Category Archives: Engineering

Are You Ready for the Moxi Robot During Your Next Hospital Stay?

Robots – I came across the article “Moxi Prototype from Diligent Robotics Starts Helping Out in Hospitals” this morning. The Moxi is a robot from Diligent Robotics. Moxi is being piloted it right now. As they say about Moxi on the company website:

Moxi is a friendly AI healthcare robot that serves as a vital supporting member of healthcare professional teams by conducting the team’s non-patient facing logistical tasks, so the staff has more time to focus on patient care. 

We were inspired to create Moxi to help support clinical staff members in hospitals with their fast paced and demanding roles. Clinical staff balance patient care with massive loads of manual logistical responsibilities, such as fetching and restocking supplies or setting up patient rooms for new admissions. With an extra hand from Moxi, who autonomously completes those manual logistical tasks end-to-end without assistance, clinical staff focus on what they want to do and what they, as caring human beings, are best at: direct patient care.

So don’t look for Moxi to perform your next operation. It is there to help bring items from storage to patient rooms. Those non-medical, logistical tasks.

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This is Diligent Robotics second iteration of the product, they previously had Poli. I have to say that part of what caught my eye with this article was 1) the fact that the CEO and co-founder Andrea Thomaz is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. I am an EE alumnus of UT Austin. And 2) that the company is based in Austin, TX, where my home is.

Part of what impressed me about this robot was how many off-the-shelf component parts they have used to assemble the new Moxi. That says to me that the robotics industry is beginning mature, and more robots will be appearing soon among us. Certainly having robots freeing people from the mundane logistics tasks will allow more focus on patient care.

On the other side of this advancement in tech is the potential displacement of staff that such robots will cause. However, with the costs of health care constantly increasing, finding ways of reducing costs is inevitable.

I will be very curious to hear how the pilots of Moxi go.

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Would You Upload Your Memories to a Computer After You are Gone?

I don’t know if this is creepy or just a sign of the future.

The startup Nectome, a company in California founded by computer scientist Michael McCanna and engineer Robert McIntyre, is working towards preserving your memories. They plan to do this by preserving your brain after death and then mapping its connectome—the web of synapses that connect neurons. While the company has raised more than $1 (US) million for further research, their plan is not without controversy.

Assuming this was affordable and it works, would you consider preserving your memories?

See the article “Would You Want Your Memories Uploaded to a Computer After You Die?” if you want to learn more.

A Space elevator is Being Launched in Orbit Today​?

Space – Yes, a space elevator is being launched into orbit today, but don’t get your hopes up for a ride to space.

This is only a scale model for testing purposes. The model will consist of two cube sats (roughly 4″ on a side) connected together by a 10-meter steel cable. A container with an internal motor will move along the cable between the satellites. This experiment is being conducted by Shizuoka University in Japan.

While we are many years away from a true space elevator, once in place they will bring significantly lower costs to putting materials into orbit. While they were thought to be impossible when first proposed, today’s modern materials, such as carbon nanotubes, may make them a reality one of these days. If you are interested, read the article “A Japanese Company is About to Test a Tiny Space Elevator… in Space“.

Cool or Creepy?

Robots – I saw the short video above on “Video Friday: Lifelike Robot Heads, and More” published by IEEE Spectrum. The pair of synchronized heads, one with a human skin, one without, are built by Engineered Arts of Cornwall, UK. The robotic head looks and acts remarkably lifelike.

This second video show a differnt Engineered Arts project and a little more of what goes into these robots.

While these are robots intended for entertainment purposes, the results is very impressive. Given the stage of these robots today, one wonders where we will be in 20 years. In 50 years.

What Are Today’s Top Programming Languages?

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I came across the article “The 2018 Top Programming Languages” in the IEEE Spectrum (The IEEE’s monthly publication) website today that talked about which programming languages are the most popular today. The chart above (borrowed from their article) shows that Python is the top language.

Given how much I have seen about Python lately that does not surprise me. I have to admit that I have written a little Python and find it gives you the instant gratification (i.e. no compiling) of Perl, with the power of C/C++.

I was surprised to see C still so high on the list. I always enjoyed programming in C and teaching it to others. What surprised me the most was Assembly appearing as number 10 on the list. I spent a lot of time programming in assembly when I was an engineer at Texas Instruments in the mid-70s. I also taught many students 8086 assembly language while on the faculty of St. Edward’s University. I think for me assembly is the programming language (well, languages – TI 960, TI 990 and 8086) that enjoyed working in the most.

With all of today’s High Level Languages it surprises me that a significant number of programmers still think assembly is so important.

Tech-Oriented​ Crossword Puzzles

IEEE – I only recently came across this tech-oriented crossword puzzle published each week by IEEE USA InSight. As they say on the website:

Try your hand at our weekly engineering- and technology-themed crossword puzzles. Every Wednesday, we will post a new puzzle — authored by renowned crossword puzzle writer Myles Mellor — to test your skill and knowledge.

Crossword puzzles are not one of my interests, but I know they are for many. If you are one of those and you are interested in technology and engineering, these may be just what you are looking for.

macOS New App Release – Calcline 4.3

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Product AnnouncementsTension Software of Milano, Italy has released Calcline 4.3, the Mac math calculator in a small stripe. Calcline allows you to have a powerful algebra solver in small stripe window taking just a small portion of your Mac screen. It opens in a flash ready to be used.

You can use it for simple additions or for complex formula using and assigning variables and constants. Variables and constants can be managed and assigned in an intuitive to use table (in a separate window) with simple clicks. Performed calculations can be displayed in a separate log window (content retained over re-launches).

Calcline offers an array of functionalities to help you work in a fast and effective way. You can work with all the variables and constants in a separate window, creating, deleting assigning them with click and edit. You can also create and assign variables via calcline assignment x=…

You can specify precision display up to 16 decimal positions, work in radians or degree, and have always available a popup to paste (without errors) all the available formulas, and defined variables and constants. You can have the variable and constant values displayed inside the main stripe windows
If you need detailed instructions Calcline has a PDF User Guide included (as any application created by Tension Software)

Any performed calculations can be saved inside a log. You can select to show step-by-step calculation or just the result. Log content is retained over re-launch of the application. At any time you can reset it. Variables and constants can be displayed also in a compact form inside the main calc window.

Calcline works with your international preferences settings (as an example it uses ‘,’ for decimals or ‘.’ depending on your country. You can force at any time the value you like via the preferences.

It works also as a service to _all_ the other app you have installed on your Mac! You just select a math expression in any other app you have and from the service menu (available in any application on OS X) you paste the result!

Using it in an advanced way, Calcline offers mathematical expressions with an infinite level of parenthesis to nest expressions and large selections of math functions as:
square root, cube root, trigonometric sine, trigonometric cosine, trigonometric tangent, trigonometric arcsine, trigonometric arccosine, trigonometric arctangent, hyperbolic sine, hyperbolic cosine, hyperbolic tangent, hyperbolic arcsine, hyperbolic arccosine, hyperbolic arctangent, natural logarithm, base 10 logarithm, exponent base e, exponent base 2, exponent base 10, absolute, ceil, floor, factorial computation.

Features:

  • Opens in a flash, it’s Mac native code only for Mac only (no cross-platform crap inside).
  • Uses small stripe windows that let you still focus on the other task you are working on.
  • Evaluates mathematical expressions with parentheses, nested functions, variables and constants
  • Easy to use and effective
  • Variable creation and reference inside expressions are very easy using an interactive table.
  • Constant table with editable values
  • Variables and constants values are retained over different runs
  • Expressions solved optionally step by step showing all the mathematical passages.
  • Uses a very small window, expandable if necessary to show vars/consts .
  • Offers calculation service to other Apps, just selecting an expression and choosing ‘Calc With Calcline’ from the services menu.
  • Based on a custom fast calculation engine developed by Tension Software on macOS.
  • Uses long double calculation (High precision with up to 16 decimal digit precision)
  • Popup for fast introduction of variables and constants in the formula
  • DEG and RAD calculation for trigonometric functions
  • Numeric format customizable depending on the user needs and country
  • Values and position retained over relaunches
  • Embedded PDF user guide

New in this release:

  • Random function
  • Bug fixes
  • Various optimizations
  • macOS 10.13 Sierra optimized

Minimum Requirements:

  • Requires macOS 10.10 or higher
  • Optimized for macOS 10.13 High Sierra
  • 7.6 MB

Calcline 4.3 is just $4.99 USD (or an equivalent amount in other currencies. The app is available worldwide through the Mac App Store in the Productivity category.

Japan, Tokyo – Sony Archives

When looking for someplace within walking distance of my hotel I came across the Sony Archives. The small museum is located at 6-6-39 Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo. The archive collection is managed by Sony, is free and is open to the public, but it does require a reservation ( +81 (0) 3-5448-4455 ).

Sony was founded in the wake of world War II in the fall of 1946. The Sony Archives is not large. You can easily browse through it in about an hour. Many products are on display, including the prototype electric rice cooker that was their first product.

If you are interested in more history of Sony, the Podcast Tech Stuff had a series of three episodes (November 2, 9, & 16 of 2017) that give a good background story. You can find them on the iTunes site.

I would not recommend going out of your way to visit the Archives, but if you are in the area and have a little free time it is an interesting walk through elecronics history.


See my other Food & Location articles


 

Will Robots Cause Job Loss?

Robots – I came across this video today. It was published to YouTube back in November of 2017. While I think it brings up a number of good points, I am still concerned that the increasing introduction of robots and automation will have a detrimental effect on jobs. While I do agree that automation will create new jobs, I fear that the bulk of the new jobs created will be lower paying than those that are eliminated.

I guess only time will tell. All we can do, as far as I can see, is to prepare through continuing education. It is also important for students to choose their professions after some consideration of the future work environment. I do hope that High School councilors are equipped to guide these students into what will turn out to be long-term professions.

How does Science Fiction Impact Innovation?

I came across the article “Does Science Fiction Really Drive Innovation?” this morning and found it very interesting. I would have said with more force that the answer was clearly “YES” before I read the article. Now, I am more likely to agree with the author – Science Fiction and Innovation really go hand in hand.

I still contend though that science fiction, in general, is likely to instill in kids and young adults reading or watching it an interest in science that ultimately contributes to innovation. It would be interesting to see how many students who pursue careers in science have read or watched science fiction as opposed to say those who pursued law or history. If that study doesn’t exist someone in academia should take it on.