The robots keep getting... more polite?

First, it can look around and indicate where it is looking by shifting the cartoon eyes on its head. It can perceive humans working near it and avoid injuring them. And workers can see whether it sees them. Previous industrial robots couldn’t do this, which means that working robots have to be physically segregated from humans. The typical factory robot is imprisoned within a chain-link fence or caged in a glass case. They are simply too dangerous to be around, because they are oblivious to others. This isolation prevents such robots from working in a small shop, where isolation is not practical. Optimally, workers should be able to get materials to and from the robot or to tweak its controls by hand throughout the workday; isolation makes that difficult. Baxter, however, is aware. Using force-feedback technology to feel if it is colliding with a person or another bot, it is courteous. You can plug it into a wall socket in your garage and easily work right next to it.

Technology is amazing.

Apathy and ecstasy for the iPhone 5

Mat Honan, writing at Wired’s Gadget Lab blog:

It is an amazing triumph of technology that gets better and better, year after year, and yet somehow is every bit as exciting as a 25 mph drive through a sensible neighborhood at a reasonable time of day.

I am still waiting for Verizon to push Jelly Bean to my Galaxy Nexus. Meanwhile, the damn thing throws a force-close dialogue every couple of hours, stutters whenever I try to switch between apps, and occasionally reboots itself just for fun.

My fiancée has had an iPhone 4 for a little over a year, so I’ve had a lot of time to sit on the couch late at night and compare the two phones (like the unashamed geek one has to be to do such things…). The verdict is clear, quick, and simple: go Android for customization and Gmail (a far bigger point in Android’s favor than non-Gmail users might imagine…) but go iPhone for stability and app availability.

That has been the state of things for some time, and it’s no different with the introduction of the iPhone 5, iOS 6, or Android Jelly Bean.

Maybe it’s because I’m 29 this year, but my desire to customize the hell out of my phone is fading fast, especially at the high cost of stability. I’ll always keep an Android phone or two around for playing with custom ROMs, but I need something more refined for my primary phone.

Also, I’ve found on other Android devices that the four-inch display is my preference. The older iPhone displays were too small, and the Galaxy Nexus, at 4.6 inches, is a bit too large. Some people are complaining that iPhone 5 looks the same, just as the 4S looked the same. But it doesn’t: it has a bigger display and a thinner depth, without sacrificing anything in the spec department. That’s change enough for me.

Honan nailed it: iPhone 5 is great and it’s whatever. But it’s stable, app-rich, uniformly-updated whatever. And unless my first experience with it in a store or from a friend’s unit is surprisingly negative, it’s what I’m getting the next time I need a new phone.