Artificial Intelligence Q&A with Tim Winkler Follow-Up

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The event was a big success with over 30 people showing up to hear Tim answer questions about IBM’s Watson. Here are some pictures and sample questions (may be heavily paraphrased since they are drawn from my shoddy notes and memory) from the event:

Tim at QA2

Q: Can Watson pass the Turing Test?

A: Watson has never been given the Turing Test.

Q: Are there plans to build a physical analogue for Watson? (Asked multiple times)

A: No.

Q: Can you tell us about the specific details of what you do?

A: No, but after Watson was on Jeopardy IBM released detailed documentation

Q: Has anyone fed Watson info about itself?

A: No.

Q: There seems to be a competition between IBM and Google in the realm of AI. Do you believe that the future will include more mainframe-based AI’s like Watson or decentralized neural network based AI?

A: I’m a big fan of decentralized neural networks.

Q: How do you go about getting a job in AI?

A: I have a CS degree with an AI concentration, and I got an internship with IBM that eventually led to working on Watson. I worked on unrelated projects before this. There’s no set path.

Q: Is there any project to work on improving Watson’s ability to interpret history?

A: There are many NLP (natural language processing) projects that focus on solving that problem.

Q: Does one version of Watson know what other versions of Watson know? (i.e. medical student Watson vs cognitive cooking Watson)

A: No.

Q: Why is Watson so much better than Siri?

A: Siri is not really an AI aside from its NLP abilities.

Q: What question do you wish people would ask about Watson?

A: You guys ask good questions.

Q: Do you do unit tests and end tests on Watson?

A: Yes.

Q: Are there any Easter eggs in Watson?

A: I can’t tell you.

Q: Do you have a button that stops Watson if it turns into HAL?

A: We’ve had no serious thoughts of Watson turning on people.

Q: Watson does not have ontological understanding of the world; any benefit to adding that?

A: We’re working on it.

Here are some related links to the Q&A that Tim shared afterwards:

1.)    “Here’s the IBM research journal issue on Watson, that gives away all the tech secrets anyone would want”:

2.) Behind a paywall:( “Computational creativity for culinary recipes”:

3.)    “This is relevant to cognitive cooking, Florian Pinel is one of the authors, he’s our team lead”:


07 2014

ShapeOko 2 Group Build This Wednesday!

Curious about computer numerical control and open hardware?
Want to meet and help build PS:One’s newest machine? Join us
for a group build of an upgraded ShapeOko 2 CNC router,
donated by Inventables! Everyone is welcome, newbies and
experienced alike – if you can tighten a bolt, you can
assemble a ShapeOko. Please RSVP to the Meetup group or cahira_mirrored [at] yahoo [dot] com, so we
have some idea how many people to expect.

Wednesday, July 16th
7-11 PM
PS:One’s Shop

Everyone is welcome, although only members will be authorized (at a later date) on the machine once it’s completed.



07 2014

A Crash Course in Applied Linear Algebra

Hackers frequently need to solve geometric problems for their projects. Whether it’s cutting acrylic on a laser cutter, slicing wood on a table saw, planning the route of a robotic arm on a new 3D printer, or analyzing a polygon mesh in a Python script, a working knowledge of geometry can save time, frustration, and material costs.

This isn’t the geometry you learned in high school, though. This is a crash course in the basic notions of linear algebra, perhaps the most useful branch of mathematics there is.

This course is geared towards demonstrating practical concepts and applications that can be put to use immediately in your own projects. To avoid bogging down the class with tedious details, we will use our computers to perform the calculations for us, allowing us to focus on the big picture and core ideas of each technique we cover.

The only prerequisite for the course is a solid understanding of high school algebra. Exposure to vectors and matrices would be helpful, but not required. There will be a review session before the class officially begins for anyone who wants to brush up on the basics.

Topics for the class:

  • A Review of Coordinates, Vectors, Matrices
  • Examples of Linear and Affine transformations
  • Linearity, Bases, and Where Matrices Come From?
  • Square Matrices, Determinants, and Inverses
  • Application: Solving Systems of  Linear Equations with Gaussian Elimination
  • Dot Products, Angles, and Lengths
  • Cross Products, the Plane Equation, the Normal to a Plane
  • Application: the Line-Plane Intersection Test
  • Triangles and Baricentric Coordinates
  • Application: the Line-Triangle Intersection Test


  • This event is open to the public
  • Prerequisite: High school algebra, some light exposure to vectors and matrices
  • When: Sunday July 20th at 5pm, review session starts at 4:30pm.
  • Where: 3519 N. Elston – 2nd Floor in the Electronics Lab
  • Cost: Free


07 2014

Dean’s Dust Collection System


There are many exciting things happening in the shop lately including the ShopBot CNC router and dust collection system. The latter of which I will tell you about now. The dust collection system is a project that Dean is in charge of. He has been diligently staying late in the evenings to work on it, sometimes until 1:00 AM. The dust collection system will be made up of a filter, blower, a Clear Vue cyclone and ducting. The ducting will be attached to the ShopBot,  SawStop table saw, band saw, and other tools in the wood shop.

The air will be sucked into the cyclone by the fan, which runs on a 3 phase induction, 5 horsepower motor. It will then be filtered in two stages. The first stage is the cyclone, which will filter out heavier particles into a trash can below it. The second stage will be an actual filter that will trap all the smaller particles. After that, the filtered air will be blown back into the shop.

There is also a Dylos air quality monitor hooked up in the shop that keeps track of the particles in the air. It can be hooked up to a computer via an RS232 serial port for graphing purposes. Besides that, it displays the current readings on both large and small particles. The hope is that the readings will drop significantly after the dust collection system is up and running.

I would like to thank Michael S. for doing the wiring for this and Dean for his many hours of labor on this project. We all hope it will make the shop much tidier and I am certain it will. Also, Dean would like help installing the ducting, which arrived today!



07 2014

Hackaday Prize: Emergence

The first two BEAM robots. Johnny and Frankie.

The first two BEAM robots. Johnny and Frankie.

The Hackaday Prize Contest is underway! Community voting has started and will continue until August 4th, which is the deadline for initial submissions. The Grand Prize is a trip to space, while the other prizes are pretty cool too. For example: A milling machine, a top grade 3D Printer and more down to 5th place. There are many minor prizes (read hundreds) as well. I encourage you submit your project on behalf of PS:1 or join a project that has already started. Also see if people want to collaborate on other submissions. The more we submit, the better chances of winning. More importantly, cool things will be made. That’s what what hackerspaces are all about, building stuff with or in a community. Here at PS:1 we have one project already underway with more ideas for additional entries. So far, Greg D. has started the Emergence Project, which combines artificial intelligence, robotics, and evolutionary biology. The results will be “to build a small swarm of robots, give them capabilities similar to that of individual insects, and see if emergent behavior arises through their repeated cooperation and interaction with each other.” The team consists of himself, Jenny, Justin C. and me, Anthony. The next meeting will be this Wednesday, July 9th, at 7-9 PM in the Electronics Area of Pumping Station: One.


07 2014

NERP Tonite: Pingo means “pin, go!”

NERP is Not Exclusively Raspberry Pi, the small computer and
embedded systems interest group at Pumping Station:One in
Chicago. NERP meets every other Monday at 7pm at Pumping
Station:One, 3519 N. Elston Ave. in Chicago.

Luciano Ramalho is a member of Garoa Hacker Clube in Sao Paulo,
Brazil (
Tonight at NERP, Luciano will tell us about the Pingo
project in progress at Garoa HC
( Pingo aims to make
interconnecting small controllers of all sorts easy and
transparent, so that they can use each other’s peripherals. An
example use case would be using Python on a Beagle (or similar)
to effectively “program” one or more attached Arduinos.

From the website:
“Pingo provides a uniform API to program devices like the
Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, pcDuino etc. just like the
Python DBAPI provides an uniform API for database programming in

The API is object-oriented but easy to use: a board is an
instance of a Board subclass. Every board has a dictionary
called pins which lists all GPIO pins on the board. Each pin is
an instance of a Pin subclass with attributes that you can
inspect to learn about its capabilities.”

Find NERP and Pumping Station:One
Doors open at 6:30pm. The next meeting is July 7th, 2014.
NERP is free and open to the public.
Ed Bennett ed @ kinetics and electronics com

Tags: electronics, embedded, NERP, Open Source, raspberry pi,
hackerspace, BeagleBone, Element14, Pumping Station One


07 2014

Join Us For Some Science!


Hands-On Science | Experimentation | Curiosity Knows No Bounds

Applied Sciences Chicago

This is a group for anyone interested in applied sciences, including optical and scanning electron microscopy, fermentation science, saponification, herbalism, astronomy and planetary science, and citizen science.

We started this Meetup because many people think science must be done in a lab with expensive equipment. We want to show how easy and fun scientific experiments can be. We will gather to do science, talk about news in the world of science, and have field trips to places like Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin.

This group is open to people of all experience levels, from complete newbies to working scientists. Bring your curiosity and join us!

Also, please like our page on Facebook. Help us reach 100 likes by the end of July!


07 2014

Artificial Intelligence Q&A with Tim Winkler, IBM

Applied Sciences Chicago presents:

What will you do with Watson:

Come out this Monday evening from 7-8 to do a Q&A with Tim Winkler, a former PS:One member and software engineer at IBM who works on Watson, the Jeopardy winning artificial intelligence.

Tim has worked for IBM for 10 years and on Watson for about 3 years. He works with natural language parsing and machine learning.

Watson processes unformatted data, i.e. natural language documents, and not structured databases, so part of Tim’s job is to work on ingesting that data and making sense of it. One of his current projects is cognitive cooking, in which Watson comes up with recipes for us to cook and is really awesome:)

Cognitive Cooking in the IBM Cloud:

So come with any and all questions about one of the most famous robots in the world:)

When: Monday July 7, 2014 7-8 PM
Where: Lounge

More links to check out:

IBM’s Watson Supercomputer Destroys Humans in Jeopardy
Watson is headed for your pocket
Watson’s new job, IBM salesman
Watson goes to the hospital
Artificial intelligence


07 2014

DC Circuits Class Notes


Thanks to everyone who came and participated in the circuits class this past weekend.  There was a lot of material that was covered and there was no way to go through it all in exhausting detail.  So I’m making available a scanned PDF of the notes I wrote for the class.  Enjoy all the spelling errors, in addition to the one found above.  The edges might be cut-off in some areas, but it’s the best I can do:   DC_Circuits_SK

Also, Carl Karsten did the exhausting (and usually thankless) job of recording a video of the class.  It can be found here:

The solution to the bonus question was never explicitly stated in the video, so here it is:





07 2014

Hack Your Coffee!


Have you ever felt dissatisfied?

Have you ever woken up in the morning, considered all the projects you had ahead for the day, all the worthless meetings and teleconferences, and just said, “blah?”

You take a sip of your morning coffee, expecting a moment of brightness, goodness, something to cling onto by the fingernails, to hold you throughout the day, as you say to yourself, “You know, today is gonna suck, but at least I have this freshly brewed Java Supremo from Overpriced Cafe”?

You take that sip… and you say to yourself, “Really?  That’s it?  This is how my day is going to begin, not with a bang, but with a whimper?”

Yes, I too have felt that way.  I had wished there was a way I could seek out bold new flavor profiles in my morning coffee, beyond just “mild” “medium” and “strong.”  I wished there was a way to hack my morning coffee.

Thankfully, there are options.  Today, we are trained to only look for coffee at our grocer, or perhaps at the local cafe where we can pick and choose from pre-selected and pre-roasted coffee, perhaps even pre-ground, for our approval.  Or, we can do things the way our great-great-grandparents did it, which is, we roast our own damn coffee.  There are many ways to do this, one of which is with an air-pop popcorn popper.


That’s right, this noble device, previously only a monotasked tool to deliver copious amounts of fluffed corn to your gaping maw whilst watching reruns of ‘Love Boat’ and ‘Magnum PI’ can also serve as a way to roast our precious coffee the same way the pioneers did.  Well, not really, but close enough.

Currently only one batch of green coffee beans has been successfully roasted and served to unsuspecting denizens of PS:1 (No, those are not flavor crystals, THAT’S REAL FLAVOR DANGIT) to glowing reviews.  This is only a proof-of-concept batch at this point, with much more work and experimentation to be conducted, but with continued testing and sampling, the overall goal is to create a viable procedure, optimize the process, and eventually create the capability at PS:1 to roast coffee, and tailor to your specific discerning tastes.

The output of this project will include a wiki page with optional training, an understanding of the variables of coffee roasting and how to tweak the process to serve your tastes (i.e. using APPLIED SCIENCE to understand the roasting process), and recommendations on where to source green coffee beans.

More information is forthcoming in a future 300 Seconds of Fame!





07 2014