Almost Human: Making Robots Think


Return to Book Page. Preview — Almost Human by Lee Gutkind. Making Robots Think by Lee Gutkind. Making Robots Think 3. Robot Segways learn to play soccer, while other robots go on treasure hunts or are destined for hospitals and museums. Dozens of cavorting mechanical creatures, along with tangles of wire, tools, and computer innards are scattered haphazardly.

Almost Human: Making Robots Think

All of these zipping and zooming gizmos are controlled by disheveled young men sitting on the floor, folding chairs, or tool cases, or huddled over laptops squinting into displays with manic intensity. Award-winning author Lee Gutkind immersed himself in this frenzied subculture, following these young roboticists and their bold conceptual machines from Pittsburgh to NASA and to the most barren and arid desert on earth.

He makes intelligible their discoveries and stumbling points in this lively behind-the-scenes work. Hardcover , pages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Almost Human , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. The coverage is a healthy mix of personal profiles, research, and development. Industry luminaries like Red Whittaker are described with surprising frankness, contrasting successes with strange or frustrating habits.

Students from Japan to West Virginia describe how their time at CMU has pushed them to work harder and sleep less than they ever guessed they could. While the book served well as a concentrated dose of life Almost Human describes a few years in the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute. While the book served well as a concentrated dose of life in the High Bay, it spends less effort contextualizing the work of the institute. Is it the job of the institute to contribute to progress in the field, or to train future roboticists? What happens at the end of a robot's life?

What happens to roboticists after they leave CMU? Maybe robotics is still too new to answer these questions. Tech nonfiction books like Hackers and The Wizards Who Stay Up Late provide this context and in turn explain the importance of their subject matter. Maybe someday Gutkind will author a similar follow-up. May 04, Lucas rated it really liked it Shelves: Covers several years of mobile robotics work at CMU as the author spent time observing and interviewing engineers and scientists in different projects. It ends around the time of the Darpa Grand Challenge- though the author covers that he focuses more on efforts to field a robot in Chile designed to search for signs of life.

Issues with that project seem very familiar: The second blurb on the back cover calls this book "An eloquent meditation on the fragile and increasingly friable line between flesh and metal There are a few standout passages that indicate the author is lacking some technical depth, in one instance he calls Linux a programming language rather than an operating system. The strength of the book is not in explanation of technical details of any of the robots, but rather the characterizations of students, researchers, and engineers and the story of how they interact, problem-solve, and respond to adverse conditions.

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The title of the book is therefore inappropriate, as is the picture which shows silhouettes of bipedal robots which are not covered at all- quadruped Aibos in the Robocup competition is the closest it gets. Feb 09, Todd rated it really liked it. It may be a long while before we have robots as sophisticated as R2D2 or C3P0, but roboticists get closer every day as they work toward making robots think. Lee Gutkind's Almost Human: Making Robots Think tours through contemporary robotics research largely at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and gives readers a glimpse of where we are going with this particular technology and reveals that getting to the point of making independent thinking machines is at "the barest beginning.

But most of all Gutkind puts a human stamp on the machines, potraying in depth the scientists and engineers behind the robots. We find out these researchers are driven, willing to put in long, grueling hours into designing and testing their machines. Gutkind's portrait is reminiscent of Tracy Kidder's Soul of a New Machine, an examination of the computer revolution in the '70s and '80s.

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What Gutkind finds, I believe, is that the soul of these new machines is human. Jan 05, Scott rated it really liked it Shelves: I really enjoyed this book. Being published in , it is a bit dated already with the pace of robotics and technology in general remember, there were no iPhones or even iPads in It was interesting to learn about CMU, and the robotics program in general, where most of this book took place.

I found it enlightening to learn that the field of robotics rarely works with a blueprint or any real plans for the most part. The hardware and software seems to be mostly developed by trial and error I really enjoyed this book.

The hardware and software seems to be mostly developed by trial and error It is a prime field for someone to be in if they can approach the effort without any preconceived notions about what can and can't be done, and for this reason, attracts a lot of bright, young, inexperienced tech types. It taught me that someone with a lot of experience needs to remember to push aside the urge to say, "been there, that can't be done", and approach problems with a naive mind sometimes.

Jul 23, J. An old book that is severely outdated the recent leaps in understanding of AI and the cheapness of easy to use systems has jumped robotics significantly , it is still quite interesting and useful for giving context to the field, and especially in discussing exactly why robotics is so cool and so difficult.

It is also about how we, as humans interact with each other, and seeing the way that communication breaks down between two groups of people was a marvelous illustration about the difficulty o An old book that is severely outdated the recent leaps in understanding of AI and the cheapness of easy to use systems has jumped robotics significantly , it is still quite interesting and useful for giving context to the field, and especially in discussing exactly why robotics is so cool and so difficult.

It is also about how we, as humans interact with each other, and seeing the way that communication breaks down between two groups of people was a marvelous illustration about the difficulty of communicating vital information across different frames of reference. Sure, the book is a little dry at times, and the bouncing back and forth doesn't always make sense, but it is interesting and worthwhile.

Aug 15, Megan rated it liked it Shelves: I was a little disappointed in this book.

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Brian TramueL rated it liked it Jan 14, Very engaging so far! To ask other readers questions about Almost Human , please sign up. Maybe someday Gutkind will author a similar follow-up. Thanks for telling us about the problem. To maneuver through rough terrain, the robot has four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering with a chassis that expands to improve stability and travel over various terrain conditions.

Not so much because the science is now old intelligence grows quickly , but because the narrative didn't hang together very well. We get details that lead now where, and the jumping between two different scenarios seemingly at random.

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It was an interesting picture of the school that I know and love, though, and the passionate people therein, and I'll forgive it a little for that. Upshot - want some history or insight into the world of robotics? If you ar I was a little disappointed in this book. Writing and Selling the Literature of Reality. Authors discussed the process of writing creative nonfiction.

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After their discussion they answered questions from the…. The panel members discussed writing nonfiction and talked about their own books. They also responded to audience members' questions.

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