September 5th, 2014

Robots: M-Blocks

In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews John Romanishin from MIT, about his modular robotics project ‘M-Blocks’. M-Blocks are small cubes (5 cm on a side) that have no external actuators, yet they manage to move and even jump. They do this by rotating an internal mass at high speeds then stopping that mass suddenly, which transfers inertia to the cube causing it to move. The rotating mass can change which plane it’s spinning in allowing the cube to move in any direction.  By combining this inertial actuator with permanent magnets, M-Blocks can move over similar robots (or more M-Blocks) and precisely line up. The future of this project is best put by John, who says, “We want hundreds of cubes, scattered randomly across the floor, to be able to identify each other, coalesce, and autonomously transform into a chair, or a ladder, or a desk, on demand.” 

John Romanishin
john-romanishinJohn Romanishin is currently a graduate student studying mechanical engineering and researching self-reconfigurable modular robots at the Distributed Robotics Laboratory led by Daniela Rus at MIT.

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August 22nd, 2014

Robots: Birdly

In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Max Rheiner from Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) about his  project Birdly. Birdly explores the experience of a bird in flight with several methods. Unlike a common flight simulator, the user embodies a bird, the Red Kite. To evoke this embodiment, Birdly mainly relies on the sensory-motor coupling. The participant can control the simulator with their hands and arms, which directly correlates to the wings and the primary feathers of the bird. Those inputs are reflected in the flight model of the bird and displayed physically by the simulator through nick, roll and heave movements.

Visualized through a head-mounted display (Oculus Rift), the whole scenery is perceived in the first person perspective of a bird. To intensify the embodiment, Birdly has additional sound, olfactory and wind feedback. The participant hears the roaring of the wind and the flaps of the wings. The olfactory feedback is based on the changing scenery and ranges from the scent of a forest, or soil, to several other odors of the wilderness. According to the speed of the bird, the simulator regulates the headwind with a fan.

Max Rheiner
max-rheinerMax Rheiner is a senior lecturer at Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) where he teaches bachelors and masters programs for the Department of Interaction Design. He also developed the Physical Computing Laboratory there. He received his Diploma from Zurich University of the Arts in the field of New Media Arts in 2003.

Rheiner’s research and artistic interests center on interactive experiences which utilize methods from Virtual/Augmented Reality and Immersive Telepresence. His artistic work has been recognized and exhibited in a number of international and well-renowned venues such as Biennale Venice, Italy, Ars Electronic Linz, Austria, and Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media, Japan.

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August 8th, 2014

Robots: Stiquito

In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews James Conrad, professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, about the history of the autonomous walking robot, Stiquito. Stiquito is a small, inexpensive hexapod (i.e., six-legged) robot that has been used since 1992 by universities, high schools, and hobbyists. It is propelled by nitinol, an alloy actuator wire that expands and contracts, and roughly emulates the operation of a muscle. Nitinol contracts when heated and returns to its original size and shape when cooled. The robot can be outfitted with several sensors for more advanced behavior, such as obstacle avoidance, line following, and light tracking.

Jonathan Mills of Indiana University, developed Stiquito as an inexpensive vehicle for research. The robot became popular after the publication of Stiquito: Advanced Experiments with a Simple and Inexpensive Robot in 1997, which included a kit to build a Stiquito robot. Since then, two additional books have been published, and Stiquito has been used to introduce students to the concepts of analog electronics, digital electronics, computer control, and robotics. It has also been used for advanced topics such as subsumption architectures, artificial intelligence, and advanced computer architecture.

The video below shows an explanation and demo of Stiquito. You can find more videos about Stiquito here.

James Conrad
JamesConrad_2013James M. Conrad is professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has served as an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas and as an instructor at North Carolina State University. He has also worked at IBM, Ericsson/Sony Ericsson, and BPM Technology. He has been elected to serve on the IEEE Board of Directors as Region 3 director for 2016-2017. He is the author of numerous books, book chapters, journal articles, and conference papers in the areas of embedded systems, robotics, parallel processing, and engineering education.

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July 25th, 2014

Robots: Ekso Bionics

In this episode, Audrow Nash speaks to Russ Angold, co-founder and CTO of Ekso Bionics, about the wearable bionic suit, Ekso. This suit enables individuals with any amount of lower extremity weakness to stand up and walk over ground with a natural, full weight bearing, reciprocal gait. Walking is achieved by the user’s weight shifts to activate sensors in the device which initiate steps. Battery-powered motors drive the legs, replacing deficient neuromuscular function.

Ekso provides functional based rehabilitation, over ground gait training, and upright, weight bearing exercises. It has been designed for the needs of busy therapists treating a wide range of patients in a single day. The suit is strapped over the users´ clothing with easy adjustments to transition between patients in as little as five minutes.

Russ Angold

russ_angoldRuss Angold is co-founder and CTO of Ekso Bionics. He works closely with the Lockheed Martin Corporation, licensing Ekso technology to further develop the HULCTMexoskeleton for military use. Formerly Vice President of Engineering, Russ provided many of the concepts that shape today’s current designs as well as those of the ExoHikerTM, ExoClimberTM and HULCTM.

Before Ekso Bionics, Russ held various engineering positions at Rain Bird Corporation, Berkeley Process Control and the Irrigation Training and Research Center in San Luis Obispo, California.

Russ has a bachelor’s degree in BioResource and Agricultural Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He is a California registered Professional Mechanical Engineer and has two granted patents and another seven pending.

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July 12th, 2014

Robots: Cruise

In this episode, we speak with Kyle Vogt, the CEO of Cruise. His company recently joined the “driverless revolution” with their release of RP-1. This system is a highway autopilot that can be installed in your existing car. It controls your steering, throttle, and braking, making sure your car remains safely in its lane and a safe distance from the car in front of you.

The Cruise RP-1 sees the road and cars around you through the sensor pod mounted on the roof of your car. Through a combination of cameras, radar, and other measurement systems, the Sensor Pod relays what it detects back to the Cruise Computer to make real time decisions on where to go. A click of a button will enable the RP-1 to take control of steering and speed.

Kyle Vogt

kyle_vogtKyle is the CEO and Founder of Cruise, a company building driving automation technology.

Previously, Kyle was a Co-Founder at Justin.tv, Socialcam (acquired by Autodesk), and Twitch. Kyle studied computer science and electrical engineering at MIT. 

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