How to Teach a Robot How to Make a Bed


How to a Teach Robot How to Make a Bed (5th article)

1. Where centralized power fails, the generators spin up to distribute locally.

“Sam says he doesn’t buy backup juice for his apartment, which he rented last spring. Somewhere along the electrical wires cast like nets across the city, a bootlegged electrical line running from a generator was spliced in his favor: A single “magic” outlet powers his wireless router during outages. It’s one thing to be kept from doing your laundry, and another thing entirely to be kept from your friends or family. Besides, tracking down the generator owner responsible for this one outlet would be a journey of more than 1,001 nights. In the city of Beirut alone, there are roughly 12,000 generators and their owners. Though it is technically illegal, regulators have a hard time squashing the network, which has grown to cover most of the country. Officials aren’t so much paid off to look the other way; they’re paid because, it is said, they own some of the generators.”

2. The bike soldiers of the underground war against mosquitoes in San Francisco.

“Munoz stops his bike at every single storm drain. Using tongs, he picks up a little white plaster brick that’s laced with methoprene, and drops it through the grate. A moment later, we hear a small splash.. Each day, Munoz drops those little methoprene bricks into roughly 120 drains. After finishing each one, he sprays a dot on the curb above it to signify that the drain has been treated in the last 100 days. On this day, Jake uses blue spray paint. He covers the previous dot left after the last treatment less than 100 days ago.”

+ Discovered in Helen Shewolfe Tsenge’s atmospheric essay for the new(ish) publication, New Life Quarterly from Oakland’s Wolfman Books.

3. The deepest reflection on the political potential of The Rock yet entered into the record.

“This is my one big thing! The world must be open, not closed, in all the ways a world can be open, and starting with this, with bodies in space. Openness is where we’ll arrive eventually; it has to be. Earth a thousand years from now still cut into tiny absurd segments is laughable. Tragic. Without openness, the United States is just another country. This is the insight that came late, as much a lie and a dream as anything else in our history, but I think we believed it, enough of us to matter: that a country could be for everyone, and American-ness might not have to be inherited or earned, it might just be available. It might operate, in that way, like grace. Those first translations arrived years ago. It’s a different world now. Doors that seemed to be creaking open are swinging shut — and who better, really, to hold a door than Dwayne Johnson?”

4. Just imagine: there are just billions and billions of dollars circling the globe desperately seeking a home.

“But the Vision Fund is something new: An all-out blitz on the heart of Silicon Valley venture capital, Sand Hill Road. In less than a year since the fund first began making investments, it has already committed $65 billion to acquire big stakes in UberWeWorkSlack, and GM Cruise. Son tells Bloomberg Businessweek that he plans to raise a new $100 billion fund every two or three years and will spend around $50 billion a year. For perspective, in 2016, the entire U.S. venture capital industry invested $75.3 billion, according to the National Venture Capital Association.”

5. How to teach a robot how to make a bed.

“We formalize the bed-making problem as one of maximizing surface coverage with a blanket, and explore algorithmic approaches that use deep learning on depth images to be invariant to the color and pattern of the blankets. We train two networks: one to identify a corner of the blanket and another to determine when to transition to the other side of the bed. Using the first network, the robot grasps at its estimate of the blanket corner and then pulls it to the appropriate corner of the bed frame. The second network estimates if the robot has sufficiently covered one side and can transition to the other, or if it should attempt another grasp from the same side.”

Joseph Peters

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