Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

January 1st, 2010

Robots: New Year’s Special

For this special episode, we’ll be speaking with three people who made it into Christine’s news section for a debriefing on why their robot was such a breakthrough and what they see coming up in 2010. Our first interview is with Cecilia Lashi, the co-coordinator of the Octopus European project that made the news with their soft bio-mimetic robotic octopus arm. Our second guest, Carl Morgan, is from the hobbyist community. He presents Joules, the sleek silver humanoid that rides behind your tandem bike and does all the pedaling. Finally, we speak with Carson Reynolds who is professor at the University of Tokyo, he’ll be telling us about his high-speed robotic hand with incredible dexterity.

Cecilia Laschi

Assistant Professor Cecilia Lashi joins us from the ARTS Lab at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, Italy, where her group takes inspiration from the sea surrounding them when creating robots. Their European Octopus project which they coordinate aims at developing soft robotic arms inspired by octopus muscles to create a robot with nearly infinite degrees of freedom. Laschi discusses their preliminary achievements with their latest robotic octopus arm that was featured in Robots news and her hopes for the future of soft robotics.


Carl Morgan

Carl Morgan was featured in the news this year for his elegant Joules robot that he developed in response to a bet with his pro-cyclist son. From his workshop in the basement, this retired electrical engineer built a kinetic sculpture which has the power to push a tandem bike and its rider up a hill with elegance and style. With more and more hobbyists diving into the bolts and nuts of robotics, he tells us how he hopes more and more people will be picking up their screwdriver in 2010.




Carson Reynolds
Our final guest brings us to japan which has attracted a large portion of this year’s news. Assistant professor Carson Reynolds from the Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory in Tokyo tells us about their work in high-speed visual servoing and their robot hand that can grasp a grain of rice with a tweezer or dynamically catch a flying mobile phone. He is hoping to see more high-speed control in the year to come, with dynamic systems approaching and even surpassing the speed and dexterity of human reflexes.

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July 3rd, 2009

Robots: From Animals to Automation

In this episode we look at how FESTO, a worldwide leader in automation technology, has been copying nature to design bionic robots such as artificial penguins, manta-rays or jellyfish. Our first guest, Markus Fischer, is head of Corporate Design at FESTO and expert in transferring technology from biomimetic research to actual products such as grippers. Our second guest, Victor Zykov, finished his PhD and PostDoc at Cornell University in NY on modular robotics. His favorite modules, the Molecubes, are another example of transfer from a bio-inspired systems to FESTO.

Markus Fischer

Markus Fischer is the head of the Bionic Learning Network project at FESTO, one of the world’s leaders in automation, with thousands of employees around the world and products ranging from solenoids, valves, and cylinders to integrated automation solutions. Recently, FESTO has been exploring the world of mobile robotics, with stunning demonstrators such as the AquaPenguin, AquaRay, AirJelly and many more.

However, creating artificial systems is not the final goal, and Fischer has been looking to identify bionic principles which can be applied to the world of automation in new-generation products. A fulfillment of this endeavor can be found in thier Bionic Tripod which has grippers functioning following the same principles as the AquaPenguins. The concept is based on the Fin Ray® effect by which a fin, when pressed, actually wraps around the point of pressure rather than the intuitive opposite.

Finally, FESTO is also looking at collective robotic systems for inspiration in creating adaptable, robust and flexible systems for the industry.



Victor Zykov

Victor Zykov completed his PhD and PostDoc at Cornell University in NY under the supervision of Hod Lipson. Over the years, he’s been looking to create self-repairing and self-reproducing robots resulting in publications in Science and Nature.

Zykov explains the principles of modular robotics and presents one of his favorite building blocks, the Molecube. Molecubes are cubic like modules that are cheap to fabricate and easy to use for newbie roboticists with an online framework at www.molecubes.org. From the labs at Cornell, the Molecubes found their way to FESTO as educational robots. He tells us why modular robotics is of interest to FESTO in building up adaptable factories of the future.

Victor Zykov is now On-Deck Systems Head at the Kite Assist Institute in California.



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Latest News:

To learn more about the autonomous shrapnel removing robot, prediction for the personal robotics market and for the most eery version of “Happy Birthday” you’ve ever heard, have a look at the Robots Forum.

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January 16th, 2009

Robots: Industrial Robots in Research

In this episode we talk to Raúl Ordóñez about his new Motoman Robotics Lab at the University of Dayton and the research he plans to do with his high profile industrial robots.

Raúl Ordóñez

Raúl Ordóñez is the director of the Nonlinear Control Lab and the newly created Motoman Robotics Lab at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

The Motoman Lab houses six state-of-the-art industrial robots, including a seven-axis, actuator-driven IA20 robot; a 15-axis, actuator-driven and human-like dual-arm DIA10 robot; a four-axis YS450 high-speed SCARA robot; two six-axis HP3 articulated robots and one HP3C six-axis, articulated robot with a compact controller.

Using these industrial robots, he will be looking to study visual servoing which would allow robots to control their movements based on visual feedback derived from cameras and maybe achieve tasks such as pole-balancing or even juggling. Such closed-loop control could lead to novel applications for the industry and robots that are able to perform in changing environments.

However, whenever the researchers have their backs turned, the robots come to life to perform multi-robot dances on the music of the Star Wars Movie or the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.



More generally, Ordóñez has been studying nonlinear control systems over the years, using several different test-beds including robot arms, helicopters, table top mobile robots and humanoids. He’ll be explaining what makes these systems non-linear and how this research allowed him to spend eight weeks this summer in the Boeing Welliver fellowship program, working on the control of planes.

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Latest News:

For a summary of new robots at this year’s CES, a high-speed video of the flight of the .23 g ornithopter, and more information on the new exoskeleton have a look at our robot forum.

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September 12th, 2008

Robots: An Uncertain Revolution

In this episode we dive into the revolution brought on by the field of probabilistic robotics with Claudio Mattiussi who is Senior Researcher at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in Lausanne, Switzerland. We then launch a most “uncertain” competition to see how our listeners are able to cope with uncertainty in estimating the cleaning capabilities of our Roomba robot.

Claudio Mattiussi

As a Senior Researcher at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at the EPFL in Lausanne Switzerland, Claudio Mattiussi has been looking into the world of evolutionary computation, neural networks and machine learning applied to tasks such as reverse engineering gene regulatory networks, synthesizing neural networks, and designing electronic circuits. Thanks to his experience with real-world applications and years in industry, Mattiussi has become aware of the need to deal with uncertainty, which is present in most environments and living beings. As a solution, he presents the probabilistic or Bayesian approach to perceiving the world, with a touch of history, philosophy and projection. Rather than being against good old fashion artificial intelligence (GOFAI), or Brooks’ Behavior Based approach, he proposes the “uncertain” revolution using the probabilistic paradigm as being a compromise for the future.

Finally, he discusses how the probabilities can be used to make decisions on robot behavior using neural structures and evolutionary techniques.

Uncertain Contest

For a detailed view on some of the subjects presented in this show, win the new book on “Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence: Theories, Methods, and Technologies”
written by Dario Floreano and Claudio Mattiussi, out on the 30th of September 2008.

To make you apply your own probabilistic approaches to a concrete problem, we’ll be asking you to guess (or compute) the percentage of dirt collected by a Roomba robot in its own “uncertain” environment. We’re waiting for your vote by Wednesday, September 24th at 9AM GMT.

All the details for the competition can be found on our forum.

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Latest News:

Check out the Robots Forum for pictures, links, videos and some ongoing discussion for this episode’s news, including the most recent iRobot headlines, Rod Brooks’ new Heartland Robotics as well as the gigantic robot spider roaming Liverpool.

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June 20th, 2008

Robots: A Robot Fly at Harvard and at the MoMA - Transcript

This episode features an interview with Robert Wood about his micro-robotic fly, as well as a talk with the curator of design at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

Rob Wood

Rob Wood's Robot fly

Professor Robert Wood is the founder and director of the Harvard Microrobotics Lab at Harvard University. He initially started out at Ron Fearing‘s Biomimetic Lab at Berkley working on the Micromechanical Flying Insect (MFI) project (see Talking Robots interview). Strong of his experience with designing the tiny, he went on to build his own microscale robots for aerial, terrestrial, and aquatic environments. His recent article in IEEE Spectrum Magazine, “Fly, Robot Fly” describes the first flight of his tethered fly:

« It began when I took a stick-thin winged robot, not much larger than a fingertip, and anchored it between two taut wires, rather like a miniature space shuttle tethered to a launchpad. Next I switched on the external power supply. Within milliseconds the carbon-fiber wings, 15 millimeters long, began to whip forward and back 120 times per second, flapping and twisting just like an actual insect’s wings. The fly shot straight upward on the track laid out by the wires. As far as I know, this was the first flight of an insect-size robot. »



Now that the micromechanical structure has proven it has sufficient thrust to actually lift the robot off the ground, the questions focus on how to power the robot insect and what sensors and control could allow it to perform its intended long term applications, namely search and rescue, hazardous environment exploration, environmental monitoring, and reconnaissance.

Wood also gives us some insight on how Biology has been driving his research and how he hopes to be able to return the favor by using his platform to study flies in nature.

Chaotic flight controlled, robot insect swarms, tech-driving miniaturization… let’s wait and see.

Paola Antonelli

Rob Wood’s robotic fly was featured as part of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City entitled Design and the Elastic Mind. We had a talk with Paola Antonelli, the curator of the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA, about the role of design in helping people cope with momentous changes in science and technology. How will designers help people adapt as robots become ubiquitous in our daily lives? How does our experience in nature affect the design of future robotic systems? Paola takes us through a brief tour of a designer’s perspective of science and technology.

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Latest News:

Visit the Robots Forum for links and discussions about
iRobot’s “Seaglider” underwater robot, the DARPA contract awarded to iRobot for the Chembot, the sale of the autonomous car “Odin” and EMA the robotic girlfriend mentioned in the podcast.

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