In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Todd Hylton, Senior Vice President at Brain Corporation, about neuromorphic computers. They discuss the robotics development board bStem, which approximates a neuromorphic computer, as well as the eyeRover: a small balancing robot that demonstrates how the bStem can be used in mobile robots.
As Senior Vice President of Brain Corporation, Dr. Todd Hylton leads the development of business and technical strategies within the company. A scientist and co founder of a small semi-conductor equipment manufacturer, Hylton brings 25 years of experience in the semiconductor, optical communications, data storage and defense industries alongside a broad technical entrepreneurial background in research and development, small business, marketing and government programs.
In this podcast, Ron Vanderkley speaks to Donal Holland of Harvard University about his team’s work on the Soft Robotics Toolkit.
Soft Robotics is a class of elastically soft, versatile, and biologically inspired machines represents an exciting and highly interdisciplinary paradigm in engineering that could revolutionize the role of robotics in healthcare, field exploration, and cooperative human assistance.
The Soft Robotics Toolkit is a collection of shared resources to support the design, fabrication, modelling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices. The toolkit was developed as part of educational research being undertaken in the Harvard Biodesign Lab. The ultimate aim of the toolkit is to advance the field of soft robotics by allowing designers and researchers to build upon each other’s work. The web site contains the open source fluidic control board, detailed design for wide range soft robotic components (including actuators and sensors).
The growing popularity of site is now bringing in hobbyist and makers alike. The Soft Robotics Toolkit team has announce two competitions intended to reward students, researchers, makers, and designers of all levels for their contributions to the field of soft robotics.
Donal Holland is a visiting Lecturer in Engineering Sciences at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Demographic info Ireland | Mechanical or Industrial Engineering. He was a passed PhD Student at Trinity College Dublin, Visiting Fellow at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Research Assistant at Treocht Ltd.
In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews James Conrad, professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, about the history of the autonomous walking robot, Stiquito. Stiquito is a small, inexpensive hexapod (i.e., six-legged) robot that has been used since 1992 by universities, high schools, and hobbyists. It is propelled by nitinol, an alloy actuator wire that expands and contracts, and roughly emulates the operation of a muscle. Nitinol contracts when heated and returns to its original size and shape when cooled. The robot can be outfitted with several sensors for more advanced behavior, such as obstacle avoidance, line following, and light tracking.
Jonathan Mills of Indiana University, developed Stiquito as an inexpensive vehicle for research. The robot became popular after the publication of Stiquito: Advanced Experiments with a Simple and Inexpensive Robot in 1997, which included a kit to build a Stiquito robot. Since then, two additional books have been published, and Stiquito has been used to introduce students to the concepts of analog electronics, digital electronics, computer control, and robotics. It has also been used for advanced topics such as subsumption architectures, artificial intelligence, and advanced computer architecture.
The video below shows an explanation and demo of Stiquito. You can find more videos about Stiquito here.
James M. Conrad is professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has served as an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas and as an instructor at North Carolina State University. He has also worked at IBM, Ericsson/Sony Ericsson, and BPM Technology. He has been elected to serve on the IEEE Board of Directors as Region 3 director for 2016-2017. He is the author of numerous books, book chapters, journal articles, and conference papers in the areas of embedded systems, robotics, parallel processing, and engineering education.
Termites provide a beautiful example of how simple agents, using only local information, can build complex structures such as termite mounds. Taking inspiration from these swarm systems in nature, Werfel and colleagues have created TERMES robots that build three-dimensional structures without the need for any leader or prescribed roles. Such systems are typically scalable (i.e. you can add as many robots as you’d like) and robust to the failure of individual robots, making them ideal candidates for high-risk missions in space or disaster scenarios. The beetle-looking robots are able to carry and deposit blocks and navigate a structure. The challenge is to determine the simple rules the robots need to follow and that will give rise to the desired structure. To decide what rule to apply at a given time, the robots simply observe their local environment, checking if there is a block or not in front of them, and determining if they should add one as a result. This form of communication through the environment is called stigmergy and is an important concept in swarm systems. In the future, the authors hope to use their expertise to learn more about how termites are able to build their mounds.
Justin Werfel Justin Werfel is a research scientist at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. His research interests are in the understanding and design of complex and emergent systems. He is currently working on the development of robotic systems motivated by biological collectives, such as ant colonies, termites, and cellular slime molds, with Wyss faculty including Radhika Nagpal and Rob Wood. He completed his Ph.D. at MIT in 2006, developing algorithms to allow swarms of simple robots to autonomously build user-specified structures. His postdoctoral research at Harvard included further exploration of collective construction, work on the evolution of cooperative and altruistic behaviors at the New England Complex Systems Institute, and cancer modeling at Harvard Medical School/Children’s Hospital Boston.
In today’s episode Per Sjöborg speaks with Giulio Sandini, director of the Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences department at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), about how he eventually came to study robotics after starting out as a vision scientist in the field of bioengineering. They talk about why interdisciplinary work is important to robotics, and how diverse teams of engineers, biologists, psychologists, mathematicians, physicists, and medical doctors can learn from each other; Sandini follows up with several examples of interdisciplinary success at the IIT including the iCub and COMAN humanoid platforms, the HyQ quadruped, and their work in rehabilitation robotics.
Giulio Sandini Giulio Sandini is Director of Research at the Italian Institute of Technology and full professor of bioengineering at the University of Genoa. After his graduation in Electronic Engineering (Bioengineering) at the University of Genova in 1976 he was research fellow and assistant professor at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa until 1984. During this period, working at the Laboratorio di Neurofisiologia of the CNR, he investigated aspects of visual processing at the level of single neurons as well as aspects of visual perception in human adults and children. He has been Visiting Research Associate at the Department of Neurology of the Harvard Medical School in Boston. After his return to Genova in 1984 as associate professor he founded the Laboratory for Integrated Advanced Robotics. In 1996 he was Visiting Scientist at the Artificial Intelligence Lab of MIT.
Since 2006 he is Director of Research at the Italian Institute of Technology where he has established and is currently directing the Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences department. RBCS is a multidisciplinary environment composed of researchers with different backgrounds (engineers, biologists, psychologists, mathematicians, physicists, medical doctors) sharing “human centered” Scientific and Technological interests along three streams of research: Humanoid Cognition, Human Behavior and Biomechanics, Brain Machine Interface.