Latest Advance in Robotics – Folding Towels!

July 19, 2010 The Bay Citizen

Humans can fold complex origami, but for a UC Berkeley robot, folding laundry is revolutionary 

In a massive breakthrough, a UC Berkeley scientist has built a robot that can … fold a dish towel.

Since Dr. Pieter Abbeel first posted a video of his team’s PR2 robot folding towels on YouTube in March, over a half million viewers have watched the industrious robot pick up, smooth out, fold and stack a messy pile of towels.

Although fascinating to watch, it’s hard not to be underwhelmed. Folding? A towel? Human origami experts can make a snake with 1,000 scales folded out of a single piece of paper! They can fold 3-D tessellations that would make M.C. Escher cross-eyed!

Hasn’t robotics advanced beyond the laundry room yet? ... (more)

Do Dogs and Pigeons Like Art?

June 20, 2010 The Bay Citizen

Animal brains are musical and visual, says Temple Grandin. Some human artists take note.

Pigeons can tell the difference between a Monet and a Picasso, according to Dr. Temple Grandin, the author and professor of animal sciences known for peering into the souls of cattle and other species.

Likewise, the hundreds of canines who brought their human companions to Laurie Anderson's "Music for Dogs" concert at the Sydney Opera House recently were genuinely moved to the point of howling and tail wagging.  Anderson, who composed the pieces in honor of her beloved rat terrier, Lollabelle, wanted the dogs to enjoy the music - composed primarily of sounds not discernable to the human ear.

"There is a connection between animals and music," says Grandin. It's not hooey."
... (more)

The Civility Algorithm

May 31, 2010 The Bay Citizen

Ken Goldberg and the Clinton State Department launch Opinion Space -- a game-changing online community tool

Ken Goldberg, the U.C. Berkeley professor of engineering, robotics expert and Internet artist, has disabled comments on his blog. Like many individuals and news organizations, he’s grown weary of the petty sniping and vitriolic attacks that too often overwhelm what are supposed to be useful and open Internet conversations.

"I just can't handle it," he says, somewhat sheepishly, referring to the uninformed postings on his blog at

Bad online behavior, what former Well moderator and online community pioneer John Coate calls "sport hassling," isn't new.  But it's more prolific, and moderation tools have evolved suprisingly little over the years....(more)