Interview with Boston Dynamics’ VP of Robotics and Motion Control Aaron Saunders, who discusses how the company is using dance to help its robots learn (Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum)
Boston Dynamics recently shared a video of their robots Atlas, Spot, and Handle dancing to Do You Love Me. We sat up with Boston Dynamics’s vice president, Aaron Saunders, to ask him some questions about this and how it fits into the company’s strategy for commercial applications of robotics. Here is what he had to say:
How did the concept of making robots dance come about, though?
We were motivated to create this because we hoped that showing off robots in a lighthearted way will spark fresh ideas for how we may use them in our daily lives.
Dancing gives us a chance to observe how complicated actions requiring agility and coordination may be taught to robots through programming. Because nothing like this has ever been attempted before, it sheds new light on the business uses for robots.
How did you go about instructing Atlas, Spot, and Handle in the art of dance?
A: We started with the fundamentals of programming, such as repeating motion patterns, and then we refined them through trial and error. We then implemented machine learning strategies based on reinforcement learning algorithms to allow the robots to gradually acquire skills without constant human supervision.
We were able to acquire more intricate motions with less hand-holding from the team thanks to this. Last but not least, we developed an AI-based motion control system that allowed us to perform even more intricate routines.
Can you tell us how this technology can aid in the advancement of robots for industrial use?
The technology behind our dancing robots has already been implemented in a variety of fields, including search and rescue operations, where agility is essential for navigating rough terrain, entertainment, where complex choreographies are needed, manufacturing, where precise repeatable motions are essential, healthcare, where remote manipulation is required, logistics, where autonomous navigation is necessary, and many others.
These robots may be trained more rapidly than ever before with the use of computer vision technology, reinforcement learning algorithms, and motion control systems, allowing businesses to save time spent on research and development without sacrificing precision or dependability.
Aaron Saunders has provided insightful commentary on how to train robot dancers and the practical applications of this technology. Boston Dynamics was able to construct complicated robotic routines with unprecedented agility and coordination using only the most fundamental programming approaches, machine learning algorithms, and an AI-based motion control system.
Search and rescue operations, the entertainment industry, manufacturing, healthcare logistics, and other sectors can all benefit from this technology’s potential to accelerate the development of robotics while simultaneously enhancing precision and reliability. Based on his remarks, it is apparent that Boston Dynamics is ushering in a new era of robotics innovation that will completely transform how we interact with robots in our daily lives.
Question and Answer with Boston Dynamics VP Aaron Saunders on Dancing Robots and the Business of Robotics (Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum).
The pro-Trump “The Donald” Discord server was banned
A server on Discord called “The Donald” has been removed because it is affiliated with the banned Trump supporter subreddit. The Donald and the related website TheDonald.win. Casey Newton, a writer for Platformer and a contributor to the Verge, broke the story. This restriction comes just two days after Trump pushed a pro-Trump crowd to attack the US Capitol, despite Discord’s claim that it had no evidence that the server was used to plan the rioting.
Discord said in a statement provided to The Verge, “We have a zero-tolerance policy against hate and violence of any type on the platform, or the use of Discord to encourage or organize around violent extremism.” As reported by Discord, “while there is no evidence that a server called The Donald was used to organize the Jan. 6 riots, the company decided to ban the entire server today due to its overt connection to an online forum used to incite violence, plan an armed insurrection in the United States, and spread harmful misinformation related to 2020 U.S. election fraud.”
In June, when the site made changes to its policy to more expressly forbid hate speech, it removed the pro-Trump subreddit r/The Donald. After the ban, some users of r/The Donald regrouped on The Donald’s Discord server, as described in an October Mother Jones article. On Friday, Reddit banned the unofficial pro-Trump site r/donaldtrump for “multiple policy breaches in recent days involving the violence at the US Capitol.”
IT firms in Ukraine expect the best but prepare for the worst
A large number of well-known IT enterprises and contract programmers for international clients may be found in this country.
Russia invaded Ukraine in an official capacity on Thursday. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said at a press conference on Thursday that sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies are not anticipated to instantly halt the Soviet advance. Meanwhile, Ukrainians wait tensely for whatever comes next. There are several ways in which the technological world has been affected by the conflict in Ukraine. Certain American sanctions, for instance, are aimed at preventing Russia from acquiring advanced technology for military and other uses. Moreover, Ukraine is home to a number of technological enterprises that serve millions of customers and organizations worldwide. On Thursday, the first day of the Russian occupation, I had a chance to speak with a few of them.
Perhaps the most well-known Ukrainian IT firm is Grammarly. Grammarly is the maker of an AI-driven service that helps people communicate better in writing. Millions of people all around the world use it, and some of the best venture capital firms in the world, like General Catalyst and Blackrock, have invested in it. Its current worth is $13 billion. The company’s headquarters and a large portion of its software development staff are located in Kyiv, Ukraine. The distance between Kyiv and the fighting zone in eastern Ukraine is around 700 kilometers (435 miles). It also employs people in New York City, San Francisco, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Senka Hadzimuratovic, a representative from Grammarly, emailed me on Thursday to tell me that the company is currently putting into effect the backup measures they had developed to safeguard their employees in Ukraine. According to her, the corporation is being secretive about the intentions out of concern for employees’ safety. She also reassures me that, should the crisis worsen, the corporation has preparations in place to keep its services functioning. So that our team members in Ukraine may focus on the immediate safety of themselves and their families, we have taken measures such as establishing alternative channels of contact and temporarily shifting mission-critical tasks to members of the team based in other countries.
A LinkedIn post by Grammarly CEO Brad Hoover read as follows: “Grammarly was founded in Ukraine, and I’ve had the privilege of getting to know its vibrant culture and kind people over the past decade — that includes many of our resilient, unstoppable team members who are yet again facing stress and uncertainty. Even while I still hold out hope for a de-escalation, I am saddened by the ongoing escalations in the country.
Kyiv-based Readdle was one of the first app stores to sell apps for the iPhone and iPad. Its history is littered with successful productivity apps for iOS devices and computers. Products like PDF Expert and Scanner Pro have been downloaded about 200 million times, according to the business. Denys Zhadanov, a board member, informs me that the company has over 150 workers in Ukraine. I inquired as to the current concerns of the minds behind Ukraine’s tech startups. All large CEOs agree that Ukraine should be a sovereign state, he said. This is an act of wartime hostility. The time Zhadanov spends in each location is roughly equal.
Zhadanov, like other Ukrainian business leaders, claims that his firm has backup plans and that its infrastructure and customer data are stored on servers in the United States and Europe. With offices in 11 different locations and a workforce spread around the globe, he is confident that business won’t take a hit. We are now taking precautions for the safety of our Odessa-based personnel. While technology advances, some Ukrainian IT leaders lament that geopolitics may seem stuck in the Cold War era.
MacPaw, based in Kyiv, creates utilities like CleanMyMac and The Unarchiver to make Macs more useful. As 21st century humans, “we all wish that the dreadful days of war were a thing of the past,” stated MacPaw CEO and creator Oleksandr Kosovan in a blog post on Thursday. We have seen how vulnerable freedom, independence, and the human right to life and choice are once again with the Russian onslaught against Ukraine. Kosovan continues by saying that the safety of MacPaw’s employees in Kyiv is the company’s top priority right now. To secure the security of its employees in Ukraine, the business has developed “different assistance programs and formed an emergency plan.” Customer information is stored on AWS servers outside of Ukraine, he adds.
Why is the FAST service, which moves TV channels to the Internet, considered the next outlet for video streaming?
At the end of 2022, the new company merged by Warner Bros. and Discovery has repeatedly appeared in the news: DC reorganization, Henry Cavill no longer plays Superman, etc., but compared to these content creation news, Warner Bros. Discovery has a new decision recently, which may affect the series. The future of streaming games.
Warner Bros. has been exploring recent film and television works frequently. It previously removed the two series “Western Paradise” and “The Immortal” from HBO Max, and then “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “Alien Cataclysm” have also become the second wave Their own streaming off-shelf list, after which Warner Bros. explored and explained: These albums will be licensed to third-party FAST channels, and they are confident that they can earn more revenue from the FAST service than streaming subscriptions.
FAST service is more like Internet cable TV
What is FAST service? FAST is the abbreviation of Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television (Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television), which is an emerging form in the field of video streaming. Although FAST is also based on advertising revenue, it does not require any monthly fees or even registration. Compared with streaming subscriptions, some people think that it is closer to AVOD advertising streaming services such as YouTube.
But FAST is different from YouTube. Compared with YouTube videos, FAST mainly constructs many channels through cable television, and viewers can get the right to watch channels for free by watching advertisements on the Internet. However, users cannot search and select the programs they want to watch like VOD streaming services, but just like watching TV, they can choose channels to find the programs they want to watch, and cannot only watch specific programs.
In addition to choosing channels like cable TV, viewers of the current FAST service need to watch 30 seconds to 3 minutes of advertisements for 1 hour, depending on the service and channel conditions, but they are far lower than the 1 hour of cable television advertisements—even in Taiwan The law is the same. Taiwan’s Limited Broadcasting and Television Law stipulates that each channel can only insert a maximum of 600 seconds or 10 minutes of advertisements per hour.
Of course, because it is the embryonic stage of FAST, manufacturers do not want to drive away the audience with too many advertisements. After all, it takes a lot of time and money to let the audience accept the new service.
What makes FAST so good
What is the difference between FAST and the popular SVOD and AVOD video streaming? Of course, as mentioned earlier, FAST is more like traditional TV programs. The channel content includes movie channels, and traditional CNN, MTV and other channel operators may also join as one of the channels; of course, they may also have film and television copyrights like HBO and Paramount. The manufacturers negotiated the advertising profit sharing and put it on one of their self-created channels.
Some people may think that this seems to be going back to the old way of traditional TV, which runs counter to the current mainstream subscription streaming where you can choose your own videos, but most people rely on big data recommendations when watching streaming, which also makes it difficult for users to see “fresh” or The theme of “random numbers” and the copyright contract of film and television works are complicated. It is possible that the movie you like will be taken off the shelves after one year of release; no matter how much you like a certain theme, there are very few people who watch a movie or album three or five times a year.
FAST is mainly free to watch. Since it is completely free, you can continue to watch it just by watching advertisements. For users, there is nothing to be picky about the content of FAST—no need to spend a lot of money like HBO, Disney, Netflix, etc. Get exclusive content and avoid consumer nitpicking. In addition, film and television works are broadcast in turn like traditional TV, and “exclusive” such as streaming is not very meaningful, because viewers cannot watch the same favorite film and television series as they like, so the exclusive benefits of watching it will naturally become smaller, just like watching different channels. The same movie, because the TV station has little interest in monopolizing the film and television works.
It is also advertising profit, FAST is very different from advertising subscription (AVOD) service, AVOD is like YouTube, it uses advertisements to bring out selective videos, and uses advertising videos to offset the cost of videos. However, large-scale production films rarely choose AVOD, because AVOD revenue is traditionally lower than SVOD and TVOD (like Google or Apple buying viewing rights for a certain film and television work).
Bringing the “Random” Advantage to Streaming
Since the FAST feature is closer to TV, although this playback method has been around for a long time, it happens to be the part that traditional VOD services lack. Existing VOD relies on algorithms to recommend programs to viewers, but algorithm preferences cannot comprehensively summarize a person’s interests. As a result, many VOD users still rely on community or media recommendations, and it is difficult to discover new program types and interests from algorithms.
Traditional TV still retains the advantages of “random numbers” and “accidental”. Many viewers become fans of a new program by relying on fixed channel recommendations, or just see interesting content. This kind of “accidental” is difficult for AI and algorithms. The part that can be achieved is the so-called “creativity” and “associative power”.
In other words, the success of FAST is that it does not rely on advertising, but adopts a method that is more random and does not rely on algorithms. It is also because of this feature that FAST breaks through VOD and becomes a new type of OTT—not just TV. , but a type that existing OTT services do not have at all.
Advertising can inherit the advantages of VOD services
Moreover, compared with the troublesome TV advertisements, the FAST ad insertion broadcasted on the Internet is more flexible. Not only can it be played on the Internet platform, but it can even be introduced into the RTB system for bidding. When it comes to advertising, FAST has a weakness that traditional TV can never break through: online advertising cannot switch channels. No matter what channel you switch to, you must watch the advertisement before continuing to watch the program. This is something that traditional TV is completely inferior to FAST. An important advantage, advertisers can also ensure the number of times the advertisement is played, and no longer need to be kidnapped by inaccurate ratings.
Standard & Poor’s estimates that US FAST’s advertising revenue will be about US$4 billion in 2022, and will double to US$9 billion by 2026, which means that the traditional TV field will be divided again. Variety cites Comcast Advertising data to show that 70% of FAST subscribers called Xumo have switched from cable TV .
American cable TV and satellite TV have a long history of development, resulting in a severe geographical monopoly of traditional TV. Unlike Taiwan, which can directly open competition, this is one of the reasons why the status of American TV is still difficult to shake.
But the times are gradually changing. Services like FAST will be extremely beneficial in areas outside the United States where the Internet is developed. FAST is a place that not only inherits the advantages of traditional TV but also improves the disadvantages of traditional TV. In the future, production and broadcasting companies or TV stations may no longer need to spend a lot of effort to attract advertisers, but only need to spend energy on finding sponsors and improving the quality of programs.
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