Trevor Blackwell and Anybots: Robots in Cubicles [Inventor Interview]

What is Anybots? Anybots is a telerobotics company that offers a one-click way to work with others from anywhere. With Anybots, remote workers can feel like a part of the team by having a physical presence in the office from home, and collaboration can happen at the light speed without the cost and wasted time of business travel. How did you come up with the idea? I found myself stranded in a foreign airport with important customers coming to my office the next morning. In desperation, I remoted in to one of our research robots, a 150 lb metal monster that had the basic ingredients: camera, speaker, microphone and powered wheels. It was a completely different experience than a videoconference. I was able to greet our customers, show them around our office, and be fully part of the meeting and the important conversations after the meeting. From that point we dedicated ourselves to developing a convenient solution to let people “be” in their office from anywhere with a web browser. What are some of your past projects? In addition to running Anybots, I’m also a partner in Y Combinator, a new kind of venture firm specializing in early stage startups. Previously, I was a principal at Viaweb, which made easy end-user e-commerce software. We were acquired by Yahoo, and our product became Yahoo Store. Check out this video from G4 on Anybots: How did you get involved in robotics? I was tinkering with robotics as early as fourth grade. I built a number of robots for science fair projects or just for fun. It was somewhat harder then (in...

Alan Wagner: Helping Robots and Humans Communicate [Inventor Interview]

Can you give us some background on yourself, who you are, what you currently do, etc? My name is Alan Wagner. I hold a PhD in Computer Science from Georgia Tech with a concentration in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics, an MS from Boston University in Computer Science and BA from Northwestern University in Psychology. How did you get involved in robotics? My interest in robotics and AI began while I worked as a part of the research and development team at MIT’s portion of the Human Genome Project. During my work at MIT, the team needed someone to figure out how to create a robotic system capable of adding purification chemicals to plates containing DNA. The system was to utilize a large robotic arm that manually moved these plates around and several smaller liquid handling robots. I spent the next year building and refining the system. The work was exciting and challenging and moved me to pursue formal training in AI and robotics. Moreover, the study of AI has allowed me to more deeply explore and combine two academic passions of mine—psychology and computer science. Describe the project you’re working on. I am currently a research scientist at Georgia Tech Research Institute working on the development of a computational framework for social interaction. The framework uses elements of game theory and a social psychological theory called interdependence theory to, hopefully, develop robots which are more capable of interaction with humans in a wide variety of contexts. As part of this framework I have developed algorithms that should allow a robot to determine if someone is trusting them, if...

Matthew Gryczan: Gyrocars and More – Inventor Interview

In our inaugural inventor interview series, we have inventor Matthew Gryczan, who featured his home made gyrocar at Maker Faire and is the founder of SciTech Communications. Can you give us some background on yourself, who you are, what you currently do? Oddly enough, I’m in the field of public relations and writing now after a stint as a manufacturing engineer and product manager for a manufacturer of precision-machined steel parts. But even there, I still betray my love of science and technology in the name of my firm: SciTech Communications LLC. I’d say I’m proof that you’re never too old or too far removed from making one-of-a-kind things that you can’t buy. At the beginning of October, I put up a homemade 4-foot diameter moon over our garage that features a witch riding her broomstick, and she’s backlit for effect. At Christmas, we put up similar sized holly that I made of metal rods brazed together and tree lights. In both cases, people ask where they can buy them, and they are impressed when I say they are homemade. At age 56, I still putz in the basement, particularly when the weather gets cold or when an idea really grabs me. How did you get started in making things? What attracted you to it? When I was in fourth grade, my older brothers at Christmas got the old Kenner toy kits for making things: the two that come to mind were the hydrodynamics set and the skyrail set. From then on, I was hooked on technology. Soon after, I followed instructions in an old book from the local...

New: Inventor Interview Series

One of my goals has been to use the blog to expand the scope of the documentary. Tomorrow that’ll begin to happen with the Inventor Interview Series. In no definitive timeframe I’ll be posting interviews of people who make cool things. If you make things and want to be featured, email...