Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

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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October 24th, 2008

Robots: Jumping and Crawling in Millirobots

This episode concentrates on how to scale down robots to the size of our creepy crawly friends, insects. Sarah Bergbreiter tells us about the micromachining techniques required to build jumping robots at this small scale and the applications in sensor networks. Aaron Hoover then talks about his 6-legged crawling robot that is slowly approaching the cockroach in size and locomotion capability.

Sarah Bergbreiter

Sarah Bergbreiter is Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland where she directs the Micro Robotics Lab.

With her vision of mobile sensor networks composed of large numbers of autonomous robots, Bergbreiter first started designing the CotsBots, built entirely from commercial off-the-shelf components. She then went to micro-sized robots which could be used in a non-invasive manner in their deploying environment. As a first step in her endeavor she contributed to Seth Hollar and Anita Flynn‘s walking microrobot and then went on to her own tiny jumping robots to achieve better mobility. To enable jumping, she demonstrated the quick release of a mechanical leg based on a silicon micro rubber band (see video here).

Finally, to avoid spending hours in a clean room, Bergbreiter is looking to develop fabrication techniques for the fast prototyping of novel robots, in particular with respect to challenges in scaling down robotic components for energy storage, actuation, power, sensing and control.

Aaron Hoover

Aaron Hoover is a research assistant in Prof. Ron Fearing’s lab at the University of California at Berkeley. His expertise lies in the use of novel manufacturing techniques based on smart composites, flexure joints and folding structures. Hoover’s efforts to mimic complex biological systems such as beetles that can run over a myriad of surfaces has culminated in the 2.4g RoACH hexapod robot. The RoACH is capable of crawling autonomously at 1 body length per second and can last for almost 10 minutes on a single charge. Check out a video of the RoACH in action!

Selkies

In the third quarter of the science fiction story “Selkies” by author Jack Graham, we meet researcher Sylvia Ochoa from the UN Marine Fisheries and follow Mangan in his endeavor to shark-proof his robot-seals. Don’t miss his other SciFi stories straight out of Cambridge MA on lonesomerobot.com, such as “arm” and “posthuman playground“.








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Latest News:

Visit the Robots forum for links, videos and discussions
about the wirelessly-powered robot swarm, the new robotic instrument which allows surgery on a beating heart and the iPhone’s robotic legs.

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August 29th, 2008

Robots: Bacteria-Propelled Microrobots

In this episode we look at bacteria-propelled microrobots which, in the future, could be used for sensing or drug delivery inside the liquid environments of the human body, such as the urinary tract, eyeball cavity, ear and cerebrospinal fluid. With Prof. Metin Sitti from Carnegie Mellon University, we’ll be hearing about the science and challenges behind harnessing living organisms to robots at the microscale. Gastroenterologist Dr. Mark Schattner then gives us his medical view on in-body robots and how they could by useful in his day-in, day-out tasks.

Metin Sitti

Prof. Metin Sitti is the director of the Nanorobotics Laboratory at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, USA.

With all the micro and nano scale technologies swimming, crawling, running and climbing out of his lab, he’s become an expert at mimicking the physics of the tiny exhibited by natural systems such as climbing geckos, water-running lizards or water striders. Previously featured in a Talking Robots interview, these bio-inspired technologies have pushed the limits of today’s robot locomotion.



One of Sitti’s aims is now to miniaturize a robot to the microscale, so that it can in the future navigate in the human body for directed drug-delivery and sensing. However, instead of building the locomotion in hardware, he decided to attach a robot to an organism, which was already perfectly capable of flagellating through liquid: bacteria. In this episode we concentrate on Sitti’s latest developments in bacteria-propelled micro-robots and how they can be controlled by changing their chemical environment (see video1 and video2) .

In other related projects, Sitti is currently developing an endoscopic microcapsule which will be able to stick to a patient’s intestine on demand.

Mark Schattner

Dr. Mark Schattner is a gastroenterologist with a special interest in therapeutic endoscopy and specialized nutrition support for cancer patients at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

He gives us his medical view on how robots could in the future be useful to ensure non-invasive diagnosis and treatment for his patients with concrete applications and examples. Interestingly, the barriers in getting these robots out of the labs and into the clinics are not so much ethical, but just like any other new medical technology, the lengthy pipeline to prove its safeness and usefulness in human beings.

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Latest News:

Check out the Robots Forum for pictures, links, videos and some ongoing discussion for this episode’s news, including the first rat-brain robot, the flying and ground based robot teams in the UK’s Grand Challenge as well as the ESA’s new Mars rover.

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