September 20th, 2013

Robots: Origami Robots - Transcript

In this episode Matthew Schroyer speaks with Nick Kohut, CEO of Dash Robotics, about their foldable hexapod robot and the ongoing crowdfunding campaign to get them into the hands of budding engineers, kids and hobbyists.

Dash is the result of years of research in fast prototyping of bioinspired robots at Ron Fearing’s Biomimietic Millisystems Lab at UC Berkeley (see Fearing Podcast or Hoover Podcast). The palm-sized origami robot is now available for the general public to build and program. The robot takes inspiration from insect locomotion by using compliant and light weight hardware to drive over difficult terrain without using any complex controllers (see Bob Full podcast). You can check out their Dragon crowdfunding campaign for a chance to get one of the first 1000 robots. The campaign ends on October 2nd.

Nick Kohut
Nick Kohut is the co-founder and CEO of Dash Robotics. He is also a postdoc at Stanford University in Mark Cutkosky’s Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Laboratory, working on a variable stiffness suspension element for humanoid robotics. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, in Ron Fearing’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab, developing small legged robots. His research focused on the development of an active tail to enable high speed turning. In the past, he also did research on centimeter scale robots, and using GPS and traffic information to improve fuel economy.

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September 6th, 2013

Robots: Construction with Amorphous Materials - Transcript

In this episode we speak with Nils Napp from the Self-organizing Systems Research Group at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.

Napp tells us about his project to create robots that can reliably build structures in uncertain, unstructured terrain. Like termites that can build complex structures using shapeless materials like mud, his robots build structures out of foam, toothpicks or bags of sand. As a first example, he’s been working on ramp building in chaotic environments remnant of disaster scenarios. Focus is given to designing algorithms that allow the robot to build up the ramp using only local information and without any preplanning. These features allow his algorithms to be scaled to multiple robots, thereby speeding up the process. Finally, Napp tells us about the challenges he faces when working with such materials, the steps needed to bring these robots out of the lab and tradeoffs with classical construction techniques. He also introduces us to his latest work in synthetic biology.


And here’s an example of another SSR robot using amorphous material by Christian Ahler.

Nils Napp
Nils Napp is a postdoctoral fellow at Radhika Nagpal’s Self-organizing Systems Research Group at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Before coming to Harvard, Nils Napp received his Master and PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Washington where he worked at the Klavins lab on Robotic Chemistry and Programmable Parts.

His main research focus is on control strategies for groups of robots and other distributed systems. Ultimately, he hopes to make self-organized systems that like biological systems are able to reliably work in random, unstructured, and fluctuating environments.

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August 23rd, 2013

Robots: Venture Capital in Robotics - Transcript

Diana Saraceni is a Venture Capitalist at 360 Capital Partners. In this interview, she tells us about her first investment in robotics 3 years ago with Invendo Medical, and her views on how the market has changed since then. Hardware is now perceived as less risky, even though it is more challenging to scale than software. Recent success stories have further helped promote VC funding in robotics.

Saraceni discusses the importance of the founding team, as well as their advisors, for the success of a company. Finally, she shares her view on open source vs. proprietary technology from a venture capitalist’s perspective.

Diana Saraceni
Diana Saraceni is a partner at 360 Capital Partners, a Pan-European Venture Capital firm. Before becoming a Venture Capitalist in 2001, she was Senior Advisor at Lazard Investment Banking. At Lazard she was part of the Technology Team and primarily worked on M&A transactions and IPOs. Prior to Lazard, Saraceni spent several years as strategic consultant with A.T.Kearney in Milan and London. She was/is part of several national and international start-up selection committees and holds a degree in Engineering from the University of Rome and an MBA from LUISS.

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August 9th, 2013

Robots: Drone Journalism - Transcript

In this episode, we speak with Matthew Schroyer, founder of DroneJournalism.org, co-founder of Drones for Good, and developer of the “Drones for Schools” program which teaches students to design, fabricate and program unmanned aerial systems to monitor the environment.

Matthew Schroyer
Matthew Schroyer has a Master’s in journalism from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he works on the National Science Foundation grant EnLiST, which offers entrepreneurial leadership training and professional development for K-12 STEM teachers. At EnLiST he uses drones to motivate students to pursue STEM careers.

Driven by the maker movement, safety concerns for journalists, and the promise of cutting edge information, Schroyer founded the Professional Society of Drone Journalists (PSDJ). His drones are used for the common good and a clear code of ethics was written to avoid privacy and safety concerns. Along the same lines, Schroyer cofounded Drones for Good, which aims to show the positive side of drone technology through public engagement and the advancement of positive drone projects.

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July 26th, 2013

Robots: Outdoor Autonomous Systems

In this episode, we speak with Jonathan Roberts, research director of the Autonomous Systems Lab at the CSIRO ICT Centre in Brisbane Australia. Roberts leads a team of more than 45 scientists and engineers in wide variety of robotics and automation projects that feature flying, ground and underwater robots.

Jonathan Roberts
Jonathan Roberts is research director of Autonomous Systems Lab at CSIRO ICT Centre in Brisbane Outside CSIRO. His laboratory is developing automation technologies for applications in environmental monitoring, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and for the energy sector. With research in field robotics and wireless sensor networks, his laboratory has produced new techniques for the autonomous control of machines, 3D perception and localisation, and for the setup and operation of large scale outdoor wireless sensor networks. These techniques are combined to produce novel solutions for industry.

In today’s episode we will touch on the following topics:

  • UAV Outback Challenge – an Australian UAV competition that features delivery and search and rescue missions.
  • Telepresence Robot – to help connect school kids and visitors in regional areas to the National Museum of Australia.
  • The Stealth Robot – for observing animals in their natural habitat.
  • StarBug AUV – an inexpensive, miniature autonomous underwater vehicle ideal for data collection and ecosystem surveys.
  • Robot Helicopter – an unmanned automatic helicopter designed to remotely inspect dangerous or hard to get to infrastructure such as powerlines, buildings and bridges.
  • Hexapod Robot – a multi-legged robot that can be used for monitoring and mapping uneven and unstructured terrain which can be difficult to navigate with wheeled robots.
  • Redirecting Manufacturing – a discussion on the future of manufacturing.

Jonathan Roberts is also Deputy Director of the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA), Video Editor for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine and a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Field Robotics.

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