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UW CSE Ph.D. alum Igor Mordatch and his “robot toddler” featured in MIT Technology Review

Darwin the robotMIT Technology Review recently published a nice article about robotics research led by UW CSE Ph.D. alum Igor Mordatch, who worked with UW CSE professor Emo Todorov in the Movement Control Laboratory before taking up a postdoc position with Pieter Abbeel at UC Berkeley. Igor is the lead researcher on a project in which Darwin, a humanoid robot with simulated neural networks, learns how to move by “imagining” how to do it, and to adjust its movements based on real-world conditions.

From the article:

“Like many toddlers, Darwin sometimes looks a bit unsteady on its feet. But with each clumsy motion, the humanoid robot is demonstrating an important new way for androids to deal with challenging or unfamiliar environments. The robot learns to perform a new task by using a process somewhat similar to the neurological processes that underpin childhood learning….

“‘It practices in simulation for about an hour,’ says Igor Mordatch, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley who carried out the study. ‘Then at runtime it’s learning on the fly how not to slip.'”

The article also quotes UW CSE professor Dieter Fox, who is enthusiastic about the potential for neural network learning in robotics.

“‘I’m very excited about this whole research direction,’ Fox says. ‘The problem is always if you want to act in the real world. Models are imperfect. Where machine learning, and especially deep learning comes in, is learning from the real-world interactions of the system.'”

Read the full article and watch a video featuring Darwin here.

November 13, 2015

UW CSE’s René Just earns ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award at ASE 2015

Rene JustUW CSE is a recognized powerhouse in software engineering research. Our strength was once again on display at ASE 2015, the 30th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Automated Software Engineering, where postdoc René Just captured the ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award for the paper, “Do Automatically Generated Unit Tests Find Real Faults? An Empirical Study of Effectiveness and Challenges.”

Just and colleagues at the University of Sheffield and University of Luxembourg analyzed the effectiveness of three automated unit test generation tools, which are used by software developers in place of more burdensome manual testing to identify faults in their code. The researchers evaluated each tool on 357 real-world faults. They found that while the automatically generated test suites detected more than half of the faults overall, only 19.9 percent of the individual test suites detected a fault, and 15.2 percent were flaky. The team’s insights will support the development of more reliable automated unit test generators that achieve a higher fault detection rate.

Overall, UW authors had five papers accepted to ASE, and another six papers at the conference were authored by previous advisees or postdocs of UW CSE professor Michael Ernst – a strong but not unexpected showing from members past and present of our world-class PLSE group!

Read the award-winning paper here. Congratulations to René and to the entire PLSE team!

November 13, 2015

Vote for Ricardo Martin’s video!!!!!

UntitledA video illustrating UW CSE Ph.D. student Ricardo Martin’s AMAZING research on “Time-Lapse Mining from Internet Photos” has been nominated for a Vizzie award from the National Science Foundation.

Vote for the Ricardo of your choice, but vote!  HERE!

November 13, 2015

UW CSE’s Pedro Domingos in the WSJ: “Time to start getting acquainted with our digital alter egos”

Hand with binary code

The Wall Street Journal/Getty Images

UW CSE professor Pedro Domingos recently penned a column for The Wall Street Journal envisioning a not-too-distant future in which machine learning will enable us to build and control a digital model of ourselves, transforming how we approach everything from shopping, to job-hunting, to finding a mate.

From the column:

“Entrusting your money to a bank once seemed strange and risky. Similarly, entrusting all of your data to a company and letting its algorithms build a detailed model of you from it might seem to be an odd or even dangerous idea, but we’ll all soon take it for granted.

“A decade from now, your personal model will be more indispensable than your smartphone, and the company that provides it may well be the world’s first trillion-dollar business. So it is time to start getting acquainted with our digital alter egos—and what they’ll mean for our lives.”

Domingos points out that today’s digital models, such as those Google builds from our web searches or that Amazon bases on what we buy, fall short for two reasons: they are driven by the companies’ own profit motive, and they are built using incomplete data. He suggests a new approach, one in which we intentionally construct a complete digital model of ourselves and deploy it online for our own benefit.

“Today’s models don’t yet interact with us: You can’t tell them they’re wrong or ask them questions. Machine-learning algorithms are black boxes that only computer scientists can open up. But that will change as more of us realize how important machine learning is and demand a say in how it occurs,” Domingos writes.

Read the full column here. Check out our past coverage of Domingos and his new book, The Master Algorithm, here and here.

November 13, 2015

“Where Does Technological Innovation Come From?”

BN-LE718_myhrvo_FR_20151110170602Many thanks to Nathan Myhrvold for providing a deeply substantive rebuttal to a nonsensical Wall Street Journal piece by Matt Ridley. Nathan writes, in email:

Matt Ridley wrote a recent piece in the WSJ (to promote a new book) arguing that basic science has nothing to do with technology and that the government should stop funding it. It’s natural for writers to want to come out with a contrarian piece that reverses all conventional wisdom, but it tends to work out better if the evidence one quotes is factually true. Alas Ridley’s evidence isn’t – his examples are all, so far as I can tell, either completely wrong or at best, selectively quoted. I also think his logic is wrong and to be honest, I don’t think much of the ideology that drives his argument either. …

A lot of wrong things aren’t worth correcting (there are so many!), but this one is. The idea that we should cut science funding will be too tempting for politicians to let stand. While the current system could certainly be improved, Ridley’s piece, and the ideology behind it, isn’t constructive. It will only play into the hands of people who are anti-science or anti-technology.

Read Nathan’s superb rebuttal here.

November 12, 2015

“Dear GeekWire: A coding bootcamp is not a replacement for a computer science degree”

matchbook both sidesUW CSE’s Ed Lazowska responds to an article in GeekWire by Jeff Meyerson of Software Engineering Daily, titled “Coding bootcamps question the need for computer science degrees.”

“One of the many great things about the tech industry is that it creates all kinds of jobs for all kinds of people with all kinds of preparation.

“But students, their parents, and adults seeking to re-direct their careers shouldn’t kid themselves about what sort of preparation is most likely to lead to a career as a software engineer at a leading-edge tech company – whether the smallest startup, or one of the giants like Amazon, Google, or Microsoft. …

“Marijuana is making a comeback in Washington, and with it, books of matches. Keep an eye out for the 21st century version of the advertisement to the right – with women included, and an additional zero on the salary.”

Read Ed’s complete post here.

November 11, 2015

Loki Lego Launcher girls visit UW CSE

20151105_13375320151105_133859In September, our friends at GeekWire reported an amazing feat by Seattle Country Day School students Kimberly and Rebecca Yeung (ages 8 and 10, respectively): launching a weather balloon filled with helium and equipped with a flight computer, two GoPro cameras, and a picture of their cat next to a Lego R2-D2 (the “Loki Lego Launcher”) to a height of 78,000 feet, and recovering it next to a cow pie in Stratford, WA. Read the terrific GeekWire article here.

Today, Kimberly and Rebecca, along with their friend Ava Barnhart (age 10), participated in a less thrilling but hopefully equally educational expedition: to UW CSE. And there were no cow pies at the landing site!

Kids like Kimberly, Rebecca and Ava are our future!20151105_14402220151105_142634

November 5, 2015

UW CSE’s Nell O’Rourke to address Rising Stars workshop at MIT

Nell O'RourkeUW CSE Ph.D. candidate Nell O’Rourke will be a featured speaker at the annual Rising Stars career-building workshop for women in computer science and electrical engineering. More than 60 promising graduate students and postdocs from around the world will gather at MIT next week for a series of research talks, career advice and networking aimed at supporting young female scholars interested in pursuing careers in academia.

Nell, who works with professor Zoran Popović in UW CSE’s Center for Game Science, is one of only a dozen computer science participants selected to address the group. Her talk, “Educational Systems for Maximizing Learning Online and in the Classroom,” describes the design and evaluation of novel systems to support motivation, personalization and formative assessment in educational environments.

From the abstract:

“My findings provide new insights into how students learn and how computing systems can support the learning process. The ultimate goal of my research is to build personalized data-driven systems that transform how we teach, assess, communicate, and collaborate in learning environments.”

Learn more about the Rising Stars program, which MIT launched in 2012, here.

Read our previous coverage of Nell, who is also a 2015 Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholar, here.

Congratulations, Nell, and thanks for representing UW CSE! (And, good luck on the job market this year!)

November 5, 2015

Amazon Catalyst: Inspiring grassroots innovation at UW

catalystToday our friend and neighbor Amazon announced Amazon Catalyst, a grant program to inspire grassroots innovation at the University of Washington.

The program is open to all members of the UW community – all people, all fields.

It’s a partnership with huge potential!  Thank you Amazon!

Learn more here.

GeekWire here. Seattle Times here.

November 5, 2015

UW CSE’s Yoshi Kohno, Franzi Roesner and Tamara Denning co-author policy primer on augmented reality

Augmented realityUW CSE professors Yoshi Kohno and Franzi Roesner and Ph.D. alum Tamara Denning (now on the faculty at the University of Utah) are among the lead authors of a new white paper that examines policy issues associated with emerging augmented reality technologies. The paper is the first of its kind published by the UW’s Tech Policy Lab, which brings together faculty and students from UW CSE, the School of Law, the iSchool and other units on campus to explore the potential implications of emerging technologies in a way that is useful for policy makers.

From the UW media release:

“Though still in its relative infancy, augmented reality promises systems that can aid people with mobility or other limitations, providing real-time information about their immediate environment as well as hands-free obstacle avoidance, language translation, instruction and much more. From enhanced eyewear like Google Glass to Microsoft’s wearable HoloLens system, tech, gaming and advertisement industries are already investing in and deploying augmented reality devices and systems.

“But augmented reality will also bring challenges for law, public policy and privacy, especially pertaining to how information is collected and displayed. Issues regarding surveillance and privacy, free speech, safety, intellectual property and distraction — as well as potential discrimination — are bound to follow.”

The report was co-authored by School of Law professor Ryan Calo, iSchool professor Batya Friedman, Tech Policy Lab associate director Emily McReynolds, iSchool alum Bryce Newell, iSchool student Lassana Magassa and School of Law alum Jesse Woo.

Read the full release here, and read the white paper, “Augmented Reality: A Technology and Policy Primer,” here.

Kohno will be joined by his Tech Policy Lab co-directors, Calo and Friedman, for a panel discussion tonight on “responsible innovation” and the impact of new technologies on security and privacy. Learn more about the event, which is the final installment of the UW Alumni Association’s 2015 Engineering Lecture Series, here.

November 3, 2015

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