24 July

High performance binoculars for the stars, asterisms, or for bird watching

I have a big telescope for star gazing, but have been hankering for something portable and with a big field of view. With the advent of image stabilized binoculars, it looks like itís time to take the plunge.

The Canon 10x42L is my pick, as it combines a solid and pleasing 10x magnification with a big 42mm front lens and uses Canon's top-quality L-series optics. It's a very expensive pair of binoculars, but seems supreme. Notably, one should note that with binoculars and telescopes, the temptation of a large magnification or aperture size, in a lower-cost but lower quality package, should be resisted. For optical equipment, quality optics is really worth it, and a low-cost option is generally a road to frustration and disappointment.

At magnifications greater than 7, holding binoculars steady becomes a real challenge, especially over longer time periods which makes the image stabilization so attractive. People who have the 10x42L IS model often say they could not imagine going back.

To save a bit of money, the 10x32 version is still very good, but lacks the waterproofing and L-series optics. It has a smaller aperture, but still sports the very valuable image stabilization.

A much lower cost option would be the Celestron Cometron Giant 15x70 Binoculars (or the related and perhaps-identical "Skymaster"). Both are reportedly slightly inconsistent in performance and have been reported to occasionally arrive improperly collimated (which means the image is blurry unless you take steps to adjust it). This is still an interesting purchase, especially if you can find it on sale (they've been seen as low as $70 CAD/$55 USD in 2021 and if I could find them again at that price I'd grab a pair). At that magnification one probably wants to put them on a tripod for extended viewing (hence the attraction of expensive stabilization), but for short viewing sessions then just resting the scope
your elbows on a solid surface should be okay

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
05 June

The International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2022 was great, but also a super-speader

The International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) is the premiere event for the robotics research community. The 2022 meeting in Philadelphia returned the meeting to a strong semblance of what it used to be before the pandemic, most recently in 2019 (Montreal). In between the conference took place, but generally with a greatly-reduced in-person component, or a very atypical geographical distribution of attendees. The attendance in 2022 was as big or bigger that it had ever been, and the researchers and companies in attendance were greatly invigorated by the opportunity to see each other in person again, and to engage in the professional networking that is so important in building a community. In general, my impression is that smaller meetings and sub-communities have done pretty well in "virtual mode" during the pandemic, but building connections is a much larger community, especially between people who don't already know each other was difficult.

Robotics has continued to thrive all through the pandemic, and the quality of the research papers being presented was noticeably strong. For somebody like me who has been "in the game" a long time, it's exciting to see how much the quality of the work being done has improved, in terms of core science, engineering, testing and pragmatic impact. In the context of pragmatic impact, the trade show was also very impressive. The kind of companies on site, and the sophistication of the robotic systems and technology being show was head was wonderful. My own team from Samsung had a hiring booth and we got applications and expressions of interest from a students and professions of the highest calibre.


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By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
18 November

A few thoughts on highlight before and during the pandemic

After a year and a half of covid-world, and the prospect of another tough winter taking precautions regarding covid-19, I am have been thinking about some of the great experiences I was lucky to have in the preceding few years. Many of these are personal, and related to time spent with my family, but here are 3 of the generic ones.

I visited Delhi in 2010, and especially Old Delhi. For a North American like me, Delhi was an eye-opening experience, with a panoply of culture, sights, smells, people, and modes of living. While there, I took time to visit Agra and the Taj Mahal, which is certainly one of the most impressive human artifacts on earth. The trip was made even more exceptional by the fact that my friends Yogesh Girdhar and Sofia had their wedding while I was in town, and the chance to attend was a very lucky opportunity for me.

In past years I have had the chance to work in Barbados almost every year, and even gone scuba diving as part of my work there. Barbados was been a very special place for me and I have always been very fond of the people there and the culture that they embody. Our robotics work on the reefs has let me observe their unfortunate decline, but despite that the ecosystems there are strikingly beautiful.
For several years Iíve been on the board of the Bellairs Institute there. Providing some advice targeted towards developing that facility has been a job I feel fortunate to have been involved in. The last time I was there was right at the start of the pandemic in 2020, and hope I can back sometime soon.

In 2019, I was able to start building the Samsung AI Center in downtown Montreal.
It's hard to believe that we have been out of the office almost completely for over a year, while we are still building up the lab. There are people on my team that I work with regularly, yet whom I have only met briefly in person. That is beyond any mode of operation I had ever expected. Maybe itís not that strange for some teams that are used to outsourcing, but for a small research-intensive team, itís very unusual by the standards of 2019. Nonetheless, it has gone much better than I would have anticipated.

As many aspects of life inch toward normalcy, it's both good to reflect on what was missed and the ways we have adapted.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
03 October

Lanterns and displays in the Chinese garden

The "Gardens of Light" exhibit is on in Montreal on the grounds of the botanical garden, and they are well executed and seem quite safe in the context of covid-19. My daughter Natasha brought came with me and we saw a range of charming and ethereal displays. It's a very mellow experience and one walks from one kind of display to another, some with sound effects and others with a continual otherworldly mist. Especially in this year where big events that are also safe are so scarce, this is a welcome treat.

Official site: https://www.mtl.org/en/what-to-do/festivals-and-events/gardens-light

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
01 January

Best wishes for 2021.

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05 August

After several attempts, the clouds and weather allowed me to capture comet NEOWISE in the evening (well, not really on "film" since I used a digital camera). The most painful sessions were when I went driving for an hour at 3:30am only to get views of low-lying clouds. Somehow, it was very satisfying to be able to snap my own photo of this phenomenon.

(Click to expand)

(Click to expand)

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    

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