Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

May 18th, 2012

Robots: The Future of Robot Companions

In this interview recorded at the Robotdalen Robotics Innovation Challenge, Professor Paolo Dario talks to Per about 3 conceptual waves of innovation, starting with industrial robots, then adding artificial intelligence and finally the third wave, which is coming, where convergence between different fields of science and interdisciplinary teams become increasingly important.

Dario also gives his perspective on ethics and legal issues in robotics, and how robots can evolve based on ambient intelligence. Robots can basically take advantage of being a part of an interconnected system, where not all the intelligence is necessarily part of the robot itself.

Finally, Dario shares some learnings from his time as President of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, before telling us more about the FET project Robot companions for citizens.

Paolo Dario
Paolo Dario received his Dr. Eng. Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pisa, Italy, in 1977. He is currently a Professor of Biomedical Robotics at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa and teaches at the School of Engineering of the University of Pisa and at the Campus Biomedico University in Rome.

Prof. Dario was the founder of the Advanced Robotics Technologies and Systems Laboratory and is currently the Co-ordinator of the Center for the Research in Microengineering Laboratoryof the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, where he supervises a team of about 70 researchers and Ph.D. students. His main research interests are in the fields of medical robotics, bio-robotics, mechatronics and micro/nanoengineering, and specifically in sensors and actuators for the above applications, and in robotics for rehabilitation.

He is the coordinator of many national and European projects, the editor of two books on the subject of robotics, and the author of more than 200 scientific papers. Prof. Dario has served as President of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society in the years 2002-2003, and he is currently Co-Chair of the Technical Committees on Bio-robotics and of Robo-ethics of the same Society. Prof. Dario is an IEEE Fellow, a Fellow of the European Society on Medical and Biological Engineering, and a recipient of many honors and awards. He is also a member of the Board of the International Foundation of Robotics Research (IFRR). Right now Professor Dario works on the FET Flagship initiative Robot Companions for Citizens, with the goal to realize a unique and unforeseen multidisciplinary science and engineering program supporting a radically new approach towards machines and how we deploy them in our society.

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April 20th, 2012

Robots: Bringing them to Market

Following up on Episode 99, this episode features Steven Cousins and Roland Siegwart, whom we had the pleasure to meet at the SCHUNK Expert Days, organized by SCHUNK GmbH this spring. Our interviews bring to surface the dynamic interplay of academia and industry – we talk about the transition from the research lab to the market. Listen in and find out which robotic applications are bound to make great breakthroughs soon!

Steve Cousins

Steve Cousins is the President and CEO of Willow Garage. He earned his PhD in Computer Science at Stanford University, and has gained experience as a researcher and manager in both academic and industrial research labs. Prior to joining Willow Garage, Steve was the senior manager of the User-Focused Systems Research Group at the IBM Almaden Research Center, one of the top human-computer interaction research groups in the world. Earlier, Steve managed the Advanced Systems Development Laboratory at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Willow Garage is an unusual company set up to make robots help people. Human-scale “personal robots” will perform tasks in natural human environments, ranging from helping around the home to assisting in flexible manufacturing. Willow Garage’s role has been to help accelerate progress in this field. The PR2 robot combined with the open source Robot Operating System (ROS) enables researchers to more quickly explore applications of personal robots.

Roland Siegwart

Roland Siegwart is the Vice President of Research and Corporate Relations at ETH Zurich, and the director of the Autonomous Systems Lab. He received both his Diploma in Mechanical Engineering and his Doctoral Degree in 1989 from ETH Zurich. He then spent one year as postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. Back in Switzerland, he worked part time as R&D director at MECOS Traxler AG and as lecturer and deputy head at the Institute of Robotics, ETH Zürich. In 1996 he was appointed as professor for autonomous microsystems and robots at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) where he served among others as member of the direction of the School of Engineering (2002-06) and funding chairman of the Space Center EPFL.
Roland Siegwart is a member of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences, IEEE Fellow and officer of the International Federation of Robotics Research (IFRR). He served as Vice President (2004/05) and AdCom Member (2007/10) of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, and was a member of the final decision body of the German Excellence Initiative. He is co-founder of multiple successful spin-off companies in robotics and related fields and board member of various Swiss institutions and foundations, including CSEM and inspire AG. He is a strong promoter of project based learning as a key asset in engineering education and sustainable industrial alliances for accelerating technology transfer and innovation.

Roland Siegwart’s research interests are in the design and control of robots and systems operating in complex and highly dynamical environments. His major goal is to find new ways to deal with uncertainties and enable the design of highly interactive and adaptive systems. Prominent application examples are walking quadrupeds, personal and service robots, planetary exploration robots, autonomous micro-aircrafts and driver assistant systems.

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June 17th, 2011

Robots: Schunk Manipulators

In this episode we speak with Henrik Schunk, Managing Partner of SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG and Chairman of EUnited Robotics.

Henrik Schunk

Henrik Schunk is managing partner of SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG, family run business out of Germany with over 1800 employees and presence in 50 countries. As such, he is responsible for the Business Unit Automation and the cross-divisional departments Sales, Marketing, Continuous Improvement and IT. SCHUNK is one of the leaders in clamping and gripping technology featuring more than 10’000 specialized products.

In this episode, we look at recent developments in gripping technology, challenges that still remain after over 70 years of development, and the need for task-adapted systems and high-end products including anthropomorphic robotic hands.

Henrik Schunk also discusses his hopes for service robotics as one of the main areas of development in automation. To drive the field forward, his company organizes the SCHUNK Expert Days that bring together some of the main actors in service robotics. He also presents his view on European Robotics as Chairman of EUnited Robotics.

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December 3rd, 2010

Robots: Personal Helpers

In today’s episode we take a look at the status and progress of the personal robotics domain — a research field which is about to change our lives! We talk to Steve Cousins, CEO of Willow Garage and a major player in the field. We then talk to Moritz Tenorth to get a fascinating insight into the technological details which the work in this domain entails.

Steve Cousins

Steve Cousins is the President and CEO of Willow Garage.  He earned his PhD in Computer Science at Stanford University.  He has experience as a researcher and manager in both academic and industrial research labs, from the Washington University medical school and Stanford University, to Interval Research Corporation, Xerox PARC, and IBM Almaden.

Willow Garage is an unusual company set up to make robots help people. Human-scale “personal robots” will perform tasks in natural human environments, ranging from helping around the home to assisting in flexible manufacturing.  Willow Garage’s role has been to help accelerate progress in this field.  The PR2 robot combined with the open source Robot Operating System (ROS) enables researchers to more quickly explore applications of personal robots.

In this interview, Steve Cousins talks about the past and future of personal robotics, where the major challenges lie and what his personal picture of the future is!

Moritz Tenorth

Moritz Tenorth is currently finishing his PhD at the Intelligent Autonomous Systems Group at the TU Munich where he works on making robots understand human environments, such as kitchens. In the memorable demonstration shown in the video below, three robots, including the Willow Garage’s PR2 work together to whip up a batch of pancakes.

To achieve this impressive result robots needed to have a high-level understanding of their world so that they can recognize useful objects and figure out what to do with them in order to follow recipes. For this purpose, Tenorth created KnowRob which is now implemented for ROS and can be used for a variety of different robots. He also explains how the Web can be a huge source of information for robots.

Finally, Tenorth tells us about the importance of unified operating system for robots and his experience in working with the PR2 and ROS.

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July 31st, 2009

Robots: Smart Homes

In today’s episode we look at how technology can improve the quality of life of people with dementia. Our first guest, Roger Orpwood, is the director of the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, or BIME, in the UK. He presents his smart homes which are being used to help dementia patients stay independent and receive better care. Our second guest Andrew Sixsmith, is Professor at the Simon Fraser University in Canada. He was the leader of the INDEPENDANT project which looked into what it takes to insure the quality of life of elderly people.

Roger Orpwood

Roger Orpwood has been the Director of the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME) in the UK since 2004. BIME is an independent design and development charity working in the fields of medicine, health care and assistive technology for disabled people. By marrying research and product development, they have been pushing new technologies out the door to the people who really need it.
Nearly 300 projects have been completed since Orpwood joined the Institute, and over 100,000 products sold as a result.

Their latest endeavor has resulted in Smart Homes that are already improving the quality of life of people with dementia by making sure they don’t put themselves into harm’s way while guiding them in their everyday tasks. Within the belly of this robotic home, patients improve their sleep behavior and are able to stay independent for longer amounts of time.

Orpwood also discusses the intricacy of working in real world situations and highly multidiciplinary environments composed of care givers, doctors, engineers and patients. Finally, we look at what it means to do research and product development at the BIME and the beauty of performing the whole path from the lab to people’s home.

Roger Orpwood has visiting chairs in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath, and more recently in the School for Health.

Andrew Sixsmith

Andrew Sixsmith is the director of the Gerontology Research Centre at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, where he is developing ways of using technology to facilitate independent living of patients with dementia. Though keeping dementia patients safe is a priority, Sixsmith has also been looking at ways of increasing their quality of life. As part of the project INDEPENDENT for example Sixsmith developed a music-playing device designed specifically for dementia patients, who are not always capable of learning new complex interfaces such as those found in modern mp3 players. Sixsmith also talks about the importance of designing systems with the dementia patient’s experience in mind, and not that of the people taking care of them.

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