Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

April 6th, 2012

Robots: History and Outlook

In today’s episode we speak with two authorities in robotics, George Bekey and Rodney Brooks about the last 50 years of robotics, the ongoing robot revolution and future prospects.

George Bekey

George Bekey is one of the father of robotics. In the 1960s, he designed and built the first four-legged robot in North America. He later founded the Biomedical Engineering Department and the Robotics Research Laboratory at the University of Southern California.

His laboratory designed and built several five-fingered robot hands and developed grasping theory. Their work included a knowledge-based approach to grasping and the use of robot hands as models for prosthetic hands. He also worked with his students to develop an autonomous helicopter, study gait control in legged robots and create a walking machine governed by genetic algorithms. His experience led him to write a book on Autonomous Robots published in 2005.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Bekey was chosen by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to lead a 2005-2006 assessment of the state of robotics in the United States, Western Europe and the Pacific Rim. The team’s findings culminated in a report to its federal sponsors on American competitive advantages and weaknesses on the international stage.

He retired after 40 years as a full-time faculty member at USC and continues to be active in his community and in his profession. He currently serves on the advisory boards of several robotics and high-tech companies.

In this interview, we discuss the history of robotics and his vision of the future with emphasis on bio-inspiration, learning, human robot interactions and ethics.

Rodney Brooks

Rodney Brooks has been one of the main actors in the field of robotics over the past 30 years. He received degrees in pure mathematics from the Flinders University of South Australia and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1981. He held research positions at Carnegie Mellon University and MIT, and a faculty position at Stanford before joining the faculty of MIT in 1984 where his work focused on computer vision, artificial intelligence, robotics, and artificial life.

Brooks was the director of the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (C-SAIL) Laboratory until 2007 and one of the founders of iRobot. He is currently the founder, chairman and CTO of Heartland Robotics that aims to revolutionize manufacturing and increase productivity of industries using robots that are teachable, safe and affordable.

Per was able to briefly meet with Brooks at the RobotDalen conference in Sweden. A video of Brooks’ keynote can be found below.

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March 9th, 2012

Robots: Dexterous Manipulation and Morphogenesis

The 5th edition of the SCHUNK Expert Days, organized by SCHUNK GmbH from February 29 – March 1, once again brought together renown roboticists, and culminated in enriching discussions and insights. In the course of the last editions, this exclusive convention has gathered 79 speakers from 14 countries worldwide, and has caught our attention due to its cutting edge focus on service robotics.
Today’s episode features two of this year’s key speakers, Bruno Siciliano and Rolf Pfeifer – we took advantage of the stimulating conference atmosphere to ask them more!

Bruno Siciliano

Bruno Siciliano is Professor of Control and Robotics, and Director of the PRISMA Lab in the Department of Computer and Systems Engineering at University of Naples Federico II. His research interests include force and visual control, human-robot interaction, cooperative manipulation and aerial robotics.
He has co-authored 7 books, 70 journal papers, 180 conference papers and book chapters. He has delivered 90 invited lectures and seminars at institutions worldwide, and he has been the recipient of several awards. He is a Fellow of IEEE, ASME and IFAC. He is Co-Editor of the Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics, and of the Springer Handbook of Robotics which received the PROSE Award for Excellence in Physical Sciences & Mathematics. His team is currently involved in six FP7 European projects. Professor Siciliano is the Past-President of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.

Rolf Pfeifer

Rolf Pfeifer has been a professor of computer science at the Department of Informatics, University of Zurich, and director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory since 1987. His research interests are in the areas of embodiment, biorobotics, artificial evolution and morphogenesis, modular robotics, self-assembly and educational technology.
He worked as a visiting professor and research fellow at the Free University of Brussels, the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass., the Neurosciences Institute (NSI) in San Diego, the Beijing Open Laboratory for Cognitive Science, the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris, and was elected “21st Century COE Professor, Information Science and Technology” at the University of Tokyo. He was also a visiting professor at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, and he was appointed “Fellow of the School of Engineering” at the University of Tokyo. Currently, he is the Deputy Director of the NCCR Robotics, the “National Competence Center for Research in Robotics” in Switzerland.

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February 10th, 2012

Robots: Senseable Robots

In today’s episode we look at some of the work done by the Senseable City Lab. We’ll be talking to Carlo Ratti, the director of the Lab, about two of the Lab’s many projects – namely Flyfire and Seaswarm.

Carlo Ratti

An architect and engineer by training, Carlo Ratti practices in Italy and teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he directs the Senseable City Lab. He graduated from the Politecnico di Torino and the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris, and later earned his MPhil and PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK.

As well as being a regular contributor to the architecture magazine Domus and the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Carlo has written for the BBC, La Stampa, Scientific American and The New York Times. His work has been exhibited worldwide at venues such as the Venice Biennale, the Design Museum Barcelona, the Science Museum in London, GAFTA in San Francisco and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. His Digital Water Pavilion at the 2008 World Expo was hailed by Time Magazine as one of the ‘Best Inventions of the Year’. Carlo was recently a presenter at TED 2011 and is serving as a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council for Urban Management. He is also a program director at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow and a curator of the 2012 BMW Guggenheim Pavilion in Berlin.

Carlo founded the Senseable City Lab in 2004 within the City Design and Development group at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab. The Lab’s mission is to creatively intervene and investigate the interface between people, technologies and the city. Whilst fostering interdisciplinary, the Lab’s work draws on diverse fields such as urban planning, architecture, design, engineering, computer science, natural sciences and economics to capture the full nature of urban problems and deliver research and applications that empower citizens to make choices that result in a more liveable urban condition.

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July 1st, 2011

Robots: The Mind Machine Project

In this episode we speak with Newton Howard, director of the Mind Machine Project and research scientist at MIT.

Newton Howard

Newton Howard is the director of the Mind Machine Project (MMP) started in 2009 to revisit fundamental assumptions about the nature of the brain, cognition, computing, and intelligence. The project focuses on four areas of expertise including Mind, Memory, Body, and Brain/Intent with world renowned experts from a wide range of fields joining forces to create Artificial Intelligence (AI).

In our conversation, we look at mistakes made in the field of AI up to date, smart materials, the importance of understanding the brain to recreate intelligence, and hopes that this understanding will lead to breakthroughs in the medical field.

Over the years, Newton has studied the “physics of cognition”, the “theory of intention awareness” and Psychiatry at universities around the world including the University of Paris 1 – La Sorbonne, Oxford and George Washington University. He currently holds a position at the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms where his research interests include wet computers, brain language and brain interfaces.

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April 23rd, 2010

Robots: 50 Years of Robotics (Part 1)

Today we celebrate the 50th episode of ROBOTS!

For the occasion we speak with 12 scientists about the most remarkable developments in robotics over the last 50 years and their prediction for the next half-century. This 50th special is split into two episodes with the second half airing in two weeks.

Today we’ll be talking to Rolf Pfeifer on robotics in general, Mark Tilden robot toys, Hiroshi Ishiguro on androids, Oscar Schofield on underwater robots, Steve  Potter on brain machine interfaces and Chris Rogers on eduction robots. Our next episode will give you a snapshot view on nano robots, AI, flying robots, human robot interactions, robot business, and space robots.

We’ve also upgraded our website so that you can easily browse through episodes by topic, interviewee, tag or just listen to one of our favorites, so have a look!

You can interact with the ROBOTS community by leaving comments directly under episode posts or on our new sleek forum. To do both, just log-in once in the top bar of the website.

Rolf Pfeifer

Rolf Pfeifer is Professor at the University of Zurich where he directs the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He pioneered a new approach to artificial intelligence (“New AI”), which emphasizes the role of embodiment and argues that thought is not independent of the body, but tightly constrained, and at the same time enabled by it.

Mark Tilden

Mark Tilden is a famous robot inventor who builds new robots on a daily basis. He pioneered a philosophy for making simple and reactive robots and tagged it BEAM robotics (which stands for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics). Lately, Tilden has been making famous products such as the Robosapien and Femisapien robots at WowWee.

Hiroshi Ishiguro

Hiroshi Ishiguro is professor at Osaka University in Japan where he directs the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. Ishiguro is most know for his near-real Androids which closely resemble human models, including himself, his daughter and a famous news anchor. Geminoid F, his latest model, was recently featured in the blogosphere.

Oscar Schofield

Oscar Schofield is Professor of Bio-Optical Oceanography at the Rutgers Coastal Ocean Observation Lab or COOL lab at Rutgers University.

Schofield is an expert in underwater robots, taking part in recent projects such as the Scarlet Knight glider which crossed the Atlantic Ocean fully autonomously while dodging fishing nets, strong currents and even the occasional shark.

Steve Potter

Steve Potter is the Director of the Potter Group which is part of the Laboratory for NeuroEngineering, a collective research unit shared between Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Having interfaced robots to in-vitro neurons, Potter talks about the field of brain-machine interfaces and its potential impact in medicine and neuroscience

Chris Rogers

Chris Rogers is a professor of mechanical engineering at Tufts University in the US.

As director of the Center for Engineering Education Outreach, Rogers tours the elementary schools of the world trying to bring engineering and robotics to young children. He has also worked with LEGO to develop ROBOLAB, a robotic approach to learning science and math.

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Latest News:

For more information on this episode’s news, including videos of the PR2 robot folding towels and Honda’s U3-X robot and links to the MIT Personal Robotics group’s Mars Escape game, have a look at the Robots Forum.

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