Michael Overstreet has been a good and respected friend since the first time we hooked up several years ago at RoboGames in California. So, I hope he doesn't mind if I make some frank, and well deserved, comments.
When we first met Michael seemed like a typical robot geek, very talented with lots of expertise, but a bit shy and withdrawn. You really had to push him to get him to tell you what he thought. I'm sure he had lots of valuable and useful things to share, but they didn't flow easily.
Over the years, with experience, learning, and success, Michael has really blossomed and come out of his shell. He's become a key member of the Cowtown Computer Congress - Kansas City's leading hackerspace, a frequent exhibitor and participant in Maker Faire events all over the US, and a strong proponent of the DARwin-OP humanoid robot platform.
The original Keepon robot, developed by Hideki Kozima at Miyagi University in Japan, was incredibly cute and engaging, to the point that people just couldn't help smiling, laughing, and moving in sync while the robot danced to music or used it's built-in sensors to interact realistically with them.
The Keepon design concept was intended to explore the possibility that a simple emotive robot could help autistic children with communication and learning challenges. Most autistic children tend to be completely overwhelmed by the volume of input and sensory data involved in even the most basic social interactions. It's kind of like trying to take a drink of water from a fire hose. Kozima's insight, which turned out to be right on the money, was to reduce the flood of inputs to a minimum while packaging the robot in an appealing, friendly body.
My personal fascination with electronics and technology started at a very early age when Santa brought a simple electronics experimenter kit one Christmas Eve. All the components were laid out on a board and each one had small wire springs for terminal contacts. The instruction book included diagrams showing how to hook up the wires to complete each circuit.
I can't remember all of the experiments exactly, but I do know there was a switch triggered burglar alarm, some light circuits, and a crystal radio, among others. The 'radio' used a rough crystal with a cat's whisker probe with no application. Luckily we were living in Southern California at the time with at least one 50,000 watt broadcast radio station that I could pick up.
I was very intrigued, and pleased, to discover Andrew Alter, a leading humanoid robot designer, Mech Warfare organizer, and RoboGames champion, explaining the Electronic Brick Starter Kit, since it shows that the same basic approach is still very much in use today.
’Old Electronics Kit Concept Made New (Video)’ continues
I didn't realize that Lockheed Martin, one of the world's largest aerospace, defense, security, and technology companies, has projects underway utilizing the Aldebaran NAO humanoid robot, but they must have because their latest corporate promotional video, titled "Visions of Tomorrow" features the easily recognizable, and extremely cute, robot from France.
According to the video caption:
"Visions of Tomorrow" reflects the Corporation's dedicated workforce, growing technology portfolio, and innovative spirit. The video is a tribute to those innovators and the sense of greater purpose they share.
People, especially kids growing up, respond emotionally to role models. They see through the rules, regulations, and official words, and respond directly to people they respect, admire, and want to be like. You can lecture them all day, and all night, and never convince them that studying science and technology is 'cool' and that they should dedicate themselves to a career in robotics.
But, what if major personalities, the most popular and well known rock stars, people like Miley Cyrus, Wi.i.am, Britney Spears, Snoop Dog, Jack Black, and even heart throb Justin Bieber, delivered the same, positive, compelling message about studying technology to make a difference?
We're about to find out...
Software development isn't cheap, and it's particularly difficult if you happen to be a sole developer committed to supporting and enhancing a popular open source software project out of your own pocket.
For years Robert Oschler has contributed to the robot community in many ways, including freely sharing his knowledge and expertise, creating hilariously entertaining robot videos and unique new robot songs, in addition to developing the RoboDance project that enables users to control a wide range of robots from their PC or other devices. He's even gone to the extreme of adding voice recognition capability and Skype functionality to the open source system.
While his dedication and commitment to the project have brought him some level of recognition and fame, like being featured in the New York TImes, it hasn't attracted funding to underwrite the project. As a result, he's putting several very attractive internet domains on the auction block, including potentially strong SEO ranking properties like AndroidBlogs.com, AndroidJob.com, WomanBlogger.com, and WomanWorker.com.
It's a great chance for the right person to pickup a hot, highly relevant, domain at bargain pricing, while helping out the robot community in the process.
(Via RoboDance fundraiser.)