Sunday, July 1, 2007

Doing the Robot to a Chaotic Beat

Omnome is dedicated to talking about three broad subjects and how they intersect at the point of human application; technology. The subjects are:
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Mathematics
So far, we have talked a LOT about biology, a little about physics, and not at all about math. Honestly, it bothers me that I haven't written about math at all. Mathematics is what ties all of this together. Mathematics, by one definition, is the study of quantity, structure, space, and change. That covers a great deal since most scientific study can catagorized as the study of quantity, structure, space, and change.

In any case, I am going to introduce math to Omnome by talking about a little Japanese robot named Miuro that has a few functions. First and foremost, Miuro is a music player that can play music from an iPod or from a WiFi connection. Secondly, though, Miuro can dance. Ok, so I have watched the video, and I find Miuro's dancing to be rather lame and nondescript. It basically rolls around with a few shimmies to the beat of the music it is playing. See the video below:

Like I said, kind of lame and non-descript, right? However, the interesting thing about Miuro is that it doesn't actually have pre-programmed dance patterns. I remember very distinctly the first time I found myself almost uncontrollably tapping my feet as a young child listening to a song that came on the radio in the car. I had never learned any dance moves, yet my brain picked up a pattern in a song that made me decide to tap my feet in time with one of the song's cadences. Miuro is designed to do the same thing.

Miuro has software rooted in mathematic chaos theory that allows it to decide how to react to the music. So what is chaos theory and how would it allow a robot to "decide" anything? The study of chaos in mathematics is the study of systems with more than one changing variable that seems random, but is very much dependent on the initial conditions. Weather patterns are chaotic systems as are Earth's magnetic fields and human economies. Basically, any system that can change exponentially as a result of numerous variables in time can be considered a chaotic system. Most things still to be discovered in most fields of study will somehow be tied to these very complex systems.

So Miuro is a robot that has software that is designed to change its movement unpredicably based on: 1) The motion it is already carrying out and 2) the many musical tracks recorded in a given song 3) Where it is dancing. Any of these many variables will make Miuro decide how it wants to bust a move. Most artifical intelligence (AI) researchers believe that AI break-throughs will be ushered in via harnessing of chaotic decision making models somewhat like the Miuro model.

So this is a humble introduction to the world of Chaos Mathematics and/or Non-linear Dynamics. These are subjects of much interest to me. Unfortunately, I know very little about them right now. I am a sub-amateur student of them. I hope to change that over the coming years. I hope you, my readers, can teach me a little bit about the subjects. I hope to broach the subjects with regards to genetics, proteomics, physics, weather, disease epidemiology, and much more in the future.

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