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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June 27th, 2014

Robots: Computer Assisted Surgery

In this episode Ron Vanderkley speaks to Prof. Karol Miller, Director of the Intelligent Systems for Medicine Lab at the University of Western Australia, about medical robotics and how doctors and patients perceive its role and use. Central to his work are mathematical models of soft tissue (brain, liver, etc.) that can be used for robot-assisted surgery by providing fast and accurate feedback. He also discusses the potential and challenges in making surgery fully autonomous. Finally, we hear about how his computational tools could be used to build transformer-like robots that can reassemble to adapt to new tasks.

Karol Miller
drKarol_Millar2Karol Miller is a specialist in the area of modelling and computer simulation in biomechanics. He is the Winthrop Professor of Applied Mechanics at the University of Western Australia, the Deputy Head of the School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering, Director of the Intelligent Systems for Medicine Lab and Director of the Computational Geomechanics Laboratory. His contributions include mathematical models of brain deformation behavior (the world’s most frequently cited) and close-to-real-time finite element and meshless algorithms.

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June 14th, 2014

Robots: A Code of Ethics for HRI Practitioners

Human-robot interaction is a fascinating field of research in robotics. It also happens to be the field that is closely related to many of the ethical concerns raised with regards to interactive robots. Should human-robot interaction (HRI) practitioners keep in mind things such as human dignity, psychological harm, and privacy? What about how robot design relates to racism and sexism?

Dr. Laurel D. Riek worked on a code of ethics for HRI practitioners with Dr. Don Howard, both professors at the University of Notre Dame. They presented their work at the We Robot conference held earlier this year.

Curious to find out more, AJung spoke with Dr. Riek about what motivated them to draft the code of ethics, what is covered, and where they plan to take it. 

Laurel Riek

lr-webLaurel Riek is the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, where she directs the Robotics, Health, and Communication Lab. Her research interests are in human-robot interaction, social signal processing, and health informatics. Riek’s work explores how to build machines that are socially agile – able to sense, respond, and adapt to human behavior. This includes computationally modeling social context and synchrony, as well as building expressive robots, such as next generation patient simulator systems. Riek received her PhD in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge and BS in Logic and Computation from Carnegie Mellon University. She worked for eight years as a Senior Artificial Intelligence Engineer and Roboticist at MITRE, on projects including search and rescue robotics, unmanned vehicles, and natural language processing. For her research, she has received several high-level awards from MITRE, a Qualcomm Research Award in Computing, and the NSF CAREER Award.

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