On the first day of a three-day workshop, I built a line-follower robot that successfully navigated what the instructor promised was a very difficult course (he said it would be impossible to navigate using a simple on-off algorithm).
The trick I used to complete the course was to run the DC motors on half-voltage and adjust sensor angles so that both always fed the ‘brain’ an excellent set of signals.
I came up with the idea owing to my experience with text analytics. The most critical task in text analysis is feature engineering. With a good set of features, you can get excellent results even if the machine learning algorithm is very simple. Unfortunately, very little work goes into feature engineering and feature combination methods for NLP.
So, I guess my weekend dabbling in robotics taught me an important lesson – no matter how good your machine learning algorithms (the brains of the system) are, they can’t do nothing without eyes.