Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

December 31st, 2010

Robots: Multi-Robot Teams

Happy New Year from the whole Robots Podcast team! Don’t miss our amazing holiday robot videos!

For this last episode of 2010 we look at multi-robot teams and impressive quadrotor capabilities with Vijay Kumar from the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania and one of his PhD students, Daniel Mellinger.

Vijay Kumar

Vijay Kumar is Professor at the GRASP Lab and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at UPenn.

As an expert in networked multi-agent systems, he’ll be telling us how he sees robot teams of tomorrow being deployed in real-world missions. Challenges include keeping the robots networked, selecting the right level of autonomy and figuring out how to deal with large swarms of heterogenous robots.

Among the robots he sees doing team work are flying robots including quadrotors that use SLAM to get around or that can perform impressive aggressive maneuvers.

Daniel Mellinger

Daniel Mellinger is a PhD student at the GRASP Lab. He’s a rising star in dynamic control and has been featured in the media and on YouTube for his work with quadrotors passing through hoops and performing amazing motions.

We also speak about his latest work on transporting large objects using cooperative teams of quadrotors. This work got him the best paper award during the recent International Symposium on Distributed Autonomous Robotic Systems at EPFL.

Links:


Latest News:
For a review of 2010 in robotics, have a look at the Robots Forum!

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November 19th, 2010

Robots: Dependable Swarms

In today’s episode we take a close look at swarm robotics and its potential use in real-world applications with expert Alan Winfield, co-founder of the Bristol Robotics Lab in the UK.


Alan Winfield
Alan Winfield is professor at the University of Bristol where he conducts research at the Bristol Robotics Lab. As a pioneer in the field of Swarm Robotics, he’s been looking at how large numbers of simple robots with local information can self-organize to achieve seemingly complex tasks. In such systems, inspired from social insects such as ants and termites, the intelligence of the group emerges from the actions of the individual robots.

Beyond simply showing that swarm systems can work in the lab, Winfield has been considering ways to make swarming a reality in applications. The main challenge is that it is typically difficult to prove that swarm systems will work, which is something desirable for real-world tasks. Furthermore, increasing the number of robots in the system also increases the probability of robot failures that might be disruptive to the swarm’s purpose. To overcome these challenges, he created a new field of research called “Swarm Engineering”.

Winfield is also a follower of the Open Science movement, meaning that he often publishes data, source code and project updates as science progresses. In his effort for transparency, Winfield is also Senior Media Fellow for the EPSRC which has gotten him blogging and tweeting about robotics.

Finally, we also discuss ethics with a focus on robots that make us believe they have feelings and the emphasis on ethical roboticists rather than ethical robots.


Links:


Latest News:
For videos of the robotic sailboat and sponge-wielding robot arm, have a look at the Robots Forum.

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August 13th, 2010

Robots: Distributed Flight Array

In this episode, we discover an aerial modular robot called the Distributed Flight Array. To talk about this, we have Raymond Oung from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich.

Then, to celebrate aerial robotics, we’re holding a contest on flying robot noises for a chance to win a WowWee Bladestar.

Raymond Oung

Raymond Oung is lead researcher of the Distributed Flight Array project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich under the supervision of Prof. Raffaello D’Andrea (see previous ROBOTS interview).

The idea behind this project is to design a set of vehicles equipped with a single propeller and wheels that can drive around in search for fellow modules with whom to dock. Single modules are not stable but once assembled, the flight array is able to take-off and achieve coordinated flight. Modules then detach in-air, fall to the floor and repeat their search for other propellers.

The main challenge in this system is to come up with a distributed controller that can allow modules to work together to achieve coordinated flight. Because of its endless number of configurations, the distributed flight array is the perfect research and pedagogical testbed to study control theory for complex systems.

Contest

We were trying to imagine the sound of all of these propellers and then realized it would be fun to record the sound of some of the flying objects here at EPFL. If you manage to match the sound with the correct robot picture, we’ll be sending you a Wowwee Bladestar. If multiple correct answers are received, the winner will be selected randomly. The contest ends on the 27th of August and answers can be sent via email to info@robotspodcast.com or can be posted below this episode in the comments section.

WowWee Bladestar

Audio:

Noises of Flying Robots

Images:

1: Eyebot

2: Airburr

3: SMAV

4: Blimp

5: WowWee DragonFly

6: Eyebot



The correct answer was:
1 -> F
2 -> B
3 -> A
4 -> C
5 -> E
6 -> D

Links:


Latest News:
For more information and videos of Ishiguro’s Telenoid R1 and the F1 Robocoaster in action, have a look at our forum.

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February 26th, 2010

Robots: Swarming Satellites

In today’s episode we speak with the lead scientist of the SPHERES project, Dr. Alvar Saenz-Otero from MIT, which aims at developing autonomous formation flight and docking control algorithms for nano-satellites. We then dissect a well known definition of a robot dating back to 1979.

Alvar Saenz-Otero

Alvar Saenz-Otero is lead scientist of the SPHERES project at the MIT Space Systems Laboratory in the US. SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) fulfill all the normal requirements of satellites in a small basketball-sized shape. This small size is what has allowed these robots to be tested in the lab, during parabolic flights and even on board the International Space Station (ISS).



The research question is how to make these satellites work together by flying in formations and physically connecting, or docking. Such swarms of satellites could be used to create giant telescope mirrors in space with nano-meter precision and assemble future space stations without the need for human spacewalks.

Saenz-Otero also describes more generally how you get your robot into the ISS and his plans to motivate students about science or pursue his dream of large swarms in space.

What is a Robot?

This week we look at a traditional definition of a robot, coming straight from the Robot Institute of America.  According to their 1979 definition, a robot is:

“A reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move material, parts, tools, or specialized devices through various programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks”

What’s interesting about this definition is how far we’ve come in the last 30 years in the development of robotics. In 1979 a robot was simply a manipulator used to move parts in pre-programmed motions, which brings to mind industrial robots used in factories. 30 years later robots are no longer simply manipulators, but can propel themselves in their environment, understand their surroundings and act accord to their particular situation and analysis of surroundings instead of simply enacting pre-programmed motions. This 30-year-old official definition no longer applies, so let’s try to figure out what robots mean to us today! Keep sending us your answers by email at info@robotspodcast.com and let’s get closer to an all-encompassing definition of a robot for the 21st century.

Links:


Latest News:

As always, more information on this episode’s news including the Flyfire project, the artificial foot and Korea’s plans for R-learning can be found on the Robots Forum.

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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.




Links:


Latest News:

For impressive videos of Joules, the robotic tandem bike partner, the world’s first Robotic Bed and Boston Dynamic’s Precision Urban Hopper head over to the robotics forum!

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