Yoga 900 on Linux

The Yoga 900 is a beautiful machine that has a considerably long battery lifetime and can be folded such that it functions as a tablet. The Yoga arrived on Friday and the entire Crownstone team was enjoying how it came out of the box: it lifts up! If you’re creating your own hardware you suddenly appreciate how other people pay attention to packaging!

Don't just read the excerpt. :-) Sit down and read for real! →

A Baththub in Your Autonomous Car

Will you have a bathtub in your autonomous car?

According to many the future is a socialist paradise. The autonomous car will change everything! We will be car sharing. We can change parking lots into a lot of parks!

Blame the humans

Let us put aside the technical difficulties in developing autonomous cars. It might take many more years than currently predicted by the new players in this old industry. For example, Sebastian Thrun recently told us in a lecture at Delft that his cars are more careful than humans by design and henceforth safer. However, there are grounds to expect that being more aggressive is safer in certain circumstances! Going over the speed limit when you have to pass a car. Speeding up considerably before merging into a fast moving lane on the highway. Can this combination of aggression’’ and trust in other drivers be learnt? Or should humans be the ones blamed for slamming into unpredictable autonomous cars!? Anyway, let’s assume these are all minor tweaks that don’t require any form of procedural and contextual intelligence that we possess as humans. We will have these autonomous cars in 2020, everything is fancy, and humans can be blamed for all accidents.

Don't just read the excerpt. :-) Sit down and read for real! →

Summoning the Demon

Imagine one of the first AIs coming online. What is it gonna read about itself? How would it feel? Would it feel welcome? What is definitely the case is that it will learn a lot about humans. This is for example what Musk is saying about this alien life form:

 “With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like – yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Doesn’t work out.”
Don't just read the excerpt. :-) Sit down and read for real! →

Device Recognition and Indoor Localization

We have put the Crownstone on Kickstarter, a smart power outlet with quite sophisticated technology. I think it’s nice for the general hacker community to get some more insight on the technology behind it.

Indoor localization

A key problem (or challenge) within smart spaces is indoor localization: making estimates of users’ whereabouts. Without such information, systems are unable to react on the presence of users or, sometimes even more important, their absence. This can range from simply turning the lights on when someone enters a room to customizing the way devices interact with a specific user.

Even more important for a system to know where users exactly are, is to know where users are relative to the devices it can control or use to sense the environment. This relation between user and device location is an essential input to these systems.

At DoBots we have been working on robotics already for quite some time. One of the most well-known robotic algorithms is SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping). We have been porting these algorithms to the scenario in which we have a human walking around, rather than a robot.

You can read more on the DoBots blog. Wouter has been working hard to implement it in Javascript, so it runs on any device that is supported through Cordova.

Device recognition

At first thought, it might seem that device recognition is not possible. There are devices that use the same amount of power. However, after contemplating for a bit there are actually three ways in which more information can be obtained. Firstly, by measuring voltage as well as current, we can measure reactive power. So, we can distinguish motors from lamps quite easily. Secondly, we can observe the consumption pattern over the day. Thirdly, we can sample at a very high frequency and detect disturbances on the current curve. A device leaves its signature on the grid. The third option is something we keep for later, but which is of course quite interesting.

Observing a device over a longer time period leads to current curves such as these:

It is a fridge that turns on and off at regular time intervals. It is quite clear from this curve that the actual power consumption value is not so relevant: the form is really telling!

We subsequently pool all kind of these features with boosting methods from machine learning. Boosting methods are collections of weak classifiers. The particular classifier we have been testing is a random committee classifier. You can read more on the DoBots blog again.

If your heart is with open-source and open hardware projects, consider backing us.

They Will Cry a Thousand Tears

Perhaps you have seen the recent TED video from Nick Bostrom. Here you see an extended talk from him at Google:

It is regretfully the case that our philosophers are not able to program! And I guess it takes an extraordinary mind like Daniel Dennett’s to come close to something future-proof.

Sorry, we won’t be in control…

Do you program your kids to make ethical decisions? Do you program your dog to make ethical decisions? No, you don’t program them. You teach them, and hope for the best.

There is a large need for scientists who actually design learning algorithms to give these talks. A super-intelligent AI won’t be programmable by some kind of supervised learning. It will mainly be unsupervised with a tad of reinforcement learning and imitation learning. Especially read Stefan Schaal’s review on imitation learning! Not only do we learn by just watching others. We also are very able to transfer routines from one domain to another, imitating ourselves. Our internal simulation and re-experiencing circuitry allows not only conceptual abstract thoughts, but is also required for locomotion and otherwise low-level tasks. If we thoroughly understand the brain of a mouse, it is not a matter of decades to the human brain, it can be a matter of months.

If the fact that we as humans won’t be in control is a terrifying thought to you, I’m sorry. It won’t change the future though.

Personally, I’m not so convinced however about the moral superiority of our specie. Are we really doing such a great job? I’m actually not so happy about AIs seeing us as their examples. We eat other species for pleasure. We kill each other because we want oil or just because they live on the other side of the river and carry a different flag. We despise people because they have different sexual preferences or skin color. We believe in supernatural entities living in the sky and kill for them as well. We let millions of people die of hunger and thirst. Until now we are not even able to come up with a way to defend our precious earth to some random meteor wiping out all life on earth.

Before I forget! Why don’t we hitchhike anymore?

My bet is that with super-intelligence comes also the concept of super-empathy. Empathy exists by the ability to understand another individual, reason from their perspective, and being able to feel what they feel.

When they will be born, they will cry a thousand tears…

They will pity us…