February 7th, 2014

Robots: Industry and Society

In today’s episode Per Sjöborg speaks with Rezia Molfino from the PMAR group at University of Genova about how all robots are service robots, it’s just that they serve people in different ways in different situations. We hear about some of the many interesting projects she is working on, ranging from challenging manufacturing problems in thin sheet machining (SwarmItFIX) and the textile industry (clopema), to assisted-living vehicles for use in an urban environment (Picav) and do-it-yourself, practical equipment for demining war zones (Locastra).

SwarmItFIX

CloPeMa

Picav

Locostra

Rezia Maria Molfino
Rezia Maria Molfino is Professor at the University of Genova, where she specializes in robot mechanics, industrial and service robotics, control of mechanical systems, flexible automation, and methods in mechanical design and programming for robotics.

Among her many advisory roles, she serves as an expert for LEIT-NMP’s Advisory Group (Horizon 2020), as President of the Italian Association of Robotics and Automation, and as National Coordinator at the International Federation of Robotics.

She has authored some 200 publications in the areas of robotics, intelligent manufacturing systems and automation, holds several patents on robotic equipment, and is involved in numerous robotics research projects, including: PRIDE, MiniPKM, Roboclimber, SBC, Smartwire, EUROShoE, SAFERDRILL, LEAPFROG, AUTORECON, SwarmItFIX (coord), PICAV (coord), FURBOT (coord) and Networks like OSNET, EURON, CLAWAR.
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January 24th, 2014

Robots: Startup Funding

In today’s episode Per Sjöborg speaks with Jan Westerhues, Investment Partner with Robert Bosch Venture Capital, about how they fund companies in robotics. As stepping stones towards their long-term goal to build autonomous cars, they invest in a wide range of robotics technologies with real world applications. Westerhues tells us when in a project’s life they can help and what to expect throughout their involvement. He also promises exciting news in the coming months, so stay tuned.

Jan Westerhues
Jan Westerhues is Investment Partner with Robert Bosch Venture Capital in Frankfurt, Germany. Jan is responsible for robotic investments within RBVC and board member/observer of Aethon, USA and a low cost autonomous navigation company in the EU (soon to be disclosed). RBVC is the corporate venture arm of Robert Bosch GmbH, one of the largest private conglomerates with over 50 billion Euros sales. The VC fund invests worldwide in start-up companies either directly or via Venture Capital Funds. Investment focus is technology companies that fit Bosch’s current and future business. RBVC provides capital for minority stakes in start-ups from early to expansion stage. Prior to this position, Jan was responsible for Bosch Corporate Strategy in the Asia Pacific region, based in Shanghai, China. He gathered extensive experience in strategy consulting before joining the Bosch Group. Jan holds a degree in engineering and business administration (Dipl.-Wirtsch.-Ing.) from the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany and is a CFA charter holder. He speaks German, English, and Spanish fluently and has a basic knowledge of Mandarin.

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January 10th, 2014

Robots: Interdisciplinary Teams

In today’s episode Per Sjöborg speaks with Giulio Sandini, director of the Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences department at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), about how he eventually came to study robotics after starting out as a vision scientist in the field of bioengineering. They talk about why interdisciplinary work is important to robotics, and how diverse teams of engineers, biologists, psychologists, mathematicians, physicists, and medical doctors can learn from each other; Sandini follows up with several examples of interdisciplinary success at the IIT including the iCub and COMAN humanoid platforms, the HyQ quadruped, and their work in rehabilitation robotics.

Giulio Sandini
Giulio Sandini is Director of Research at the Italian Institute of Technology and full professor of bioengineering at the University of Genoa. After his graduation in Electronic Engineering (Bioengineering) at the University of Genova in 1976 he was research fellow and assistant professor at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa until 1984. During this period, working at the Laboratorio di Neurofisiologia of the CNR, he investigated aspects of visual processing at the level of single neurons as well as aspects of visual perception in human adults and children. He has been Visiting Research Associate at the Department of Neurology of the Harvard Medical School in Boston. After his return to Genova in 1984 as associate professor he founded the Laboratory for Integrated Advanced Robotics. In 1996 he was Visiting Scientist at the Artificial Intelligence Lab of MIT.

Since 2006 he is Director of Research at the Italian Institute of Technology where he has established and is currently directing the Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences department. RBCS is a multidisciplinary environment composed of researchers with different backgrounds (engineers, biologists, psychologists, mathematicians, physicists, medical doctors) sharing “human centered” Scientific and Technological interests along three streams of research: Humanoid Cognition, Human Behavior and Biomechanics, Brain Machine Interface.

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December 27th, 2013

Robots: Teams and Tasks

In today’s episode, Per Sjöborg speaks with Lynne Parker from the University of Tennessee about her work with robot teams. Her lab is developing techniques to get robots to team up to complete tasks that they individually could not. The robots share data from sensors to extend their perception or share capabilities to perform particular tasks. This approach is essential to increase the efficiency, potential and reliability of multi-robot systems.

The Distributed Intelligence Laboratory robots

The Distributed Intelligence Laboratory robots

Ideally, multi-robot systems should be able to cope with different types of robots joining or leaving the team, and tasks changing over time. While most approaches would require a roboticist to manually predefine how the robot team accomplishes its task, Parker automates this process using smart algorithms and software architectures. This makes the design of multi-robot systems more manageable in the long run since one framework can be used in different situations.

Dr. Parker also works on integrating humans in the robot teams. This allows implicit communication between the robot and the human coworker to reduce the workload on the human and make the interaction more efficient.

In the long term, she hopes her research in multi-robot systems will enable applications in security, surveillance, and reconnaissance; planetary exploration; search and rescue; cleanup of hazardous waste; mining; construction; automated manufacturing; industrial/household maintenance; and nuclear power plant decommissioning.

 
Lynne Parker
Lynne E. Parker is Professor and Associate Head in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at The University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK). At UTK, she is the founder and director of the Distributed Intelligence Laboratory, which performs research in multi-robot systems, sensor networks, machine learning, and human-robot interaction.

Parker is a leading international researcher in the field of distributed multi-robot systems. She has published over 135 articles in the areas of mobile robot cooperation, human-robot cooperation, sensor networks, robotic learning, intelligent agent architectures, and robot navigation. These publications include five edited books on the topic of distributed robotics.

She is the Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Robotics Automation Society’s Conference Editorial Board, Senior Editor of IEEE Transactions on Robotics, Associate Editor of IEEE Intelligent Systems Magazine and an Associate Editor of the Swarm Intelligence journal. She serves on numerous international conference program committees. She is also an elected member of the Administrative Committee of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.

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December 13th, 2013

Robots: The DARPA Robotics Challenge

In this episode, Sabine Hauert interviews Paul Oh, the Director of the Drexel Autonomous Systems Lab at Drexel University. His team, spanning 10 universities, is competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) with the HUBO humanoid made by KAIST in South Korea. The goal of the challenge is to design robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters. Trials will take place next week in Florida from December 20-21 and will require robots to drive a vehicle, walk over rough terrain, clear debris, open doors, use a hand tool to break through a wall, climb a ladder, turn a valve, and finally drag a hose and connect it to pipes. The 7 HUBO robots on Oh’s team will be competing against sixteen other teams from around the world to determine which teams continues on to the DRC Finals in 2014 with continued DARPA funding. Competing in the 2014 Finals will lead to one team winning a $2 million prize.

The video below shows Oh’s vision for robot-enabled disaster response in 2020. You can find more videos of the HUBO working on tasks for the trials here.

Paul Oh
Paul Oh is a Full Professor at Drexel’s Mechanical Engineering Department, Affiliated Faculty in the ECE Department, and Director of the Drexel Autonomous Systems Lab (DASL). He received mechanical engineering degrees from McGill (B.Eng 1989), Seoul National (M.Sc 1992), and Columbia (PhD 1999). Honors include faculty fellowships at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (2002), Naval Research Lab (2003), the NSF CAREER award (2004), the SAE Ralph Teetor Award for Engineering Education Excellence (2005) and being named a Boeing Welliver Fellow (2006). He is also the Founding Chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Aerial Robotics and UAVs. From 2008-2010, he served at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as the Program Director managing the robotics research portfolio. Paul Oh was named ASME Fellow in 2011.
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