Collaborating Authors


Coffee with Sasquatch and a Couple of Robots

The New Yorker

In 2011, Don Moyer, a retired graphic designer, inherited a Blue Willow plate from his grandmother. Washington, and draws every day. "I got this plate and I was studying it, and I really kind of liked it," he said. "The design was very busy, like doodling--no place was at rest." At the end, for no particular reason, he added a small pterodactyl.

Gather AI, Revolutionizing Inventory Management One Drone at a Time


Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting one of the most innovative AI companies in Pittsburgh. Gather AI, an autonomous inventory management AI company, which is revolutionizing the warehousing industry as the title mentions "one drone at a time." Gather AI's founding team is made up of three graduates from Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, which includes co-founder and chief robotics officer Sankalp Arora, co-founder, and chief technology officer Daniel Maturana, and co-founder and chief security officer, Geetesh Dubey. Gather AI uses state of the art robotics, classic AI methods, and a deep learning engine to enable autonomous inventory monitoring and management, which uses a fleet of drones. Each drone is fully autonomous and paired to a tablet device, which provides inventory data.

Self-Driving Car Startup Argo AI Expands in Pittsburgh


Argo AI is expanding its presence in the Strip District. The self-driving car startup is taking more space in the Riverfront West building in the 3 Crossings development in the Strip. Argo moved its headquarters to the five-story building in 2018. It currently occupies floors four and five, as well as part of the first floor. The additional space will be on the third floor, which it will be sharing with Oxford Development Co., the developer behind 3 Crossings.

Artificial Intelligence: Growth in many sectors in light of a Pandemic Getting Smart


As researchers around the world work to find answers to so many questions about the Coronavirus, two things have been happening that I have noticed. One, there has been an increase in the use of artificial intelligence in the medical field, in particular with tracking the onset of Coronavirus and using AI to explore trends and devise solutions to some of the challenges that we are facing as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, AI has also become a more common topic of discussion in the world of education, with resources shared for how to learn more about AI and many online course providers seeing an increase in enrollment in their AI programs. Why do we need to pay more attention to AI now? There are statistics predicting that artificial intelligence in U.S. education will grow by 47.5% from 2017-2021.

CMU's Iris Lunar Rover Meets Milestone for Flight

CMU School of Computer Science

Carnegie Mellon University students who designed and built a small, boxy robot, called Iris, have achieved a major milestone: their robot passed its critical design review by NASA and is on track to land on the moon in the fall of 2021. "We are moving forward … we're going to the moon," a triumphant project manager, Raewyn Duvall, told Iris team members during a Zoom meeting following the review. Officials at NASA and Astrobotic Inc., whose Peregrine lander will deliver the robot to the lunar surface, performed the review. Duvall, a Ph.D. student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, said the process resulted in a few small design revisions, which the team is now incorporating. The team will replace prototype parts with flight components this summer, as they test the robot to prove that it can withstand the trip to the moon without causing problems for Peregrine or other payloads aboard the lunar lander.

Uber is bringing its self-driving cars to Washington, DC


Uber's self-driving cars will soon be jockeying for space on the streets of Washington, DC, with the ride-hailing company announcing it will begin collecting data to support the development of its fleet of autonomous vehicles. The vehicles will not be operating in autonomous mode, though. They will instead be operated by human drivers to start out, collecting mapping data and capturing driving scenarios which Uber's engineers will then reproduce in simulation. That said, the company hopes to eventually allow its self-driving cars in Washington to, well, self-drive. "Our hope is that this first round of manually driven data collection will lay the foundation for testing our vehicles in self-driving mode in Washington, DC," the company's Advanced Technologies Group said in a Medium post.

Smell Pittsburgh: Engaging Community Citizen Science for Air Quality Artificial Intelligence

Urban air pollution has been linked to various human health concerns, including cardiopulmonary diseases. Communities who suffer from poor air quality often rely on experts to identify pollution sources due to the lack of accessible tools. Taking this into account, we developed Smell Pittsburgh, a system that enables community members to report odors and track where these odors are frequently concentrated. All smell report data are publicly accessible online. These reports are also sent to the local health department and visualized on a map along with air quality data from monitoring stations. This visualization provides a comprehensive overview of the local pollution landscape. Additionally, with these reports and air quality data, we developed a model to predict upcoming smell events and send push notifications to inform communities. We also applied regression analysis to identify statistically significant effects of push notifications on user engagement. Our evaluation of this system demonstrates that engaging residents in documenting their experiences with pollution odors can help identify local air pollution patterns, and can empower communities to advocate for better air quality. All citizen-contributed smell data are publicly accessible and can be downloaded from

"Student Centered, Future Focused": Montour School District Designs Schools That Are Future Ready


Whether they are teaching multiplication facts with the video game Minecraft or exploring engineering concepts in a Lego-themed makerspace, educators in Pennsylvania's Montour School District always ask themselves, "Is this best for children?"--not just for today, but for the future students will face as adults. "Our entire school community, led by our superintendent and school board, really believes that they want what's best for children and that comes with understanding what is best for children now and in the future," explains Justin Aglio, Montour's director of K–4 academic achievement and K–12 innovation. "We know what we want our future to look like. We want a school where students are kind, where students are thinkers, where they have the advanced skills and strategies they need to achieve academically. You can't wish students will be kind five years from now, you have to design it."

Founder Institute Launches New Pittsburgh A.I. & Robotics Startup Program


The Founder Institute, the world's largest pre-seed startup accelerator is announcing the "A.I. & Robotics" program in Pittsburgh, sponsored by Philips, a leading health technology company focused on improving people's health. The A.I. & Robotics Founder Syndicate aims to inspire and support early-stage A.I. & Robotics entrepreneurs and teams in the Pittsburgh Founder Institute by providing: The goal of this program, designed in partnership with Philips is to help launch more than 20 promising companies leverage A.I. or Robotics technology in 2020 and further establish Pittsburgh as a center for A.I. & Robotics innovation. Early-stage entrepreneurs and teams interested in building an A.I. or Robotics startup in Pittsburgh are encouraged to apply at The final deadline for applications will be on December 15th, 2019, and the program will run from January 21st, 2020 to April 28th, 2020. To celebrate this new program, the Pittsburgh Founder Institute will host several free events focusing on A.I. & Robotics over the next few weeks: The Pittsburgh Founder Institute was launched in 2017 by Randy Eager (Founder and Managing Partner, Aqualibrium LLC) and Greg Coticchia (Chief Executive Officer/Founder, ENTRA).

Why the left should worry more about AI


I spend a disproportionate amount of time reading and talking to two somewhat niche groups of people in American politics: democratic socialists of the Sen. Bernie Sanders variety (or maybe a bit to the left of that), and left-libertarians from the Bay Area who are interested in effective altruism. These are both small groups, but they have social and intellectual influence bigger than their numbers. And while from a distance they look similar (I'm sure they both vote for Democrats in general elections, say), there's a big issue on which they part ways where collaboration could be productive: artificial intelligence safety. Effective altruists have, for complex sociological reasons I explored in a podcast episode, become very interested in AI as a potential "existential risk": a force that could, in extreme circumstances, wipe out humanity, just as nuclear war or asteroid strikes could. Kelsey Piper has a comprehensive Vox explainer of these arguments, and I take them seriously, but most friends to my left do not.