The Shapes of Thought

An interesting sci-art collaboration between University of Calgary researchers and artists Alan Dunning and Paul Woodrow, attempting to visualize thought in 3D space. They completed a number of projects under the umbrella of the Einstein's Brain Project; this one titled The Shapes of Thought.

The project asked participants to recall traumatic events from their past. They were asked to emote anger, and other primary emotions. Each participant was wired to EEG and EKG sensors and monitored [for as long as 8-14 hours]. The resulting information was visualized as still images using Iris Explorer and visualized in realtime, interactive space using specially developed data acquisition modules.

Other images on the site include that of a man repeatedly asked to recall an incident in which he was severely injured, including a period of agitation, and couple of animations.

See more.



This past weekend I went to RoboGames. There were many squee moments (PLEN was there! so cute! etc.), many pictures taken (which are trapped on my phone for the moment), and many things learned while wandering around among the room full of dads and their kids.

Maybe the most important lesson was that although some robots are designed with nice goals like helping the elderly, mixing cocktails or enabling the paralysed to walk, what the crowd was most interested in was watching robots tear each other apart in combat. I'm not sure what this says about humanity - or me, since I admit to cheering when they crashed into each other and parts went flying. At least I had a conversation with an engineer about cognitive robotics as well (he wasn't applying it though). And observed that a good way for artists to make money nowadays is to make their creations coin-operated.

More later, when I get my photos, but here's a pic from the web site of the superheavyweights (300 lbs or so) in combat. Yay robots!

x-posted to Omni Brain


Artificial Brain Parts

From Sensopac, who've announced plans to build an artificial cerebellum for robots:

Breakthroughs and Innovations at a Glance:
+ Developing a theoretical understanding of the basis of cognition
+ Building a machine that can explore its own environment under its own guidance
+ Understanding how to abstract cognitive notions through a self-discovery which can bootstrap cognitive development
+ Developing principles that are applicable to any sensorimotor system, even those that are not well understood.
+ Methodologies for building systems-level models that remain biologically relevant
+ Developing methodologies for reverse-engineering high-level function such as haptic cognition
+ Understanding the contribution of key brain areas such as the cerebellum in behaviour and finding application for that knowledge in artificial systems
+ Developing technologies to simulate large complex systems in real-time and so allowing these systems to be applied in artificial machines

Those are pretty amazing breakthroughs. Understanding cognition and simulating it in real time, wow. Only, that hasn't happened yet and there are many people trying to do similar things without success.

No matter, BBC News decided to report on one Sensopac goal of building an artificial cerebellum (nevermind that nobody can presently model that number of neurons and neural systems, but technology moves fast) for robots, with the future goal of improving their motor skills.

I do hope some of these breakthroughs are achieved in Sensopac's four-year quest. "A theoretical understanding of the basis of cognition" and an artificial cerebellum sound fab.

Read more.
Read more from BBC on the artificial cerebellum.
Read more from BBC on robot ethics. "Imagine if some people treat androids as if the machines were their wives," Park Hye-Young of the ministry's robot team told the AFP news agency. [What does that mean?] "Others may get addicted to interacting with them just as many internet users get hooked to the cyberworld."

Gr8 that the cyberworld delivers infomacnuggets like this. FTW and bring on the sensitive robots!

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