Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

April 24th, 2009

Robots: Giant Roaming Creatures

Today we’ll be speaking about art, engineering and freedom with two robot-artists building gigantic robots. Our first guest is Theo Jansen, a physics major turned artist out of the Netherlands, about his walking beach creatures and how artists perceive robotics and build sculptures that can walk and sense their environments in a very different way than the robots we are used to. We then speak to Jaimie Mantzel who is an inventor in Vermont. Throughout his life, he’s been literally building his dreams with his own two hands, be it a home in the mountains or a giant 6-legged robot he plans to use to take him around.

Theo Jansen

Theo Jansen is a “kinetic artist” best known for his Strandbeest, or beach animals, a new form of life that he is creating out of plastic yellow tubes. From their humble beginning as simple walking creatures with an ingenious leg system, Jansen has added an energy storage system made of plastic bottles, stakes that are hammered into the ground to protect them from the wind, and rudimentary water level sensors to protect the beach creatures from the sea. Jansen’s ultimate goal is to release his creations into the wild, to have them roam the beaches of his native Netherlands in herds and lead their own type of mechanical lives.

Words cannot describe Jansen’s work however, it is better to see it and experience it. Have a look at Loek van der Klis’s gallery of the beach animals or Jansen’s work featured in a BMW ad, shown below:



Jaimie Mantzel

Jaimie Mantzel’s adventures about building a giant 6-legged robot have been followed by the thousands on his website and youtube channel. He’s been building since he was a child, bringing his wildest inventions and dreams to life. Inspired by his talent, Mantzel started engineering at Brown University only to discover that math and physics were the rule rather than putting parts together. Instead of engineering, he diverted to art and unleashed his creativity. After university and years of work, he pursued his original vocation, building things. As a first step, he bought a piece of mountain in Vermont, USA and built a 4 story dome, his home. However, making small robots, and homes wasn’t enough and Mantzel is now building a giant spider-like robot which he can ride. Building this robot however seems to be a recursive process, since it requires building a workshop, which in turn brought him to dig a road. With all this finished, the robot is now 80% complete with an estimated finalization this summer. However, this interview is not only about making robots, but rather a different philosophy of life, freedom and art.



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Latest News:

Visit the Robots Forum for background information on this week’s news, including Pleo’s extinction, new inductees into CMU’s Robot Hall of Fame and the flying robot sniper system!

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January 30th, 2009

Robots: Human-Robot Love

In this episode we look at a subject that doesn’t always come to mind when you think of robots: love and relationships. Our first guest David Levy is the author of the book Love and Sex with Robots which has received wide media attention in the past year because it predicts that humans and robots will soon engage in genuine relationships, both physical and emotional.

We then speak to robot anthropologist Kathleen Richardson from Cambridge about her review of Levy’s book and her take on the meaning and likeliness of human-robot couples.

David Levy

David Levy is best known for his many years as a Scottish International Master of Chess, but it’s his recent doctoral thesis entitled “Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners” at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands that has been getting him extensive media coverage lately. In an unusual combination of psychology, sociology and robotics Levy studied the dynamics of sex and relationships between humans and robots.
Levy tells us about his belief that robots will soon become a ubiquitous part of our society, and it will be common for people to have relationships and even marry their robotic partners. He explains the dynamics of relationships and sex as he sees them, and how they can be extended to relations with artificial partners or robots as they become more advanced and life-like. Finally he tells us in his own words what he hopes that people take away from his latest book Love and Sex with Robots.

Kathleen Richardson


Kathleen Richardson recently completed her doctoral studies in the department of social anthropology at the University of Cambridge during which she conducted fieldwork in robotic labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her thesis, “Annihilating Difference? Robots and Building Design at MIT”, examined the breakdown of boundaries between humans and non-humans through a study of robots. She has also given several talks on human-robot relationships and her work has been featured in the New York Times.

She’ll be presenting her review of David Levy’s book “Love + Sex with Robots” and will tell us why genuine love relationships between humans and robots are mostly unfounded speculations grounded in science fiction fantasies. She also discusses the attachment that humans can feel for “things” and the ambiguities that might raise.

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Latest News:

For a video of the net launching security robot, a video of the MDS robot Nexi, and more on the functioning of the MCMS micro-grippers have a look at our 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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December 19th, 2008

Robots: Robot Toys

In the spirit of the holiday season, today’s episode is all about robots as toys. We speak to Mark Tilden, robot designer at WowWee Robotics, about designing robots for children, and what he thinks that scientists and researchers can learn from the toy industry. We are also holding a contest to give away his latest creation, the Femisapien, to one of our listeners, so read all about it below.

Mark Tilden

Mark Tilden is a true robotics lover, having built thousands of robots of all shapes and sizes in the last few decades. During the first part of his career he pioneered BEAM robotics (which stands for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics), a philosophy of building robots based on simple analog circuits and control instead of highly-complex systems, leading to low-cost and efficient systems. His bio-inspired bots manage to walk, crawl, roll or shake in complex environments using only a few transistors and basic sensors.

After working at the University of Waterloo in Canada and subsequently at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Tilden’s research eventually evolved into toy design when he was hired as a consultant for WowWee robotics in Hong Kong. His RoboSapien humanoid robot was controlled using only 28 transistors, and has sold in the millions. In our interview Tilden tells us about the difference between robotics in scientific research and in the toy industry. He also speaks about his latest creation, the Femisapien, and how he hopes to interest young girls in the field of robotics.

Christmas Contest: Win a WowWee FemiSapien

Guess what our Femisapien did on her first weekend in Switzerland for a chance to win one! Answers can be posted on our forum as a description, video, drawing or picture until Thursday the 1st of January noon (GMT). The closest guess wins and the most creative posts will be encouraged. A short video will be posted on the 2nd of January to reveal the winner and the correct answer.






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Latest News:

Further information on the robots mentioned in this episode on the Robots robot forum, including robot actors, dancers and performers around the world, a web version of the “Japan: Robot Nation” show, and a list of our favorite last minute robot Christmas presents as well as other recommendations for the holiday season around the web.

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December 5th, 2008

Robots: Robot Musicians

This episode focuses on robot musicians, starting with our first guest Gil Weinberg who is the Director of Music Technology at Georgia Tech. With his wooden robot drummer Haile, he’s been evolving a new beat for the future of music. Our second guest, Atsuo Takanishi describes the Waseda Flutist, a robot that mimics human lungs, vocal chords, and lips to accurately play the flute.

Gil Weinberg

Prof. Gil Weinberg is the Director of Music Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where his research has been bridging the musical and scientific worlds. From his PhD on, he’s been investigating the use of technology to expand musical expression, creativity, and learning and then bringing his ideas to the public with concerts, museum exhibitions and festivals. His most well know projects include the Beatbugs, electronic percussion instruments which when networked can allow newbie musicians, and even children, to collaborate and create living tunes. In another project, he’s working to create an Accessible Aquarium for the visually impaired to perceive the dynamics of life in a fish tank through auditory cues.

In this episode we concentrate on his latest compositions in music technology, Haile the robot drummer and Shimon the Marimba player.
Haile has also been touring the world, playing with human teachers and even evolving its own beats to reach robotic improvisation. Haile, is esthetically elegant with its wooden structure and can play faster than a human at a rate of 15 HZ.



Finally, Weinberg gives us his view on robot-musician interactions and the possible opening of a new music genre.

Atsuo Takanishi

Prof. Atsuo Takanishi has been designing robots for decades. From robots meant to help the medical industry, such as the Oral Rehabilitation Robot or the Clinical Jaw Movement Training Robot, to bio-mimetic robots such as the Emotion Expression Humanoid Robot or the Rat Robot, Takanishi’s lab excels in designing advanced and feature-rich platforms.

Takanishi Lab’s 15-year foray into musical robots has yielded the Anthropomorphic Flutist Robot, a robot capable of playing the flute at the level of an intermediate human flutist. Now in it’s 4th version, the robot mimics many of the mechanisms used by humans to play the flute, such as 3DOF lips, a vibrato and a complex mechanical tongue capable of advanced flute techniques such as the double tonguing technique. Check out the video below:



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Latest News:

Visit the Robots Forum for links and discussions about
Evolution Robotics, iRobot’s Warrior 700 and the ethics of military robotics presented in the podcast.

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