Donkey no more

August 01, 2020 | Comments

My attempt to resurrect this site in 2017 didn’t go very far. I had intended to start writing more about my experiments with the Donkey car, but they hit a bit of a wall when I started in X and had real work to do there, also parenting. I spent a year in X working for what’s now been revealed as the Everyday Robot project, and then returned to my previous team in Google Research, where I’m still working today.

In the last 3 years I think I resurrected the Donkey car 2 or 3 times, and even managed a short habit of heading to one of the DeepRacing get-togethers on a Saturday, or to DIY Robocars races; but it turns out that working full time and then taking half a day out at weekends to go play with cars isn’t totally compatible with Life. After a short attempt to get a track set up in my attic (tl;dr it’s big but needs to be bigger to be useful), I threw in the towel… for now.

Apologies for the spare look. I wanted to get something up fast, if I get around to it I’ll play with look and feel later…

Resurrecting the weblog

July 11, 2017 | Comments

So it’s been a little while since I posted here - nearly 5 years. I’ve had very little to say in public, work and life have been a lot of fun, and I’ve not missed writing.

A lot has changed in that time: I joined Google in London, turned 40, got married, relocated to San Francisco, and at the end of last year our daughter arrived.

A lot has stayed the same too. When I look at my writing I’m happy to see some continuity with my work at Google. There I ended up tugging on a thread of “user interfaces for local intelligence” which manifested across many products I worked on: Auto Awesome Movies, the Android launcher, Smart Text Selection, and Federated Learning (not an exhaustive list). I’ve particularly enjoyed working with a mix of designers, engineers and researchers.

And to hammer home the point about continuity, my last post here touched on the tortoises of W. Grey Walter; fittingly, in August I’m moving to X to work in robotics. More interfaces, more intelligence, a new domain.

This is why I’ve resurrected this site: to get some hands-on experience I’ve been playing at the edges of the DIY Robocars movement, building a Donkey and trying to get it running reliably around The Panhandle, a nearby park. I want somewhere to share what I’m doing; this site will do nicely, thank you.

Turing, Tortoises, and Lancaster Bombers

October 02, 2012 | Comments

The Science Museum in London is currently showing an exhibition about Alan Turing. Kate and I wandered up there on Saturday. I found the exhibition itself a little superficial - which isn't so surprising given the breadth of material the curators had to draw on between his personal life and death, contributions to computing, the war effort and Bletchley park, and his work on morphogenesis.

But there were two little gems in there which I focused on: the first, one of the tortoises of W. Grey Walter: beautiful and tremendously simplistic devices which exhibit eerily animalistic behaviours. And secondly, a bombsight computer from a Lancaster bomber, on which I was chuffed to discover the manufacturer's mark of Sperry. For it was a Sperry machine which D P Henry used to create his spirograph...

Playing with advertising

September 25, 2012 | Comments

So, down the right hand side of this page you'll see a block, marked "AdSense". That'll be me playing with advertising; I'm interesting in learning a bit more about how online advertising works from a practical perspective, and I like learning about stuff by doing stuff.

So there'll be a small ad - or it might be a large ad in future, who knows? - running there for a little while at least. I'll be donating all income from it to the WWF, to one or several of their efforts around preserving big cats.


September 18, 2012 | Comments

In the animalia-and-tech link-pile today, an iPhone case which acts as an ECG for pets and cows that SMS the farmer. The latter's particularly poignant, as the Sardinian chap who for many years rented FP their offices approached us to build a similar thing for him.

I've just started reading Guilty Robots, Happy Dogs after a Jones-post. I'm hoping it's the missing link between puppets, furries, and technology that I've been waiting for. This stuff has history.