Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

September 23rd, 2011

Robots: Educational Robotics

In today’s show, we look at the playful field of educational robotics. We start by talking to Dr. Francesco Mondada, the leader of the MOBOTS group at EPFL, about his group’s efforts in this field. Focus is given to the Robotics Festival, an annual event he started back in 2008. We then talk with Stéphane Magnenat, a former member of the group and current member of the Autonomous Systems Lab at ETHZ. Stéphane developed ASEBA, a straight-forward software package that allows beginners to program robots easily and efficiently. Finally, Fanny Riedo, PhD student in the MOBOTS group, presents the low-cost educational Thymio II robot.

Francesco Mondada

Founder and former CEO of K-Team, currently the head of the Miniature Mobile Robots Group (MOBOTS) at EPFL, Francesco Mondada has been one of the main people behind such popular research and educational robots as the Khepera, the S-bot, the e-puck and more recently the Thymio and Thymio II.

In this episode, he tells us about the work that MOBOTS is doing in educational robotics and then presents the popular Robotics Festival, held every year at EPFL. A success from the very beginning, the Robotics Festival managed this year to draw 13’000 visitors in a single day of interactive workshops, demos, and robotic shows.

EPFL Robotics Festival

Stéphane Magnenat

Currently working as senior scientist in the Autonomous Systems Lab at ETHZ, Stéphane did his PhD within the MOBOTS group, where he developed ASEBA.

ASEBA is an event-based architecture for distributed control of mobile robots. It includes a user-friendly scripting language and a tightly integrated development environment which allows novices to rapidly start programming robot behaviors.

ASEBA has been used with success in the Robotics Festival for teaching children basic robot programming.

Fanny Riedo

Fanny Riedo is doing her PhD on educational robotics with the MOBOTS group and presents the project she is currently focusing on: the Thymio II robot.

The Thymio II is an affordable children-oriented educational robot. It has a large amount of sensors and actuators, a specific interactivity based on light and touch, which is aimed at increasing the understanding of the robot functionalities, and can be programmed easily by using ASEBA.

Links:

Stéphane Magnenat
| More

Related episodes:

June 3rd, 2011

Robots: The Bilibot Project

In today’s episode we talk about a new generation of affordable robots with the Bilibot project and its leader Garratt Gallagher from MIT.

Garratt Gallagher

Garratt Gallagher joined MIT in 2009 as a research engineer after a Masters of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. During his day job, he works with the PR2 robots from Willow Garage. On the side however, Gallagher has been developing the Bilibot, a cheap hobbyist/research robot that merges the capabilities of ROS, iRobot’s iCreate, the Kinect and a robust manipulator. The end result is an excellent platform with state-of-the-art sensing technology that has the potential to achieve a variety of service tasks, such as picking up your room or fetching a beer from the fridge.

To bring the Bilibot project to the next level, Gallagher partnered-up with two master students in Operations Management at MIT. The company they recently founded is now selling Bilibots for 1200$ with a cash return of $350 if you make a video of the Bilibot doing something cool, you share the code on ROS and collaborate with other developers. With this step, his team hopes to build a user community excited about the robot and prepare for their next big step, a robot app store.

Links:

| More

Related episodes:

May 20th, 2011

Robots: Blended Reality

In today’s episode we meet with Natalie Freed, David Robert and Adam Setapen from Cynthia Breazeal’s Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab. They’ll be telling us about the Playtime Computing System, a playground where kids can interact with the physical world and its virtual extension.

The playground looks like a dream-like play-area with objects kids can interact with, including a robot that looks like an alphabet block and can be decorated with letters, shapes and even a mustache. The physical playground is surrounded by an engaging virtual world projected on a set of screens. Robot characters can seamlessly transition from the real world to the virtual world by entering a portal (which is basically a robot garage). Since anything is possible in the virtual world, robots can gain new capabilities, such as flying, and kids can rearrange the world or add their own virtual objects to the mix using a Creation Station. The children’s behavior is tracked using 3D motion capture as well as other sensors such as cameras and audio inputs.

The playground brings a whole new dimension to the idea of play, getting kids off the couch, engaging in creative activity that could bring them to a virtual cafe in France to learn french or allow them to build a whole new world to share with other kids around the world. In the interview, David, Adam and Natalie tell us what they learned from experiments with the Playtime Computing System, the fun anecdotes that come-up when working with kids, and the future of interactive media.

So when do we get one of these at home?

Natalie Freed

Natalie Freed finished her Masters in Computer Science at Arizona State University with a concentration in Arts, Media, and Engineering. She joined the MIT Media lab last summer as a graduate student and has since been interested in studying human-robot interactions with kids.

David Robert

David Robert has a decade of expertise in the film industry working as a Technical Director and Animator. Over the years he’s consulted and worked with the world’s top animation studios including PIXAR, Dreamworks, LucasArts, ILM and Disney Imagineering. He also taught at The Academy of Art, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Pixar University and gave lectures around the world. He’s currently doing a PhD at the Personal Robots group as a first step in showing that the “future of animation is off the screen”.

Adam Setapen

Adam Setapen has a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin and a strong background in AI. He joined the Personal Robots Group as a graduate student with the hope of developing robots for children that support long term interaction.

Links:

| More

Related episodes:

April 23rd, 2010

Robots: 50 Years of Robotics (Part 1)

Today we celebrate the 50th episode of ROBOTS!

For the occasion we speak with 12 scientists about the most remarkable developments in robotics over the last 50 years and their prediction for the next half-century. This 50th special is split into two episodes with the second half airing in two weeks.

Today we’ll be talking to Rolf Pfeifer on robotics in general, Mark Tilden robot toys, Hiroshi Ishiguro on androids, Oscar Schofield on underwater robots, Steve  Potter on brain machine interfaces and Chris Rogers on eduction robots. Our next episode will give you a snapshot view on nano robots, AI, flying robots, human robot interactions, robot business, and space robots.

We’ve also upgraded our website so that you can easily browse through episodes by topic, interviewee, tag or just listen to one of our favorites, so have a look!

You can interact with the ROBOTS community by leaving comments directly under episode posts or on our new sleek forum. To do both, just log-in once in the top bar of the website.

Rolf Pfeifer

Rolf Pfeifer is Professor at the University of Zurich where he directs the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He pioneered a new approach to artificial intelligence (“New AI”), which emphasizes the role of embodiment and argues that thought is not independent of the body, but tightly constrained, and at the same time enabled by it.

Mark Tilden

Mark Tilden is a famous robot inventor who builds new robots on a daily basis. He pioneered a philosophy for making simple and reactive robots and tagged it BEAM robotics (which stands for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics). Lately, Tilden has been making famous products such as the Robosapien and Femisapien robots at WowWee.

Hiroshi Ishiguro

Hiroshi Ishiguro is professor at Osaka University in Japan where he directs the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. Ishiguro is most know for his near-real Androids which closely resemble human models, including himself, his daughter and a famous news anchor. Geminoid F, his latest model, was recently featured in the blogosphere.

Oscar Schofield

Oscar Schofield is Professor of Bio-Optical Oceanography at the Rutgers Coastal Ocean Observation Lab or COOL lab at Rutgers University.

Schofield is an expert in underwater robots, taking part in recent projects such as the Scarlet Knight glider which crossed the Atlantic Ocean fully autonomously while dodging fishing nets, strong currents and even the occasional shark.

Steve Potter

Steve Potter is the Director of the Potter Group which is part of the Laboratory for NeuroEngineering, a collective research unit shared between Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Having interfaced robots to in-vitro neurons, Potter talks about the field of brain-machine interfaces and its potential impact in medicine and neuroscience

Chris Rogers

Chris Rogers is a professor of mechanical engineering at Tufts University in the US.

As director of the Center for Engineering Education Outreach, Rogers tours the elementary schools of the world trying to bring engineering and robotics to young children. He has also worked with LEGO to develop ROBOLAB, a robotic approach to learning science and math.

Links:


Latest News:

For more information on this episode’s news, including videos of the PR2 robot folding towels and Honda’s U3-X robot and links to the MIT Personal Robotics group’s Mars Escape game, have a look at the Robots Forum.

| More

Related episodes:

November 20th, 2009

Robots: Learning

In this episode we speak with two experts in robot learning. Andrea Thomaz from Georgia Tech looks at how humans can teach and humanoids learn with the hope to create good human-robot interactions. We then speak with Sethu Vijayakumar from the University of Edinburgh about machine learning and how it can be used to teach a robot hand to balance a pole.

Andrea Thomaz

Andrea Thomaz is professor at Georgia Tech and the director of the Socially Intelligent Machines Research Laboratory. With a foot in human-robot interactions thanks to her PhD and Post-doc at MIT with Cynthia Breazeal, Thomaz went on to design her own humanoid-creature named Simon augmented with an amazing designer head and flanked with the most expressive ears you’ll be seeing anytime soon. Simon features an articulated torso, dual 7-DOF arms, and anthropomorphic hands from Meka Robotics.


With Simon and other humanoid robots such as Junior, she is looking at how to make social robots that can learn from humans in their everyday environment. With this endeavor in mind, her lab is studying how humans actually teach and draws conclusions that could be useful when designing future machine learning algorithms. She is also taking inspiration from nature to make robots that can learn in an incremental manner by observing and reproducing what people in their environment are doing, similar to what happens when you put two kids together in a playpen.

Andrea Thomaz is also the author of the Blog “So, Where’s My Robot?” where she posts thoughts on social machine learning. Finally, she was awarded the prestigious “MIT Tech Review 2009 Young Innovators Under 35“.

Sethu Vijayakumar


Sethu Vijayakumar is the Director of the Institute of Perception, Action & Behavior in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh and an associate member of the Institute for Adaptive & Neural Computation. With the Statistical Machine Learning and Motor Control Group there he’s been looking at how robots can learn complex tasks such as balancing a pole using an anthropomorphic arm. His pursuit of the holy grail in machine learning has brought him to tackle the intricacies related to highly changing and dynamic environments. Because of this, his research interests span a broad interdisciplinary curriculum involving basic research in the fields of statistical machine learning, robotics, human motor control, Bayesian inference techniques and computational neuroscience. Finally, he’ll be telling us more generally how machine learning is different from human learning and what he sees as the next steps in this area with a short escapade in the world of prosthetics.

Since August 2007, he holds a Senior Research Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering, co-funded by Microsoft Research in Learning Robotics.

Links:


Latest News:

For more information on the autopsy-performing Virtobot, a great video of the Pac Man Robot Game and to revisit some of 2009′s memorable robots, including SCRATCHBOT, Festo’s Robot Penguins, the Wirelessly controlled Beetle and Robot Fashion Model HRP-4C have a look at the Robots forum!

View and post comments on this episode in the forum

| More

Related episodes: