Richard McKenna Richard McKenna is Chief Engineer at The Creature Technology Company. He joined CTC in 2010 and has worked on all of the major projects since that time, including How to Train Your Dragon; King Kong and the Sochi Olympic Mascots. He has a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) in Mechatronics, Robotics and Automation Engineering from Swinburne University and is certified as a “Chartered Professional Engineer” by Engineers Australia, registered on the National Professional Engineers Register (NPER). Prior to joining CTC, the majority of Richard’s time was spent in the defence industry, and he has also worked in special effects for film and television.
In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Max Rheiner from Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) about his project Birdly. Birdly explores the experience of a bird in flight with several methods. Unlike a common flight simulator, the user embodies a bird, the Red Kite. To evoke this embodiment, Birdly mainly relies on the sensory-motor coupling. The participant can control the simulator with their hands and arms, which directly correlates to the wings and the primary feathers of the bird. Those inputs are reflected in the flight model of the bird and displayed physically by the simulator through nick, roll and heave movements.
Visualized through a head-mounted display (Oculus Rift), the whole scenery is perceived in the first person perspective of a bird. To intensify the embodiment, Birdly has additional sound, olfactory and wind feedback. The participant hears the roaring of the wind and the flaps of the wings. The olfactory feedback is based on the changing scenery and ranges from the scent of a forest, or soil, to several other odors of the wilderness. According to the speed of the bird, the simulator regulates the headwind with a fan.
Max Rheiner Max Rheiner is a senior lecturer at Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) where he teaches bachelors and masters programs for the Department of Interaction Design. He also developed the Physical Computing Laboratory there. He received his Diploma from Zurich University of the Arts in the field of New Media Arts in 2003.
Rheiner’s research and artistic interests center on interactive experiences which utilize methods from Virtual/Augmented Reality and Immersive Telepresence. His artistic work has been recognized and exhibited in a number of international and well-renowned venues such as Biennale Venice, Italy, Ars Electronic Linz, Austria, and Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media, Japan.
Rob Saunders Rob Saunders is Lecturer in Design Computing and Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney where he joined the Design Lab. In 1995 he gained a BSc in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science from the University of Edinburgh and in 2002 he was awarded a PhD from the University of Sydney for his work on Curious Design Agents and Artificial Creativity. From 2002 to 2006 he lived in London where he worked on a number of interdisciplinary projects with artists, designers, and scientists including biological simulations of stem cell systems, an intelligent logo design system and autonomous artworks that have been exhibited in galleries across the UK and the USA.
After his return to Sydney in 2006, Saunders focused his attention to exploring computational models of creativity. His research interest lies in understanding human creativity and producing tools that support it. His curious design assistants for example are interface agents that have been developed to support human creativity by filtering and exploring design spaces. Saunders also aims to build minimal and well rounded models of creativity at the individual, social and cultural level for autonomous systems that work independently from humans.
Curiosity is one of the driving forces behind creative activity. As such, Saunders creates curious agents that are computational models of self-motivated learning based on interest in novelty.
In this interview, Saunders tells us about his many projects in curious systems and his take on creativity.
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.
Raffaello D’Andrea is Professor of Dynamic Systems and Control at ETH Zürich, and co-founder and chief technical advisor for US company Kiva Systems. His research focus is pushing the boundary of autonomous systems capabilities, with an emphasis on adaptation and learning.
He tells us about his first impressions following one of the biggest deals in the history of robotics, the acquisition of Kiva Systems by Amazon for an estimated USD 775M. D’Andrea was on the show in 2008 to talk about Kiva’s pioneering warehouse automation solution, which uses fleets of up to 1000 mobile robots to streamline the process of picking, packing, and shipping e-commerce products. We also look at work in dynamic systems out of his lab, including projects from the Flying Machine Arena (listen to a previous interview on the Distributed Flight Array) and a recent collaboration with Gramazio & Kohler on the construction of undulated brick walls using quadrocopters. We then dive into the Art scene with projects such as the Blind Juggling Machine, the Robotic Chair and Table and finally take a step back to discuss the importance of fundamental research in engineering and strategies for translating knowledge in complex systems to industry.
D’Andrea is the recipient of the Wilson Medal, the Invention and Entrepreneurship in Robotics and Automation Award, the National Science Foundation Career Award, and the United States Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering. As the faculty advisor and system architect of the Cornell Robot Soccer Team he was also four-time world champions at the international RoboCup competition. His work has been exhibited at numerous international venues, including the Venice Biennale, Ars Electronica, the Smithsonian, and the Spoleto Festival, and two of his robotic art pieces have become part of the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada.
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