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First of all, the reason why I have been missing in action for a couple of months on my blog has been that I have been rather busy (but “good” busy) with work. Lots of exciting things happened recently, including reaching two of my main milestones for this year. I am still busy, but I will try to be back here every now and then to share stuff that I find interesting.

Having said that, if you know me well, you know that these days I am doing crazy schedules and working many hours so I can also watch as many World Cup games as possible. I will not reach my great achievements from the World Cups of 2010 and 2006, when I saw every single game of each tournament (yes, you read it right, every single one), but I am doing a decent job. By the way, if you happen to have a lot of free time (I had just finished my undergrad in 2006 and I was on a lazy + learning German + travel hiatus, and I was a grad student in 2010), I challenge you to watch every single game of a World Cup. It’s an amazing experience. But not easy. As an example, I saw the Portugal-France semifinal in a ferry with poor satellite reception going from Athens to Paros. And I saw the final in some random restaurant in the less populated side of Siros.

Anyhow, I just wanted to share some thoughts about the World Cup so far:

  • Spain: I knew we were in a bad shape and there was 0 chances we would mean. But still, what Spain did was lame. The way they surrendered after the Netherlands’ second goal was very sad. I guess Spain always sucks in World Cups and now we just had the last 6 years as an exception. The exception that confirms the rule. I was back home in Barcelona for the games against the Netherlands and Chile, so it hurt even more.
  • USA: I like this team a lot, and I am not saying it because the US is my second (actually, now officially permanent) home. I like how they play, very talented young players. And I really like this Dempsey guy. Back in my grad student years, me and my Spanish friends we always played in the intramurals against the US kids. Playing futsal 5on5 we always kicked ass… but when it was 11on11, those guys had so much stamina and energy that we always lost! And I see that in the World Cup too. It’s very interesing how over the last few World Cups the US has scored a large number of goals towards the end of the game, when the rival is tired (a game every 3 days ain’t easy!). Having said that, sometimes one sees that the US does not have that much experience in soccer. For example, no team has used a “polo-type neck” for the jersey since the early 90s. They need a jersey redesign asap! Also, they did not win against Portugal for 2 reasons: 1) that guy whose dad is the former national couch had a terrible game and made an awesome pass to CR96 Ronaldo, and 2) the US has to master the ancient skill of wasting time.
  • Argentina: Playing bad, but with a stellar Messi. I hope they win the World Cup just so there are no more counter arguments (i.e. he never won a World Cup, unlike Maradona and Pele). The world needs to finally agree that Messi is, BY FAR, the greatest player of all times.
  • Germany: My favorite team (aside from Spain) for the last few World Cups. Playing very good. Although I really want Messi to win a World Cup, I hope for a Germany-Brazil final.
  • Ghana: Such a good team. The way they play is just amazing, and although I always cheer for Germany, I was quite annoyed when Klose scored the 2-2. However, kudos for Klose, top scorer of a World Cup tied with Ronaldo (the good one).

I want to write more, but I’ll leave it here for now. Back to work now! I have been here since 7 today. It will be a long day. But it’s all good, fun stuff at work. Projects going great. And, in parallel, a really fun World Cup. What else can one wish for?

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It happens every year around mid-August. You start feeling butterflies in your stomach. You keep thinking about it and you slowly get back to checking Marca, As and Mundo Deportivo on a regular basis a few times a day…

…the beginning of the soccer season is getting closer…

Despite being mainly a – very very big and passionate –  Barcelona fan, I am obviously also a supporter for Spain’s national team. Despite the whole Catalunya vs Spain issue – I am on the Catalan side -, when it comes t football I put my national feelings aside and I go for “my” team. After all, the Wordl Cup was pretty much won by FC Barcelona players plus Iker Casillas.

Anyhow, I am still overflowing with happiness after our recent victory in the Euro 2012, third major tournament in a row, proving that we are the best national team ever. So, when I read this article I couldn’t help but rushing here to share it with everyone.

A team of researchers applied network theory analysis to analyze Spain’s football style and, as expected, to prove Xavi as the greatest midfielder ever. Btw, indeed, Xavi is a Barcelona player. The research study has been published in a very interesting paper as well.

From Technology Review:

Key players also stand out by the number of passes they make and receive, such as 16 (Sergio Busquets) and 8 (Xavi).

However, this representation also allows a much more sophisticated analysis using the standard tools of network science. 

For example, closeness centrality measures how easy it is to reach a given node in the network. In footballing terms, it measures how well connected a player is in the team. 

Busquets and Xavi have the highest scores in the Spanish team. Both are better connected than the best connected Dutch player, 1 (Steckelenberg) the goal keeper. That the goal keeper was the Netherland’s best connected player itself speaks volumes.

Another notion is betweenness centrality, which measures the extent to which a node lies on a path to other nodes. In footballing terms, betweenness centrality measures how the ball flow between players depends on another player. Players with a high betweenness centrality are crucial for keeping the momentum of the game going. 

These players are important because removing them has a huge impact on the structure of the network.  So a single player with a high betweenness centrality is also a weakness, since the entire team is vulnerable to an injury to this player or a red card. 

Spain’s number 11 Joan Capdevilla is the player with by far the highest betweenness centrality in this match. He is clearly a target for passes from many players, which he feeds mainly to 14 (Xabi Alonso).

I often blog when Barcelona clearly defeats Real Madrid. This time Barcelona advanced to the next round (mostly thanks to the great game in the first round), but I want to congratulate Real Madrid for playing better than us today. They really played a great game and made us suffer like we hadn’t in a long time.

As you know, the only non-technology related entries in this blog are related to soccer, either for the World Cup – and soon, next summer, about the EuroCup –  and about FC Barcelona. Given what happened yesterday, I cannot stop myself from posting this.

Until 3 to 4 years ago, defeating Real Madrid in their own stadium was a deed not easy to achieve. Barcelona had defeated them in their own home a few times, the most recent and popular one, the day that even Madrid fan’s couldn’t do anything but stand up and applause. However, for the last few years, we are just too good for them. Jose Mourinho was brought – after spending yet another bunch of millions of Euros – to do two things: conquer the 10th Champions League for Real Madrid and, finally, defeat the all-mighty Barcelona of Pep Guardiola. Well, so far he has not succeeded. Actually, certain sectors of Madrid fans already claim for his dismissal.

Anyhow, Barcelona achieve a great victory against their nemesis in a beautiful display of skills and technique. You can read about it here.

I want to end mentioning two last things. Eric Abidal, King Eric, the greatest player, who suffered a cancer last year just to bravely recover, win Champions League and, last night, score the winning goal. On the other hand, Pepe, the violent and out of control Madrid player who, once more, showed to the whole world why he should not be a soccer player. Some examples are this, this, this and this.

WordPress just notified me that I have posted so far 199 entries and suggested me to go for the 200th. Who am I to disobey WordPress?

I’ll just comment a couple of things that happened over the last few days:


And now, in case I get lazy and do not post again before the Christmas break, Happy Holidays everyone!!!

 

Whoever designs these algorithms better start over or something. Facebook just suggested me to like Real Madrid based on the fact that I am an FC Barcelona fan. Surrealistic. And proof of such ignorance. Zuckerberg, one more like this and I cancel my account.

Ps. This entry is a bit uncorrelated with the blog, but any soccer fan will understand my big frustration…

Yesterday after work I was not feeling quite well, so I decided to postpone my workout and run in the park for today. Instead, I decided to read a bit. I chose one of my favorite lectures: IEEE Spectrum Magazine. I specially enjoy the section on one of my favorite technology topics other than wireless: robotics. Here are a couple of things I found interesting.

I already wrote about this project by Google months ago and, by the way, it is one of the posts in this blog that keeps getting more and more hits. The article this month explains how the engineers at Google have created a car that safely drives itself. They still apply the rule “safety first” and keep what they call safety driver in the car just in case.

Urmson, who is the tech lead for the project, said that the “heart of our system” is a laser range finder mounted on the roof of the car. The device, a Velodyne 64-beam laser, generates a detailed 3D map of the environment. The car then combines the laser measurements with high-resolution maps of the world, producing different types of data models that allow it to drive itself while avoiding obstacles and respecting traffic laws.

The vehicle also carries other sensors, which include: four radars, mounted on the front and rear bumpers, that allow the car to “see” far enough to be able to deal with fast traffic on freeways; a camera, positioned near the rear-view mirror, that detects traffic lights; and a GPS, inertial measurement unit, and wheel encoder, that determine the vehicle’s location and keep track of its movements.

I strongly encourage you to check the article. This project is way more advanced that what I had imagined and I really think this could change a lot of things. The videos and documentation Google released are impressive.

A group of researchers at UC Berkeley, famous for their root designs inspired in nature and animals, introduced CLASH, a cloth climbing robot able to climb on a sofa without any help. Now let’s teach it to sing “should I stay or should I go” and let’s equip it with a bed-bug zapping laser and it can be sold in NYC and make a lot of money.

For a vertical climbing robot, CLASH is surprisingly quick. It may actually be one of the quickest climbing robots in existence, able to move upwards at 24 centimeters per second, which is really quite a lot faster than it sounds. Part of the reason that CLASH can scramble around so fast is that it’s small and lightweight with a simple, but clever, design. CLASH is 10 centimeters long and weighs only 15 grams. The back-and-forth climbing motion of four legs (the back two are passive) is entirely driven by one single motor that gives CLASH a gait frequency of a brisk 34 strides per second.

Nothing to say other than I would love to attend this conference some time just for fun and to learn.

I had already blogged about this months ago. Robots and soccer, a dream come true for me. I haven’t seen the movie Real Steel yet but the moment I saw the commercial I imagined a similar movie with soccer-playing robots… Anyways, back to topic, some impressive advances in humanoids designed to play soccer out there… By the way, a robot soccer team scored a goal in a friendly game against a human team for the first time ever. This is just the beginning…

In the past, most humanoid robot soccer competitions have consisted of repeated kicking of the ball towards the goal and (for all practical purposes) not too much else. Ambitious algorithms and programming have fallen victim to sensors and hardware that can’t always keep up, as well as opponents who tend to interfere in carefully planned strategies. However, we’re starting to see some exceptionally clever robot maneuvers leading up to RoboCup 2011 in Istanbul, which had its first round of matches just yesterday.

Very very cool.

Have a good day!

This weekend I was reading the IEEE Spectrum Magazine. It is my monthly dose of not online engineering news and reportages. Among multiple other interesting articles, I read something that, as a soccer fan, I found very interesting.

As you all know, I am a big FC Barcelona fan. Well, the ones who know me well argue that the word “obsessed” might be more appropriate. Anyhow, I am used to read about Real Madrid blaming the referee when they don’t play well and when they loose against us – something that happens all the time recently, as a matter of fact -. Referees are often the target of most of the complains. When there is so much passion in the game, everyone forgets that they are HUMAN. And, as humans, they make mistakes. So, yes, I will have no trouble at all admitting that that Swedish referee made a terrible job – that benefited us – in Champions League semifinal against Chelsea. But then I could also list so many times the referee did a terrible job against us. After all, in average, referees make mistakes randomly helping both sides.

During the last World Cup, magnificently conquered by Spain (yes, I am having so much fun writing this post), we saw a couple of what we call “ghost/phantom goal” in soccer jargon. This concept refers to when a goal is scored but the ball bounces back out and the referee and/or the linesman thinks it was not a goal. For example, this is a ghost goal that happen during World Cup 2010:

FIFA has been reluctant to include technology to assist referees in their calls, but there is multiple projects being developed that propose tracking the ball to assist determining ghost goals, offsides and many other plays. You can read about them in this very interesting article.

Futbol Club Barcelona won its 4th UEFA Champions League by defeating Manchester United 3-1 in what the world agrees to call a beautiful display of football perfection.

From NY Times.

Brilliant Barcelona lift European Cup again

I couldn’t be happier….

About me:

Born in Barcelona, moved to Los Angeles at age 24, ended in NYC, where I enjoy life, tweet about music and work as a geek in security for wireless networks.
All the opinions expressed in this blog are my own and are not related to my employer.
About me: http://rogerpiquerasjover.net/

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