[BLOG]: Robots: R&D at iRobot

[BLOG]: Robots: R&D at iRobot

Postby Sabine Hauert on 02 Jul 2010, 11:05

This is a blog post. To read the original post, please click here »

In this episode we look at the Research and Development (R&D) done at iRobot in the government field with lead roboticist Brian Yamauchi.

Brian Yamauchi

ImageBrian Yamauchi is Lead Roboticisist at iRobot in Bedford, MA where he leads many of the government projects aimed at helping soldiers and first-response teams do their work.

During this interview, Yamauchi covers some of the developments done over the past 10 years, most of which are based on the PackBot robot. In particular, he'll be telling us how they make these robots more robust and what sensors they're using to increase autonomy, and even map out the world. One of these sensors, the ultra-wideband radar, was presented at this year's ICRA conference in Alaska (paper).

Beyond the single PackBot, Yamauchi is now looking at how to make robots collaborate with examples in terrestrial and aerial robot team and mobile wireless transmitters for the quick deployment of communication networks.

Moreover, because many of the government robots developed at iRobot are being used in Iraq or Afghanistan, he'll be telling us about the research in making good soldier-robot interactions and the ethics of military robots.

Finally, we'll be learning more on the business of iRobot and the futuristic projects they're working on such as the chembot and jambot projects that involve making soft and deformable robots (see video below).

Before working at iRobot, Yamauchi completed a PhD in Computer Science from Case Western Reserve University and worked at the Naval Research Laboratory (Washington, DC).


In this week's episode we'll be asking you about your take on the cross-fertilization between the military and robotics. Make sure you take the poll and debate in the comments section below or on our forum.

Do you think the military's involvement in robotics is a good development for the field?online survey


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Re: [BLOG]: Robots: R&D at iRobot

Postby cherry on 02 Jul 2010, 15:30

Interesting interview.

Good to see that a company is still able to pursue such long term researches.

Re: Episode 55 Poll - military robots

Postby Pius Agius on 03 Jul 2010, 04:16

Military Robots are a very bad idea !!!!!

I have been thinking about and building robots for decades. I am pleased beyond words that there are so many developments, by so many people from all over the world. Surely robotics is a worldwide activity. For the most part a majority of the research and robot building are for peaceful and constructive ends. However some on this planet are going to place these creations of our genius on battlefields where the ultimate purpose is to destroy. For the present the jobs they have been doing is mostly to serve as eyes and ears to see what is really out there and protect human lives. So far so good but if we think that as they develop that will be the only job they will be given, then I would say that we are niave.

I firmly believe that to place this truly marvelous technology in warfare is wrong, very wrong. The potential for robotics is boundless and by making them destroy is to limit them severely. With the proper use of robotics we can solve a great many of the problems that are alive and well in this twenty-first century. They will be able to help the human species survive and thrive. We are the ones responsible for what our progeny will do and I do hope we do send them off in the right direction.

Take Care,

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[BLOG]: Robots: R&D at iRobot

Postby nano on 03 Jul 2010, 06:40

The military's investment in robotics has allowed for the development of ground breaking research. Just look at results from the DARPA Urban Challenge! Furthermore, most of this research can be applied to non military projects.

Concerning robots in the battlefield, my hope is that governments sit down and discuss the ethics of using robots in war. Helping soldiers with communication, surveillance and de-mining is one thing, giving them trigger power is another. Eventually, some limit will need to be set on what these robots can or cannot do, legally.

In the end, the problem is not robotics, it's people.
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[BLOG]: Robots: R&D at iRobot

Postby Pius Agius on 03 Jul 2010, 11:27

Hi Nano

You say that the problem is people. Yes in one way that can seen as correct. However I am not blaming the poor robots. In most cities when some disturbed mind plants a bomb most police have a robot that is sent in to investigate. That is an excellent use , the robot hurts no one.

You say that DARPA funded research might be turned for good. Possibly but there is an old saying which I call the golden rule. Simply those who have the gold set the rules. The research for the military will be used in the military. It is up to those of us into robots and robotics to sound the warning. There are several roboticists that are trying to bring ethics into this argument.

It seems to me that we can solve this problem by placing into every robot something similar to Asimov's three laws.

Take Care

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