Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

June 19th, 2009

Robots: Celebrity Robots Brought to Life

In today’s episode we speak with celebrity robot maker Fred Barton who is best known as ROBOTMAN. As an expert in the Sci-Fi genre, he’ll be giving us an overview of robots in the cinema from the first shoots to today with a special emphasis on his all time favorite, Robby the Robot from the 1956 Forbidden Planet. Finally, tell us who your favorite movie robot is for a chance to win a Sci-Fi DVD or Bluray of your choice!

Fred Barton

As a teenager in highschool, Fred Barton decided he needed to have his own full size version of Robby the Robot from the Forbidden Planet. After home-making all the parts he ended-up with his first celebrity robot and went on to restoring the original Robby movie prop. However, it is only in 1996 that he decided to make a living out of his childhood passion and build robot collectibles for museums and our fellow enthusiasts. His Hollywood company, Fred Barton Productions, is the exclusive manufacturer and licensee for some of the best known movie robots including Robby. He’s built many other life-size computerized replicas including those of the original Star Wars Trilogy droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, Robot Model B9 from Lost in Space, Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, Maria from Metropolis, the Target Earth robot, T2-Endoskeleton.



More generally, Fred Barton has become an expert in the Sci-Fi movie genre and is involved in many of the robot movies coming out of Hollywood. He is a member of the jury of the Robot Hall of Fame and his protegee, Robby, is a 2004 inductee.

Contest: Who’s your Favorite Celebrity Robot

Most of us robotics fans are Sci-Fi lovers, diving into futuristic stories for inspiration. That’s why we want to give you a chance to win your favorite Sci-Fi DVD or bluray. Just let us know, here on the forum, who your favorite movie robot is and motivate it with text, pictures, movie snippets or nothing. The winner will be the one who proves to be the most assiduous Sci-Fi lover. The competition will be open until the 2nd of July 2009.

Tell us who your favorite movie robot is here.

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Latest News:

More information on and videos of Israel military’s new snake robot, Tokyo’s International Food Machinery and Technology Expo and Willow Garage’s PR2 in our forum.

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May 22nd, 2009

Robots: Robot Actors at the Theater

In this week’s show we take a closer look at Robots, not the podcast but the play that has been playing to sold-out audiences in Switzerland over the last 3 weeks. We first speak with Christian Denisart, the director of the play, who describes what inspired him to do a play featuring robot actors. We then speak with Nicola Tomatis from Bluebotics, the company responsible for the robots themselves, who describes the technical challenges involved in creating 3 very different robot actors.

Christian Denisart

Christian Denisart is a Swiss theatre director who is very active in the french-speaking Swiss theatre scene. Born in France but with roots in Switzerland, Denisart’s career included singing and acting before he started directing his own plays. In 2001 Denisart founded a theatrical company named Les Voyages Extraordinaires to act as an umbrella under which he creates theatrical pieces.

Denisart’s most recent play, called Robots, has just finished a widely-successful three-week showing at the Barnabé Theatre. What makes Robots special and interesting to us is that 3 of the 5 main characters are mobile robots! It’s the story of a man so scared of human contact that he surrounds himself with robots, including Igor, a metallic butler, Bruno, a state-of-the art robotic dog, and Leila, a robotic recreation of a dancer. The man is in love with a woman, but discovers throughout the play that real relationships don’t quite work in the same way as his relations with his robots.

Robots has been widely covered in the press, including SwissInfo and Engadget. Plans are in the works to take the show on tour, so keep an eye out on your local theatre listings!

Nicola Tomatis

Nicola Tomatis is the CEO of the spin-off company Bluebotics SA based in Lausanne Switzerland. Their area of expertise includes ANT®, an innovative navigation solution based on laser scanners for mapping and moving an autonomous robot in its environment. Their portfolio includes tour guide robots, entertainment robots, robot butlers for parties, space robots and even robots that can bring you your coffee when you’re working hard at your desk. Their latest brainchildren are three robots developed for the play ROBOTS, an obedient robot dog, a distinguished servant and a sensual female. The robots are the result of a 10 year collaboration with the designers at the ECAL, automaton artist François Junod and Christian Denisart.

Nicolas Tomatis completed his PhD under the supervision of Roland Siegwart at the EPFL on “Hybrid, Metric – Topological, Mobile Robot Navigation”. He joined BlueBotics in 2001 and is CEO since year 2003.

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Latest News:

For more information on this week’s news, including Kawada Human Interactive Robot HIRO, as well as videos of ACE asking for directions to get around Munich and Metin Sitti’s micro-robots micro-robots playing soccer visit the Robots Forum.

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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.

Links:


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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