April 19th, 2013

Robots: Ethical, Social and Legal Issues

In this episode, Per talks to Pericle Salvini from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna about his work with social, ethical and legal issues in robotics. He tells us about the Robolaw project that will provide advice to the European Union when it creates laws concerning robotics. Finally, we discuss how you can contribute to this important work.

Pericle Salvini
Pericle Salvini graduated in Foreign Languages and Literatures from the University of Pisa in 2000 with a thesis on ‘Theatre and Technologies’. In 2005, he completed a Master in Theatre Studies at Lancaster University (UK), where he delved into the telepresence artworks of E. Kac, R. Ascott and P. Sermon. In 2008, he received his PhD in Biorobotics Science and Engineering from IMT Lucca Institute for Advanced Studies and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Italy). In his PhD thesis he studied robot design and ethical, legal and social implications. He is currently a research fellow at the BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, Italy. His main research interests are in the fields of Human-Robot Interaction (design, human factor and social acceptance of robots), and technoethics (ethical, legal and social implications of robotics research and applications). He is also involved in activities concerning the use of robots in education and art. He is currently co-chair of the Human Robot Interaction and Communication Technical Committee of RAS-IEEE and project manager of the Robolaw project.

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April 5th, 2013

Robots: Software Marketplace

In this episode we hear how the Spanish robotic startup Adele is creating a marketplace for robotics software. Through their platform, robot developers can buy software components for their robots, and software developers can sell their code, in a practical way. Examples of the software components, Adele calls them sparks, are speech recognition, synthetic speech, vision systems and user interface components. Their flagship project FIONA (Framework for Interactive-services Over Natural-conversational Agents) allows users to create intelligent and interactive virtual avatars.

Celestino Alvarez Martinez
Celestino Alvarez Martinez is an Industrial Engineer, specialized in Electronics and Automation from the University of Oviedo and with a Diploma of Advanced Studies in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence from Polytechnic University of Madrid. In 2002 he began his PhD in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, under the supervision of Professor Antonio Barrientos (DISAM, UPM) in the field of human-robot interaction.



Lucia Fernandez Cossio
Lucia Fernandez Cossio is a Computer Science Engineer from the University of Oviedo. She is specialized in artificial intelligence and social robotics and currently holds the position of Project Manager at Adele Robots. She has experience in management and direction of R & D related to different topics within the field of Information Technology and Communication.




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March 22nd, 2013

Robots: International Standards

In this episode we hear from Professor Gurvinder Virk from the University of Gävle about how international standards are created in the ISO. He also tells us why he thinks they are essential for robotics and how you can participate and contribute.

Gurvinder Virk
Gurvinder Virk is a Professor of Robotics and the Built Environment, at University of Gävle, Sweden as well as Professor of Robotics and autonomous systems at KTH, Sweden.

He is also Chairman of CLAWAR Association Ltd. in a voluntary capacity. CLAWAR is a UK registered charity with the mission to advance education and science for the public benefit in the field of robotics and associated technologies.

He is a technical expert in control theory and its applications with particular experience in service robotics and building management systems, and the use of advanced model-based control to a variety of applications. His current interests are in personal care robots, physical assistance exoskeletons, medical robots, olfactory navigation for mobile robots, and renewable energy systems for buildings. He has extensive experience of project management and leading large international projects. He has produced over 300 papers and 11 books.

Prof. Virk is a leading actor in international robot standardisation and the Convener of two robot safety work groups, ISO TC184/SC2/WG7 Personal care robot safety, and IEC TC62/SC62A & ISO TC184/SC2 JWG9 Medical electrical equipment and systems using robotic technology.

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March 8th, 2013

Robots: Giving Rights to Robots

In this episode, we talk with Kate Darling from the MIT Media Lab, about giving rights to social robots. She tells us about a recent Pleo torture session she organized at the LIFT conference and the class she taught at Harvard Law School on “Robot Rights”.

Kate Darling
Kate Darling is an Intellectual Property Research Specialist at the MIT Media Lab. She recently wrote a paper on “Extending Legal Rights to Social Robots” where she asks if we should consider protecting robots that connect with us on a social level. In her paper, she says:

“Assuming that our society wants to protect animals regardless of their capacities, because of our personal attachments to them, society may well also want to protect social robots regardless of their capacities.”

To test our attachment to robot companions, Darling organized a workshop at LIFT which involved torturing and “killing” Pleo dinosaurs.

The task ended up being surprisingly difficult for the participants who had spent time bonding with the robots. In the end, only one Pleo was killed.

Darling asks if mistreating a social robot could be a precursor sign of abusive personality, and if certain limits should be set on what people should and shouldn’t be doing with robots. She tells us about the course she co-taught with Professor Lawrence Lessig at Harvard Law School on “Robot Rights”, and the questions legal experts should be tackling in the realm of robotics.

Kate Darling is also a Ph.D. candidate in the field of Intellectual Property and Law & Economics at the ETHZ in Switzerland and holds a law degree (B.A./J.D. equivalent) from the University of Basel, where she graduated with honors in 2008. Her research interests have previously revolved around innovation policy and the economic analysis of copyright and patent law. She gave a related talk at LIFT this year entitled “Innovation Drivers: XXX”.

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February 22nd, 2013

Robots: Insect-inspired Navigation

In this episode Per talks to Michael Mangan from the University of Edinburgh about using robotics to study and replicate insect behaviour. Mangan describes his studies of desert ants, that are able to accurately navigate arduous environments despite having a very small brain (less than 400 000 neurons). This is an interesting problem as the desert environment is very challenging, it is too hot for pheromone navigation and nearly featureless, making visual navigation difficult.

Michael Mangan
Michael Mangan started by training as an avionics engineer at the University of Glasgow, later deciding to specialize in robotics after taking a course. At that time he was particularly inspired by some of the biorobotics projects in the press such as MIT’s Robot Tuna and Penguin Boat projects. He was very interested in this approach promising improved performance for engineering tasks by taking inspiration from biological systems solving similar problems.

Keen to work in this area he then moved to the Insect Robotics Lab, at the University of Edinburgh to undertake a PhD with Prof. Barbara Webb (see previous podcast interview). This lab combines robotics techniques with animal behavioural experiments in a synergistic loop aimed at revealing how these organisms achieve such impressive behaviors, despite their limited neural hardware and often low-resolution sensory systems. Revealing the parsimonious techniques used by these animals may then allow us to apply them to robotic systems.

Mangan’s current research focuses on the navigational abilities of desert ants. These ants scavenge for food over long distances despite searing surface temperatures when pheromone trails evaporate too quickly to use for guidance. Instead the ants rely mainly on visual cues for guidance. He has recently documented the impressive individual route following behavior of desert ants in southern Spain, and mapped their habitat for the first time. This has allowed the first rigorous testing of robotic and biologically plausible models of navigation in the ant world, as viewed by the ant.

Mangan is currently constructing these virtual worlds for public use and they will be available from www.AntNav.org. This webpage is currently under development but he hopes to have initial data uploaded soon, so stay tuned.

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