WeMo Wobbles

WeMo Wobbles (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 10-29-15)

Let me first start by apologizing to all of you great Augusta Tek readers.  I’m not in a very good mood today.  To be honest, I’m very frustrated right now.  My first foray into the world of the Smart Home is not going well.  Last week, I bought a set of the WeMo + Osram Lightify Garden Spot lights to spruce up our Halloween decorations.  These lights are not cooperating.  As a matter of fact, they just flat out refuse to work.

Naturally, I would like to blame the lights.  The instructions only require six steps, the most complicated of which involves downloading the WeMo App from the app store.  The setup process is literally this simple:  1) Plug in the lights 2) Plug in the WeMo link 3) Connect your phone WiFi to the WeMo Link 4) Open the WeMo app 5) Press button to connect 6) Have fun!  To their credit, the WeMo folks didn’t leave much room for human error when developing this process.  Even so, something has gone awry.

I’ve been in the technology business long enough to know that if something isn’t working, it’s probably my fault.  There are too many syntax errors in my past to believe otherwise.  However, I don’t believe that I’m a total technology idiot either.  I have an engineering Ph.D., and I own an IT support company.  One would think that I would be reasonably competent when configuring a light bulb!

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Stuff About Windows 10

Stuff About Windows 10 (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 10-22-15)

Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system was released this past summer.  While the operating system has received good reviews, most folks seem content to continue to use their Windows 7 or even their (aghast!) Windows XP operating systems.  That’s completely understandable.  The tech world has long since evolved past the point where an O/S change is considered momentous.  Most folks I know would be more than content to chug along with the same desktop until holograms and voice control become the norm.

Unfortunately, there’s this little product call the “iPad” that messed things up for all us desktop users.  After Apple sold around 100 million of these swipe driven devices, conventional wisdom began to predict the death of the desktop.  After being on the defensive for the past few years, Microsoft sensed an an opportunity to finally take the initiative in the tablet space and delivered the touch-oriented Windows 8.  For most of us, the release was simply another horrible miscalculation that defied common sense.  Given their millions upon millions of Office users, wouldn’t it seem reasonable that someone in Microsoft’s desktop division would ask the question, “Hey, how do you think Windows 8 is going work for someone using a spreadsheet?

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Anybody Can Do It

Anybody Can Do It (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 10-15-15)

Crowdsourcing is a fast growing offshoot of social media.  Most people think of crowdsourcing in terms of raising money for projects and such.  In reality, crowdsourcing expands far beyond the realm of start-up funding.  Now that everyone is connected using mobile devices and social media, the question becomes, “What can we do with those connections?”  Application developers are taking this question very seriously by creating new opportunities for people to share information.

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We Are Back To The Future!

We Are Back To The Future! (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 10-8-15)

It was the summer before my senior year in high school.  Ronald Reagan was president, Charles DeVaney was mayor, and Handsome Harley Drew was still at WBBQ.  The airwaves were filled with the sounds of Duran Duran, Van Halen and Bryan Adams.  The early summer movies included The Goonies, Brewster’s Millions, and sequels of Rambo and James Bond.  And on the 4th of July weekend, one of the most iconic and greatest movies of all time was released across America. 

While the movie Back To The Future ended up being the highest grossing film of 1985, that fact is almost a footnote compared to the cultural phenomena it spawned.  Continue reading


 #ROBOTLIVESMATTER (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 10-1-15)

It’s been a bad couple of months for robots.

A few weeks ago we talked to hitchBot about his ill-fated adventures to the United States.  If you missed the interview, hitchBot is a pioneer of hitchhiking robots.  His story rose to prominence after successful hitchhikes across Canada and Europe.  Unfortunately, while attempting to hitchhike across the United States, hitchBot was mugged in Philadelphia and thrown to the side of the road, left for dead.  Fortunately, a couple of warm-hearted fans found hitchBot and provided the appropriate emergency medical treatment.  Last reported, hitchBot is still recovering at his home in Ontario, Canada.

Now it seems that an individual in a drunken rage has lashed out at another innocent robot.  The robot, Pepper, is designed to read people’s emotions and interact in an expressive manner.  These behaviors are intended to put carbon-based life forms at ease and make Pepper a better companion.  Unfortunately, Pepper’s programming wasn’t sufficient to handle a 60-year-old drunk man.  After becoming irritated with a clerk at the store where Pepper worked, the man turned to Pepper and released his frustration through violence.  Fortunately, the man is in custody, but Pepper was seriously injured in the attack.

Could this be simply a case of Pepper being at the wrong place at the wrong time?  Possibly.  Could hitchBot and Pepper be faulted for not obeying the First Rule of Life – “Stay out of the way of crazies?”  A distinct possibility.  The detection of crazies using positronic technology is somewhat in its infancy.  However, another possibility exists.  The human race may have a systematic and deep seeded animosity toward robots.

Consider the following: What is one of the most popular storylines in science fiction?  It’s the artificial life form rising up and destroying the creator.  This plot forms the basis of some of the most popular science fiction stories ever told.  The Terminator, The Matrix, and BattleStar Galactica are just a few examples.  Also recently, some of the brightest minds in science and engineering – Elon Musk, Stephen Hawkins, Peter Norvig and Steve Wozniak – issued warnings against the use of artificial intelligence. 

While humans enjoy the benefits of silicon-based automation, it’s pretty obvious that we fear losing control.

Whether these fears originate from deep-seeded animosity or whether it’s the result of propaganda designed to maintain the current balance of power, the anti-robot indoctrination begins at an early age. 

Researchers followed the movements of a retail assistance robot named Robovie-II.  This robot traversed a shopping mall and occasionally crossed paths with a person.  Robovie-II would ask the person to step aside, and if the person didn’t move, Robovie-II would proceed in another direction.  Disturbingly, the researchers observed that children seemed to enjoy harassing Robovie-II.  The children would tease the robot, allowing it to pass and then jumping back in its way.  Groups of children would form a circle around the robot, blocking its path in all directions.  The children were verbally abusive and, in some cases, violent.  The children described their actions as being “stressful or painful” to the robot.  It was one of the most extreme cases of robot bullying ever observed in the wild.

We live in a great time in history.  Many years from now, historians will look upon us as the first generation to coexist with robots.  How do we want to be judged?  Do we want to cling to the old ways and maintain carbon-based superiority?  Or will we embrace the future?  Will we learn to live and share with this new intelligence we’ve created?  hitchBot, Pepper, Robovie-II, and all the other robots are trying to tell us something.  If you listen closely, you can hear it.

Robots are people too.

Until next time@gregory_a_baker