Friday, 2 February 2018

ROBOT WARS: San Francisco fights back

Imagine walking down Polk street in San Francisco and getting bumped from behind by a robot delivering pizza. That could have happened before then SF passed a law. Now a human being has to accompany robot deliverers. And only nine are allowed to be on sidewalks at any one time. Other robot incidents have set the city on edge.  A robot-guarding a mall fell into a fountain and drowned himself. It caused an outpouring on the web. But the topper is the robot who guarded a pet shop. He weighed 400 pounds, was 5 feet tall, wired to get lots of information, including photographs and videos He could also summon help if needed. It was offensive to this high crime neighborhood where homeless people camped out. At one point his sensors were cover in sauce and he was kidnapped. When the pet shelter got him back to (we don't know if they paid a ransom) the robot was returned to his tech-creators.

Robot Wars (© BBC)
And that's not all. The city has changed since the tech invasion. More than half the cars that clog the streets are either UBER or LYFT. AirBnB has caused enough problems that they now have to register with the city and have a license to rent out rooms. So do Uber and Lyft. Housing has become so expensive since the tech-boom that a lot of middle-class residents have moved. The center of the town has become more like other major cities:  the ubiquitous haute designer boutiques and expensive, trendy restaurants,.  So much venture-capital money is sloshing around SF that anyone who has a new idea and can sell it, has a chance to cash in. It's the 21st-century gold rush. Techies are swamping the city, home to four of the five giants,

The 19th century Gold Rush and the tech revolution have a lot in common. They both turned the town int the rootin' tootin' place to be. After the1906 earthquake, the city was re-built into one of the most, if not the most, charming, accessible cities in the US. Big enough to have an opera house, lots of museums, a first-rate orchestra and fantastic food. Lots of Europeans came to cook. Including the Basques, who became famous for their cuisine. They loved SF so much they opened a cultural center, which is still there.  The Chinese staked out a part of the town for their own.  Other ethnic groups settled here as well.  Europeans loved this city with its elegant hotels and graceful way of life. And then BAM. Silicon Valley arrived.  And it all changed. Unlike the gold barons who put money into rebuilding the city, many multi-billionaire tech-titans are known for their libertarianism.  And are buying secluded islands in Ne Zealand and preparing for the worst, worst. What do they know that we don't? We need a robot-spy.

Source: an article by Leslie Hooks in the Financial Times weekend.

Next week: The dreaded HOUR

Note: Erkki ate last week's illustration. Nothing goes to waste at Littlemargieproductions.

Robots are coming to our line of work, too. Unnoticed. The cameras have some artificial intelligence (hey, that's a face, let's focus on it!!), and they are often stabilized with active robot-like gimbals that have orientation sensors and motors to keep the camera level at all times. I use both techniques on almost every shoot without even thinking about it. I've been also looking into motion control, which is essentially using a robot to control the camera moves. It adds at least one axis of motion to the capabilities of the gimbal, with precision and repeatability. These systems have existed since the 80's at least, but have been extremely cost-prohibitive. Right now we're at the stage that affordable systems can be built in DIY fashion (yes, i'm making one), but commercial systems still are too expensive for smaller businesses.

- Eki 

PS: The ├╝ber-rich libertarians know that the precariat is aware of their "greed is a virtue" philosophy, and are gathering their pitchforks. Viva la Revolucion, off with the head!

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