Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

September 25th, 2009

Robots: Emergent Communication

In today’s episode we deal with the question of communication, what it means, where it comes from, and how it can be applied to robots. We first speak with Sara Mitri, whose research spans both robotics and evolutionary biology and tries to answer basic questions on how communication evolved many millennia ago using high-tech robotics of the 21st century. We then speak with Prof. Jürgen Jost who is director of two research groups a the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences. He’ll be giving us his thoughts on the intentionality of robot communication.

Sara Mitri

Sara Mitri is a researcher working in collaboration with both the robotics-oriented Laboratory of Intelligent Systems, lead by Prof. Floreano at the EPFL in Switzerland and the biology-oriented Keller Group at the University of Lausanne. Mitri is studying communication and cooperation in social animals in an unconventional way. By using ground-based S-Bot robots to model biological agents, she hopes to be better able to control the various parameters of evolution than by using biological systems such as bacteria or insects.

Mitri’s recent articles in Current Biology and PNAS have been receiving a lot of media attention. Partly because of the resulting new scientific insights, but also because of the work’s unusual and powerful method. While retaining many of the real-world complexities present in biological systems, Mitri’s robotic models allow complete access to all model parameters. And there is another key advantage: Today very little is known about the evolution of phenomena like communication, because they leave no trace in the fossil record. By conducting artificial evolution, Mitri’s work allows to reconstruct part of that missing evolutionary history and shed light on the origins of communication in all animals, from simple cells to us humans.



Jürgen Jost

Jürgen Jost works at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences in Leipzip, Germany where he directs two research groups on Geometry, Analysis and Theoretical Physics and on Complex Structures in Biology and Cognition. As an expert in complex systems, Prof. Jost tells us about one of his interests, communication of all types. The Robots podcast had a chance to meet him at the European Conference on Complex Systems this year where he raised the question “Can Robots Communicate?” and is this communication intentional.




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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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Death of the Phoenix Lander, World’s largest robotic truck and Honda’s assisted walking prototype presented in the podcast.

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April 13th, 2007

Talking Robots Podcast LogoTalking Robots: Robots and Biology
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In this episode we interview the biologist Laurent Keller on his experience with using robots for Biology. He talks about the advantages of using robots rather than theoretical models and computer simulations alone, and he comments on whether we should build animal-robot hybrids and artificial animals.

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March 2nd, 2007

Talking Robots Podcast LogoTalking Robots: Nano-Robotics
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In this episode we interview Metin Sitti on nano-materials such as artificial gecko hairs for robotics. He talks about his wall-climbing robots, about the advantages of down-scaling robots, about the state of the art in micro-robotics, and about the potential of hybrid bio-mechanical robots.

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