Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

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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June 6th, 2008

Robots: Cornell Racing Team and Velodyne’s LIDAR Sensor - Transcript

Our inaugural episode centers on the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, featuring interviews with professor Daniel Huttenlocher from Team Cornell and Rick Yoder from Velodyne, a producer of LIDAR sensors used by several teams in the robot car race.

Dan Huttenlocher

Team Cornell's Robot Racing TeamDan Huttenlocher is professor of Computing, Information Science and Business at Cornell University in Ithaca New York. As the co-leader of Cornell’s racing team for the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, he spent countless hours testing the autonomous car which finally finished among the six final automobiles capable of following California’s road code over 56 miles of a mock urban environment. With design in mind, his team of 13 students managed to discretely embed a slick black 2007 Chevy Tahoe with a Velodyne LIDAR, three IBEO 1.5D LIDARs, five 1D SICK LIDARs, five millimeter-wave radars, and four cameras. Of course, millions of data points per second don’t come for free and Cornell’s trunk is the home of 17 dual core processors.

Since a pile of impressive hardware and CPU is not enough, Team Cornell developed the artificial intelligence and control software needed to allow their robot to locally represent its location on the road and further figure out, on a more global scale, where it really was in the world. Moreover, the Cornell car also needed to localize and track other objects in the environment and ideally reason about their next moves. So, what went wrong in this little fender bender with MIT’s car (see video below)? I guess the professional human drivers during the challenge weren’t wrong, when they said that Cornell’s car drove like a human.



Velodyne LIDAR

Velodyne's LIDAR robot sensorRick Yoder is an employee at Velodyne, a new-comer in the field of LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors. The HDL-64E LIDAR uses an impressive 64 stationary lasers on a base rotating at 900rpm. This sensor was specifically designed for the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, and was used by around a third of the participating teams, although some other teams may have been turned away by the hefty $75,000USD price tag! Though not yet destined for the consumer market, Rick hints at a new series of sensors that may soon find their way into your car.

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Latest News:

Visit the Robots Forum for links and discussions about the IEEE Spectrum Magazine’s Singularity, Robin Murphy’s Survivor Buddy, Georgia Tech’s Sandbot, the rapid-prototyper robot “RepRap” and the Japanese Navirobo teddybear mentioned in the podcast.

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April 25th, 2008

Talking Robots Podcast LogoTalking Robots: Neurobotic Prosthetics
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In this episode of Talking Robots we speak with Yoky Matsuoka who is the director of the Neurobotics Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA. Boosted by her nomination as MacArthur Fellow she has been recognized as a leader in the emerging field of neurobotics. With her team, she’s been focused on understanding how the central nervous system coordinates musculoskeletal action and how robotic technology can enhance the mobility of people with manipulation disabilities.

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