Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Amazon.Com Context Links feature needs some work

Amazon.com have "Context Links" in Beta release. With this system you add a few lines of code to a web page and Amazon automatically inserts links to products in their catalog. If someone buys the product, you get a commission. This is an extra feature in their affiliate program.

I tried Context Links on my own Blog and on the ACS Digital Library, with limited success. On one of my travel web pages, Amazon put in a link from "Eurostar" to a European train travel guide, which made sense. But it also put in a link from "ICE" to a novel about a frozen wasteland (ICE is the German high speed train). This was a forgivable error.

On the ACS Digital Library it put in a link to a subscription which could be purchased on Amazon for one of the journals. Strictly speaking this was correct, but it was a surprise to those of us organizing the publication, as we didn't know subscriptions were for sale on Amazon. Far worse was that it put in links to books by authors with the same name as ones who wrote in the library and to books which happen to have the same names as papers. This makes the facility essentially useless for use in serious scholarly writing.

Context Links also put some odd links on my Blog. For an entry about environmental building in Canberra, it linked the word "Canberra" to a set of papers for a conference held in Canberra.

Compounding the problem of the poor choice of what to link to is that the automatic links look, by default, like normal links. So readers of my web pages think that I put in the odd links myself. Google's AdWords works much better, providing links to relevant advertisements and clearly differentiating the advertisements from the content of the web pages.

When I first saw Context Links I was worried as I already had a student programming something similar. But the student will not have to do much to do better than Amazon Context Links.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ethics of Killer Robots

Philip Argy, president of the Australian Computer Society, wrote a thought provoking article "Dilemma in Killer Bots" (The Australian, January 16, 2007):
'WHEN science fiction writer Isaac Asimov developed his Three Laws of Robotics back in 1940, the first law was: "A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm." ... reports out of Korea of newly developed guard robots capable of firing autonomously on human targets are raising concerns about their potential uses. ...'.
Roger Clarke wrote an article "Asimov's Laws of Robotics - Implications for Information Technology" for IEEE Computer Magazine in 1993.

LEGO Mindstorms NXT robot kitThere are already some domestic robots available which could raise safety concerns, even if not designed to deliberately harm people. Professor Rodney Brooks, Director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, gave a talk in Canberra last year about the potential for low cost robots.

iRobot Roomba Vacuuming RobotThe Roomba robot vacuum cleaner he talked about and the Lego robot kit are examples of low cost robots and kits available.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hacking Robot Vacuum Cleaners and Lego Robots

iRobot Roomba robot vacuum cleanerBack in August I attended a lecture by Professor Rodney Brooks, Director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, on Robotics. He used the example of the iRobot Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. There has been research about the vacuum cleaners (they can run the Linux operating system).

Amazon sell remanufactured models of the Roomba and books on reprogramming them.

Hacking Roomba: ExtremeTech, Tod E. Kurt, 2006:
Hacking Roomba: ExtremeTechA gizmo as cool as Roomba just begs to be hacked. Now, with this book and the official ROI specification furnished by iRobot®, you can become the robotic engineer you've always dreamed of being. Build a Bluetooth interface for your Roomba. Turn it into an artist. Install Linux on it and give it a new brain. Some hacks are functional, others are purely fun. ...
The new LEGO Mindstorms NXT robot kit with a 32 bit processor is also available. These are popular at universities as well as for hobbyists.

LEGO Mindstorms NXT robot kit:
LEGO Mindstorms NXT
Set includes: NXT programmable LEGO brick, ultrasonic sensor, sound sensor, light sensor, touch sensor, 3 interactive servo motors, USB cable, 7 6-wire cables, building instructions, user guide, Quickstart guide, easy to use software and test panel. 6 AA batteries not included.
LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Hacker's Guide, Dave Prochnow, 2006:LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Hacker's Guide

• Your First Robot • Stupid RCX Tricks • Save Your RIS • As Smart as a Brick • MOVE IT! With Servo Motors • Hmm, I Sense Something • Yes, But I Don't Know How to Program • Testing, Testing; Oh, Trouble Shoot • Katherine's Best Hacking Projects • Katherine's Design Fun House • NXT Programming Language Guide • NXT Elements • NXT Resources

See also: Robot store, with kits, books and videos.

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