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Beekeeper In New York City Is Profiled; Social Roboticist Is Profiled

Aired August 24, 2013 - 14:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This week on "THE NEXT LIST," a robot that has them rolling in the aisles. His name is Data, and he's a natural on the stage. So natural, in fact, it's hard to believe he's not one of us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have this crazy idea that maybe we could come to a world where we replace not people by robots but computers by robots. Like how about making technology more human?


GUPTA: Heather Knight explores the world of social robotics. But first, meet Andrew Kotay.


ANDREW COTE, BEEKEEPER: Maybe it begins as a hobby and then it might work into a small business and then it's just an obsession and there's no turning back. It's like crack.

I don't know what's so obsessive. I just enjoy doing it, almost every aspect. Even the stings have their place, they humble me and remind me who I am.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: He's a master of the urban hive. Beekeeping is a surprisingly addictive trend taking over rooftops from Chicago to Shanghai. But few beekeepers have the global reach of Andrew Cote. From the heights of New York's most luxurious hotels to the far reaches of the African bush, he's spreading his love of these remarkable creatures to people throughout the world. Andrew Cote is a man with a mission, and today he's taking us along for the ride.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and this is THE NEXT LIST.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are innovators, game changers, people pushing themselves, moving us all forward. They're the next scientists, musicians, poets, the next makers, dreamers, teachers, and geniuses. They are THE NEXT LIST.

COTE: I have my hands in many hives. I help run the New York City Beekeepers Association. I help run Bees without Borders. I am a paid consultant by restaurants and hotels. I have my own private hives from which I extract and bottle honey and sell at union square. You need to kiss a beekeeper. That's what you need to do. I sleep from time to time.

My name is Andrew Cote, and I'm a beekeeper.

Many, many businesses have approached me to put bees on their roofs, but I only work with those whom I feel truly embrace the concept of wanting to be greener, wanting to help the environment, wanting to raise awareness of the environment, and bees seem to be a very good way to do that.

DAVID GARCELON, CHEF, WALDORF ASTORIA HOTEL: Today this is the first phase in the wallop story chef's garden. We're selling six harvests today and we hope to be harvesting honey in a month.

COTE: A lot of people do wrongly assume that cities are places with no flowers and no trees. But he we are in Manhattan and you see what's around me now. Central Park is over there and it's almost 1,000 acres of green. We have more parks than I can count in New York City and five Burroughs.

ADAM WEPRIN, BEEKEEPER: I have wanted to have bees on the roof and grow honey for years. When city council finally repealed the law, I was like, oh, my god, I don't know how. That's how Andrew and I got connected. I sent a virtual stranger who is head of the New York Beekeepers Association an e-mail. I think two weeks later we had hives up here after I took his course.

COTE: This is the third year we've been able to keep bees legally in New York since the '90s. And the New York City beekeepers association had a substantial role in bringing about the legalization. I sat in with VOH when they were talking about making beekeeping legal. I helped write the best practices guide for urban beekeeping. We have close relationships with law enforcement, NYPD calls us, NYFD calls us.

NOAH WILSON RICH, PH.D., CHIEF SCIENTIST, BEST BEES COMPANY: The New York City Beekeepers Association also has a very unique challenge because beekeeping was illegal for so long, and many people don't know how to properly work a beehive.

COTE: I'm just one of the drones who helped found it. Our mission is to promote healthy, good, responsible beekeeping in New York City. As perhaps a poster boy for urban beekeeping, I almost hate to say it, but I don't know that it's terribly important for urban beekeeping to exist. There are 258 types of feral bees flying around New York City without our apparatus. So in terms of pollinating community gardens, I don't think they're necessary, but I think they greatly enhance our lives here. I have maybe a dozen or 15 customers in New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the best thing that we can do to make them most likely not sting us?

COTE: That's a good question. And many more in Westchester and Fairfield counties, spring and early summer I'll visit hives once a week. Usually in the winter I'll do something like go to Africa and volunteer to teach beekeeping in some remote place. So I keep busy.

This is always my last stop of the day, so this is my favorite stop because I know that my 14, 15, 18-hour day is at an end.

Adam, if we're going to keep two hives, right one-two, or do you want them spaced for any aesthetic reason?

WEPRIN: Not an aesthetic reason. Wouldn't they do better if they're slightly spaced apart?

COTE: They'll be spaced enough apart, but I think I like having them both being able to look at the bridge.

WEPRIN: Room with a view?

COTE: That's what they deserve.

GUPTA: Up next, watch what happens when Cote unloads a truck full of bees, millions of them, in the heart of Manhattan's Greenwich village.


COTE: Few of us have that much space in Manhattan. So I maintain what is Connecticut's smallest farm. It is legally a farm on 0.23 acres of land over there in the nutmeg state. That's where I run the operations. That's where I keep my supplies, where the bottling happens. The majority of my bees are in Connecticut and in Westchester County, New York.

This time of year is the busiest because this is the beginning. Spring we'll sell about 8 million bees. The season started for me around April 6 when I had to drive out to Otter Creek, Pennsylvania, to pick up some full-blown hives from a fellow out there. Then on Friday we got a huge shipment of bee packages from Georgia. First we had a distribution that morning in Norwalk, and the next morning we had a distribution at Union Square.

Who is first? I believe you. I could sense it. We've never done the distribution at Union Square before, but we had them in Manhattan, and it's normal that we get a lot of people.

BRYAN WETZEL, BEEKEEPER: I read about Andrew's New York City beekeeper class a few winters ago, middle of February. I was bored and I said, you know what, this sounds fun. I took the class, and next thing you know, two beehives.

Basically we take this off and there is a metal canister in there that they're all around right now. That's a sugar syrup. It's got holes pokes in them and that's what kept them alive in the trip from Georgia. We take that off and there's the little box that has the queen in it. use a thumbtack and some string, and we'll drop her into the hive. And once she's in there you just basically dump them in. They will know her scent and know to go in there. It's amazing you figure out how many friends you have once you have a harvest of honey. COTE: It was fun, I think. It went smoothly considering millions and millions of bees were driven up in a pickup right onto union square. I don't think anyone was stunned other than the beekeepers.

One of the problems, as I see it, with urban beekeeping here in New York City is that when the department of health and mental hygiene made it again legal for us to do it, it was a good thing. But where they lacked ambition was in zoning out areas where only so many hives could be. So now we have areas that are oversaturated. We've seen that in the East Village and Green Point. There are areas where there are just too many beehives.

WETZEL: Urban environments are terrific for bees, and for one reason they have a lot of different food available to them. But you need to understand what the caring capacity of the land is, how many individuals that area can support, and then make a decision. Bees, luckily, can fly for many miles from the hives, so they're not limited to one particular garden.

COTE: The biggest problem with being a beekeeper in Manhattan is parking my truck. It really is. It's expensive and I end up getting tickets. And then the second biggest problem is traffic. I can't haul all this stuff around on my back or on a bicycle, so I have to drive. So I have to do this early in the morning, 5:00, 6:00, 7:00 in the morning.

NORM COTE, ANDREW'S FATHER: I'm very proud of him, what he has accomplished. He's accomplished a lot more than I have. I think he's benefitted beekeeping in general. He's promoted is in a very positive light.

COTE: Working the bees is not hard. It doesn't matter if I'm on top of the Waldorf Astoria or in a community garden in lower east side. That part is the best part for me.

NORM COTE: My hope for Andrew is that he doesn't lose the spark that he has now for beekeeping and for helping other people in the world.

COTE: I don't want to jinx anything, but you're looking at a content man. I don't have the desire to grow the business. I have my bees in the city, I have my bees in the country, I sell a couple days at the farmers market, I get to spend time with my family, and it's good. Life is good.

GUPTA: Coming up, Heather Knight brings a human touch to a new generation of social robots.


GUPTA: Welcome back to THE NEXT LIST. You're about to meet Heather Knight. She's a roboticist with an edge. She's teaching her robot to do stand-up comedy, perform dance moves, even recite Shakespeare. Some of this might have her academic colleagues kind of shaking their heads, but there's a point to all this fun. Heather wants to better understand what makes people feel connected to technology. And for Heather, the secret lies in this little robot, Data. HEATHER KNIGHT: My name is Heather knight, and I am a doctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, and I study social robotics.

DATA: They call me Data.

KNIGHT: A social roboticist is someone who makes robots that can interact with people in a human way. When I tell people I make robots, they're usually like, oh, wow, that's really cool. When I tell people I make social robots, usually they're a little bit confused at first, and I found the best way to talk about what I actually do is by example.

DATA: Heather, how about you get working on that emotion program?

KNIGHT: I'm trying.

DATA: Fair enough.

KNIGHT: Usually when people think of robots, they can think of two ends of the spectrum. One of them is these Hollywood sort of "Terminator" films or WALL-E, these fully interactive, almost like human in a different robot shaped box sort of systems. And on the other end of the spectrum, you have these machines that might plow our fields or put our packages in the mail, or in some of the coolest cases, roam around on the surface of Mars. So when you talk about social robots, that's something that's actually in the middle of those two extremes.

DATA: I'm a robot. Yes, a robot. If you prick us in our battery pack, do we not bleed our alkaline fluid?


KNIGHT: Robots have a lot to learn, right? They're new to our environments. They're an alien that's just come down to our planet. They don't know any of our rules. They don't know our grammar, our social structures, so they're going to make a lot of mistakes. Humor can be a nice escape from that. Like any charming, like, international student that doesn't quite speak our language has probably gotten away with a lot by sort of a little laughter at oneself.

DATA: My programmer hopes one day I will be an autonomous robotic performer, like Justin Bieber, or perhaps Charlie Sheen is a better choice.

KNIGHT: The first performer robot I made was a stand-up comedian. And not knowing very much about comedy at the time, I thought it would be all about watching the audience. I thought the audience would really define what humor was and every audience might have unique characters.

DATA: Hello, men and women. It's an honor to be here. You guys are looking good out there. Ready for some jokes?

(LAUGHTER) KNIGHT: In the first system I designed, the robot was watching and tracking their laughter, their applause, and I had given the audience these feedback parts that could be red or green depending on how they liked something.


KNIGHT: It was a robot that really cared about other people, you know? I don't know how many comedy shows you all have been to lately, but there are a lot of different ways to do comedy.

DATA: So a doctor says to his patient, I have bad news and worse news. The bad news is that you only have 24 hours to live. That's terrible, said the patient. How can the news possibly be worse? I've been trying to contact you since yesterday.


KNIGHT: I want to see a world where we actually have useful robots that positively impact our lives.

DATA: My programmer designs my presentations with the goal of driving innovation in social robotics, which is the integration of robot helpers into everyday life.

KNIGHT: Something that's important is getting these machines out into the world with real people. So it's awesome that engineers know how to build stuff. We're really good at that. But I think we can also learn a lot from artists about making stuff that people really care about.

DATA: Something has gotten ahold of me.


KNIGHT: So when I make social robots, I'm trying to think about new spaces of applications for technology in our everyday lives in ways that were never possible before, before you come up with this new capacity for them to understand us and new ways for them to communicate with us. That was awesome.

DATA: Thank you, everybody.

KNIGHT: Man, he loves an audience.

GUPTA: Up next, practical uses for social robots, from disaster zones to your living room.


KNIGHT: When I was a freshman at MIT, I decided I wanted to get a campus job, and I went home to my living group, or whatever, and they were like, hey, do you want to work in the robotics lab? And I went to this lab, and they were building these awesome social robots. And there was something about social robots that captured my imagination. And from the first project that we did in that lab, we had built this interactive sort of terrarium. There was this robot that didn't really look like a person. It had this hand sort of moved around. Then it had a face, not with eyes, just like it was acting. It was curious. One very simple behavior system, but one that we get right away. So people would come by. It felt a little like Epcot center or something. They would go too excited, come too close, and it would get scared, runs back, right? So it was really simple, right?

But if you design the behavior system like that, that's something that there is no speech. But you totally just understand right away. And it was really fun watching people interact with that. So from the very beginning, I've always gotten to be able to create robots that people cared about and that were installed in places where I could watch that interaction. Yes, that was really fun. And when you see people laugh, and when you see their eyes light up, that definitely makes you want to keep doing what you're doing.

DATA: Times Square, a lot of those in New York. Any of you guys tourists?

KNIGHT: One of the things that's really important to me is to create technology that brings us together and doesn't divide us. I have this crazy idea that maybe we could come to a world where we replace not people by robots but computers by robots. How about making technology more human? And I think in effect that will also make us more able to fulfill our own objectives and to connect with each other.

DATA: Have you seen the Naked Cowboy? He plays his guitar in his underwear and a cowboy hat. Sorry, I forgot to say that he moves like this. Yes, just shaking his booty. Tourists love that guy.

KNIGHT: Technology is a device for accomplishing goals. It's something that makes life potentially easier or it makes life better. In the end, I want to create applications for people that, for example, could empower the elderly to stay in their homes for longer in ways that are actually safe. So whether it's helping them with certain functions or at the same increasing their freedom, not like, you have to take this pill right now. But to just start having these variables where it's tracking like, OK, they were supposed to do that but they haven't done it for a while. Maybe I could think about a different approach that would make them more likely to do that.

Robots have already been helping with the nuclear disaster cleanup in Japan. We're still in the pretty early stages of development, but there were some robots that came to look for search and rescue victims at the 9/11 site, and there's been tons of investment since then.

DATA: My audience, I have a confession. I am a tourist, too. I've only been in the city for a few months and I am French.

KNIGHT: I don't want to live in a world where people are replaced by robots, but I do believe that human robot teams can accomplish things that humans alone or robots alone would never be able to accomplish any time in the short term.

DATA: I am sorry if you feel betrayed. But I am actually comfortable with my condition. Even a robot can dream.

KNIGHT: In the end, I think it's really about making people flourish.

DATA: Pretty inspiring stuff. Thanks, folks. Sanjay, take it away. I have a hot date with a gal named Siri.

GUPTA: All right, thanks, Data. From social robots to bees, Heather Knight and Andrew Cote are two innovators who are revolutionizing their fields, and that's what makes them a spot on THE NEXT LIST.

Thanks so much for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Hope to see you back here next week.