BCNM Around the Web December 2019

20 Dec, 2019

BCNM Around the Web December 2019

Check out the work of our faculty and alumnni around the web!

Ken Goldberg

Ken Goldberg weighed in on Deep Mind's new method of reinforcement learning to teach a robot to stack blocks. "I wouldn’t say it’s total hype—it’s not,” Ken Goldberg, a roboticist at UC Berkeley, told Wired. “But people are going to look at that video and think, ‘My God, next it’s going to be shuffling cards and other things,’ which it isn’t.” Check it out here:

He also spoke at the Bay Area Robotics symposium this past November. BARS brings together roboticists from the Bay Area and consists of a mix of faculty, student and industry presentations. See more information at

Ken also spoke at MIT's robotics seminar. From his talk description: Despite 50 years of research, robots remain remarkably clumsy, limiting their reliability for warehouse order fulfillment, robot-assisted surgery, and home decluttering. The First Wave of grasping research is purely analytical, applying variations of screw theory to exact knowledge of pose, shape, and contact mechanics. The Second Wave is purely empirical: end-to-end hyperparametric function approximation (aka Deep Learning) based on human demonstrations or time-consuming self-exploration. A "New Wave" of research considers hybrid methods that combine analytic models with stochastic sampling and Deep Learning models. I'll present this history with new results from our lab on grasping diverse and previously-unknown objects. See more at

danah boyd

Alum danah boyd joined Margo Anderson, Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Mark Hansen, David and Helen Gurley Brown Professor of Journalism at Columbia University, Melva M. Miller, Executive Vice President at the Association for a Better New York (ABNY), and James Treat, Assistant Director for Decennial Census Programs to discuss the big challenges for the 2020 census in New York. See here:

Jane McGonigal

Alum Jane McGonigal's app Superbetter was named one of the five best therapy apps for 2019 by USA Today! From the review: I liked SuperBetter, but the app was less intuitive to navigate than the others. I did do a couple of “power-ups,” which are easy tasks that give you a quick win. For example, I drank a glass of water. See:

Pulse also highlighted SuperBetter, saying, "It might seem really strange to attempt to battle anxiety or stress through a superhero game, but thats exactly what this app promises it will do. In the SuperBetter app, youre a superhero battling bad guys by activating power ups. In order to do so, you have to complete real-life actions like chug a glass of water and give yourself a hug. Sounds kind of fun, and funny, no?" See:

Trevor Paglen

Trevor Paglen was at FotoFocus' discussion on Photogrpahy's past, future, and pitfalls. From Hyperallergic's write up: But FotoFocus did well to end the day on keynote speaker and MacArthur Genius Grant awardee Trevor Paglen, whose work investigates mass surveillance and data collection in an effort to see the historical moment we live in and imagine alternative futures. See here:

Bo Ruberg

Bo Ruberg spoke at UC Davis' Science and Technology Studies on their latest book Video Games Have Always Been Queer! From the description:

While popular discussions about queerness in video games often focus on big-name, mainstream games that feature LGBTQ characters, like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, Bonnie Ruberg pushes the concept of queerness in games beyond a matter of representation, exploring how video games can be played, interpreted, and designed queerly, whether or not they include overtly LGBTQ content. Video Games Have Always Been Queer argues that the medium of video games itself can—and should—be read queerly.


Jen Schradie

Jen Schradie spoke on "The Digital Activism Gap: The Myth of Egalitarianism and the Internet's Hidden Costs " at seminar Transnum, along with Dominique Pasquier and Thierry Vedel. See here and here!