown colored rabbit because it looks like a dirty shirt. Well, not really, but I expect to see a dirty shirt, so my mind glosses over the fact that it’s actually a rabbit.

I’m going to start looking for papers that look at applying context to computer vision, pattern recognition, or reasoning problems in robotics. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I’d like to work on (though I may still need to tailor it to fit into the overall work being done by whoever becomes my research adviser), but every once in a while, I get ideas like this and it’s pretty exciting because I always feel inadequate as a researcher, like I have a really hard time coming up with innovative or original ideas, but maybe it’s something that happens to everyone. . .

April 12, 2008

Robotics in the Morning

Filed under: kamakula,robot,trinity firefighting — kamakula @ 8:03 am
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Yesterday afternoon I made the trip to Rochester. Stopped by RIT and got to see Dr. Phillips and Dr. Brown. It was good to catch up with them for a bit. I wandered around the engineering building looking for more professors but nobody else was around. I went by the SAU and saw a couple people from OAS. Chatted a bit, then went over to the science building to look for the Chrises, but I guess they were gone too for the weekend.

Leaving RIT, I went over to the gallery where April’s senior thesis was on display. I’m really amazed by the work she’s done. I mean, I’ve always been impressed by her artistry and skill. It definitely was a great thing that her interests intersected with robotics enough that she hung out with us guys. I finally had a decent conversation with her. Got a couple pictures of April (gasp!) and even got a hug before I left.

The trip to Hartford was uneventful. I did get 450 miles on my current tank of gasoline, however, a few wrong turns and having to travel about 3 miles further outside my way in a 30mph zone extended my overall trip length by about 30 minutes. Nevertheless, I arrived at the hotel in Hartford and noticed something. . . an SG van! Not only did MDRC get funding for the trip, they also got a van, and brought six people.

That plus the level of completion that the robots were in when I arrived and the way that they’d divided up work (different people working on different modules providing services to each other), I’m really impressed with the improvements they’ve made since Nate and I left. As usual though, MDRC was very short on sleep the night prior to competition. Heck, my Thursday night was likely the only night this week I got more sleep than these guys though :).

Another thing, these guys are all young. And by young, I mean 2nd and 3rd years. I think Alex may be a fourth year. So, definitely our workshop idea worked. To jump start the new MDRC members into building robots and directly participating in the club, rather than having to sit on the sidelines and only minorly help the more “experienced” guys because they didn’t have any idea of the skills they already possessed. Nate’s going to be really happy when I tell him about this trip.

Pretty soon we’ll (well, some of us) will head up to Trinity, register and secure a table, hopefully in a good spot. Though I remember arriving more or less on time last year and still getting relatively screwed. Though I ended up meeting this really cool guy who got the spot next to me so maybe it was worth it. I wonder if I should have printed out business cards. . .but I think going informal will be ok. I’ve got my pad so I can jot down names and other contact info as needed. . .

I could pass mine out, but like girls you meet at bars or clubs, they never make the first move. If you give out your info without getting theirs in return, you’re pretty much not going to hear from them again. You need to be the one initially driving the interaction. Anyway, I think I’ll stay here tonight and drive back early Sunday morning. If I leave around 4-6am, I can get back between noon-2pm.

I really need to work on the DSP project so I don’t have so much to do on Sunday. . . Yaay, I’m so excited about today. I can’t wait to get there and start meeting people and seeing what others have worked on, how things have improved (in terms of algorithms, robot design, the still major problem of reliable detection and localization of the candle) since last year. I feel bad I don’t have a robot to enter, but I’ve got some ideas for how to generate some more time.

I’ll just need to start earlier. I also have another idea for a balancing robot platform. It costs money though :(. So, I definitely have another reason to get a job this summer than just paying living expenses and fixing the remaining issues with my car. I need to raise money for a kick-ass balancing robot that I can use for next year’s competitions and other stuff.

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