Designing visual systems to make sense of complex data. Figuring out how community health workers can be more effective using mobile tools. Studying human moral judgement through the lens of cognitive and neural mechanisms. 

See what else the 2013 PopTech Science Fellows are up to.

Glowing umbrellas and art without authorship

The modern performance company Pilobolus and MIT’s Distributed Robotics Laboratory teamed up at PopTech 2012 along with several hundred volunteers for a collaborative art excercise. Guided by a camera fixed on a towering crane, the volunteers moved around holding umbrellas fixed with LED lights to spontaneously create dramatic colorful formations in a darkened outdoor amphitheater. 

The modern performance company Pilobolus and MIT’s Distributed Robotics Laboratory teamed up at PopTech 2012 along with several hundred volunteers for a collaborative art excercise. Guided by a camera fixed on a towering crane, the volunteers moved around holding umbrellas fixed with LED lights to spontaneously create dramatic colorful formations in a darkened outdoor amphitheater. The results are stunning.

When a Robot Signs a Bill: A Brief History of the Autopen 

“Although Bush set up the legal argument for autopen bill signing, he never used the device to enact legislation. Obama was the first to do so, signing an extension of the PATRIOT Act via autopen while in Europe. (Kind of fitting that a robot re-signed into law an act that represents the tenuous nature of technology, privacy, and the role of government.) Some lawmakers objected to the move, but no serious legal challenge to auto-signing bills has ever surfaced.”

(via new-aesthetic)

That makes us think of…the human touch of a robot’s hand.

Paul, the artistic robot

jkottke:

A painter who lost his passion for art after going into treatment for a mental health issue, Patrick Tresset, sought to recapture his creativity by creating a robot who could draw in his style.

tresset.png

“When we draw, the difficulty is not in making the lines. The difficulty is in the perception of the subject and the perception of the drawing in progress.” But sometimes, it may help to make it seem that the robot has difficulty in making the lines—Tresset has found that people feel more empathy for the machines when they make human-esque mistakes like crooked or tilted lines. (He calls this “clumsy robotics.”) Humans are inclined to want to identify with robots, especially those with faces: Give a person a bot, and he or she will probably name it. But why is that connection important in robots that draw? Tresset believes that if the person being sketched feels something for the machine wielding the pen, he or she will find the 30-minute sketching process “more touching.” Plus, if the sitter assigns a personality to the robot, it might alter the human’s emotional response to the final product.

It’s an interesting feedback loop the robot creates: mechanically induced faults and artificial humanity create empathy in the subject which translates to that genuine emotion being captured by the robot in the sketch.

Patrick Tresset (PopTech 2011) and Frederic Fol Leymarie (PopTech 2011) direct the Aikon-II project, which uses computational modeling and robotics to replicate the sketching performed by a human hand. 

Here’s a short video about Aikon-II (predecessor of Paul) from PopTech 2011. Aikon-II sketched over 40 portraits of different PopTech participants. 

twicr:

This week in Kickstarter robots: steampunk bots that deliver flowers by artist Barry McWilliams.

Who’s Trustworthy? A Robot Can Help Teach Us

How do we decide whether to trust somebody?

An unusual new study of college students’ interactions with a robot has shed light on why we intuitively trust some people and distrust others. While many people assume that behaviors like avoiding eye contact and fidgeting are signals that a person is being dishonest, scientists have found that no single gesture or expression consistently predicts trustworthiness.

But researchers from Northeastern University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell recently identified four distinct behaviors that, together, appear to warn our brains that a person can’t be trusted.

The findings, to be published this month in the journal Psychological Science, may help explain why we are sometimes quick to like or dislike a person we have just met. More important, the research could one day be used to develop computer programs that can rapidly assess behavior in airports or elsewhere to flag security risks.

PopTech 2012 speaker David DeStenothe study’s lead author, is currently a professor of psychology at Northeastern University where he examines the mechanisms of the mind that shape social behavior.

Image: Stuart Bradford

Watch now: Eben Upton, founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, shows how he is hooking a new generation of kids on computer programming. “I remember sitting down with my wife for dinner…and we had this sudden, appalling realization that we had promised 600,000 people that we would build them a $25 dollar computer.”

Robot surfboard tracks great white sharks off the coast of California

What does this mean, apart from awesome? It means, you can get a free iPhone app to follow these (up to 6m+) babies around. 

Sharks in your pocket.

Way better than Polly Pocket.  

(via mad-as-a-marine-biologist)