Appendix.  Long Overdue Tribute to Physicist Larry Shaw, Exploratorium Technical Curator, and “GodFather” of the San Francisco Robotics Society of America (SFRSA)

by SFRSA Mediameister Cliff Thompson

As much as is covered in the CyberArts/YLEM Celebration highlights report, there were far more speakers, demos, talents & topics presented than I have gotten to herein, as evidenced by a perusal of the Conference Agenda, Details links at the top of CyberArts event report. However, there is one individual I would like to single out as being perhaps the most remarkable of all I have met & known in this regard, Exploratorium Technical Curator, Physicist Larry Shaw. Seemingly hardly known & working deftly behind the scenes, Larry has over the years been at the engineering epi-center of more profoundly transformative technological, scientific & cultural experiences than anyone I know. Though he will be the first to point out it is his team, empowered by the awesome staff & facilities of the Exploratorium, that make these engineering visions a reality, to the public eye it is still Larry we see at the engineering console for these events. 

Larry Shaw biographies:

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility 

(Note: In IE Browser at URL below, do an" Edit\Find (on This Page)... Ctrl+F" or scroll down to where it reads "Larry Shaw")


In my own life he has been present at, & largely responsible for, events that became major turning points. It began in my relative youth when I answered an ad for team members to staff a then-under-construction exciting new Science Museum, something called the “Exploratorium”, being set-up by famed Manhattan Project Physicist Dr. Frank Oppenheimer. I got so inspired working at the Exploratorium that I decided to change my career from “Roustabout” to Software Engineer. Later, as a mainframe programmer I heard of something forming called the “World Wide Web”, but got my first good look at it when attending an event at the Exploratorium called the “Multimedia Circus”, at which Larry was running large Sun Terminals displaying stunning Space Telescope images of bipolar lobed Supernovae like Eta Carinae &, on another computer, hosting nearly a dozen people from around the world running a live “CuseeMe” video conference in separate windows on a single screen - at this event I changed career course to Web Application development.

Oppenheimer at Exploratorium
Eta Carinae

Later still I was working on an early paperless office programming project where paper forms were scan-ocr’d into computers & passed along screens signed-off by light pens. We had the entire system automated except for the manual scanning, when I got the wild idea to close the automation loop by programming in a new peripheral “robot arm” to flip the pages. In tracking down the robot arm through a hunt for Robot User Groups, I ended up at the Exploratorium visiting a group being sponsored by their “Godfather” Larry Shaw, called the “San Francisco Robotics Society of America (SFRSA)”, truly a band of very curious characters indeed! At that meeting a hobbyist demonstrated his robot arm project, waxed philosophic of the possibilities of artificial intelligence robot programming & I got hooked, big time - I became the SFRSA Newsletter columnist, Robot Games Videographer, SFRSA Website & original RobotStore website creator (with wife Toni), NASA Robotics Education Project liason, Sony AIBO SIG moderator & am now very involved in Windows Robotics AIBO Programming. In a short time, the SFRSA website, my attempt to catalyze & inspire a robotics community & integrate the spectrum of robotics resources, became recognized by the IEEE, reported on by CNN, honored by NASA’s “Cool Robot of the Week” award & my newest SFRSA website section, titled "Just getting started in robotics? Here are some SFRSA recommendations", was billed at the NASA Robotics Education Project site summer 2001 as THE site to check out for students over summer vacation regarding future directions in robotics – all made possible by being encouraged to grow & flourish in Larry’s “Garden of Technology”.

San Francisco Robotics Society of America (SFRSA)
SFRSA Newsletter "So, How Was the Meeting?" & "NetBots" columns
SFRSA Robot Gameswebcast 
SFRSA "Just getting started in robotics? Here are some SFRSA recommendations"
Robot Store
NASA Robotics Education Project (REP)
NASA REP website recommend of  SFRSA "Just getting started in robotics..recommendations"

Finally, closing in on the present, I encountered Larry again when attending events offered by other User Groups he has championed, such as the McBean Theater meetings of YLEM (Artists Using Science & Technology) & Linda Jacobson’s Virtual Reality Group (VRG), as well as other historic Exploratorium landmark events such as the Live webcasts of our Annual SFRSA Robot Games, and live webcasts from around the world of Total Solar Eclipse’s, which webcasts provide omni-present access to every “path of totality”. Rounding out the list are Live Video Conferencing events from Space Shuttle & Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions & International Space Station activities, as well as more down-to-earth but cyberspace-spanning happenings such as the rollout of the many Virtual Reality Worlds of Avatar Communities announced at the recent CyberArts Celebration.

Exploratorium Webcast sites:

Total Solar Eclipse
Hubble Space Telescope

And yet these events seem to be at just the tips of the much larger world of Larry’s activities, occurring, as they often do, between his global comings-&-goings, after he’s just gotten back from assisting in the dedication of a monastery in Tibet or about to establish a branch of the Exploratorium in Paris or for Sony in Beijing. The impact of the Exploratorium-hosted projects of Larry & his team upon culture & history runs deep. By simultaneously organizing technologically breakthrough-assisted events & webcasting them around the world, Larry provides us a portal to join in as readily as we did at the NASA Apollo Moon landing.


Exploratorium; Sony Beijing

As the future unfolds over the next mere 20 years or so, there are, among the many cultural initiatives, 3 developments that really stand out:

First, by our own creation, we are being joined by a new species of life on earth, an artificial life in the form of Humanoid Robots acting as human partners, already among us & walking around, whose computer brains are expected, by Moore’s Law exponentially, to reach roughly human levels circa 2020. 

Second, joining us & our AI companions & adding to our world in “outer space”, are vast new Virtual Reality World Communities in “inner space”, populated by Avatars acting as Remote, Autonomous, AI Agents with Genetic Algorithm & Neural Net enhanced personalities, deep alien intelligences & A-Life Spirits that will greatly enhance & profoundly deepen our own experience of Nature & Reality.

Third, as we shift into high gear in this historical age, the Age of the Robotic Exploration of the Solar System, the conclusion of these initial explorations will be followed by the start of our new history as a Space-Faring Civilization, beginning with the NASA Human Colonization of Mars mission, circa 2020.

Between now & then we will no doubt meet Larry & his crew again, maybe webcasting transmissions from remotely operated Antarctic-based submersible robots training for the search for life in the oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa, or perhaps transmitting live video from the Star Wars inspired Personal Satellite Assistant Robot, as it weightlessly travels the modules of the International Space Station. Wherever the journey takes us, Larry & his team, our personal technology outfitters & tour guides to the future, will be there, collecting tickets. Thank you, Larry, for your Life’s body of work that has, by changing so many lives, changed the world.

Humanoid Robots
Honda, Sony; Movies

Virtual Reality World Avatar Communities
Adobe Atmosphere Builder/Browser/Community Server; Atmospherians Worlds Portal

Mars Colonization 
NASA Human Mission to Mars
Human Spaceflight
New Mars Gallery
Manned Mars Mission Image Gallery
Mars Project VR Tour

Larry Shaw, Exploratorium "Cable Guy"