the last time i spoke Summertime with Bill Peduto. It was like an exit interview, the end of eight years as mayor of Pittsburgh. This week, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) announced that the politician entered the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy as a Distinguished Executive in Residence. He will act as a lecturer and help conduct a “mini-course” at the university.
The Pittsburgh he leaves behind as mayor is a far cry from the grim Rust Belt city that many envision at the turn of the millennium. It is a location whose economic transformation into a technology and medical center has been supported by several universities (CMU and the University of Pittsburgh) and the UPMC health care system.
We kick off this week’s newsletter with Peduto and discuss how robotics, automation and artificial intelligence can help shape the cities of the future.
How have you been treated in the past few months?
January was a little foggy. In February, I started building S-Corporation. It meant throwing money at lawyers and tax accountants, getting proposals on paper and considering them. In March, I started working on it, and then I waited for the CMU to respond. It was a transitional period. This is the best way to say it.
We’ve seen a big economic turnaround in Pittsburgh. How important is the role of two leading world-class universities in this process?
I think Senator Moynihan said, “If you want to build a world class city, build a university 100 years ago.” This is certainly a reason why Pittsburgh could move away from universities and hospitals. After the recession of the 1980s and 1990s, they replaced the institutional heavy industry and could become both the rudder and the engine of the economy. They built entirely new industries around innovation that not only took up space and the number of people who worked in those industries, but could put Pittsburgh back on the world stage by creating new industries within those industries.
One of your policies was that Uber was allowed to use self-driving cars on the streets of Pittsburgh. What role did such deals play in your plans?
In 2007, 2008, I first met and actually started working with Red Whitaker. This was before I won the DARPA contest, and around the same time in my area of town, CMU was using vehicles on city streets in a strictly defined area. They were also on the move in Hazlewood. If I had not known, worked with him, and felt this level of comfort, I would never have allowed Uber on the streets of Pittsburgh in 2015, and Pittsburgh would not have been the first city to have self-driving cars on the streets. This would mean that we would not see billions of dollars of investment here and 5,000 people employed to create an entire industry.
What role do you think automation and robotics play in the future of cities?
Within Pittsburgh, it is autonomous from everyone. This applies not only to robotics in vehicles, transport or warehousing. It has autonomy for almost everything you can imagine. Here’s how it works in the future cross section. How robotics interacts with medicine, different types of technologies and different emerging fields. I believe that small cities like Pittsburgh that are in these growing areas have the opportunity to meet and talk and share what they are doing. I believe we have an opportunity to see new industries flourish.
Do you think that robotics and automation help reduce domestic production?
I see this as a catalyst not only for automation and robotics, but also for artificial intelligence. I see companies that haven’t upgraded Callahan to Tommy Boy for 60 years or more. These types of businesses are important businesses for the city, which is looking to find the right investors who are willing to say, “This business should stay because it supports this community.” And partner with universities that are willing to say, “We can provide the technology to upgrade,” and partner with federal government programs to help provide artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation through the Biden administration. Certainly. The company can continue production.
Similar to how gaming-updates covers Austin City (I’ve written a bit about production here), there’s a lot of air activity in the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area. Last week, Flytrex announced an arrival in Granbury, Texas, and now Wing has begun delivering drones to nearby Frisco and Little Elm. Alphabet will supply health products from Walgreens, as well as Texas Health first aid kits and Blue Bell ice cream, promising the latter won’t melt along the way.
The new addition is Wing’s second largest market in the US and fifth overall after Christiansburg, Virginia; Helsinki, Finland; and Canberra and Logan, Australia. Availability is limited at launch and will be expanded to more customers in the future. Progress in the drone delivery world has been largely mixed in recent years, though Wing is arguably making the most steady progress, mid-market at a time.
Recently, there has been great news in the world of access and robotic care for the elderly at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A team from CSAIL is working on a system that uses robotic arms to help people get dressed. The challenge lies with robotic vision, namely finding a way to give the system a better view of a bandage on a person’s hand.
The new article describes the team’s work on a “state estimation algorithm” that helps robots predict the position and angle of a person’s arm during a procedure. “When the arm is straight, the robot will follow in a straight line; If the arm is bent, the robot will have to bend at the elbow.” Michael Genzer of Honda Research Institute Europe stated in a press release, “If the elbow estimate is incorrect, the robot may decide to move that will generate excessive and unsafe force.”
CSAIL partnered with MIT, CMU, and UC San Diego to develop “complex test manipulation,” my new favorite expression in the English language. The new system, known as DiffSkill, algorithmically trains robots to handle pizza dough in a simulation. Schools add:
It then trains a learner machine learning model that learns abstract ideas about when and how to perform each skill during a task, such as using a rolling pin. With this knowledge, the system rationalizes how to apply the skill to complete the entire task.
Meanwhile, Devin wrote about the EPFL team in Switzerland working on the ginger raspberry harvesting process. As much as I love a good strawberry, it’s good that some of its berry counterparts are getting some love from robotics researchers.
“This is an exciting dilemma for us robotics engineers,” says project professor Josie Hughes. “The raspberry harvest season is so short, and the berries are so valuable, that it is simply impossible to spoil them. In addition, the cost and logistical challenges of testing various alternatives in the field are prohibitive. That’s why we decided to expand our testing in the lab. , and develop a replica of a raspberry to train assembly robots.”
Speaking of cool robotic arms interacting with famously delicate fruits, a team of Japanese researchers are working on a system that can peel bananas. It’s sort of the antithesis of robots that can put on coats for humans, with an even more easily injured subject. The system uses simulation training, training for approximately 13 hours, with a success rate of approximately 57%. So one way before someone’s banana peel works is actually at risk.
Finally, ticket sales for our robotics event are open in July. We’ve been programming this for months now and I hate that I can’t tell you about the ones we’ve sketched. It easily becomes our best.
Actuator tickets are always open (and free).