Baxter Disappoints

This new robot named Baxter, by Rethink Robots, is practically being touted as the greatest thing since Swiss cheese–“allowing our people to use their minds more than their hands”–but this demonstration video shows a clumsy and awkward robot instead.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (18 September 2012) actually calls it a “huge disappointment” and I’ve got to agree.

The product manager in video calls Baxter–developed with $62 million over 5 years–“easy,” “complaint,” and “collaborative,” but unfortunately Baxter, the robot, comes off looking anything but as he slowly and laboriously tries to pick up and move items from one location to another, and the product manager pulls his arms and pocks at his screen/face to program it.

While I am a huge fan of robotics and see their potential to transform our society–where robots can becomes surrogates for humans in everything from work to even odd companionship, I do not see the breakthrough here by Rethink Robots–except in the affordability of this robot to be used in manufacturing for only $22,000 a unit.

What I do like about Baxter is that it is generally a good-looking device–with a solid looking grey base and long 9 foot wingspan red stretch arms. I even sort of like the eyes and brows giving it a humanoid nature, but the quirky and flimsy looking red screen hanging off the main body looks chinsy.

Also, if the robot is so “friendly,” you’d almost expect it to be on wheels and mobile with the ability to speak, so that it could more genuinely interact with others, but it does not.

Baxter is the brainchild of one of the pioneers of the Roomba vacuum–another toyish device that I wouldn’t spend a dime on.

Maybe, the way to look at it is that we need to take baby steps before we get the real iRobots coming to us–and hopefully that day will come soon.

Where There Is Life, There is Hope

 After a very busy week, I can really appreciate this video, called Move, where Rick Mereki and 2 friends travel 11 countries in 44 days.I love how fast yet seamless this video takes us around the world–like flying through space and time.There is so much to see and do and every moment is a blessing.My grandparents use to say, “where there is life, there is hope” and we are so fortunate to be alive and have the opportunity to change, grow, and self-actualize.

And while real life is not as smooth as this video–whereever we are, let’s try to enjoy the ride.

Have a great weekend!

>A Time To Remember

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Holocaust

Someone sent me this cartoon today and I was moved by it.

As much as we want to look to the future, it is important to remember the past and the many millions who perished in the most horrible and cruel way.

And as we continue to live in times of upheaval and extremism, the lessons of just 60+ years ago, of the Holocaust, are as relevant today as ever.

As someone who is always looking at technology as the answer to everything (understanding of course, that all true answers come from above), this is a pause for me to question what if any are the limits to change and innovation?

My hope, of course, is that we can rid ourselves of hatred, bigotry, intolerance, and extremism and instead work together for the betterment of all humankind.

As long as our minds are blocked by hatred, we (in the collective) will never be able to realize our ultimate potential.

I believe in a future where we will ALL together achieve technological breakthroughs that will surpass anything that we can imagine today; where we will indeed travel–perhaps to the stars–together as one, not divided by race or religion any longer, but united in our commonality and strength and desire to achieve a future of hope, health, peace, and success for all.

(Source cartoon: Wiley)

>Is Technology Measured by Progress or Unrealized Potential?

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Is technology progress measured by how far we’ve come or by what remains to be achieved?

The Wall Street Journal (9-10, October 2010) ran an interview with Peter Thiel, who in ranked #377 in Forbes 400 (2008) with a net worth of $1.3 billion. Thiel was a co-founder of Paypal. In 2004, Thiel made a $500,000 investment in Facebook for 25.2% of the company. Nice!

Remarkable for someone who has made a fortune in technology, Thiel now believes, as the Journal puts it, that “American ingenuity has hit a dead end.”

According to Thiel, “people don’t want to believe that technology is broken…Pharmaceuticals, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology—all (of) these (are) areas where the progress has been a lot more limited than people think.”

Thiel bemoans our inability to achieve the vision of The Jetsons, as he states: “We don’t have flying cars. Space exploration is stalled. There are no undersea cities. Household robots do not cater to our needs…” According to Thiel, we have reached and are stuck in a long-term stagnation.

Thiel’s theory of technology stagnation is completely contrary, I believe, to the reality that most, if not all, of us are living each and every day, where technology is constantly on the move and if anything, we as organizations and individual struggle to keep pace.

For me personally, the refresh rate for technology is 2 years or less, depending on available cash flow for all the new stuff constantly hitting the market.

In my experience, technology is as dynamic as ever, if not more so. In fact, I have seen no evidence that Moore’s Law has been overcome by events (OBE).

Across government, I am seeing the interest and rate of adoption of new technologies steady or on the rise in areas as diverse as cloud computing, mobile computing, social computing, green computing, knowledge management, business intelligence, and geospatial information systems, and more.

There is no shortage of technology investments to make, IT projects to work on, and new technical capabilities to bring to the business.

While we may not have achieved the full vision set out by Hollywood and other technology visionaries, yet—rest assured, we are well are on way and barring unforeseen events, we most certainly will!

I don’t know about Spacely Sprockets’, but I’d place a few good investments bets around on a future that looks pretty darn close to The Jetsons, along with a good dose of Star Trek ingenuity for measure.

Perhaps Mr. Thiel’s views are a result of frustration that we have not achieved all that we can, rather than a reflection that we have not gotten anywhere. In any case, I enjoyed reading his views and look forward to learning more.