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Category: Aside (page 1 of 3)

Reminding myself of the possibility of improvising

This post marks a change within this blog.

Although I have written about things other than robots before here, it has been a long time since I wrote about anything.  When I finished my PhD I resolved to blog again, but, of course, that isn’t what happened.  Instead, I had some time off and then threw myself into sessional teaching.  There have been benefits, for example my decision to do that allowed me to apply for and gain an Early Career Development Fellowship at Curtin, but I since the beginning of this year I have found, or made, no time to blog.

Today I’m trying something new.  Although I will often still try to find images to pepper my posts, and I will continue to write about robots from time to time, I am freeing myself up to improvise a bit more in this space.  In part, this is because yesterday evening I reminded myself that it is possible to stand in front of a small group of people and improvise a talk.  If I can do that, then I think it might also be a good idea to learn to write more freely as well!

This post is therefore dedicated to the Web206 students who were my captive audience yesterday, as I improvised a lecture for them.  I hope that anyone visiting this site who has listened to the lecture since (because, yes, it was recorded too) will forgive the conversational section at the end.  I tried to make my discussion with the students in the lecture theatre work for the recording, but I don’t think that I was completely successful.


I realise that I have neglected my blog, but I haven’t seen any inspiring robots recently (although I have today, so there’ll be a post on that one soon).  I have, of course, also been busy writing my thesis.  However, I have now been tagged by Gwyneth at Groteskology to share seven things (I really hesitate to use the word ‘fact’ now, in reference to anything, ever) about me, so here goes:

  1. I’m a scientist… no wait, I’m an artist… oh, hold on a minute… what am I?
    I am confused!
  2. I’m a dog person…


    oh, but I like cats too… and bunnies… and birds… and geckos… and crickets…
    Ok, I’m an animal person.  Put me in a context with people and animals and I’ll be the one talking to the animals.

  3. I procrastinate a lot.  I’m procrastinating right now.  I like to think it’s because I suffer (see, I must be an artist) from writers block, but I’m beginning to think it’s just because I’m plain lazy (hmm, and back to science).
  4. I get wound up about things because I’m impatient, and I want to know now!  Currently I’m waiting to here about a full paper I submitted to a conference.  It’s being peer reviewed for publication in the proceedings.  This is therefore a serious distraction, resulting in much procrastination and a huge desire to continuously check email.
  5. I watch a lot of television, but almost always unreality TV.
  6. I’m beginning to think this list is really boring, but that’s in part because…
  7. I used to do lots of things, now I just write my thesis, and when I’m not doing that I’m worrying about not writing my thesis.  It’s not a good way to be, and it’ll be over by the end of July unless something really awful occurs.

I almost decided not to post this (oh no, this is thing no. 8, I suppose) but what the hell.  So, my life is boring (9), but one day soon maybe it won’t be so bad (10??)!  I’m certainly not going to tag anyone else, they’ll only show me up.

A different take on telepresence

For a completely different, and also more technical, viewpoint on those telepresence robots I was talking about a couple of posts ago please see: So, Where’s My Robot.

Just what a robot needs: sarcasm software

This is, at least from my point of view, an important development for robotics reported in the New Scientist.

Programmers have now managed to write “sentiment-analysing” software that has been trained, through collating a bank of comments judged by human readers to contain sarcastic content, to recognise sarcasm.  For some reason I find it amusing that the comments were taken from Amazon.com product reviews, as well as from Twitter.

I would assume that adding this ability, to analyse the contents of a statement for sarcastic components, to the existing ability of some robots to read tones of voice, might bring us a step closer to building robot companions that can take part in life more fully by appreciating all of the joys of human(like) existence.  After all, without an understanding of sarcasm how could we expect robots to understand comedy.  “You know in another life, maybe we could have been brothers…” (Black Books)

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