Boston Dynamics’ Latest Quadrobot using Velodyne LiDAR

Boston Dynamics have shown off their first robot since being acquired by Google, and it has one new component that’s very interesting.

On top of its head is a Velodyne HDL-32 LiDAR. They appear to be using it for obstacle mapping, that would then feed into their pathfinding algorithms. Those algorithms are interesting in their own right – a legged robot like this can avoid obstacles of certain sizes by simply stepping over them. The solution space is therefore pretty difficult to distill down into 2 dimensions.

I would love to know more about all of this, but there doesn’t appear to have been a press release and Boston Dynamics are typically pretty secretive given their clients include the US Army.

These guys are doing some very impressive work at the moment and it’ll be interesting to see what technologies come about using these robots as a starting point.

elevator_new

Everything is Complicated

It often amazes me how some things which appear trivial on the surface can actually lead to deep optimization problems. Take for example the programming challenge, Elevator Saga. Just make the lifts take the little people where they want to go. Seems easy, right?

It is – on the surface, and for the first few levels. But when you start getting more traffic and multiple lifts, things get very complicated. There even comes a point where lifts need to know the state of other lifts. Do you have lifts run in “express” mode, skipping some of the lower floors? When should they make the decision to return to ground? Do you pass by a waiting passenger if you’re ascending / descending at full speed?

 

JS1k Entry

I stumbled across a JS1k entry I made in 2010. It’s not much, but it has pretty colours. The competition aims to fit as much functionality as possible into 1 kilobyte of javascript code. I wrote a plasma zoomer with colours in 788 bytes (when minified).

Your browser does not support the canvas tag. This is a static example of what would be seen.

Photos

I’ve finally added some photos. I mucked around with many different kinds of galleries for far too long. I ended up ditching the lot and just using photos in a “The Big Picture” style big-picture-dump.

I might split things into people/places/animals or something similar if I upload enough to warrant it. I have just a smidge over 10,000 photos from the last few years that I’ve never really had a good look at or edited, so if I’m feeling motivated there might be quite a few more, and that might warrant a more detailed set of galleries or something. We will see. I think I am a decent amateur photographer given the general utter lack of practice – the later shots on my backpacking trip have a much higher good:bad ratio and are generally pretty good, but that’s due to practice and the interesting things there were to see at the time. I’m very rusty now. I should shoot more.

This one below is of our food tents and the mountains near Salkantay, Peru. 30s at ISO800, and my camera left hot pixels scattered everywhere to be cleaned up. I’m most happy with the colours in this one and didn’t do anything except for cleaning up hot pixels and a slight contrast adjustment.

IMGP7335

Hello there.

This is the beginnings of a website that I’ll use to collect all of my online presence bits and pieces. This time I’ve actually purchased a domain, so I’ve no excuse to be lazy about it. I’d also like to put thoughtful devlogs up for all of the wonderful side projects I’ll work on. Hopefully my motivation to complete the projects does not wane.

Buses

Buses in South America can be hit-and-miss. Sometimes you pay good money for a reclining seat in the hope that you’ll get some sleep, only to have the guy next to you bump you with his elbow every five minutes, or bring his goat along. Other times you get the cheapest public stops-everywhere bus and it’s perfectly comfortable.

On this occasion, I got a reasonably (by South American standards) expensive bus from Puno to Arequipa, Peru. The trip was uneventful for the first hour, at which point we stopped in Juliaca to pick up more passengers. This isn’t abnormal – even the most expensive “express” buses in Peru will make a few stops along the way to drop off and pick up people. That said, you don’t normally remain stationary for a full hour.

After we had spent our full hour sitting in Juliaca with the driver and his assistant wandering the street spruiking for blow-in passengers by yelling “Arequipa! Arequipa! Vamos!”, I began to get irritated. Indeed, driver, vamos. We waited until the bus was completely filled – I don’t think there was a one hour limit on his spruiking routine. Come one, come all – yes, bring your screaming children and goats, that’ll be just fine.

During our hour-long wait, the following occurred:

  1. Various vendors boarded the bus offering fried trout, bread, cheese, fried cheese, mandarins and other assorted snacks. An typical conversation with a seller and myself would go like this:

    “Senor, mandarinas?”
    “No Gracias.”
    “Mandarinas?”
    “No Gracias.”
    “Senor, Mandarinas?”
    “No”
    “Senor, por favor, mandarinas?”
    “No! Callate!”
    “…Mandarinas?”

  2. A fistfight erupted with the spruikers for two buses (one of them being our very own spruiker) fighting over the fare of a slow moving older gentleman. The yelling combatants barged each other aggressively, jockeying to get in front of one another to get right in the old man’s face and literally scream centimetres from his face about how their bus service was more relaxing, comfortable and affordable. The jostling of the spruikers became more and more intense until there was a strong two-handed push offered, which was responded to with a head-butt. From there it was on for young and old – literally – the old man threw a few punches himself, though I can’t think of why he would want to do that. Maybe he was frustrated with the fact that two men grabbed him and literally screamed into his face for several minutes. Anyway, a corn stand was knocked over and nobody was seriously hurt. I don’t think the old man ended up catching a bus, though.

When we finally left Juliaca, a Catholic Preacher who was apparently disguised as a human rose from his seat, raised his bible above his head and literally thumped it as he preached. It was an extended sermon, which lasted for at least 45 minutes. While my Spanish is pretty awful, I managed to catch the following roughly translated gems. I’m sure I missed the best bits, but in many ways I’m quite pleased that I couldn’t understand most of what he said.

  • “Homosexuals don’t belong in Peru and they should all be expelled from the country”
  • “Jesus is the only person that anyone can truly love”
  • “Aborted babies all go to hell”

Following our delightful sermon (which I largely ignored by listening to music), another guy stood up, this time with his own headset microphone (kill me now). He continued to explain the basics of cancer: “You know Pavarotti, the singer? Yeah, he died of pancreatic cancer.” He listed all the different types of cancers, and explained that eating too much spicy food, meat, or drinking too much all led to cancer! It was all obviously very scientific and thoroughly explained. “Anyone on the bus with cancer, raise your hand.” Guess what, folks with your hands raised?! He had the cure, to every┬átype of cancer! And he had chosen to sell it just to us, this special lot, on a five-dollar, six-hour bus ride! Medical community be damned! The “cure” was some type of plant extract and a couple of poor cancer-riddled suckers bought their $2.50 treatment. I’m impressed that he was able to convince anyone to buy it, but he had a microphone so I guess he exuded an air of legitimacy. And the people with cancer were desperate and being exploited.

When cancer man finally sat down, we were ten minutes from Arequipa, and I was finally able to enjoy the bus trip.