Robots and Robotic Cars

Delphi Self Driving Car

Yesterday I hit the jackpot doing the Silicon Valley paparazzi thing. First off, I visited Intel’s “Garage” for their self driving car project. I read there was a media event there the day before. When I arrived it looked like the event was still in swing. Delphi’s self driving Audi was being demonstrated and another white vehicle with the give away Lidar setup on the roof was visible in the distance. Walking up the rather terse security guard asked if I had a badge. “No” – well than you can’t come in!

Delphi Self Driving Car

But alas, I had my new Sigma 150-600mm contemporary I purchased with this sort of thing in mind. Fortunately, Delphi’s “Intel Inside” Audi Q5s is plastered with logos of the various suppliers to the project, Intel, MobilEye, Vehicle 2 Everything, Ottomatika, and a big “Self-Driving Vehicle” notice on the back. Why that’s fortunate, is that unlike most other Self driving cars I’ve stalked, Delphi’s doesn’t have the big Lidar bucket atop. Instead, If you look closely at the full resolution photos, you can see cameras and sensors all over. Not only the more obvious ones in the rear view mirror assembly, but also in various subtle spots I would likely miss walking past this vehicle under normal circumstances.

Waymo’s Autonomous Chrysler minivan on the Streets of Silicon Valley

After my parking spot expired, I moved on to Google in search of the ever illusive new Waymo Chrysler self driving minivan. And this time I found them! In fact, the new Pacifica minivans were so common- it’s my guess that was the reason I didn’t see a single one of those super-cute “pod cars”, perhaps all the “drivers” are busy testing the Chryslers?

Waymo’s Autonomous Chrysler minivan on the Streets of Silicon Valley

And last but not least, I stumbled upon the robot security guard at Microsoft’s Mountain View Campus.

Autonomous Campus Patrol, Microsoft Campus, Silicon Valley

The Knightscope robot is a bit overly cute, it even has a soundtrack with a futuristic sound. 

Autonomous Campus Patrol, Microsoft Campus, Silicon Valley

Greetings from Silicon Valley!

Guess Where in Silicon Valley: May

Dear Comrades, can you guess where this was taken? On this May Day edition of Guess Where in Silicon Valley, I’m throwing a bone to the proletariat. Hint, this piece of wall was once in Berlin, but now is home in Silicon Valley. No cheating, don’t look it up!

Section of the Berlin Wall on Display at the Mountain View Main Library, Silicon Valley, California

Animated San Jose

Sometimes my photos from my real camera end up on my phone. When that happens they automagically get uploaded to Google Photos. After that Google Photos “Assistant” combs through them, and on occasion suggests possible animated GIFs.

I thought these were fun- a few trains and cranes from my last stock photo day in San Jose.

Thanks for looking….

VTA to Winchester
VTA to Winchester
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose
Bigge Crane Assembly from Saint James Park in San Jose

Caltrain at Diridon Station
Caltrain at Diridon Station
Caltrain at Diridon Station
Caltrain at Diridon Station

 

 

San Jose is Growing UP!

Years, make that decades ago while shopping at Streetlight Records in San Jose, I recall a punk album spoofing the “San Jose is Growing Up” theme title “San Jose is Throwing UP.” That reminded me of the original slogan- which rings more true than then. San Jose is finally getting some real big developments downtown.

San Jose is Growing UP, Construction next to Saint James Park in Downtown San Jose

This became especially evident as I was walking around Saint James Park in Downtown San Jose. A giant crane (apparently operated by the company Bigge based on the signage) was setting up a huge crane.

San Jose is Growing UP, Construction next to Saint James Park in Downtown San Jose

I saw an opportunity to get some nice silhouettes of the base of the crane being assembled. First I whipped out my 100mm lens, the longest lens I had in my bag. It so happened that I had my newish Sigma Contemporary 150-600mm in the car so I headed to go grab it.

San Jose is Growing UP, Construction next to Saint James Park in Downtown San Jose

On my return I noticed a unique juxtaposition with the steel base of the frame of the crane assembly and the iconic Bank of Italy (or as the kids now call it Bank of America) building. Depending on the framing, it looked as though the crane was dwarfing the tower of the BOA building, but that’s only an illusion based on my location.

I did a little research, but am not sure what’s being built on the spot. But it looks like it’s gonna be tall whatever it is!

 

Welcome our New Robotic Overlords

A robot just made my espresso! A quick stock photo excursion brought me to the newish Robo-cafe in San Francisco’s Metreon.

CAFE X, ROBOTIC CAFÉ IN SAN FRANCISCO
CAFE X, ROBOTIC CAFÉ IN SAN FRANCISCO

Cafe X is clearly intended as a prototype or a  publicity stunt. There’s actually a human watching over the entire operation. And there’s no way I can see that they’re even able to cover rent at San Francisco’s Metreon selling a couple hundred espresso drinks at ca. $3/ea.

CAFE X, ROBOTIC CAFÉ IN SAN FRANCISCO
CAFE X, ROBOTIC CAFÉ IN SAN FRANCISCO

But it was fun watching the “Barista” nick-named Gordon at work making my espresso and cappuccino. Best of all he doesn’t accept tips!

CAFE X, ROBOTIC CAFÉ IN SAN FRANCISCO
CAFE X, ROBOTIC CAFÉ IN SAN FRANCISCO

(and check out this video)

Rock Me Beethoven

(with my apologies to the late Falco and the even later Amadeus….)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

San Jose has a wonderful newish Library. I’ve visited the MLK Library a few times already. But until now managed to avoid visiting the Beethoven Center.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

The MLK Library is somewhat unique as I understand it as it is both the City of San Jose’s Public library and is shared as part of San Jose State University. In addition to having some of the best publicly accessible views of the city, it is home to a number of special collections. In addition to the aforementioned Beethoven Center, there’s also a Steinbeck center, California Room various special ethnic collections on the fifth floor.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

As I arrived the Beethoven Center just a few minutes before closing. The gentleman there told me that he plays some of the historical pianos – but he was wrapping up to close so I’d have to come back another day.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

And so I will!

A Very Asian Day in San Jose……

A Very Asian Day in San Jose……

Japantown San Jose, Silicon Valley

Not that I planned it that way… I did start looking (for cherry blossoms) in two of San Jose’s Japanese landmarks, Japantown and the Japanese Friendship Garden. But the Japanese Friendship garden turned out to be closed, perhaps due to the recent flooding. And turns out the beautiful pink blossoms that are blooming in my neighborhood were plum trees, not cherry. I’ll have to return in a month or two.

Japantown San Jose, Silicon Valley

So I walked around San Jose’s Japantown looking for stuff to photograph. I’d been meaning to add a few photos of the newish Japanese Museum. And I couldn’t help but get a few shots of the already well covered Buddhist Church. And as I do whenever I can, I stopped at an old familiar restaurant I’ve visited since my childhood: Kazoo.

And while thinking of gardens and trees in bloom, I thought of another place from my childhood. Right next to my high school, Independence HS on the East Side, there’s a park. I took a few photos there a few months ago, and it was really, really brown and dry due to the drought. Now it’s flooding in SJ, so I figured it would look a bit different, perhaps with some plum trees in blossom if I was lucky.

Overfelt Gardens Park, San Jose, Silicon Valley

Well I was lucky- to some degree at least. There were a few pink blossoming trees next to an arch commemorating the Chinese Garden. The gardens themselves seemed kinda shabby. The main pavilion was still barricaded like the last time I visited months ago. And one big surprise for me was that the pond around the Confucius statue was completely empty. I assumed the last time I visited it was because of the drought, but alas there must be another reason.

Overfelt Gardens Park, San Jose, Silicon Valley

Onward on my Asian journey, I made a stop to a favorite suburban gem that was built when I was growing up in the neighborhood: the Pao-Hua Buddhist Temple. I think this is mainly used by ethnic Chinese Vietnamese folks. I really like the walls of Buddhas especially. And the people there are so nice, a monk came up to me and encouraged me to continue photographing pointing out some details I should pay closer attention to.

Buddhist Temple in East San Jose, California

Buddhist Temple in East San Jose, California

Buddhist Temple in East San Jose, California

All in all, it was a nice visit. I do know the way to San Jose, and enjoy taking that route.

 

NEWSFLASH: Uber Self Driving Cars in SF

It’s not like I’m tired of stalking Google’s self driving car program. But I figured I should branch out a little:-)

Uber Self Driving Car (Michael Halberstadt)
Uber Self Driving Car (Michael Halberstadt)

In any case, I don’t have enough time to do my typical posts full of the usual drivel and blah blah blahs, so I’ll just place a few photos here with a link.

Uber Self Driving Car, San Francisco (michael halberstadt)
Uber Self Driving Car, San Francisco (michael halberstadt)

Though it’s not my specialty- I also shot some video – please inquire if that’s something you’re interested in.

Uber Self Driving Car, San Francisco (michael halberstadt)
Uber Self Driving Car, San Francisco (michael halberstadt)

Thanks!

(I should also thank the kind folks at Reddit for their encouragement and Mario Herger’s site for helping with German keywording 😉

In Search of the Self Driving Minivan

Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Just to clear things up first, no you will not see any photos on this post of the new rumored Chrysler-Fiat Pacifica Self Driving minivan. It is in the works as I understand it, and have seen some photos online in a Google parking garage. But eventually, they will have to take this thing out for testing, and I’ll be there ASAP snapping away.

Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

However, I did get to sit on a bench on a pleasant fall day and snap some nice photos of other Google autonomous cars passing by. I felt kinda like a fisherman might feel fishing out of a stocked pond.

Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

At one point (while I was on the phone to my friend and fellow photographer Christian 1*) I heard the electric car whirring sound on my left. I excused myself from the phone call, stood up and saw two of those cute 2 seat prototype autonomous cars on my left, then looked to the right and saw another one! It was like I was being surrounded.

Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Self Driving Car (M. Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

Unfortunately for my stock photo luck, there was another interesting scene – that could have been an even better contrast had there been a self driving car there as well. A homeless guy (?) came riding down the slight hill next to the Google X building carrying a bunch of huge bags full of recycling.

I’ll head down soon and see if I can find this rumored vehicle in the wild.