Category Archives: Academia

University of Calgary Convocation

In June, I officially graduated from the University of Calgary with my Master of Science degree in Computer Science.

A few seconds followed by a walk across a stage caps off over two years of research and hard work.

One highlight of my time in academia the media exposure received by my emotional robot control project, leading to dozens of blog posts and articles around the world, and a live television interview on Breakfast Television Calgary.

I’d finally like to also share some photos from an iLab party shortly after my defence in January.

My time in the Interactions Labs broadened my interests and changed my view of the world more than I imagined it could have. So much has changed in my life since I flew into Alberta for the first for a tour of the university in April 2008. I am grateful for the experience.

Japan – HRI 2010 Robotics Conference (3 of 3)

Of course, my main reason for visiting Japan was to present a poster of my work at the HRI 2010 robotics conference.

Robovie is one of the many robots being shown and discussed here.

You may remember these guys from my pictures of last year’s Japan visit. They made an appearance again here. These robots are quite expensive as I found out after last year, at over $25,000 each!

An optional bus tour was offered as part of the conference. One part of the tour took us to a grocery store where this robot was demonstrated as a shopping assistant. The robot helped guide an elderly woman through the entrance of the store.

This is me with the famous Ishiguro android. Although it can be very hard to tell, I am the only actual person in this photo. I am looking towards the robot which has been designed almost exactly like its creator.

This concludes my Japan 2010 blog posts. More updates coming soon, including a few photos from my quick stop in San Francisco on the way back from Japan.

Over 2 months since I updated

How pathetic. Anyways, there’s lots that is new, which I will insert here in sections in no particular order!

iPhone

After months of singing the praises of my BlackBerry, I got rid of it and moved to an iPhone. This was an expensive procedure because I am still on a contract with Telus, but selling my old phone and iPod touch helped offset the cost. For me, it’s a much better device that I am happy with. I really wish I could be happy with a BlackBerry for the wide variety of uses I get out of my iPhone, but the manufacturer just doesn’t want to put enough effort into developing the software properly.

Saint John Politics

I am back in Saint John visiting my family for a couple weeks. A few things have changed, but not much, as always. City debates continue to spur over the new Peel Plaza complex, which currently includes a plan to ruin a historic Carnegie Arts Centre building by burying the lower windows so that a tunnel for transporting prisoners can be built. Umm, what?

Academia & Robots

The main reason for my lack of time lately is the amount of work I’ve been putting into my school work. I’m working on a new robot that interacts with people in different ways, though not quite on the level of reading emotions as I previously explored. I did extensive development with my robot, now named PAUL-E, and am now working on a couple submissions to two upcoming conferences, so more travel may not be far away.

New Cell Phone Network

Say what you want about the Canadian cellphone industry, something done right has seemingly accomplished by 2 of the big 3, Telus and Bell. They have launched a new 3rd generation high-speed cellular network which enables them to offer phones that don’t suck, like the iPhone. Rogers offers a similar, compatible network, but it’s only fast in the main cities, whereas Bell and Telus created their network to be the same speed across pretty much most of the country. So far, my experience has been decent, with a few bugs that I hope they work out soon. This network was actually launched several months in advance ahead of the Olympics.

In the United States, people regularly complain about AT&T’s cell service which is the only company officially offering the iPhone in that country. Dropped calls and defaulting to the slower speed network is a regular occurrence in many large cities. Hopefully our networks will continue to be expansive with prices falling more due to increased competition.

That’s all for now. I hope to update my blog more often.

Banff iCORE Summit

From August 20th to 22nd, I attended the iCORE Summit in Banff as one of the students to represent the Interactions Lab. The lab is partially supported by iCORE, and a summit is held yearly to discuss various topics. This year’s theme was security, which proved to be interesting. Accomodations were provided at the Banff Centre, which was an arts centre that has begun to host events for scientific venues as well.

For me, this was also an opportunity to experience Banff in summer time, and take photos!

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Banff’s main street is instantly recognizable to all who have been to the town before. Not visible in this picture are Banff’s city buses. There is actually 3 bus routes running regularly!

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One morning, there was heavy fog and cloud cover. It began to break apart slowly revealing only sections of a mountain in the distance.

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Getting around the Banff Centre was difficult due to the construction of a new building in the centre. The construction workers have the benefit of having the best view of the whole centre, though.

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The Bow River offers many beautiful vistas with mountains in the background.

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This is the same spot on the river looking towards the town, and its bridge.

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Usually, streets are assumed to be two-way unless otherwise stated, but Banff decides to indicate this using two… one-way signs. Cars travelled in both directions on this street.

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The iconic Banff Springs Hotel.

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Provincial flags at the Banff Centre seem to create a mountain slope of their own.

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In this shot, the infamous Hoodoos are visible, which are the rock formations in the middle left part of the photo.

More media coverage!

As more outlets have picked up my Roomba emotional control story, other outlets come forward to cover the story.

Last week, my interview with Dr. Saul Greenberg (who coordinated with my supervisor and myself on this project) was broadcast nationwide on CBC Spark.

Various news sites from around the world spread the word in other languages.

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In German!

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In Japanese!

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In Dutch! And a few more.

I was also contacted for individual interviews for the web sites of Wired and Wired UK.

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In British English!

The Telegraph-Journal from my hometown also ran a story on the front page of their weekly Innovate section, with a very large colour photo.

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My colleagues in the lab were quite amused as they saw me on the floor for this shot. The carpet, thankfully, was very clean. The Roomba in this photo actually has had its vacuum parts removed, so it’s not responsible for the cleanliness. Is a Roomba still a Roomba if it cannot vacuum?

Overall, this media attention has been a wild ride beyond my craziest expectations. I am very happy for the support this idea has received. You can view my complete project page on my web site.

Breakfast Television / Citytv News

This has certainly been a busy and overwhelming week, for good reasons!

Last week, I was contacted by Mike Yawney from Citytv Calgary. He was interested in doing a story about my Stress Roomba project. He had read about it on Engadget and was convinced it would make a fantastic story.

He came to the Interactions Lab on Wednesday with his cameraman, Nick. For an hour and half, I demonstrated my project and we played with my Roomba.

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In this photo, you can see me helping out Mike with the headband as he tries it on. Although there were various malfunctions, it only took a few minutes for the system to start working for him on camera.

The next day, I got a call asking me if I want to appear on Breakfast Television the next morning to answer questions about the project. I agreed. So on Friday morning, I got up at the early hour of 5 AM, got ready and headed downtown.

Little did I know, I got off at the new 6th Street station which had just open for the first time only hours before. The City is redoing their downtown stations to accomodate larger cars.

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I am sitting on the set of BT in this photo! I regret not asking to keep the mug, though they probably don’t give them away anyway. I got a mug now! 🙂

Basically, they showed Mike’s segment on BT and then asked me some questions.

You can see the whole Breakfast Television segment here and also just the pre-recorded news segment here. The photos in this post are courtesy and copyright of Citytv.