Monday, October 16, 2006


David stretched out his hands and grabbed at the sharpened edge of the art-deco coffee table. His vision slightly blurred by a casual glance at one of the multiple sources of light that matched the coffee table in style and color. He commanded his leg muscles to propel him upwards. “Height is good,” a thought flashed through his synapses. Reaching the desired level his muscles stopped automatically. “Now hold steady! Let’s have a look…” Suddenly there was a flash of color at his peripheral vision. It was coming from a TV set at his right. With a slight movement of hips he adjusted his posture now heading towards the plasma screen. “Walk!” he commanded and his legs followed with his hands now only slightly caressing the wooden surface varnished to perfection. “3,” a number flashed in his mind while he approached the far edge of the table. “2,” his fingers flowed along the surface without friction. “1,” a step separated him from the void that lay between the table and the TV.

With no further thought, David took his first step.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Consultants of swing

David developed some bugs last week so I had to hire some consultants to help me fix the problems. As always outsourcing turned out to be an fascinating experience. Apparently The Consultants work through a strict checklist before they actually begin debugging.

  • Refer the project to another consultant.

  • Do nothing.

  • Express amazement at progress.

So David spent two days in a hospital to make us feel better I guess. He displayed an remarkable ability to self debug! I know what you are thinking: “how could I do it in my current project? I’m way behind schedule and I haven’t yet begun writing those pesky test suites…” Well, the truth is, don’t really remember putting that in, but I can’t have mom take the credit now can I?

Who cares, I’m just happy David is all better now!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


One of the most important aspects of interacting with the environment is shape recognition and object handling. Not surprisingly many of the so-called didactic toys supposedly teach your baby how to distinguish, grab and hold various shapes.
But simple cubes and pyramids are easy. The most difficult shapes are food items. You see it’s easy to recognize, grab and bite a sphere (provided it fits in your mouth!) but food items are more interesting.
I was watching David eat a cookie. This particular cookie is square shaped and as such is easy to recognize and hold. With each successive bite though – it changes shape. It becomes a square with a bite taken out, then it’s a kind of a triangle with a jagged edge, next it becomes almost a trapezoid… The wonderful thing is – it’s still a cookie and David has no problem understanding this. I know it’s common sense to us but that’s because you’ve learned that food items rarely change into non-food items just because you’ve taken a bite (interestingly, David does not recognize a banana without the peel).
An item that changes shape presents a difficult handling problem. You can teach a robot to hold an apple but that won’t help it hold a cherry. David must continually modify his gripping technique and be attuned to dangerous cookie fault lines. One false nip, one careless pinch and the cookie crumbles and escapes to the floor! Still, utilizing the Failure Driven Approach™ David more or less successfully eats a cookie by himself. A breathtaking testament to the triumphant progress our project is making. Go David go!