Hi, I’m Krystof - engineer, adventurer, and all-around good guy.
I suppose I’ve always been interested in robots and intelligent systems. I grew up building things from Lego and Merkur and variously learning about electronics from my dad. I think the first things I made that could “think for themselves” were probably various LEGO Mindstorms robots.
In high school I joined the FIRST Robotics team, designing and building and programming robots, and there was no turning back from here: I was hooked. It was here that I got my first taste of computer vision as well, teaching our robot to find a target and try to score some points autonomously in the beginning of each round, before humans were allowed to touch the controls.
I studied computer engineering in college, and did some NSF-funded research as an undergrad, working on projects in computer vision and machine learning. Here’s one.
After getting my bachelor’s degree, I felt that I still didn’t know enough, and went right into graduate school for computer science, focusing primarily on machine learning and computer vision. Here are some of the projects I worked on during that time.
After completing an internship in the Communications Ground Systems Section of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), I had the opportunity to spend some time in the Mobility and Robotic Systems Section at JPL. There I worked on computer vision, primarily for the DARPA-funded ARM-S project (for “Autonomous Robotic Manipulation - Software”), whose goal was teaching robots to operate autonomously in environments designed for humans, including using human tools. Here’s a video of our robot changing a tire:
In 2013, I joined the team at KeyMe still in stealth mode, working out of a single windowless room in an incubator in Queens, New York. Today, the KeyMe platform is a smart, convenient and secure way to copy keys and resolve lockouts using a combination of robotic kiosks and mobile apps that digitally scan physical keys using only computer vision and save them to the cloud:
In 2015, I got the opportunity to join Ecogate as the company’s CEO. Ecogate makes intelligent controls for industrial exhaust systems - our systems use only 30% the electricity of traditional systems while performing better in every way - for technically-savvy clients such as IKEA, GlaxoSmithKline, Tesla Motors, and the US Navy.
In 2019, I decided that it was time to move on, and gradually handed off my day-to-day responsibilities at Ecogate, though I remain involved in an advisory capacity and otherwise help out as needed.
In the meantime, I am looking for the next great thing - let me know if you’d like to talk about that.
Adventure has always called for me - first from the woods around the house where I grew up, and then - fuelled by Jack London’s novels of hardy souls with indomitable spirits - from ever more directions from all corners of the globe.
Here’s an example: a two-week rafting journey down the Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers in Yukon and Alaska:
For the entirety of the river journey, our party did not see another human soul, or even any marks of human activity. My concerns during those days were simple:
- Safely navigate the river
- Find wood for a fire
- Make shelter
- Make food
It is incredible what doing that for just two weeks does to the human mind. The clarity, simplicity, and singularity of focus is something that I think just cannot be found in civilization. The first day back, I remember seeing someone in a fast food restaurant endlessly scrolling through Facebook on their phone. It seemed like the strangest thing in the world to me.
Here’s a selection from the poem Atavism by John Myers O’Hara. The first stanza is used as the epigraph to Jack London’s The Call of the Wild:
Old longings nomadic leap
Chafing at custom’s chain
Again from its brumal sleep
Wakens the ferine strain.
After the torpor of will
Morbid the inner strife
Welcome the animal thrill
Lending a zest to life.
With that in mind, remember William Wallace: “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” That zest for life is the difference between living and just passing the time until you die.
I think it’s critical to continually push our limits. If you do, you will surprise yourself - the limits are almost always way further out than you think. If you push out, you will reach them, and in persevering expand them. If you don’t push out against them, the limits will slowly get tighter and tighter, until they finally suffocate you.
Some of the adventurous activities I enjoy are skiing and alpine touring, mountain biking, hiking / trekking / backpacking, riding motorcycles, martial arts, whitewater rafting, travelling, and capturing photos and videos of all of that.
Even more generally, as G. K. Chesterton wrote:
“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered;
an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”
And so life is full of adventure - on the road, in love, in business… the whole world is filled with open doors, and all one needs to do is keep their eyes open, find a door, and step boldly through.
All-Around Good Guy
What does it mean to be an all-around good guy?
In college and grad school, I trained in Shotokan Karate. To train in karate, one must know and follow the dojo kun - the rules and principles that frame the practice within an ethical context.
They can be translated as:
- Seek perfection of character
- Be faithful
- Respect others
- Refrain from violent behavior
Together, these form a solid ethical foundation for one’s life. The first one in particular always seemed important to me: to seek perfection of character. In fact, Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate, wrote that, “The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of the participant.” source
What does it mean to seek perfection of character?
I think that ultimately this is for each one of us to define for ourselves.
The principle is to seek perfection of character. The implication (and the reality most of us experience) is that there is no true perfection of character; true perfection is an unattainable ideal. However, that does not mean that we should not seek perfection; in fact, the act of seeking perfection is valuable.
What does that mean in practice? Along with the other rules of dojo kun, I think it means to listen carefully, to think deeply, to reflect, to be slow to judgement, to show empathy, to deliberately work on meaningful things, to deliberately work on improving oneself, and to strive to make the world a better place.
You can find more info about the Shotokan dojo kun here.
If you’d like to get in touch with me, you can use the contact page.