Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

May 3rd, 2013

Robots: Controlled Flight of Insect-sized Robots

In this episode we hear from researchers at the Harvard Microrobotics Lab about the Science paper published today reporting on the first controlled flight of an insect-sized robot. The amazing high-speed video below shows the robot taking off, hovering in place and steering left and right. This work is part of the Robobees project that aims to make swarms of insect robots. You can read our full coverage on Robohub.




Kevin Ma, Pakpong Chirarattananon and Sawyer Fuller
Kevin Ma and Pakpong Chirarattananon are graduate student researcher at the Harvard Microrobotics Lab working with Prof. Robert Wood (listen to Wood’s podcast here). Kevin studies the design and manufacturing of very small-scale robots while Pakpong’s work focuses on flight control strategies for flapping wing robots. Sawyer Fuller is a postdoctoral researcher with experience in the control and sensing of biological and robotic flies.

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March 23rd, 2012

Robots: Dynamic Systems - Transcript

To celebrate our 100th episode, we welcome Raffaello D’Andrea, Professor at ETHZ and co-founder of Kiva Systems.

Raffaello D’Andrea

Raffaello D’Andrea is Professor of Dynamic Systems and Control at ETH Zürich, and co-founder and chief technical advisor for US company Kiva Systems. His research focus is pushing the boundary of autonomous systems capabilities, with an emphasis on adaptation and learning.

He tells us about his first impressions following one of the biggest deals in the history of robotics, the acquisition of Kiva Systems by Amazon for an estimated USD 775M. D’Andrea was on the show in 2008 to talk about Kiva’s pioneering warehouse automation solution, which uses fleets of up to 1000 mobile robots to streamline the process of picking, packing, and shipping e-commerce products. We also look at work in dynamic systems out of his lab, including projects from the Flying Machine Arena (listen to a previous interview on the Distributed Flight Array) and a recent collaboration with Gramazio & Kohler on the construction of undulated brick walls using quadrocopters. We then dive into the Art scene with projects such as the Blind Juggling Machine, the Robotic Chair and Table and finally take a step back to discuss the importance of fundamental research in engineering and strategies for translating knowledge in complex systems to industry.

D’Andrea is the recipient of the Wilson Medal, the Invention and Entrepreneurship in Robotics and Automation Award, the National Science Foundation Career Award, and the United States Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering. As the faculty advisor and system architect of the Cornell Robot Soccer Team he was also four-time world champions at the international RoboCup competition. His work has been exhibited at numerous international venues, including the Venice Biennale, Ars Electronica, the Smithsonian, and the Spoleto Festival, and two of his robotic art pieces have become part of the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

Join the Team
The ROBOTS podcast is run by an international team of researchers and robot enthusiasts based in seven countries on four continents. To join the team, send us an email with your interests (audio or video editing, interviewing or blogging) at jointheteam@robotspodcast.com.

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January 13th, 2012

Robots: From Reasearch to Industry in the AUV Market

Today David Lane from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh talks about his journey from research to business and back. He talks about how he got started in offshore work and robotics research and how that led him to develop new smarts for existing hardware. David shares his personal view on how the Thunderbirds, diving and the space race contributed to his focus on underwater technology. He also discusses his research on autonomous underwater vehicles, involving software architecture for decision making as well as complex sensors for understanding the world around you and underwater communication.
Further, David shares his experience of starting the company SeeByte, including the important first customer acquisition. In developing a working commercial solution, bridging the gap between where the university stops and industry starts, was an essential component.

David in the Ocean Systems Laboratory

David in the Ocean Systems Laboratory

David Lane

David Lane graduated in 1980 with a BSc in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and again in 1986 with a PhD in Underwater Robotics. In 1979 he worked offshore in the North Sea as diver/maintainer for British Oceanics Ltd, and from 1980-82 as a Development Engineer at Ferranti Ltd. From 1982 he held a series of research and academic appointments, culminating in a Professorial Chair at Heriot-Watt University in 1998. In 2001 he founded SeeByte Ltd and as CEO until 2010 led the company’s organic evolution from startup to a multi-million dollar organization. He is now at the Ocean Systems Laboratory.

His technical interests are in autonomous systems, sensor processing and underwater robotics. Over a 30 year period he has published widely in the scientific literature, making contributions in underwater vehicle control, servoing, docking and obstacle avoidance. He has developed flexible actuator sensing and control technology for novel robot gripper and biomimetic underwater propulsion applications. In sensor processing, he has led projects applying novel signal processing and data fusion methods using sonar and video systems to marine science and mine countermeasures detection and visualization. He has also led work on robot architecture, autonomous planning and SLAM navigation, culminating in practical automated systems working offshore performing inspection, repair and maintenance.

This interview focuses a lot on the business side of robotics and Davids journey from research to industry and back.

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January 28th, 2011

Robots: Odor Source Localization

In this episode we revisit robot olfaction and take a closer look at the problem of odor source localization. Our first guest, Hiroshi Ishida from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology is an expert in the field, whose sniffing robots range from blimps to ground and underwater robots. Our second guest, Thomas Lochmatter from EPFL talks about tradeoffs between biologically inspired and probabilistic approaches to navigate a gas plume.

Hiroshi Ishida

Hiroshi Ishida is Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Systems Engineering, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Japan.
The focus of his research group is to develop robots that can find sources of airborne gas plumes or underwater chemical plumes. To this end, they developed the Active Stereo Nose (see figure below), a differential gas sampling system inspired by the dog’s nose, and the Crayfish robot that mimics the mechanism used by crayfish in nature to create unidirectional water currents.

Thomas Lochmatter

image credit: SNF


During his PhD at the Distributed Intelligent Systems and Algorithms Lab at EPFL in Switzerland, Thomas Lochmatter developed a modular odor system for the Khepera III robot. His research focused on the pros and cons of biologically-inspired and probabilistic algorithms for odor localization, while dealing with both single and multi-robot systems.

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November 5th, 2010

Robots: Autonomous Vehicles

In today’s episode we take a deeper look at what’s behind the hype over autonomous vehicles, and talk to two experts in the field, Alberto Broggi, leader of the Vislab Intercontinental Vehicle Challenge, and Raul Rojas, leader of the Made in Germany autonomous vehicle project.

Alberto Broggi

Alberto BroggiAlberto Broggi is the Director of the Artificial Vision and Intelligent Systems Lab at the University of Parma.

His main milestones are the ARGO Project (a 2000+ km test done on Italian highways back in 1998 in which the ARGO vehicle drove itself autonomously) and the setup of the Terramax vehicle who reached the finish line of the DARPA Grand Challenge 2005. The Vislab Intercontinental Vehicle Challenge was accomplished when the vehicle expedition recently reached Shanghai on October 28th after crossing two continents in a journey more than 3 months long.

Raúl Rojas

Raúl Rojas is a professor of Computer Science and Mathematics at the Free University of Berlin and a renowned specialist in artificial neural networks.

The FU-Fighters, football-playing robots he helped build, were world champions in 2004 and 2005. He formerly lead an autonomous car project called Spirit of Berlin and is now leading the development of the Made in Germany car, a spin-off project of the AutoNOMOS Project. Although most of his current research and teaching revolves around artificial intelligence and its applications, he holds academic degrees in mathematics and economics.

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Latest News:
For more information on this week’s news, including pictures and videos of the two new robotic grippers, have a look at the Robots Forum.

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