Thursday, May 8, 2014


A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending MAICS 2014 in Spokane, Washington.  It was my first visit to the state, and Spokane is a beautiful city.

I presented the work described in my paper "Creating Visual Reactive Robot Behaviors Using Growing Neural Gas".  It was well-received, and I got some useful and interesting feedback during the question period.  One particularly noteworthy observation was that I could consider incorporating color into the GNG nodes.  In my current implementation, I strictly use intensity values.  Creating an HSI-based GNG node should be straightforward.  I'm looking forward to experimenting with this approach when I get a chance.  (For more details, including videos, check out a previous blog post describing my work.)

I enjoyed most of the paper presentations.  Here are some themes I identified in this set of papers and presentations:
  • Fuzzy logic remains a go-to technique for bridging natural language and numerically-defined problem spaces.
  • The deceptively simple naive Bayes classifier retains a strong following.
  • Much progress has been made in creating interactive chat systems, an area to which I have not been paying much attention.
There were a few papers that I found particularly interesting.  Pakizar Shamoi presented a paper ("Fuzzification of HSI Color Space and its Use in Apparel Coordination") describing the use of fuzzy logic to describe different parts of HSI color space.  She then applied the fuzzy logic encoding to the problem of relating natural-language description of fashionable clothing to images of clothing in an image database.  The use of fuzzy logic as a bridge between a text description and an image database lacking other annotation struck me as very innovative, and I think this technique could be very useful in a number of areas.

Every time I teach my artificial intelligence course, I cover several different supervised learning algorithms.  A consequence of this is that inevitably several students become interested in methods for combining classifiers.  Joe Dumoulin of NextIT Corporation presented an interesting method for doing exactly that.  If future students wish to experiment with this concept, I'll point them towards this paper.

I have always been most interested in exploring the idea of an intelligent agent through mobile robotics.  The presentation by Chayan Chakrabarti and George Luger persuaded me that I need to pay some attention to advances in interactive chat systems.  I plan to investigate how I might create a programming project that is simple enough to be completed within a week or two but sophisticated enough to include concepts akin to those described in that paper.

Syoji Kobashi presented some excellent work he had done in automated detection of candidate sites for brain aneurysms.  His system builds a 3D model of cerebral blood vessels, and then does some pattern matching to identify candidate trouble spots.  It was a great example of how sheer hard work and persistence with a difficult problem can pay off with excellent results.

Yuki and Noriaki Nakagawa gave a live demonstration of a new robot arm they have designed.  Their insight is that all too frequently the utility of robots is limited by the perception (and reality) that it is too dangerous for humans to touch them.  To ameliorate this, they are developing robots that can interact safely with humans, even to the extent of tactile interaction.  The arm they demonstrated featured a very clever design.  The gripper is effective but physically incapable of harming a human by crushing.  I enjoyed the opportunity to physically interact with the device, and I look forward to seeing what other innovations their company produces.  (You can see me arm-wrestling the device in the photo below.)

I'd like to thank Paul DePalma and Atsushi Inoue for all of their hard work putting the conference together.  I am looking forward to attending MAICS-2015 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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