In today’s episode we speak with Stephen Gorevan from Honeybee Robotics about how he and Chris Chapman started the company and how his childhood dream of working for NASA got them into space robotics. The interview, which was recorded before the landing of Curiosity on Mars, gives us all the details about the equipment they built for the Mars Science Laboratory, including the Sample Manipulation System (SMS) and the Dust Removal Tool (DRT) which will enable the mission to explore and analyze the Martian environment. We also hear about their latest developments in small scale satellites called Cubesats.
Stephen Gorevan co-founded Honeybee Robotics in 1983 and currently serves as the company’s Chairman. He is principally responsible for guiding the company’s direction toward the application of advanced robotic and automation techniques to new applications in the aerospace sector. His responsibilities include new technology development, company and engineering management, design and systems engineering. Gorevan has over 25 years of experience in leading advanced robotics and automation design, development, and implementation efforts for NASA, defense and industry. He currently serves as a Co-Investigator on the science teams for the Mars Exploration Rovers and the Mars Science Laboratory SAM instrument and is a member of the Venus Science Definition Team.
In today’s episode we speak with Rodney Brooks at the offices of Rethink Robotics about their first product Baxter, his ambition to revolutionize manufacturing and latest tips for young entrepreneurs.
Rodney Brooks Rodney Brooks built his career as Professor in robotics and former Director (1997 – 2007) of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and then the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). In the 1980s, he revolutionized the field of robotics by introducing the idea that the world is its own best model, and that to be robust, robots should react to their environment (behavior-based robotics) rather than rely on complex models of the world. From this research in behavior-based robotics, Brooks then studied human-robot interactions with former graduate students, now well known researchers, such as Cynthia Breazeal and Maja Mataric. He is also a Founder, former Board Member (1990 – 2011) and former CTO (1990 – 2008) of iRobot.
In 2008, Brooks founded Rethink Robotics, a Boston-based company aimed at revolutionizing manufacturing and reducing offshoring by making low-cost robots that can easily be taught to help with different tasks on the work-floor by everyday employees. Their first product “Baxter” has five cameras and two arms, each with 7 degrees of freedom, a payload of 5 kg and equipped with interchangeable manipulators.
In this interview, Brooks tells us about his vision for manufacturing and the design decisions that were taken to address challenges such as vision, manipulation, and human-robot interactions. Businesses will need to “rethink” their idea of automation before embracing adaptable, compliant and human-like robots rather than typical assembly-line super-performers.
In today’s episode we speak with Mark Tilden, about the history before WowWee‘s RoboSapien and FemiSapien and about his belief that bottom up BEAM robotics (which stands for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics) is essential in creating low cost, competent, robust and flexible robots.
Mark Tilden Mark Tilden is a true robotics lover, having built thousands of robots of all shapes and sizes in the last few decades. During the first part of his career he pioneered BEAM robotics, a philosophy of building robots based on simple analog circuits and control instead of highly-complex systems, leading to low-cost and efficient systems. His bio-inspired bots manage to walk, crawl, roll or shake in complex environments using only a few transistors and basic sensors.
After working at the University of Waterloo in Canada and subsequently at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Tilden’s research eventually evolved into toy design when he was hired as a consultant for WowWee robotics in Hong Kong. His RoboSapien humanoid robot was controlled using only 28 transistors, and has sold in the millions. We covered his work at WowWee in a previous version of the podcast about Robot Toys.
In this episode, Tilden gives us an intriguing glimpse into the future. He is currently working on taking the basic BEAM technology in his toy robots and adapting them to perform useful tasks. Using flexible robots, rather than many dedicated systems, is a powerful concept but it also brings with it some tough requirements ranging from look and feel to battery life and safety. He sums up the requirements nicely when saying “your robot has to perform its task quietly, elegantly and in conjunction with you”.
And if you are into picking things apart and building new things, the BEAM technology and RoboSapien and FemiSapien are definitely your thing. They are actually meant to be disassembled and the components are all labeled and documented so that you can use them for many things.
We hear how he first got interested in robotics and automated architecture, and what the future plans are for his lab.
Matthias also talks about how the design of buildings and the urban landscape will change when the construction process becomes automated. The history of modular and automated building is not exactly filled with success. We discuss why that is, and why it is likely to be different this time around.
The issues of safety, compliance with building codes and quality control are other interesting topics that we get to hear more about in this interview.
If you are interested in automated building, you might be interested in our previous interview with Radhika Nagpal, where she talks about the TERMES project that aims to develop an automated building system that mimics termites and how they build their impressive mounts.
Matthias Kohler is an architect with multi-disciplinary interests ranging from computational design and robotic fabrication to material innovation. In 2000, he founded the architecture practice Gramazio & Kohler in conjunction with his partner Fabio Gramazio, where numerous award-wining designs have been realized, integrating novel architectural designs into a contemporary building culture. Trained at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich, his integral approach to practice and research focuses on the interplay of digital design and material processes through advanced construction methodologies.
Since 2005, Gramazio & Kohler hold the Chair for Architecture and Digital Fabrication at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich. Founding the world’s first architectural robotic laboratory, the pioneering investigations of Matthias Kohler concentrate on non-standardized architectural design and additive fabrication processes through the customized use of industrial robots. A significant amount of research has been accomplished addressing scales ranging from 1:1 prototypical installations to the design of robotically fabricated high-rise buildings. Currently Matthias Kohler’s research is focusing on adaptive design strategies for constructive material systems and in-situ robotic fabrication.
In Matthias Kohler’s practice, emphasis is placed on understanding construction and materialization as fundamental to the design of architecture. Gramazio & Kohler demonstrates a profound architectural expertise, considering the building process in all its cultural, constructive and sensual dimensions. Built work ranges from international exhibitions, private and public buildings to large-scale urban interventions. Projects include the Gantenbein vineyard façade, the Tanzhaus theatre for contemporary dance, the Christmas lights for Bahnhofstrasse, the sWISH* Pavilion at the Swiss National Exposition Expo.02 and the Private House in Riedikon.
Matthias Kohler’s innovative explorations have contributed to numerous exhibitions around the world such as the 2008 Architectural Biennial in Venice and the Storefront Gallery for Art and Architecture in New York 2009. His work has been published in a large number of journals, books and mass media and is further documented in the book Digital Materiality in Architecture, which outlines the theoretical context for the full synthesis of data and material in architecture.
In today’s episode we speak with Francesco Mondada, organizer of the Robotics Festival at EPFL that gathers over 15’000 visitors for hands-on workshops and demonstrations. We also walk you through the many exhibits showcasing multi-robot systems, flying robots, rehabilitation robots and robotic salamanders.
Francesco Mondada is the director of the Miniature Mobile Robots Group at EPFL in Switzerland. We spoke with him last fall about his work in Educational Robotics. An expert in education, he received the Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching last year. Some of his most popular robots used in schools and labs around the world include the Khepera, the S-bot and marXbot, the e-puck and more recently the Thymio and Thymio II. He also founded and was CEO of K-Team, a Swiss based company that develops, manufactures and markets mobile robots for use in advanced education and research. In this interview we catch his first impressions after the 5th edition of the Robotics Festival that took place at EPFL. A success from the very beginning, the Robotics Festival managed this year to draw 15’000 visitors in a single day of interactive workshops, demos, and robotic shows and featured demonstrations of Festo’s AirJelly.
The Robotics Festival aims to demystify engineering for the general public and especially kids. Of the 15’000 visitors, 1994 attended workshops where they learned to make robots, program and do electronics, while 6091 attended robotics shows. The rest walked around the many exhibits showcasing latest advances in robotics by research institutions and industry. In this episode, we take you to some of the demos: