Masters of ‘runaway creativity'

Technology’s latest ‘movers and shakers’ share lessons at VMworld 2013 closing session.

Keller Rinaudo sees his work in robotics as the “intersection between computer science and the real world”.

Rinaudo is CEO of Romotive, the company that makes Romo, a $150 highly personal robot that uses a smartphone for its processing power.

His goal, among others, is to “liberate robots from a world of academics”.

“There are things phones and tablets can do, they can move around the world can manipulate physical objects,” says Rinaudo, who was one of three technology ‘movers and shakers’ at the closing presentation at VMworld.

“What if we instead of building big expensive robots, we build smaller robots with simpler systems, leverage hardware and software that runs on every phone and tablet in the world?”

These robots, he says, cost .1 percent of past robots seen in movies, and developed by corporates. He shows a video of one such robot, ASIMO, created by Honda’s robotics division. It was billed to be able to do anything humans can do. But in two demonstrations a year apart, it fell while going up the stairs the first year, and then fell down the stairs the second year.

“Where did we go wrong?” This is not the future of robotics promised by movies such as Star Wars, he states.

As a result, robots are seen as an impossible art or experiment that will have no impact on our lives, he states.

The important step is to take advanced robotic technology and make it accessible to everyone.

Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Romotive

This is the reasoning behind the creation of Romo, a smartphone robot “that is insanely simple to use”.

Romo software, for instance, lives on an app on the phone and updating it is as easy as updating the app.

He challenged the audience to help create a “robotic revolution”.

The important step is to take advanced robotic technology and make it accessible to everyone, he says. Building robots today is hard, he says, platforms are proprietary and patented.

The goal is to build a community of hackers, developing software and apps for robots and sharing them.

He presents a video showing kids playing with the Romo robot, at the same time learning basic programming skills.

“It is easy to dismiss early attempts as toys,” he says. He believes building robots will have far reaching applications such as being used in caring for children and older people, guarding pets and tending gardens and farms.

The new construction kit

“The world is a construction kit,” says Jay Silver, founder and director of JoyLabs and a research scientist at Intel Labs. “What will it look like if we saw it that way?”

He shows how by using everyday objects like a banana or play dough can be hooked to software and can be used to work on a keyboard, a piano, a houseplant. He does this using the MaKey MaKey, a kit he co-invented for hacking everyday objects.

A father whose son has cerebral palsy used the technology to help improve the son’s mobility.

He ends his presentation with a challenge to the audience. “The world can not be changed by one CEO or the 10 best designers, but seven billion pairs of hands thinking for themselves, seeing the world in a new way.

“Try to reinvent the world we live in… not go down the same path we went before.”

MakerBot makes a difference

Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot is instrumental in building the first prototypes of MakerBot’s 3D printers.

He says a 3D printer used to cost $100,000 so “what do you do when you can’t afford something? You make it.”

Today, the company has a factory in Brooklyn, New York and the printers they have developed have been used in various ways.

A boy born without a finger uses the printer to make a 'robofinger'. The finger cost $5 to make, but conventional prosthetics will cost $10,000.

“This is why we do what we do,” Pettis says, as the audience applauded. “It changes the way people think of themselves.”

Pettis ends his presentation with key messages for getting things done.

He shares his work ethics into what he and his wife call “the cult of done manifesto”.

The manifesto states there are thee stages of being: not knowing, action and completion.

“Accepting that everything is a draft, helps to get it done,” he says.

More important is to banish procrastination. “If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it,” he states. “The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.”

“It changes the way you live in the world because you are less bound by fear,” he states. “You know when you keep going and something will eventually happen is an interesting way to be in the world.”

“People are so glad I don’t work for airplanes.”

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Divina Paredes

Divina Paredes

CIO New Zealand
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