Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

July 17th, 2009

Robots: Soft Machines

In this episode we interview Richard Jones, Professor of Physics at the University of Sheffield in the UK, on the future nanorobots inspired from biology: Soft Machines. After listening in, be sure to let us know if you think the frontier between robots and living systems will be inexistent in the future on this week’s poll.

Richard Jones

Richard Jones is the author of the book Soft Machines: nanotechnology and life and a blog on the subject also named Soft Machines. From the University of Sheffield in the UK, where he is Professor of Physics, Jones has been looking at how to make nanoscale robots which can eventually be used in the body for medical applications such as precise drug delivery for cancer patients. But instead of shrinking existent technology like in the Fantastic Voyage, Jones is looking at the completely different phenomenons which take place at the nanoscale, such as Brownian motion, to design devices and systems made on the molecular level. As a result, he’s diving into the world of biology for inspiration in making robots that can move, communicate and self-power. Instead of the more classical actuators, sensors and batteries we’re used to, he’s looking at molecular motors and chemical energy and communication.


Poll

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Latest News:

For more information and discussion on this week’s news, including pictures and videos of Tokyo’s giant Gundam robot, robot recession in Japan and pictures and videos of Aerovironment’s flapping wing UAV, visit the Robots Forum.

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July 3rd, 2009

Robots: From Animals to Automation

In this episode we look at how FESTO, a worldwide leader in automation technology, has been copying nature to design bionic robots such as artificial penguins, manta-rays or jellyfish. Our first guest, Markus Fischer, is head of Corporate Design at FESTO and expert in transferring technology from biomimetic research to actual products such as grippers. Our second guest, Victor Zykov, finished his PhD and PostDoc at Cornell University in NY on modular robotics. His favorite modules, the Molecubes, are another example of transfer from a bio-inspired systems to FESTO.

Markus Fischer

Markus Fischer is the head of the Bionic Learning Network project at FESTO, one of the world’s leaders in automation, with thousands of employees around the world and products ranging from solenoids, valves, and cylinders to integrated automation solutions. Recently, FESTO has been exploring the world of mobile robotics, with stunning demonstrators such as the AquaPenguin, AquaRay, AirJelly and many more.

However, creating artificial systems is not the final goal, and Fischer has been looking to identify bionic principles which can be applied to the world of automation in new-generation products. A fulfillment of this endeavor can be found in thier Bionic Tripod which has grippers functioning following the same principles as the AquaPenguins. The concept is based on the Fin Ray® effect by which a fin, when pressed, actually wraps around the point of pressure rather than the intuitive opposite.

Finally, FESTO is also looking at collective robotic systems for inspiration in creating adaptable, robust and flexible systems for the industry.



Victor Zykov

Victor Zykov completed his PhD and PostDoc at Cornell University in NY under the supervision of Hod Lipson. Over the years, he’s been looking to create self-repairing and self-reproducing robots resulting in publications in Science and Nature.

Zykov explains the principles of modular robotics and presents one of his favorite building blocks, the Molecube. Molecubes are cubic like modules that are cheap to fabricate and easy to use for newbie roboticists with an online framework at www.molecubes.org. From the labs at Cornell, the Molecubes found their way to FESTO as educational robots. He tells us why modular robotics is of interest to FESTO in building up adaptable factories of the future.

Victor Zykov is now On-Deck Systems Head at the Kite Assist Institute in California.



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Latest News:

To learn more about the autonomous shrapnel removing robot, prediction for the personal robotics market and for the most eery version of “Happy Birthday” you’ve ever heard, have a look at the Robots Forum.

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May 8th, 2009

Robots: Collective Coverage and Self-Assembly

In this episode we look in depth at two shades of robot coordination, multi-robot area coverage and self-assembling robots.

Our first guest, Nikolaus Correll, is a postdoc at MIT in the US. He presents his past research on swarms of minuscule robots to inspect reactor turbines and his latest research on cooperating networks.

Our second guest, Rodrich Gross, will be speaking about his slightly larger swarming robots, or swarm-bots, which are able to join forces to achieve tasks which require strength or large size, by creating a multi-robot organism.

Nikolaus Correll

Nikolaus Correll is a post-doctoral associate at the Distributed Robotics Lab, MIT CSAIL, where he works with Daniela Rus on a wide variety of multi-robot systems. His latest work includes distributed robotic gardens and mobile wireless ad-hoc networks. Besides creating multi-robot systems, Correll has been looking to monitor and control groups of animals such as cow herds and cockroaches in nature.

In this episode, we’ll be looking in depth at the conclusions of his PhD thesis at the EPFL under the supervision of Alcherio Martinoli on how a group of tiny sugar-cube size robots could be used to inspect a jet turbine engine (see video below). Correll will present the trade-offs between having purely reactive robot controllers or robots that plan and how collaboration between the robots affects the performance of the system.



Roderich Gross

Roderich Gross is currently a postdoc at the EPFL. His research interests span computational biology, robotics, and swarm intelligence. His current work, continuing from previous work at the Free Brussels University, focuses on self-assembling robots such as the Swarm-Bots which can attach to each other to form larger robotic systems. This can allow them for example to cross a large gap, go over hills or carry heavy objects in a manner similar to ants (see video below). In this interview Gross describes his research and talks about cooperation, self-assembly and division of labor in robot teams and the potential emergence of artificial life.



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Latest News:

For more information on this week’s news, including Festo’s Robot Penguins, robot theater actors and the interactive disc jockey robot visit the Robots Forum.

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April 24th, 2009

Robots: Giant Roaming Creatures

Today we’ll be speaking about art, engineering and freedom with two robot-artists building gigantic robots. Our first guest is Theo Jansen, a physics major turned artist out of the Netherlands, about his walking beach creatures and how artists perceive robotics and build sculptures that can walk and sense their environments in a very different way than the robots we are used to. We then speak to Jaimie Mantzel who is an inventor in Vermont. Throughout his life, he’s been literally building his dreams with his own two hands, be it a home in the mountains or a giant 6-legged robot he plans to use to take him around.

Theo Jansen

Theo Jansen is a “kinetic artist” best known for his Strandbeest, or beach animals, a new form of life that he is creating out of plastic yellow tubes. From their humble beginning as simple walking creatures with an ingenious leg system, Jansen has added an energy storage system made of plastic bottles, stakes that are hammered into the ground to protect them from the wind, and rudimentary water level sensors to protect the beach creatures from the sea. Jansen’s ultimate goal is to release his creations into the wild, to have them roam the beaches of his native Netherlands in herds and lead their own type of mechanical lives.

Words cannot describe Jansen’s work however, it is better to see it and experience it. Have a look at Loek van der Klis’s gallery of the beach animals or Jansen’s work featured in a BMW ad, shown below:



Jaimie Mantzel

Jaimie Mantzel’s adventures about building a giant 6-legged robot have been followed by the thousands on his website and youtube channel. He’s been building since he was a child, bringing his wildest inventions and dreams to life. Inspired by his talent, Mantzel started engineering at Brown University only to discover that math and physics were the rule rather than putting parts together. Instead of engineering, he diverted to art and unleashed his creativity. After university and years of work, he pursued his original vocation, building things. As a first step, he bought a piece of mountain in Vermont, USA and built a 4 story dome, his home. However, making small robots, and homes wasn’t enough and Mantzel is now building a giant spider-like robot which he can ride. Building this robot however seems to be a recursive process, since it requires building a workshop, which in turn brought him to dig a road. With all this finished, the robot is now 80% complete with an estimated finalization this summer. However, this interview is not only about making robots, but rather a different philosophy of life, freedom and art.



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Latest News:

Visit the Robots Forum for background information on this week’s news, including Pleo’s extinction, new inductees into CMU’s Robot Hall of Fame and the flying robot sniper system!

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November 21st, 2008

Robots: Bio-inspired Locomotion

In our 13th episode we talk with biologist Robert Full from UC Berkeley about the research he’s been doing on animal locomotion and how his insights have been inspiring engineers to create robots. We then talk to expert Auke Ijspeert from the EPFL on his insight on bio-inspired locomotion.

Robert Full

Prof. Robert Full is the director of the Poly-Pedal Lab at UC Berkeley where he has been interacting with engineers, biologists and mathematicians for the interdisciplinary study of locomotion in animals and robots.

By studying how cockroaches run over complex terrain or how crabs can run in sand, he’s inspired roboticists to create the RHex robot with open-loop control and bouncy legs capable of running along in rough terrain. With the running out of the way, Full then looked at climbing animals such as geckos and the Van der Waals forces which allow their hairy feet to cling to a wall. The resulting bio-inspired dry adhesives have been covered in Talking Robots by Prof. Ron Fearing and Prof. Mettin Sitti. However, what happens when a gecko slips or even falls? After a quick inquiry from an engineer about the use of gecko tails, Full found the answer by discovering that geckos can actively use their tail to stabilize and even do controlled gliding!



Finally, Prof. Full presents his view on bio-inspired engineering, the use of robots for biologists, and the amazing compliance and robustness of living creatures still unachievable by robots.

Auke Ijspeert

Prof. Auke Ijspeert is a long-time colleague of Full, meeting at countless conferences and exchanging visits to each other’s labs on both sides of the Atlantic. As professor of the Biologically Inspired Robotics Group at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, he is involved in many bio-inspired robotics projects such as the Salamandra Robotica, and has been featured in a Talking Robots interview on his work. Ijspeert tells us a bit about Full’s work as seen by the scientific community, and what he thinks are Full’s most important contributions to the field of robotics.

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Latest News:

Visit the Robots Forum for links and discussions about the
Death of the Phoenix Lander, World’s largest robotic truck and Honda’s assisted walking prototype presented in the podcast.

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