Thursday, March 6, 2014

MIT Museum

Today the Robotics group took a break from building robots and traveled down to the MIT Museum. We had a couple of hours to see all the exhibits, especially the ones on robotics. Here are some highlights in the students' own words:

I learned about the "RoboTuna" and how it moves in the water on its own.

I most enjoyed observing and interacting with the kinetic sculptures, in particular the one which amplifies the sound of its movement and produces it through the headphones.

Today I learned about the background information of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and some dedicated scientists. In the early 1970s, one of the professors of this laboratory, Marvin Minsky, created a robotic arm (Minsky Arm) that can use a video camera and computer to look at a stack of children's blocks, take the stack apart, and then build a mirror image. Marvin Minsky once said, "What magical trick makes us intelligent? The trick is that there is no trick. The power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity not from any single, perfect principle."

This was my second time visiting the MIT Museum. I saw things very differently from the last time after experiencing building some robots. Today, I saw that there can be different ways of designing robots for same the purpose.

In the museum there is a set of pictures whose appearance depends on the perspective of the person watching it. The reason behind this phenomenon is the Hybrid Illusion. Basically this illusion is created by adding two pictures together. One of them has high spatial density, which means more detail, and the other has low spatial density, which in contrast means an overall image. Therefore, when I was standing close to the pictures and paid attention to the details, I could see the face of the guy who created the Theory of Relativity, but once I moved farther away I saw the face of a famous actress.

I learned about the origins of robots a long time ago. I am impressed how people could think up and build those kind of robots back at that time.

At the MIT Museum I learned many things, but what stood out in particular was how vision uses 40% of the human brain. Also how it is difficult to build a robot with a sense of touch because the human hand can detect microscopic textures.

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