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Making a Birdhouse is Like 'Hello World' for a Versatile Factory Robot (2 Videos) 23 23

Posted by Roblimo
from the do-robot-birdhouse-builders-keep-robot-cats-as-pets? dept.
Many millions of American students have been called on to construct a wooden birdhouse as part of a middle- or high-school shop class. To make a birdhouse from wood and nails may not requite advanced carpentry, but it does take eye-hand coordination, object recognition, the ability to lift constituent pieces, and to grasp and wield tools -- and each of those can be broken down further into smaller tasks and skills of the kind that we as humans don't generally have to think about. ("Rotate wrist slightly to account for board angle.") For robots, it's another story: like the computers that run them, robots generally only do what they're told. Industrial robots can do some complex tasks, but they're expensive and complex to program.

Benjamin Cohen is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Pennsylvania working under adviser Maxim Likhachev with a real-world, cheap way to make robots to accomplish a multi-step project with minimal human intervention, which he calls "autonomous robotic assembly." Project Birdhouse -- part of his Ph.D. work, along with teammates Mike Phillips and Ellis Ranter -- is Cohen's effort to create a sort of "Hello, World" for robots. With a combination of a research-platform robot base, off-the-shelf parts, like a nail gun (read: "One not built for robot use"), and software to squeeze greater accuracy out of the system as a whole, he and his colleagues have come up with a robot that can grab a selection of parts, align them properly, and assemble them with nails into a functional birdhouse. QR codes let the robot give the robot a sort of recipe to follow, and the system is smart enough to squawk if it doesn't have the right parts to complete the task. (Check out more video with the robot in action, and a great many photos, sketches, and diagrams illustrating the project's evolution.)

NOTE: We split today's video in half, with both halves running right here, today. This way, if you watch the first video and and want to learn more, you can move on to the second one. And the transcript not only covers both videos, but has "bonus" material that isn't in either one.

Comment: Re:I'd be in favour of something else... (Score 1) 232 232

I don't have a problem with linking to a video as long as you have a transcript, but the fact that "thousands" of people watched them without complaining doesn't prove anything about whether they liked them.

I think we need could have a great discussion, but that first we'd need to go back to Marshall McLuhan's first major book, Understanding Media - - and come forward from there. This is where the saying, "The medium is the message" came from, in a time when "multimedia" was a beat poet doing a recital accompanied by a flute and bongos while psychedelic (a new word back then) images played on a sheet behind the stage.

I think that might make a fun little video piece. If you want to do it, email

Comment: Re:I'd be in favour of something else... (Score 1) 232 232

Less videos on Slashdot. As someone explained a few days ago, Slashdot readers are not business suits, we prefer to read our information. It's just plain faster.

This is the old "Slashdot ran a story that didn't interest me personally" complaint that's been going around since 1999. If you don't want to watch videos, don't watch them. If you want some or all of the information contained in a video, but don't want to watch the video, we give you transcripts.

Slashdot typically runs 20+ stories every day, and around 3 videos per week which may (gasp) go up to 4 or even 5 at some point. Thousands of people watch those videos and seem to like them, while 5 or 10 complain.

On the gripping hand, you seem interested in Bitcoins and that sort of thing. I've had people tell me that stories about digital currency don't interest them, so they don't belong on Slashdot. Ummm..... okay....

The sad secret is that there are many Slashdot readers with different tastes and desires. I figure that if anyone -- including me -- finds 80% of the stories on the site interesting, that's pretty good.

Thanks for caring,

- Rob


Mayday PAC's Benjamin Singer Explains How You can Help Reform American Politics (Video) 232 232

Posted by Roblimo
from the if-it's-our-government-why-doesn't-it-do-what-we-want-it-to-do? dept.
Larry Lessig's Mayday PAC is a SuperPac that is working to eliminate the inherent corruption of having a government run almost entirely by people who manage to raise -- or have their "non-connected" SuperPACs raise -- most of the money they need to run their campaigns. The Mayday PAC isn't about right or left wing or partisan politics at all. It's about finding and supporting candidates who are in favor of something like last year's Government by the People Act. As we noted in our Mayday Pac interview with Larry Lessig last June, a whole panoply of tech luminaries, up to and including Steve Wozniak, are in favor of Mayday PAC.

This interview is being posted, appropriately, just before the 4th of July, but it's also just one day before the Mayday PAC Day of Action to Reform Congress. They're big on calling members of Congress rather than emailing, because our representatives get email by the (digital) bushel, while they get comparatively few issue-oriented phone calls from citizens. So Mayday PAC makes it easy for you to call your Congressional representatives and even, if you're too shy to talk to a legislative aide in person, to record a message Mayday PAC will leave for them after hours.

The five specific pieces of legislation Mayday PAC currently supports are listed at the RepsWith.US/reforms page. Two are sponsored by Republicans, two by Democrats, and one by an Independent. That's about as non-partisan as you can get, so no matter what kind of political beliefs you hold, you can support Mayday PAC with a clear conscience. (Note: the transcript has more information than the video, which is less than six minutes long.)

Starcoder Uses a Multiplayer Game to Teach Programming (Video # 2) 11 11

Posted by Roblimo
from the starcoder-may-soon-be-coming-to-an-internet-near-you dept.
We ran video # 1 about Starcoder yesterday and linked to the project's Kickstarter page. At that time, the project had raised $3221 out of a $4000 goal. Today they're up to $5836, which means they've reached their goal and then some, and they still have four days of Kickstarting to go. Nice! It looks like Starcoder will soon be available to a lot more students than are using it now, and that (hopefully) there will be enough server capacity to accommodate students who want to sign up and play on their own, not necessarily with help from their schools.

To learn more about Starcoder, you may want to check out these video clips on Vimeo that not only show you how the game was developed, but give you a look at how it's played. Note: this is video 2 of 2. The transcript covers both videos, plus some material we were forced to edit out of the videos due to length restrictions.)

Starcoder Uses a Multiplayer Game to Teach Programming (Video # 1) 37 37

Posted by Roblimo
from the bolding-programming-where-no-kids-have-programmed-before dept.
Starcoder, says the project's Kickstarter page, "is a multiplayer online space action game that teaches kids coding as they play." Their page also points out that it's easier to learn as a group than it is to learn alone. The Starcoder Kickstarter project has collected $3221 at this writing, out of a $4000 goal, and they have until June 17 to come up with the rest. So please take a look at Starcoder, see how it works and why it is unquestionably a more interesting way to learn programming basics than the traditional "highly theoretical and (frankly) boring manner."

Starcoder starts with Blockly. Then, as students advance to higher game levels, moves to JavaScript. Yes, there are levels. Also competitive play, since Starcoder is a massively multiplayer online game. In fact, a big reason for the Kickstarter project is to expand server capability so that kids can play from home, not just in school or during after-school computer classes. One more thing to note: The Win2Learn team behind Starcoders is composed of professional educators and designers. They've been working on STEM education for a while. Want to see some of the thinking behind Starcoder? They have some video clips on Vimeo that not only show you how the game was developed, but give you a good look at how it's played. Does it sound good? Do you want more kids to have access to an ever-improving Starcoder? Then you know what to do. (Note: This is video 1 of 2. The second one will run tomorrow. The transcript covers both videos, plus some material we were forced to edit out of the videos due to length restrictions.)

WA Gov. Sides With Microsoft: Philanthropy-Funded K-12 CS Education Now the Law 166 166

Posted by timothy
from the top-down-decision dept.
theodp writes: During public hearings on WA State's House Bill 1813, which took aim at boys' historical over-representation in K-12 computer classes, the Office of the WA State Superintendent of Public Instruction voiced concerns that by relying on the generosity of corporations, wealthy individuals, and nonprofits to fund STEM, computer science, and technology programs, learning opportunities would be limited to a small group of students, creating disparity of opportunity. "If this is a real priority," pleaded Chris Vance, "fund it fully" (HB 1813, like the White House K-12 CS plan, counts on philanthropy to make up for tax shortfalls). But legislators in the WA House and Senate — apparently more swayed by the pro-HB 1813 testimony of representatives from Microsoft and Microsoft-backed TEALS and — overwhelmingly passed the bill, sending it to Governor Jay Inslee for his signature. Not to worry. On Wednesday, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Inslee, who was perhaps influenced by the we-need-to-pass-HB-1813 blogging of Microsoft General Counsel and Board member Brad Smith, who coincidentally is not only responsible for Microsoft's philanthropic work, but was also co-chair of Gov.-elect Inslee's transition team. The WA state legislative victory comes less than 24 hours after the San Francisco School Board voted to require CS instruction beginning with preschool.
Open Source

David Revoy Makes Open Source Art With Open Source Tools (Video) 13 13

Posted by Roblimo
from the culture-and-technology-meet-and-embrace-each-other dept.
This is our second video excerpt from Erik Moeller's In this one, Erik talks to professional artist Devid Revoy, of Toulouse, France. David distributes his art under an open source license, and he uses open source tools (especially Krita) to make it. Here's a twist for you: if you like David's webcomic, Pepper & Carrot, you can become a patron, just like Catherine de' Medici in the 16th century. And, of course, just like the people who looked at art sponsored by Catherine but did not support it financially, you are free to simply enjoy David's work. To learn more about David, his art, his business model, and the tools he uses to make his art, go to Passionate Voices Episode 2: David Revoy. That's where you'll find Erik's full-length interview with David, along with a transcript of that interview.

Linux World Domination Creates Shortage of Linux-Skilled Workers (2 Short Videos) 72 72

Posted by Roblimo
from the yes-we-know-it's-really-gnu/linux dept.
Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin doesn't use the phrase 'world domination' in these videos, but he could. He lists enough computing niches where GNU/Linux is the major player -- from supercomputers to the next generation of automotive systems -- that with or without world domination, Linux has obviously become an extremely important, widely used operating system that has grown amazingly since Linus Torvalds first shared his humble kernel with the world in 1991. With great popularity has come a great need for people who know how to administer and otherwise work with Linux, so the Linux Foundation is developing new courses in tandem with massive open online course (MOOC) provider edX. Unlike some of the Linux Foundation's previous course offerings, their edX ones are free to audit, and the cost for certification (if you want a cred, not just knowledge) is lower than many IT certification tests and certificates.

These videos (both visible today) were made remotely, with Timothy Lord at one end in Austin, TX, and Jim Zemlin at the other end in Tokyo, Japan. Their sound quality suffers from the distance involved, but they are generally intelligible -- and, of course, you can always choose to read the transcript instead of watching the videos.

Comment: Re:NO! (Score 2) 88 88

by Roblimo (#49850871) Attached to: Dealing with Google's 'Mobilegeddon' Algorithm Changes (Video)

You're kidding, right? The show/hide transcript links have been in the same place all along. Is that one click really that hard on you? What about the click it takes to watch the video you don't want to watch?

If you don't want to watch videos on Slashdot, don't. We run three of them in the average week, and 20+ text pieces per day.


Dealing with Google's 'Mobilegeddon' Algorithm Changes (Video) 88 88

Posted by Roblimo
from the human-optimization-is-better-than-search-engine-optimization dept.
'Mobilegeddon is here,' said one article I saw about SEO. Others have been similarly doom and gloom about Google's new emphasis on how well a site functions on mobile devices as a factor in search rankings. Brian Sutter, director of marketing for Wasp Barcode Technologies, lives and breathes this stuff -- and doesn't consider Google's algorithm change to be any sort of 'geddon.' He thinks you should be making a better mobile website because a growing percentage of your customers (and his) are viewing the WWW on mobile devices, not because of Google.

Brian's not interested in site design and visibility because his company does SEO or designs websites. Rather, it's because he, as Wasp's marketing guy, wants their site to sit high in Google's rankings if someone is looking for bar code printers or scanners, and he's happy to share what he's learned with Wasp's customers and anybody else who's interested as a goodwill thing. Maybe you aren't directly interested in operating a website or trying to make one popular, but knowing what's going on in the SEO world (for real, as opposed to the flummery often associated with the letters 'SEO') may help you deal with your company's marketing people -- and could be valuable knowledge if you ever decide to start your own business.

Comment: Re:The videos are bad (Score 1) 160 160

by Roblimo (#49828177) Attached to: Cable Companies Hate Cord-Cutting, but It's Not Going Away (Video)

By "nobody" I think you mean you. Videos draw far fewer comments than text stories. This one, for example, has over 10K views and is still climbing steadily, vs. only 114 total comments.

Your login hassles: try emailing - that ought to get you some help.Probably not with the 'fucking' logon system, but with the regular one...

Comment: Re:Some videos (Score 1) 160 160

by Roblimo (#49828167) Attached to: Cable Companies Hate Cord-Cutting, but It's Not Going Away (Video)

"These same points were made back when Slashdot started video'ing people, to no great effect. Vinegar is needed to catch your attention. You have the perfect opportunity to use 'directed practice based on feedback' which would turn you into a world-class videographer in a couple of years."

Thank you for your words of wisdom. If I want to do world-class videography, I will. But that is not the same as editing (and sometimes making) simple interview videos for a low hourly rate. And being Slashdot, I assure you that sophisticated videos with slick transitions and perhaps a music deck behind the dialogue would draw complaints about how they are "too fancy." I know. I made some. Amusing reactions.

I'll let (the late) Ricky Nelson sing for us:

I'm 62 and on disability, and one day my heart will go BOING! again and I'll be gone. Meanwhile, I do these Slashdot videos for fun and side money. If anybody *appreciated* more complex videos, I'd make them, but I suspect a true reader survey would show that good, full-length transcripts and short, simple videos would be the most popular choice. Or maybe "no videos," a choice to which I'd respond, "So don't watch them!"

You say: "If a video doesn't meet your requirements, it's impossible to tell *why* they don't meet them..." I said you could email video submissions and suggestions directly to me. I (lamely) obfuscated my email address, so here it is in the clear: If you send me a video submission or suggestion and I turn it down, I will almost certainly tell you why.

Did I need to be harsher to get your attention? :) Slather some vinegar on you? :)

Nah. That would be rude. I'm going to listen to some Primus and go to bed.


The perversity of nature is nowhere better demonstrated by the fact that, when exposed to the same atmosphere, bread becomes hard while crackers become soft.