Author Archive for dudtpr1

Helen Greiner: Inventor of the First Robotic Vacuum

Helen Greiner is the c0-founder of iRobot, which she helped to start as a result of her interest in robots. Greiner’s enthusiasm for these intriguing machines came from her fondness for R2-D2 in Star Wars and her desire to create something between a robot and a computer, similar to the one that her dad would bring home from work (shown below).

The idea, in Greiner’s mind, was to create something that would, more or less, have a mind of its own. iRobot’s first  success was a talking doll. After that, the company started working on a vacuum cleaner with SC Johnson Professional. The vacuum was a human sized robot that ran by itself, but the engineers understood that it would potentially be too dangerous at its current size. As a result they focused on building a smaller vacuum that would be more efficient. During this time, iRobot also aided in creating robots that would detect and defuse bombs, building contracts with the military for hundreds of millions of dollars. Since then, iRobot has engaged in other advancements in the robot industry, such as drones. Ms. Greiner helped start CyPhy Works, a drone specific company. CyPhy Works builds drones mostly for military and industrial use.  One example is the testing Greiner did with UPS for delivering packages. It was very successful.

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Pinterest Lens

Pinterest has added a new feature to its current app. One can now take a picture of a piece of clothing and Pinterest will find that article of clothing in a post. However, you have to take pictures of clothing you already have, I don’t think you can take take a picture of a piece of clothing online. This new feature to Pinterest, called Pinterest Lens, is a seamless way to figure out what you want to wear by easily searching for that same article of clothing online. The visual search product lead for Pinterest Lens, Jeff Harris, described the new photo search function in this way, “The way lenses work, you take a picture of something and we try to match the picture with all the images that are most similar. What we’ve done with Lens Your Look is taken a step deeper. We looked within our fashion pins with all the articles of clothing that are represented of that outfit. We’re not looking for whole pins with jean jackets, we’re looking for outfits where a small part is a jean jacket. It’s a good match for the 20 pixels that are a jean jacket. What we can do with combining text and visual search. Text is a clear signal, they want an outfit, that really narrows it.”



A Cheaper Way to Trade Stocks

Robinhood is a stock trading app that allows its users to see the average price of stocks they want to trade and there are no fees required while using Robinhood. With this app, the user is able to trade stocks for free, harkening back to the famed Robinhood, who would steal from the rich and give to the poor. Fortunately, There is no stealing involved with this app. The idea behind this app is to make it easier for millennials to buy and trade stocks. The platform is setup similar to Amazon and Spotify since that is what the younger generation is used to navigating. I don’t know a whole lot about stocks but this app is geared towards people who are noobs with regards to the stock market.



Robinhood stock trading comes to web with finance news for its 3M users

An Easier Way to Use Computers in the Classroom

Dominic Whyte, a college student involved in the Microsoft Garage program along with 45 others, spent 12 weeks on a project with 8 other interns. They took on a project that involved “recognizing and classifying input from the Microsoft Surface pen.” After brainstorming a few ideas, Whyte’s team fell upon one that stemmed from a problem they identified in classrooms, from K-12 to college classes: students having difficulties typing math problems into computers and teachers being able to check their students understanding of the material. They started building and app that utilized the Surface pen and would enable students to write math equations based on questions the teacher asked them. Furthermore, the students would immediately receive feedback on whether not what they were doing was correct. After receiving feedback from the teachers who tested the app, Whyte’s team added the ability to look at the performance of different students compared to others. After the team put the finishing touches on the project they presented the idea at Microsoft’s Global Headquarters in Richmond, Washington.

Write Ideas, A New App from Microsoft Garage to Help Students with Writing

Interns with the Microsoft Garage program came up with a very unique way to help students with learning disabilities. This was a particular point of interest for Claudia Vormbaum, one of the interns who deals with academic difficulties due to ADHD. For many people it is difficult to know where to start when writing a paper.  However, Write Ideas gives the student questions to prompt ideas and know how to start the writing process. Moreover, the app gives a basic outline for the thoughts that you generate, so that you do not have a blank page. Mike Tholfsen, the program manager for the education team at Microsoft, pitched this idea to the interns who then took the project and added their own taste to it. In Tholfsen’s words, “They went way beyond the original prototype and what we expected.” The most satisfying part of the whole process for Vormbaum was watching everything come together from start to finish. She said that this app would have been very helpful to her while writing and dealing with earlier struggles.