Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

February 10th, 2012

Robots: Senseable Robots

In today’s episode we look at some of the work done by the Senseable City Lab. We’ll be talking to Carlo Ratti, the director of the Lab, about two of the Lab’s many projects – namely Flyfire and Seaswarm.

Carlo Ratti

An architect and engineer by training, Carlo Ratti practices in Italy and teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he directs the Senseable City Lab. He graduated from the Politecnico di Torino and the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris, and later earned his MPhil and PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK.

As well as being a regular contributor to the architecture magazine Domus and the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Carlo has written for the BBC, La Stampa, Scientific American and The New York Times. His work has been exhibited worldwide at venues such as the Venice Biennale, the Design Museum Barcelona, the Science Museum in London, GAFTA in San Francisco and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. His Digital Water Pavilion at the 2008 World Expo was hailed by Time Magazine as one of the ‘Best Inventions of the Year’. Carlo was recently a presenter at TED 2011 and is serving as a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council for Urban Management. He is also a program director at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow and a curator of the 2012 BMW Guggenheim Pavilion in Berlin.

Carlo founded the Senseable City Lab in 2004 within the City Design and Development group at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab. The Lab’s mission is to creatively intervene and investigate the interface between people, technologies and the city. Whilst fostering interdisciplinary, the Lab’s work draws on diverse fields such as urban planning, architecture, design, engineering, computer science, natural sciences and economics to capture the full nature of urban problems and deliver research and applications that empower citizens to make choices that result in a more liveable urban condition.


| More

Related episodes:

December 31st, 2010

Robots: Multi-Robot Teams

Happy New Year from the whole Robots Podcast team! Don’t miss our amazing holiday robot videos!

For this last episode of 2010 we look at multi-robot teams and impressive quadrotor capabilities with Vijay Kumar from the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania and one of his PhD students, Daniel Mellinger.

Vijay Kumar

Vijay Kumar is Professor at the GRASP Lab and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at UPenn.

As an expert in networked multi-agent systems, he’ll be telling us how he sees robot teams of tomorrow being deployed in real-world missions. Challenges include keeping the robots networked, selecting the right level of autonomy and figuring out how to deal with large swarms of heterogenous robots.

Among the robots he sees doing team work are flying robots including quadrotors that use SLAM to get around or that can perform impressive aggressive maneuvers.

Daniel Mellinger

Daniel Mellinger is a PhD student at the GRASP Lab. He’s a rising star in dynamic control and has been featured in the media and on YouTube for his work with quadrotors passing through hoops and performing amazing motions.

We also speak about his latest work on transporting large objects using cooperative teams of quadrotors. This work got him the best paper award during the recent International Symposium on Distributed Autonomous Robotic Systems at EPFL.


Latest News:
For a review of 2010 in robotics, have a look at the Robots Forum!

| More

Related episodes:

October 22nd, 2010

Robots: Amateur UAVs

In today’s episode we speak about flying robots with Chris Anderson, founder of DIY Drones which is now the largest amateur UAV community in the world, and one of the largest robotics communities.

Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson is Editor-in-chief of the very well known magazine WIRED. In his free time, he discovered a passion for making flying robots with his son and launched the internet blog DIY Drones which now has nearly 12,000 members and about 1 million page views per month. The goal of the blog is to give you all the necessary tools to build your blimp, plane or quadrotor in a low cost, safe and easy way. The community relies on a development team of more than 100 active developers contributing to about a dozen projects, both hardware and software. One of their products, the ArduPilot autopilot, can be strapped to your flyers for autonomous control. In a rather new twist in the industry, DIY Drones focusses on making open source hardware that can be used by all in the same spirit as open source software.

Anderson covers all the questions you ever had about making flying robots, including safety and legal aspects. He also discusses risks in putting this technology in the wrong hands and some anecdotes of crazy projects coming out of the community.


Last week we asked you to describe a robotic character you would like to see on Futurama. Check out the cool ideas here! Congratulations to winner “occorled” for imagining our favorite robot “Outlook”:

A blocky humanoid robot which takes the role of Microsoft Outlook for the Futurama crew. He has the Outlook symbol on his chasis, and the Windows startup sound plays when he enters the room.
Consider a scene at the morning meeting, the crew is just sitting down, getting coffee, etc.
Outlook enters and starts handing out letters to everyone individually (symbolizing everyone checking their daily email). Some of the letters have attachments (literally polaroid pictures or notes attached with a paperclip).
Leela is flipping through hers, mumbling “spam, spam, ooooh what’s this”.
Outlook finishes and starts walking out the room.
Outlook: “OK people, remember we’ve got a meeting at 1:30 in the conference room.”
Everyone sighs. Mumbling is heard.
Hermes’ voice: “Notify me 5 minutes prior.”
Bender’s voice: “Declined!”


Latest News:
For more information on Turkey’s SURALP humanoid and Berkeley Bionic’s eLEGS, have a look at our forum.

| More

Related episodes:

August 13th, 2010

Robots: Distributed Flight Array

In this episode, we discover an aerial modular robot called the Distributed Flight Array. To talk about this, we have Raymond Oung from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich.

Then, to celebrate aerial robotics, we’re holding a contest on flying robot noises for a chance to win a WowWee Bladestar.

Raymond Oung

Raymond Oung is lead researcher of the Distributed Flight Array project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich under the supervision of Prof. Raffaello D’Andrea (see previous ROBOTS interview).

The idea behind this project is to design a set of vehicles equipped with a single propeller and wheels that can drive around in search for fellow modules with whom to dock. Single modules are not stable but once assembled, the flight array is able to take-off and achieve coordinated flight. Modules then detach in-air, fall to the floor and repeat their search for other propellers.

The main challenge in this system is to come up with a distributed controller that can allow modules to work together to achieve coordinated flight. Because of its endless number of configurations, the distributed flight array is the perfect research and pedagogical testbed to study control theory for complex systems.


We were trying to imagine the sound of all of these propellers and then realized it would be fun to record the sound of some of the flying objects here at EPFL. If you manage to match the sound with the correct robot picture, we’ll be sending you a Wowwee Bladestar. If multiple correct answers are received, the winner will be selected randomly. The contest ends on the 27th of August and answers can be sent via email to or can be posted below this episode in the comments section.

WowWee Bladestar


Noises of Flying Robots


1: Eyebot

2: Airburr


4: Blimp

5: WowWee DragonFly

6: Eyebot

The correct answer was:
1 -> F
2 -> B
3 -> A
4 -> C
5 -> E
6 -> D


Latest News:
For more information and videos of Ishiguro’s Telenoid R1 and the F1 Robocoaster in action, have a look at our forum.

| More

Related episodes:

July 2nd, 2010

Robots: R&D at iRobot

In this episode we look at the Research and Development (R&D) done at iRobot in the government field with lead roboticist Brian Yamauchi.

Brian Yamauchi

Brian Yamauchi is Lead Roboticisist at iRobot in Bedford, MA where he leads many of the government projects aimed at helping soldiers and first-response teams do their work.

During this interview, Yamauchi covers some of the developments done over the past 10 years, most of which are based on the PackBot robot. In particular, he’ll be telling us how they make these robots more robust and what sensors they’re using to increase autonomy, and even map out the world. One of these sensors, the ultra-wideband radar, was presented at this year’s ICRA conference in Alaska (paper).

Beyond the single PackBot, Yamauchi is now looking at how to make robots collaborate with examples in terrestrial and aerial robot team and mobile wireless transmitters for the quick deployment of communication networks.

Moreover, because many of the government robots developed at iRobot are being used in Iraq or Afghanistan, he’ll be telling us about the research in making good soldier-robot interactions and the ethics of military robots.

Finally, we’ll be learning more on the business of iRobot and the futuristic projects they’re working on such as the chembot and jambot projects that involve making soft and deformable robots (see video below).

Before working at iRobot, Yamauchi completed a PhD in Computer Science from Case Western Reserve University and worked at the Naval Research Laboratory (Washington, DC).


In this week’s episode we’ll be asking you about your take on the cross-fertilization between the military and robotics. Make sure you take the poll and debate in the comments section below or on our forum.


Latest News:
For videos of this week’s Robots news, including the autonomous robot lifeguard and the sand swimming salamander robot, have a look at the Robots Forum.

| More

Related episodes: