News

Steve Wozniak emphasizes people over technology

CS alumnus Steve Wozniak (B.A.'86) was the inaugural speaker in the Business Thought Leader series at the University of South Florida College of Business.  He answered pre-submitted questions that asked for his best advice for college students and what he might tell his younger self.  He shared his "smiles minus frowns" happiness equation and said that how one feels is paramount to success.  While passion and vision are key, he stressed the importance of always choosing people over technology and cautioned students that ”the purpose [of your work] should never be, this is how I’m going to make a lot of money.”  Instead, if you think about how you can make the world a better place you will never regret the outcome.  He said that he was so famous when he came back to study at Berkeley, after taking time off to found Apple Computers, that he went by the pseudonym Rocky Raccoon Clark.

AI@The House built to support AI-related startups

Profs. Dawn Song, Ion Stoica, Kurt Keutzer, Michael Jordan, Pieter Abbeel, and Trevor Darrell have teamed up with EECS alumnus Cameron Baradar (B.S. '15) and startup institute The House to run a new "global center-of-gravity of AI activity" called AI@The House. The new program will offer technical guidance, mentorship, free graphic processing units and financial support, among other resources, to startups focused on AI.  Their first core initiative is an accelerator for startups who are leveraging AI to build industry-defining products.

Allen Tang (second from left) and team (David Filiberti via Citadel)

Allen Tang's team wins data science competition

EECS Master's student Allen Tang (also alumnus, B.A. CS/Statistics/ORMS) and his Berkeley teammates have won the Data Open Championship at the New York Stock Exchange.  The winners receive a $100,000 cash prize and possible job interviews with Citadel, a Chicago-based hedge fund firm. The competition was comprised of 20 one-day competitions from Stanford to MIT to Oxford, with the best performers competing in the week-long finale.  The Berkeley team of four applied data science to a meaningful problem in education--the impact of opening charter schools--to find where more funding would have the biggest effect. They worked 16-hour days during the week and produced a 20-page report and presentation on how charter schools have a negative impact in the short-term but outperform public schools in the long-term because of a survivorship bias. Only good charters stay in the system while bad ones close.

A “blankie” that contains printed MRI coils (Usha Lee McFarling/STAT)

Ana Claudia Arias, Miki Lustig, and Joe Corea's printable, wearable devices

Prof. Ana Claudia Arias, Prof. Miki Lustig, and graduate student Joseph Corea, are featured in a STAT article titled "Electronics ‘like a second skin’ make wearables more practical and MRIs safer for kids."  The team is using printers loaded with a variety of high-tech inks (liquid silver nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes and semiconducting plastics) to make a new generation of medical devices, from wearables to barely noticeable MRI hardware for kids.  They have created light, flexible MRI coils that will improve image quality as well as patient comfort, and  have spun off a company called InkSpace Imaging to speed development.  “What would be best would be electronics that were almost like a second skin,” Arias said. “No adhesive. No straps. Almost like underwear — you forget that you’re wearing it.”

Wu-Fu Chen elected to Crown Bioscience Board of Directors

CS alumnus Wu-Fu Chen (Ph.D. '77) has been elected to the Board of Directors of Crown Bioscience Inc., a global drug discovery and development company.  Chen is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Acorn Campus Ventures and Partner Emeritus at Mobility Ventures LLC.  He started more than a dozen companies, including Cascade Communications (IPO in Nasdaq, $10B) and Xinwei Telecom (IPO in China, near $30B).  Forbes Magazine ranked Chen as one of the Top 100 Venture Investors in the U.S. and he was recognized by Red Herring magazine as one of the “Top Ten Entrepreneurs of 2000”.   He has been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and was once called the “Most Influential Person” in optical networking by Light Reading magazine.

Embodied Intelligence raises $7M in seed round

Start-up Embodied Intelligence,  founded by Prof. Pieter Abbeel and his grad students Peter Chen, Rocky Duan, and Tianhao Zhang, raised $7M in a seed round yesterday led by venture capital firm Amplify Partners.  VC firms Lux Capital, SV Angels, FreeS, 11.2 Capital, and A. Capital also supplied capital.  Embodied Intelligence is building AI software to enable robots to learn tasks performed by the user via a virtual reality headset.  It claims existing robots will be compatible with the "robot brain," which would supplant coding scripts tailored to each task.  Embodied will use the seed capital to write its first robotics applications.

Bhat and Phadte (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

Students help debunk fake news surrounding Texas shooting

EECS junior Rohan Phadte and fellow student Ash Bhat launched their Chrome browser extension, Botcheck.me, on Halloween and it is already proving invaluable.   The app determines whether news posts on Twitter likely came from real people or were generated by a bot.  When an armed gunman attacked the congregants of a Texas church this weekend, all legitmate news accounts agreed that neither race nor religion appeared to play a role.  But a barrage of bots immediately started spreading rumors that the shooter had recently converted to Islam or was a member of Antifa.   According to a simple random sample of 1,500 political propaganda Twitter bots the students posted on their site, #texaschurchmassacre was the bot world’s third favorite hashtag on Monday, after #maga and #antifa.

BRETT training with VR

EECS-affiliated startup uses virtual reality to show robots how to perform

The start-up Embodied Intelligence and its founders, Prof. Pieter Abbeel and grad students Peter Chen, Rocky Duan, and Tianhao Zhang, are the focus of two news articles: one from the New York Times titled "A.I. Researchers Leave Elon Musk Lab to Begin Robotics Start-Up," and one from Berkeley News titled "Berkeley startup to train robots like puppets."  The start-up is backed by $7 million in funding from Amplify Partners and other investors and will specialize in complex algorithms that allow machines to learn new tasks on their own through extreme trial and error.  The researchers are augmenting the algorithms with a wide range of techniques, like using virtual reality tools to show a robot how to perform a task--translating the movements into digital data.  “With our advances in machine learning, we can write a piece of software once — machine learning code that enables the robot to learn — and then when the robot needs to be equipped with a new skill, we simply provide new data.” Abbeel explains.

EECS Accel Scholars

Amit Kumar and Accel launch Accel Scholars EECS mentorship program

EECS alumnus Amit Kumar (B.S. '03) and the venture firm Accel are launching a mentorship program called Accel Scholars to support EECS undergraduates.  Accel will work with a select group of students over the course of a year, hosting networking dinners and also guaranteeing the students an internship at a portfolio company.  Kumar initiated the program because he felt there wasn’t enough career guidance for students at Berkeley and that venture firms that ignore the ecosystem are missing out.  Chair James Demmel says EECS is grateful for the opportunity to “partner with Accel and its network to provide a fast-track for an exceptionally talented and diverse cohort of undergraduates, who will benefit from mentorship by Accel but also by and from one another.”

Mattel Kamigami (TechCrunch)

Mattel releases Dash foldable robot bugs

Mattel has launched a line of biologically inspired foldable robot bugs designed in collaboration with Dash Robots, a spin-off of the Biomimetic Millisystems Lab (BML).  The researchers at BML, under the direction of Prof. Ron Fearing, draw inspiration from nature to build more efficient robotics.  The new toys, called  Kamigami, let kids build their own robotic bugs, like mantises, ladybugs and scorpions.  Each $50 kit contains parts of a six-legged robot (with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and IR transmitter/receiver) and foldable plastic origami sheets to transform each robot into a different creature.