Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

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.


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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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.


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 or can be posted below this episode in the comments section.

WowWee Bladestar


Noises of Flying Robots


1: Eyebot

2: Airburr


4: Blimp

5: WowWee DragonFly

6: Eyebot

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


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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June 18th, 2010

Robots: Modeling Biology

In today’s episode we speak about modeling biology using robots and how lessons learned through this process can feedback into robotics. Our first guest, Barbara Webb, is a world renowned expert in the field with several seminal papers on the subject such as “Using robots to understand animal behavior.” This interview follows up on her previous interview with Talking Robots. Our second guest, Steffen Wischmann, from the EPFL and University of Lausanne gives us his in-depth overview of the cross-fertilization between biology and robotics and tells us about his interest in artificial evolution.

Barbara Webb

Barbara Webb is director of the Insect Robotics Group at the Institute of Perception, Action and Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh.

Her group researches and models the sensorimotor capabilities of insects ranging from simple reflexive behaviours such as the phonotaxis of crickets, to more complex capabilities such as multimodal integration, navigation and learning.

While her group carries out behavioural experiments on insects, they principally work on computational models of the underlying neural mechanisms, which are often embedded on robot hardware. We’ll be talking to her about insect inspired robotics as a control system design approach.

Steffen Wischmann

Steffen Wischmann is a Postdoctoral researcher based at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at the EPFL and at the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Lausanne. His current research investigates the evolution and the neural mechanisms of cooperation and communication in biological systems using robotic models. After years of reading about the close interaction between robotics and biology, he gives us his opinion on when robotic models are interesting for biology, to what depth the models should replicate biology and the use of artificial evolution.


Latest News:
For more information and a video on the Ballbot as well as this year’s robot novelties at the Automatica trade fair, visit the Robots Forum!

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April 9th, 2010

Robots: URBI Software Platform

In this episode we look at robotics software platforms with Jean-Christophe Baillie who is the CEO of Gostai, a robotics software company out of Paris.

He tells us about the software URBI that he created to help developers program and control robots and his motivation to go open source at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in a couple of weeks.

Jean-Christophe Baillie

Jean-Christophe Baillie received a PhD in Artificial Intelligence from University of Paris 6 and Sony Computer Science Lab and then founded the Cognitive Robotics Lab in ENSTA/ParisTech.

He tells us about his past work on developmental robotics and more specifically on the Talking Heads experiments covered in part in an interview with Talking Robots. During this research, he designed URBI to control complex robotics systems like the AIBO. In 2006 Baillie founded Gostai to further develop the URBI technology which has now been extended to many robotic platforms such as the Nao humanoid used for the RoboCup robotics competition. He also tells us about his plans to make URBI open source and what that entails in terms of business model.


Latest News:

For videos of the current autonomous Audi TTS rally car prototype, details on NASA’s new autonomous exploration system AEGIS, and videos of Ishiguro’s new android, Geminoid F, have a look at the Robots Forum.

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