Thursday, September 27, 2012

RobIoT @PICNIC12 - when robots meet IoT

Organizing RobIoT at Pic-Nic 2012 provided me the opportunity to visit the Pic-Nic Festival for a first time. It took place in the Eye in Amsterdam. I was asking continuously but apparently it is hard to say who the audience of this conference is: it is not really business, not really academia, it is more about hackers and artists presenting work to people from creative media.

Before our workshop started I could attend an opening talk of George Dyson who gave a fantastic talk about the history of IT and the continuous battle of good vs. evil in research, as IT in a way was also part of the development of the nuclear bomb. Byron Reese gave a rather frantic talk about how IT and media has freed our lifes from pre-defined marriages/jobs/hobbies/styles. I liked this introduction but was a bit disappointed about the following yes-we-can gobbledygook, such as technology would keep our society alive and his rather cynical finding of "hunger is just a technological problem".
Rich Pell from the Center for Postnatural History talked about life which was less natural but more cultural. He called intentionally altering of biological life as animal hacking. He emphasized how cooperations as Syngenta etc. would secure their gene-modified seeds: through obscurity, terminator gene preventing an organism from reproduction, and a non-breeding agreement preventing the farmer from breeding seeds through a legal contract becoming effecting after the seeds' bag has been opened...

Additionally, I could also visit some interesting Demos such as Mobile Thrill which provides experience to your mobile phone: you place your phone on a conveyor build with video switched on, the phone disappears and comes back with its "impressions". Additionally, I also liked the mobile bench.


Rob van Kranenburg opened RobIoT by predicting the advent of robots in our daily lifes anytime soon. Thus, instead of building nightmarish scenarios of mean robots taking over the world, he proposed thinking more proactively about how we can turn robots into something useful and joyful as the topic for this one day workshop. How can we fuel thr vision of robots and Internet of things with positive scenarios?
Gerald Santucci was talking about future robots as easily programmable devices that will empower people to write apps for them the way they do with PCs and smart phones.
Alessandro Bassi compared Asimov's Laws of Robots with the “IoT laws” of Adam Greenfield. He also reminded us that Asimov's Laws, e.g. "A robot may not injure a human being", are not obeyed if we look at the drones killing people in Middle East.
Stefan Gessler gave an overview on the variety of robots of today starting from the dumb vacuum cleaner robot to the humanoid robot. How was elaborating on how to link robots and proposed IoT as a technology for reducing costs for letting also robots communicate.
Karmen Franinovic talked about active material as the basis for activating things. I liked her more integrated perspective of making things active themselves instead of only having robots as separated mediators for actions.
Heico Sandee talked about how robots can give hands to the internet and how active actuators could "actify" passive objects. In order to make that happen research would have to focus on representing, exporting, discovering, executing and matching robot capabilities to real-world tasks and needs.
Finally, I talked about how robots could provide the arms and legs for the Internet of Things. I proposed to start with an initial set of basic activities robots could provide, such as moving or searching things. Then, from those basic activities atomic  tasks as press/touch/carry/etc. should be derived. Additionally, infrastructure requirements such as localization, hand-over to robots should be solved. And finally, robots should be integrated with Internet of Things, e.g. deriving object use from barcode master data.


In the very active discussion with our roughly 40 participants I learned that it probably will not be so so much about robots but rather about actuated materials as pointed out by Karmen. Concerning tasks it may more about tasks humans do not want do, e.g. ironing/car-driving. However, this of course highly depends on personally preferences, too. Robots may also used in combination with persuasive technologies to persuade human users to achieve a personally set goal.
There were also critical comments about why we would only think of privileged situations. Are there other cases, too. Or robots the machine staff of the rich? Are disabled not interesting when it comes to business cases?
Also, some participants mentioned that actuation to a large extend might not be really so much different from screens when it comes to present information or notify the user in more subtle ways (e.g. tapping on ones shoulder).
We also had some good discussion about what we do not want robots to do, what about taking care of your kids? Could robots allow you to work more, which counters of Karl Marx' initial idea of robots allowing you actually to work less.
We discussed whether DIY-robots would be necessary to spark innovation. Certaintly, DIY robots prove the state of maturity of a technology. We even had a moving plant-robot in the workshop which was build for less then 5 EUR...
And finally the discussion closed with questions about responsibility of robots, whether it would be the user, owner or manufacturer, what about garage doors killing people?
I see robots as an emerging topic to be considered with in IoT, see also here [1,2].

[1] Kevin Ashton: Humanizing Robots, RFID Journal, September, 2012.
[2] F. Michahelles, Rob van Kranenburg and Markus Waibel : Enlisting Robots - Once robots are integrated into the Internet of Things, they can perform tasks automatically., Inside the labs column in RFID Journal, August, 2012.

1 comment:

city said...

thanks for sharing.