I have been thinking about The Roomba Vacuum Cleaning Robot (RVCR) as being a reverse remote control where the device acts of its own accord though within clear lines of constraint defined by an internal computational model of the world, a 2 dimensional plane illuminated by finite senor input where recursive algorithmic process triggers motor and wheel in response to environmental calculation. Its decisions of movement shift people and objects out of its way revealing an inherent tension between notions of being a controller and being controlled. On one hand we (Anila, Myself and Charlotte) were controllers as we had brought the device to the shopping centre (see description here), yet we were clearly not controlling the device as it made its own way through the shopping centre, though we felt a responsibility towards it when it started to go inside shops, feeling anxious that we might get in trouble (which we did). I'm not so sure I would have felt that anxiety had we been in a completely detached location without any worry of loosing an expensive item.
A small experiment providing an example of convolutional coding in perl. I did not copy any examples online I simply wrote some code that seemed to fit the description of convolutional encoding and the function of shift registers that I had been reading in mathematical papers and pop science books, so this example may or may not be correct, but that is not the point of this exercise, the point is to use coding as a way of thinking. Here's a screen shot of the output and I've included the script below the image.
I have a desire to to escape the purely theoretical world of an algorithm and am searching for practical experiment, comparable circumstance and real world manifestations of the Viterbi Algorithm. I am finding it very difficult to identify direct comparison between the function of this algorithm and a comparable real world example where I might be able to test where it breaks down.
THE ROOMBA ALGORITHM
"they rely on a few simple algorithms such as spiral cleaning (spiraling), room crossing, wall-following and random walk angle-changing after bumping into an object or wall. This design is based on MIT researcher and iRobot CTO Rodney Brooks' philosophy that robots should be like insects, equipped with simple control mechanisms tuned to their environments. The result is that although Roombas are effective at cleaning rooms, they take several times as long to do the job as a person would. The Roomba may cover some areas many times, and other areas only once or twice."
LOCATION & AESTHETIC
We (Myself, Anila, Charlotte) took the Roomba Vacuum Cleaning Robot (RVCR) to two locations within lewisham shopping centre to test its operation within a public environment. There were no alterations to the cleaning algorithm as I was avoiding any programming or electronics. I wanted to get some insight of the nature of algorithmic pathfinding in relation to the Viterbi algorithm and peoples reaction to a physical autonomous entity. Thinking in terms of black box technologies I had given the RVCR a security style aesthetic where a rectangle of black metal acted as a platform to which I mounted a technical looking black box and an obviously consumer grade video camera mounted at the front. The black box served no electrical function though it did act as a counterweight to the camera which on its own tipped the RVCR forward preventing any movement. The effect was very crude with elements covered and held together with black gaffer tape with any visible brand names covered with black electrical tape, so my assumption was that any close inspection would dispel any idea that this was a 'real' security device. I also presumed that because the RVCR itself was still clearly visible it might be recognised as a vacuum cleaner.
To use the Roomba Vacuum Cleaner Robot (RVCR) as a platform to investigate physical manifestations of an algorithm we needed to be able to easily attach items to it, such as card, wood, material, metal and cameras. I quickly discovered that electrical tape didn't easily stick to the moulded plastic, so after discussion with Anila and Charlotte I decided to screw a couple of wooden batons to the device to which we could easily and securely attach anything we wanted. So I could see where to safely screw through the casing without permanently damaging any mechanisms, I had to take apart every section of the RVCR. This provided opportunity to see how easy it would be to disable the suction and brush operation as this functionality would not be needed for our initial experiments within the public realm.
Myself, Anila and Charlotte are planning on taking a Roomba Vacuum Cleaner (RVC) I purchased to a number of locations in London. We are planning to dress the vacuum in a variety of 'costumes', examining the changing effect of an outside shell. Will a furry RVC have different effect to a plain black box? Will a naked Roomba be ignored in comparison to a RVC dressed as a military or security device? To what extent does a relentless algorithmic machine reconfigure the environment as it attempts to navigate and define space in different locations while dressed as a stuffed animal? How will urban wild and domestic animals interact with a machine that offers food?
I have been reading mathematical papers and tutorials that describe the Viterbi algorithm and find the information they contain incredibly dense and impenetrable, though I have been slowly getting a better idea of how the algorithm operates. These mathematical papers seductively describe the world of communications as a perfect mathematical system with clearly defined parameters. To combat this world view I decided I would take a poetic approach to writing about the sequence of actions the algorithm undertakes drawing on the language of these mathematical papers but taking alternate perspective.
There is knowledge coming, it will be sent to me in a timed sequence.
I do not know what will come, I will simply observe.
I will discover the single most likely explanation for my observations.
There will be many false paths but I know there is one path that is mine.
This is my survivor path.
I remember all paths, this is my history.
My memory and my speed is finite.
I use constant predicable resource.
In the philosopher Parmenides essay "On Nature" (485 BC), he stated that a void or a vacuum in nature cannot exist, Aristotle then took this argument and proclaimed the dictum "horror vacui" or "nature abhors a vacuum". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parmenides
Path of automated vacuum cleaner
My latest version of my project proposal, now to actually get on with a build of some kind, thinking of playing with a Roomba, Charlotte has some great animal ideas...
Algorithms operate through computational processes that serve to sort, classify, and hierarchise people, places, objects, and ideas . Algorithms perform operations on data and take technologies into new systems of interaction , where information derived purely from algorithmic process changes the way we think and operate in the world.
I've been looking at the origins of the word "algorithm" and discovered a link with Peckham in south east london, well strictly speaking the link is to Persia and there is a Persian shop in Peckham called Persepolis, so thats a strong enough link for me, I think I'll need to pay them a visit.
Continuing my investigation into the Viterbi Algorithm I was wondering where to go next as I had already prepared a diagram (see past post) using Omnigraffle (diagram drawing software) to help me get a broad idea of what contexts the algorithm operated in. I felt somewhat frozen as it was such a vast subject area and the algorithm seemed to relate and attach itself to all technologies. I attempted to present some of my research to friends and eventually to the MA group, and received allot of blank looks as the information I was trying to impart was so abstract, driven by the specialist domains of mathematical and programming notation. It seems strange that an algorithm so prevalent and with so much influence and effect is so difficult to describe or get a sense of.
I am currently researching the Viterbi Algorithm invented in 1967 by Andrew Viterbi. This algorithm has far reaching effect extending through military use, speech recognition, commercial truck tracking, DNA analysis, video encryption, satellite communications and mobile phone technologies where it is deployed for wireless digital signal processing (DSP), embedded in billions of mobile devices world wide.
Click image to open large scale diagram
Task:To critically engage with the Moving Forrest project, in relation to the Olympic site in London. Moving Forrest is a project headed by Shu Lea Cheang, originally devised in Berlin 2008 as a 12 hour, 5 act sonic visual performance that mapped an imaginary castle and a camouflaged revolt onto the modern day metropolis, thematically derived from the last 12 minutes of Kurosawa's film version of Macbeth “Throne of Blood” . A final event is being defined through a series of participatory workshops and public events, where it will be eventually performed in multiple locations across London during 2012.
An idea to formalise a doodling process and record my experience of wirelessness as I moved through the city. I simply printed a number of sheets, titled “Human Wireless log”, with space for a date and started sketching my experience, I also handed out a small number of sheets to my fellow students, with a simple instruction to “sketch their experience of wirelessness”.
Graham pointed me in the direction of Alexander Graham Bell’s Photophone , which allows for the transmission and reception of sound over a modulated beam of light. After finding simple instructions online I proceeded to build my own version, where I wirelessly transmitted the audio output of an old MP3 player to a small set of speakers via a flickering LED. I quickly discovered that different light sources would generate their own signature sound. This encouraged me to convert the device so it would work as a pair of headphones so my hands would be free to easily search for interesting lights.
Taking a completely different line of enquiry, I attended three days of a workshop that investigated the potential of the graphical programming environment Pure Data as a structural framework for the Moving Forrest Project. We experimented with audience participation techniques where peoples mobile phones could be incorporated into live performance, identifying Mathew Fullers 500 slogans as being a thematic spine to the entire event. I was invited to build a pure data patch to be performed at the 500 slogans workshop at the V&A. The patch took multiple microphone inputs, processed them with multiple lines of delay, where audio snippets would continually re-emerge and fold into new signals.
I prepared two lists (Identification & Power) as a reminder for things to be aware of while I walked the Olympic site. Identify: Castles, Signals, Networks, Telephony, Databases, Codes, Surveillance, Operating systems, Media, Protagonists, What is broken. Power: Points of control, Domains of influence, Changes of conduct, Target of messages, Permissions, Restrictions, Contexts.
Thoughts on the visit
I was finding it difficult to visualise what wirelessness actually was, I was getting lost in programming and reading about the technicalities of networking protocol standards yet did not fully appreciate that electromagnet waves incorporated the complete spectrum of light, radio, microwave and radiation, so I partially completed a comparative chart that mapped the size of wireless signals using uniform units of measurement.
I wanted to take a device with me on a visit to the Olympic site to explore wireless signals in some way. To be as portable as possible I decided to Jailbreak my iPhone, to see if I could get the sudo tcpdump -i wlan0 > /dev/audio command to work, providing an audio backdrop to a walk. And while I easily managed to jailbreak the iPhone using redsn0w , and install Perl, alongside the utilities ifconfig and tcpdump, I wasn’t able to pipe any data to /dev/audio, as audio seemed to be handled in a different way on the iPhone. At this point I discovered the Linux wireless extensions toolset , which enabled me to grab wireless network information in an easily readable format using the simple command sudo iwlist scan, though unfortunately I wasn’t able to find a version to install on the iPhone. I also performed a comprehensive search of the iPhone directory structure and was intrigued to discover a wireless section with the following directories:
I was intrigued to discover that literally anything within the Linux operating system could be treated as a file to read or write to, including the audio output of a soundcard. Unfortunately I had been unable to test this under the Ubuntu 11.10 operating system as directing data streams to the audio out didn’t seem to work as expected, so I installed PureDyne, a Linux operating system “optimised for use in realtime audio and video processing” . I could now hear the data-streams generated by the key presses, the mouse, data on the hard drive and wireless connections, sounds that were reminiscent of using a BBC-B computer that I last operated at primary school.
We have been writing a wireless sniffer application and created a wireless trigger (moving towards the form of a woodpecker) that responds to wireless signals found in the landscape. The woodpecker taps out the number of wireless signals in the area, serving as a warning or communicating wireless presence.
While developing project ideas I investigated communicating with an Arduino board using perl. Evolving some scripts I found online, I incorporated some simple error checking which I thought people might find useful. The process raised questions/thoughts relating to error checking on computational machines.
A collaborative project with Thomas Aston, Mira Dobreva, Michelle Eu, Thomas Keene, Charlotte Robinson, Yan Sun, Foteini Vergidou.
As a group we were interested in exploring EVP, a concept that originated the 19th century, where new technologies of the era including photography were employed by spiritualists in an effort to demonstrate contact with a spirit world. There was a belief that electronic experimentation could reveal voices that seemingly came from an alternative realm.
Tasked with devising an 'interesting' command line, I wrote a series of actions that randomly select a word from a dictionary, search flickr, download an image then set this image as a desktop background.
With this experiment I was introduced to the concept of 'piping', where the output of one command could be sent to the other, thus enabling a complex daisy chain of events to be played out.
I wanted to test the limitations of the command line, just how much could be compressed onto a single line before an elaborated script started to become a necessity.
Telepathy “The communication of or perception of thoughts, feelings by extrasensory means. From the greek word 'tele' meaning afar” . A collaborative project with: Anna Blumenkranz, Yan (Shania) Sun, Ji Young Lee.