November 1st, 2013

Robots: Blue River Technology

In this episode Sabine Hauert speaks with Jorge Heraud, CEO of California-based startup Blue River Technology which brings together computer vision and robotics to automate agriculture. Their first robot LettuceBot targets the state’s #1 vegetable crop. Its task is to thin rows of lettuce in fields. This involves selectively removing some of the plants by spraying excess fertilizer on them, thereby avoiding overcrowding while fertilizing nearby plants. The tractor-mounted robot is already being rented out to farms across the state.

Heraud tells us about the challenges in robot vision and the rapid growth of Blue River Technology. He shares his hopes to apply their technology to other agriculture tasks and crops with different vision challenges. Finally he explains how this technology will transform the classical workforce on farms.

Jorge Heraud
Jorge Heraud is CEO of Blue River Technology. Before co-founding the company with Lee Redden, a fellow graduate student at Stanford University, Heraud worked in precision agriculture as Director of Business Development at Trimble Navigation. At Stanford he completed an MBA at the Graduate School of Business.

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October 18th, 2013

Robots: FutureDairy

FutureDairy is an R&D development program to help Australian dairy farmers manage the challenges they are likely to face during the next 20 years. In this episode, Ron Vanderkley speaks with the project lead Kendra Kerrisk from the University of Sydney about robotic milking and herding.

As one of the big challenges is the availability of labor and associated lifestyle issues in the dairy industry, FutureDairy’s focus is on automatic milking systems. While robotic milking technology is now in wide use overseas, there’s less experience with automatic milking in grazing-based farming systems such as in Australia. The video below summarizes some of the results from the DeLaval pilot farm in Australia.

With increasing numbers of Australian dairy cows now being milked by robots, researchers are looking at a range of exciting ways to use robots on the farm. One that has already shown promise is the use of robots (UGV) to herd cattle from the paddock to the dairy. In the videos below you can see two trials with the Shrimp rover hearding cows in Australian farms.

FutureDairy 3 is sponsored by Dairy Australia, the University of Sydney, the NSW Department of Primary Industries and DeLaval.

Kendra Kerrisk
Kendra Kerrisk is Faculty of Veterinary Science at the The University of Sydney in Australia. Kerrisk developed a strong interest for the Dairy Industry whilst conducting undergraduate and post-graduate studies at Massey University in New Zealand and has remained a leader in the field since then. During her PhD at the University of Melbourne she studied Peri-parturient Management for Large Dairy Herds using Controlled Breeding Programmes. After her PhD, she worked for Dexcel (formerly Dairying Research Corporation) in New Zealand on the world’s first pasture-based Automatic Milking System research farm. Through her academic life, she has contributed significantly to the national and international knowledge regarding application of Automatic Milking Systems (AMS) with pasture-based dairying. One of the highlights of the work conducted within FutureDairy, a project which she leads, has been the co-development of the world’s first Robotic Rotary (Automatic Milking Rotary, DeLaval AMRTM). This internationally recognized work will increase the feasibility of robotic milking for large dairy herds that are more common within the Australian and New Zealand industries.

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October 4th, 2013

Robots: Getting Started in Robotics - Transcript

In this episode, Sabine Hauert talks with Erin Kennedy at the Open Hardware Summit at MIT. Kennedy is famously know as RobotGrrl, the self-made roboticist and proud maker of the RobotBrrd, Buddy 4000 and BotBait. Starting at age 13, she taught herself programming, electronics, pcb design and mechanical engineering. She’s been sharing her passion for robotics through her blog and weekly G+ Hangout or so called Robot Party that brings together robot enthusiasts to share their latest contraptions. She’s now bringing her work to the next level with robot kits commercialized through indiegogo last year and funded at 151%.

In the long term, Kennedy dreams of making robots creatures with their own personality and robo-culture.

Erin Kennedy
Erin Kennedy is a maker and app developer based in Montreal, Canada. For years she has been documenting her quest to build social robots. Her main robot, RoboBrrd is an animatronic character designed to help kids learn about robotics. Her work has been featured in her RoboBrrd build-a-long video series, on Instructables, at many Maker Fairs (Maker Faire NYC Editors Choice Award) and in main stream media including WIRED and Forbes. Erin also mentors a FIRST robotics competition teams since 2009.
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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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