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Posted in July 2012

Robot Man- Aswin Chandarr on his Thesis

My company these days in Delft mainly comprises of my
friends who are in various Master tracks at the TU Delft. This is due to the
fact that most of my peers from my own faculty and Bachelor program have gone
back home for the summers. This leads to various conversations I have with my
older friends who are mostly completing their Thesis and are in the process of
graduating.

One such friend is Aswin Chandarr. He’s currently in the
process of writing his Master’s thesis and hopes to graduate soon. He has been
part of the faculty of Mechanical Engineering and is specializing in
Biorobotics. So here’s a little interview I conducted with him talking about
his Thesis and what it deals with and his graduation process. He was kind
enough to take out some time and answer my questions! Thank you Aswin J

 

Q. How would you describe your thesis to a layperson like
me with no background in Robotics?

A. To be short, I’d say it’s about bringing personal
robots in households. We have seen robots in science fiction films like Star
Wars etc.  But we haven’t seen robots
outside the laboratory. So the overall goal of my Thesis is to bring robots
outside the laboratory so they can be utilized practically.

 

Q. Don’t robots for households already exist?

A. There are some robots, say, like a dishwasher. But real
personal robots are still not there. We’re targeting at personal robots in
hospitals that will help patients in need or at airports to help lost
passengers and guide directions.

 

Q. So this is the general idea. What is your Thesis specifically
focussing on?

A. Object recognition. The whole group is targeting ‘perception’
as in objects, faces and sounds. My colleague’s thesis focuses on facial
recognition but mine focuses on object recognition. And this will be set in a
small indoor environment with everyday small usable objects which can be
grasped by the robots. For example if I ask the robot to grab me a can of cola
it will get me a can of cola and not a carton of milk. A lot of algorithms are
present that work only in laboratory conditions. For instance, you click a
photo of the object and then the robot will only identify that object. But my goal is to get the robot to
identify differences within similar looking objects as well. The problem with current
recognition is that it will identify the same object as two different objects
depending on what side it ‘sees’.

 

Q. When are you due with your Thesis?

A. Basically I’m done. I’m just writing the report right
now and my defence is on August 28.

 

Q. Do you hope to carry on with this research after you’re
done with you Masters here?

A. I’m starting my PhD from September and it will
basically be an extension of this current project. Right now the concept is
more robust than before but still not robust enough. So I’d like to continue to
that further.

 

Q. So did you guys actually make a robot?

A. Yes as a group we did and we went to Mexico for a
competition. The team comprised of four Master’s students doing their thesis on
it, three bachelor’s students and a PhD researcher leading the team.

 

Thank you again Aswin! It was great to get your insight into
the world of a student completing his Master’s Thesis. I’ll hopefully get a
picture of the root when it’s back from Mexico.

 

Aswin with his fuel- Coffee 

 

And there will be more of these interviews to follow!

 

Tot Later

 

Culture Center Again!

One of the good things about being back in Delft is the Culture Center. Now I have spoken about my love for the Cultur Center in different ways. But It’s nice to see that it’s open even during this period of the summer break.

I was reminded of this fact by my good friend Gaurav who is an excellent guitarist and is gradually progressing on to become a drummer as well. He had booked a drum room to practice there and,being a drummer, I had to go visit him and get back on the drums.

   

Gaurav Learning a new Trade                                                                             View from the top 

I used to visit the Culture Center at least 3 times a week but for the last month or so I haven’t been there since I was moving into a new place and then I had exams and then I went to Germany. So it’s a relief to be back with ample time to play drums finally! 

Since I will be starting a proper study schedule to prepare for the August exams, I’ll need some respite at the end of the day, and what beter way than to play drums?

Looking forward to more sessions at the Culture Center 🙂

 

Tot Later  

Delft- My Welcome to a Quiet Campus

It’s nice to be back in Delft. There’s something familiar
about it. I’ve been here for nearly three years now, and it’s home now.

Though, I noticed, when I got back, that there was something
different. The campus is usually buzzing with activity and full of students
walking around. But around now, it’s rather empty and isolated. That’s understandable
since it’s the summer break and most students have gone back to their
respective homes. The ones who’ve stayed back are either quietly completing
their Master’s Thesis or ones like me who have stayed back to try and study for
the coming August exams.

Though the campus is rather empty, it’s not as bad as I had
thought. This is due to the fact that a few of my friends have stayed back (to
complete their Master’s thesis). So after working in the day, they visit me and
we talk and hang out and jam and live our own little summer vacation in Delft
itself.

     

                                                               Empty roads on Campus- Not a common sight 

The campus is rather silent which is not always what you’d
want. But in its own way it’s a refreshing change and a completely different
perspective.

Gotta start gearing up for those August exams!

Tot Later

Journey Back to Delft- The end of a mini vacation

It was finally time to end my two week visit to my sister in
Heidelberg, a mini summer vacation in itself. 
Back to Delft! I was looking forward to it in some ways but would of
course miss the company of my sister. After all, family is family.

I booked a ‘hitchhike’ back to the Netherlands from Mannheim
(a city close to Heidelberg). I’ve done this countless times. It’s a very
convenient way to travel to neighbouring countries, especially for student. I’ll
give you an example. If you were to take a train to Delft from Heidelberg, it
would cost roughly 100 Euros. That is a steep price to cash strapped students
and isn’t always convenient. On the other hand, if you take a ‘mitfahr’ or ‘hitchhike’
to closer cities (since your exact to and from destination isn’t always available)
it costs a lot cheaper. My price for going from Mannheim to Utrecht was 25 Euros
with a ‘mitfahr’. And the train ticket from Utrecht to Delft costs 13 Euros.
All in all, this kind of a trip is possible in less than 50 Euros (which is
half the price of the train ride).

Other than the obvious monetary incentive, you get to meet
new people and always end up having interesting conversations along the ride.
This is of course possible in a train too, but a lot more likely when taking a
car (proximity and closed environment). I always like to guess what kind of car I will be travelling in. For
instance, my ride to Germany from Holland was in an Audi A4 and for some
coincidence my ride back was ALSO in an Audi A4. I’m not always that lucky and
sometimes the cars are rather generic and old. But hey, what’s to complain
about? It’s cheap isn’t it?

I’ll admit it’s not the most convenient way to travel. But
when you’re on a budget it’s perfect.

      

Waiting for my ride at the mannheim station                                   A little stop at the border of the two countries

My ride this time back to Delft was with a bunch of German
students going to Holland to visit their Dutch friend. They had also booked the
ride online and the driver himself was travelling to Utrecht. So, there was one
driver, and four young passengers. I would have to take a train to Delft from
Utrecht. However, as luck would have it, the three other German students were
later travelling to somewhere-close-to-Delft. So they asked their Dutch friend
(once we reached Utrecht) if he could drop me on the way, and he agreed! So the
second shorter ride was from Utrecht to Delft. It turned out that the Dutch friend
they were visiting had studied in a Technical Highschool which is at a walking
distance from my apartment. So he knew the roads and the way and was kind
enough to drop me almost at my doorstep! Now this doesn’t always happen, but
you never know! J

It’s good to be back in Delft. The familiar place was
missed.

The trip was enjoyable. You do encounter traffic jams and
road blocks sometimes, but hey, that’s life isn’t it?

Tot Later!

Exploring Hamburg at Sunrise

After the dizzying experience of meeting my idol in Hamburg
and watching a screening of his new film I somehow had to make my way back to
Heidelberg in the South of Germany. This was my first time in Hamburg and it
was the middle of the night (or early morning) and I couldn’t arrange to go
back until about 9 am.
I hadn’t slept for nearly two nights now but I was completely buzzing with the
euphoria of the encounter I just had. So, until it was an acceptable hour I
decided to walk around the beautiful city of Hamburg and take pictures. I had
luckily brought my little black writing pad with me. So I walked around, took
pictures, wrote, read, more pictures.

I found some similarities to Delft and get a tab bit homesick. But still it was a great city to capture, especially at sunrise 

         

Train Station at 3 am                                    Train tracks just before sunrise                              Slowly rising sun

 

                     

Sunrise over the river                                                              Shiny Disco ball! (at a sleeping market) 

 

Delft similarity 1- Ducks and Swans  

 

 Delft similarity 2- Graffiti tunnel (‘Denk’ in Dutch means think)

 

Tot Later!

A Pilgrimage to Hamburg- The Film

Here’s the second part of my encounter with my favourite film
director in Hamburg! (click 
here for the first part)

It was dark and there were about 20 people in. And there,
standing behind the last row, smiling, was the man himself. I made my way to
him and managed to blabber ‘Made it… from Twitter…’. He remembered and
wondered if I had actually paid 200 euros to get here. ‘Hitchhiked’ I said. How
I manage to hold my composure is still a miracle to me. My brain was having
mini explosions inside and I somehow managed to keep a straight face (not even
sure about that).

He
gave a short introduction before the movie began and warned us ‘not to try and
understand the film if it gets complicated because we won’t’. I just smiled
like a madman. The film was 5 hours and 20 minutes long split into 2 halves.
What a film. WHAT AN AMAZING FILM! My brain was blown to bits. I’m still trying
to pick up the pieces. It was an assault on all senses. I won’t say more. But
seriously. Guys, watch it. WATCH IT!

During
the break I managed to grab hold of him. One picture. Managed to blurt out
again ‘It’s an honor… great film… thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU’. He was
amazingly humble and thanked me for making it all the way there. Damn. Also
happened to mention that Nishant (my friend and writing partner) would
one day in a couple of years knock on his door with a bag of scripts perhaps!

Movie over,  spasms in
brain. He leaves, I thank him again. I have that perpetual ‘idiot’ smile on. He
disappears with Fatih Akin. Yep, he was
there too!

Zainab,
you’re my unsung hero and the greatest sister. It wouldn’t have been possible
without your help. Thank you. I love you.

    

Myself with Anurag Kashyap                                           The tiny ticket to the Gangs of Wasseypur Experience 

And
Nishant, sorry you couldn’t make it. I know we wanted to watch GoW together.
But unfortunately you were in Holland fighting something called Master’s
Thesis. But you know, one day we will maybe be making our own films!

And
now, I gotta find a way to get back to Heidelberg. Damn, the sun is coming out.

Gotta
go take some pictures! (and maybe wake up)

Tot
Later
J

A Pilgrimage to Hamburg- The Journey

While in Heidelberg with my sister, I spent almost two
dizzying days which can only be described as a fortunate chance encounter that
turned into a very memorable journey.  To
get things into context, I’ll clear one thing, that is: that I watch a lot of
movies and have been, for a year, trying my hand at writing film scripts. And
this post is about that chance encounter with my favourite director (who the
right side of my brain is completely inspired by). It’s a rather long and
detailed account of the two days so I’ll split it into two posts. Stay tuned
for it. Here it goes:

McDonald’s,
Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, Hamburg, Germany
2:49 am
July 13, 2012

If
someone would have told me, a mere 30 hours ago, what was going to happen next,
I would have told them to go quit joking with me. It’s something I really had
never imagined happening. Well that’s not entirely true. But not like this.
Not this soon.

On
the evening of 11 July, I was sitting, bored, in my sister’s room in
Heidelberg. While multitasking between writing, listening to music, answering
messages, and sporadically averting my eyes to Twitter, I got wind of the fact
that ANURAG KASHYAP was in Hamburg for the SCREENING OF
HIS NEW EPIC (and I use this word in the most sincere way possible) FILM GANGS OF WASSEYPUR!

Now,
those who know me know what I think of Anurag Kashyap and what he means to me.
I could write an entire book on the inspiration, influences and, unintentional
teachings he has given me. But I guess that will become clearer with this blog.

So,
as I was saying, after finding out that Mr. Kashyap himself would be screening
a film I had been waiting to watch for aaaaaages, I instantly wrote to him on
Twitter to find out if the screening was private or public. Heck, public or
private, I started scheming ways to get to Hamburg from Heidelberg (only 700km away). Trains? Freaking 234
Euros for a round trip! I was still considering it. Hitchhike? I was just about
to check for a hitchhike online when the man himself replied and said
‘come..you get to see both parts[of the film]’. I was expecting to be woken up
any second. This was not happening.

I
instantly called up my sister who was still at work and managed to blur out, in
between bouts of hyperventilation, ‘Akurag Kashyap….Twitter… Hamburg…
TOMORROW….NEED TO GO!’. She got back home and saw for herself, and then
proceeded to give me a lecture on how it was not feasible and expensive. Damn,
why do I always have to be broke? She tried to help but 234 Euros was out of
the question! I texted 7 different people (at 1am) who I found online
who were driving to Hamburg the next day, hoping that someone would have a seat left. I tried to
sleep it off and just carry on with my shit the next morning. But as I had
guessed, sleep was out of the question.

Got
out of bed at 9, hazy and on autopilot (no sleep) and proceeded to take a
shower and get ready anyway. Just in case. And then, one guy replied! He was
leaving from Frankfurt at 1 pm. Film screening was at 7 pm. Perfect!

I
tried to hurriedly explain to my sister in every way possible and she
understood. And like always, ‘lent’ me some money. As I was hurrying out the
door, she shoved crackers and some cake she had baked in my bag so I’d
have something to eat. I love you Zainab. Really.

Took
a train to Frankfurt station and met my ride there. No hello, the first thing I
ended up asking ‘Can we make it by 7?’. No problem. Though, on the way it
rained cats and dogs and every time the speed dial went from 140kmph to 80kmph
I chewed off more of my fingernails. He asked me a few times, quite puzzled, if
I was actually going all the way to Hamburg to watch a damn film. I just smiled
in reply.

Movie
starts at 7, I reach the city at 6:30. Not bad. Then, the damn urban traffic
hits us! It would have been faster to just walk there. So, I got out of the
car, and started sprinting across the city. Ten minutes later, I realized I had
no idea where I was going. I started asking random people on the street if they
knew where the place was. No. Damn. One guy! My watch said 6:55. Ran faster.
Made it to the place, almost fell over the ticket counter. Panting. ‘Indian
film… Gangs of… has it star..’. Not yet. YES. Made my way down 2 flights of
stairs to the auditorium. Entered.

   

On the way to Hamburg                                         The Information  board outside the Theater

 

Stay
tuned for 
the rest!

 

Tot
Later

 

 

Heidelberg- Calm Siblings

My experience in Heidelberg was quite something else. I was
there for a mere two weeks and had considered maybe getting a job with the help
of my sister, but that didn’t pan out.

So I spent a lot of time with my sister, ate the lovely food
she made and watched a lot of movies with her. It was a nice break from Delft
especially since the summer had started.

We didn’t do anything crazy or go all out, but just relaxed
and caught up. I hadn’t seen her since February so it was nice to catch up with
her. Having a sibling is a lot great since you always have someone to confide
in or to be your partner in crime, but they also fight a lot. But this time my
sister and I managed to be civil and actually enjoyed our time together for the
whole two weeks!

I read a lot, finished two books and walked around the town
and wrote too. It was a ncie calm break and just what I needed, most of all in
the company of my sister!

Her apartment is situated right next to the river and I
actually managed to catch a glimpse of a cruise ship passing by. It was quite
unexpected.

                    

Just cruising through the river                                                                Cobbled streets of Heidelberg        

 

There were two days in between though where I made a
dreamlike last minute journey to Hamburg. But I will explain that on another
post.

All in all I enjoyed my time with her and it was a nice mini
sibling reunion. I hope to see her in Delft sometime soon! J

 

Tot Later

Let the Summer Begin!

Finally! It’s Firday, the exams are over, phew!
To be honest, the exams didn’t go as well as planned and I don’t want to dwell
on it further since I actually want to enjoy the end of the academic year. But
all I’m going to say is, that I will be giving a few resits in August.

Otherwise, life is good! Moved into a new place that I
absolutely love. My friends have been visiting me all the time and they love it
too! I’m on campus so the university is right here! And there’s  the summer to look forward to.

I won’t be going back to India this summer, but I’ll be
mostly in Delft. Till then, just enjoy the volatile weather and hang out with a
few of my friends (who are also going to be in Delft!).

But, next week I will be travelling to Heidelberg, Germany
to visit my sister!

Germany, here I come!

Joy! (source: http://poemsforkush.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/summer.jpg) 

Tot Later!

Moving In – New Beginnings

Finally, I could move into my new apartment.

It’s situated on campus, a mere 5 minute walk from the
library and a 2 minute hop to the Sports Center and Culture Center. What an
ideal location! It’s one of those coveted places that not everyone gets. I
myself had to wait for it, nearly 3 years.

I had registered with the student housing company DUWO (that
provided my old apartment as well) in august 2009. I had to do it in order to
be eligible to sign a living contract with them. The apartm I had earlier was a
15 minute bike ride from campus, and frankly, I was happy to just have a place
to live. Given the dearth of easy accommodation in Delft, I was fortunate. But
getting a nice single spacious room was out of the question.

Then, last year, my friend Martin moved into a place on
campus, quite close to where I live now actually. He had registered a long time
ago and finally got a high rank for an empty room on campus. I started thinking
about it as well, but I was content with where I was living earlier. I got used
to it and it was home to me. Then, a couple months ago, as I have explained
earlier, my roommate Antanas moved to a new place on campus as well. I applied
as well, and what do you know? I got the place!

My parents were in town and did most of the unpacking and I
rented a van (with a driver) to transport all my stuff from my old apartment to
the new one. In between studying for exams, I would go and help out my parents
in moving me out. Once the stuff was transported to the new place, Antanas
helped me move it inside. He was very helpful and we were completely exhausted.
But my dad had made some nice Indian food which we feasted on afterwards. A
nice reward perhaps J.

When I came back from the library in the evening, my new
room was almost ready and most of the things were in place (thank you mom!). I’m
really thankful to my parents for helping me out and what a coincidence that
they were there!

It’s very spacious and I have my own kitchen and bathroom. I
like living with house-mates and I was afraid it might get a little lonely. But
all my friends : Martin, Antanas, Nishant, Gaurav, Ujwal, Ilhan….the list goes
on and on, are my neighbours!

See for yourself what it looks like-

   

Welcome home                                                                                            The view from my window (the EWI Faculty) 

Tot Later

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