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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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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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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October 10th, 2008

Robots: Warehouse Robots

In this episode we sit down with Raffaello D’Andrea, professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) and founding member of Kiva Systems, to speak about their Kiva robotic warehouse system. We then continue with the second quarter of Jack Graham’s sci-fi story, Selkies.

Raffaello D’Andrea

Prof. Raffaello D’Andrea is an expert in multi-robot systems, leading the Cornell Robot Soccer Team to four world championship wins at the international RoboCup competition. After ten years of assistant and then associate professorship at Cornell University, D’Andrea crossed the lake to take a position as full professor at ETHZ in Zurich.

Not satisfied with research however, D’Andrea has applied his knowledge to industry, and is co-founder and Engineering Fellow at Kiva Systems. He describes for us Kiva’s Mobile Fulfillment System, a revolutionary robotic warehouse concept that uses hundreds of mobile robots to fetch items for workers, increasing efficiency and looking really cool in the process!



Besides creating robots for research or industry, D’Andrea is also a creator of dynamic sculpture. His robotic art has appeared at various international venues, including the National Gallery of Canada and the Venice Biennale. In an attempt to spread his passion and get students thinking about robotics outside the laboratory, D’Andrea is teaching a project course at ETHZ in which students design and build a dynamic sculpture purely for public display.



Selkies

Science Fiction author, Jack Graham from lonesomerobot.com treats us to the second quarter of his story “Selkies”. As a flash back, the first episode introduced roboticist Mangan, his sea-lion pet Cato and the team of seal-like robots called selkies which work in the depths of the ocean to clean up waste. In this episode, Jack, further pushes us into the ambiance of his futuristic world where unexpected visits and disappearing selkies create the intrigue.

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More links and discussions on Cyberdyne’s exoskeleton, the fly-controlled robot and the new robots exhibited at CEATEC in the Robots Forum.

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September 26th, 2008

Robots: Swarming Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

In this show we dive into the world of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) with an emphasis on the challenges when having to localize and communicate in the deep blue. While Navinda Kottege at the Australian National University has been looking at how swarms of small Serafina AUVs can determine their range, bearing and posture with respect to neighboring robots, Marc Sherman from Teledyne RD Instruments tells us how his Doppler Velocity Log systems are used to provide positioning for slightly larger beasts.

For a more futuristic view on underwater swarms, we present the first episode of our Science Fiction Special written by Jack Graham in Cambridge, MA. The “Selkies” will be following us over the next four episodes so don’t miss today’s debut.

Finally, if you’re curious about last week’s Uncertain Roomba Competition, check our forum for the winner and the actual solution.

Navinda Kottege

Navinda Kottege is a research assistant at the Australian National University, and has spent the last few years working on an underwater localisation system for swarms of AUVs, in particular the Serafina Robot.


Navigating and communicating with neighbors underwater is a difficult task (unless you’re a fish), since there is no GPS, radio communication is very limited, and vision is essentially useless. Kottege explains the challenges they had to overcome to build swarms of Serafina robots, and some of the possible applications of their swarm once they’re roaming our oceans.

Also, don’t miss a past interview on Talking Robots with Uwe Zimmer who is at the head of the Serafina project.

Marc Sherman

Marc Sherman is the sales manager for navigation products at Teledyne RD Instruments, a big league supplier of Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCPs), Waves Measurement Products, Doppler Velocity Logs (DVLs), and Flow Measurement Products for offshore vehicles. He presents the DVLs used for underwater localization of anything from divers to ships, with an emphasis on the smaller Explorer system. While not yet small enough to suit Kottege’s Sarafina AUVs, there is a clear interest to scale down, for shallow water applications in security and defense.

Selkies

Our special guest, science fiction writer Jack Graham in Cambridge MA, tells us about the “Selkies”, seal-like robots which in a world of waste, strive to clean up the oceans. With a unique view on robotics and the world, he’s been writing away on lonesomerobot.com with stories such as “arm” and “posthuman playground“. The future will tell, how SciFi will continue to nourish engineers and vice-versa.

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Latest News:

Visit the Robots Forum for links and discussions about
Singapore’s TechX Challenge, Stanford’s free robotics and AI courses and the Mars Rover’s new 2-year trek presented in the podcast.

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July 18th, 2008

Robots: Modular and Reconfigurable Robotics

In today’s episode we focus on modular robotics, or robots assembled out of many smaller modules. Whether all the modules are the same (‘homogeneous’) or of different types (‘heterogeneous’), modular robots can accomplish many different tasks simply by adjusting their configuration. We speak with two experts in the field, Kasper Støy from Denmark and Robert Fitch from Australia.

Kasper Støy

Kasper Støy is an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark, famous for his pioneering work with self-reconfiguring modular robots such as the CONRO. Much of Kasper’s work involves the design of algorithms to control the locomotion or self-reconfiguration of modular robots into useful shapes, such as the simulated 747 seen below.



Støy shares his recent experience at the ICRA Contingency Challenge, a competition in which teams have only a few hours to solve an unexpected problem in a planetary environment using only the material they have at hand. To achieve this goal Støy’s team integrated several different types of modular robots, including the ATRON (seen below) homogeneous robot and his latest creation, the Odin heterogeneous robot. Along with some LEGO and a bit of duct tape, Støy’s team managed to put together a system that could potentially be used to complete tasks on Mars. Check out all their videos on the team’s YouTube channel.



Robert Fitch

Our second interview is with Robert Fitch who is a research fellow with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics in Sydney, Australia. Fitch received his PhD in computer science with Daniela Rus from Dartmouth College in 2004 and then held a research position at the National ICT Australia in Sydney. He presents his latest self-reconfiguring robot whose millions of simulated modules can make a large cube robot locomote in any type of environment. By changing its shape on the go, the large cube can ooze around and over obstacles without splitting. To render a system which is scalable in the number of modules, he has been looking at how to control the reconfiguration of his robots in a decentralized manner, possibly using learning techniques to automatically determine the interesting moves to make. Finally Fitch presents the envisioned applications and hardware implementations for his self-reconfigurable modular robots.

Links:


Latest News:

Visit the Robots Forum for links and discussions about
Japanese worker-chasing surveillance robots, shopping from the comfort of your home with your robotic best friend and the Care-O-bot 3 advanced household robot presented in the podcast.

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