Meeting DARPA Dan Kaufman at the Computer History Museum

Almost earshot distance from Googleplex and NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, the man in charge of information innovation at the Defense Advance Research Projects implored technology researchers to actually make things and publish their failures.

At the Computer History Museum this week, Dan Kaufman discussed the potential and pitfalls of crowdsourcing, the distinction between invention and innovation, and how to stay ahead while businesses are stockpiling intellectual property in preparation for patent wars.

“Everything we do at DARPA moves the impossible to improbable to inevitable,” said Kaufman. “What if you didn’t have to use bombs and instead we gave the military the right tools.”

Following his converations with New York Times science writer John Markoff, Kaufman sat down with me for this interview DARPA Director Calls for Change in the Tech Industry.

Meeting Modern Day Da Vinci, Designer of Smart Spider Robot

Via Scoop.itMovin’ Ahead

It’s “A Bug’s Life” meets “WALL-E,” except this other-worldly creation is no product of Pixar Animation. It’s the real deal.
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Above is the introduction for story I produced for Intel Free Press.  What started out as a short story assignment quickly evolved into a more personal and technical expose of wonderful young engineering student from the University of Arizona, Matt Bunting.

After connecting with Intel Embedded team’s Stewart Christie, I learned that Bunting’s hexapod was appearing on the cover of the Linux Journal and that EE Times was honoring Bunting for prestigious ACES Award, naming him Student of the Year.  That’s what brought him to San Jose, where I got to meet him and his mom, who actually helped me while I was shooting the video interview with her son.  She even prompted some chuckles and emotional responses from her son while the camera was roling.

The video evolved over a few days of editing, as Christie and Bunting helped me collect photos and video that helped put visuals to Bunting’s words.  The story took an artisit turn — blending art and science — when Bunting saw a piano at the Fairmont Hotel, and calmly sat down and dropped into a moody melody that I used at the beginning of the video.  That music, mixed with the Spanish guitar music Bunting shared with me, along with sounds from the motor movements of the robot, infused some chilling excitement into the video, a feeling that many people get when they see the hexapod live for the first time.

What an inspiring and kind person.  I let Bunting know that my son was moved by the hexapod story so much that now my son wants to be a robot maker.  Bunting replied, “It is always wonderful to hear when I have inspired a young mind.”

Now I’m hooked!  I’m cheering for Bunting and his University of Arizona research team as they build the Cheetah Project, funded by DARPA, which is an attempt to build a robot that can run as fast as a real four-legged cheetah and eventually a create the world’s fastest two-legged robot.

Here are some photos on Flickr I took with my Canon Rebel X and others collected from Bunting and Christie.