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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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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March 13th, 2009

Robots: The REEM-B and HUBO Humanoids

In this episode we talk about humanoid robots, or robots that resemble me and you, at least in some shape or form. We first speak with Davide Faconti, leader of the REEM project, one of the few European contenders in this field. We then speak with Jun Ho Oh from Korea who was the general chair of the last International Conference on Humanoid Robots for his snapshot view of the field. We then look at the HUBO humanoids developed in his lab.

Davide Faconti

Davide Faconti is a devoted robotics passionate and the leader of the REEM humanoid robot project. Having built his first humanoids when competing in the Robocup 2002 and 2003 championships, Faconti quickly moved on to bigger and better robots. Over the last 3 years he has been working with his team of engineers and researchers to build a new breed of humanoid robot from scratch. Sponsored by PAL Technology out of the United Arab Emirates but based in an office in Barcelona, the REEM lab has managed to produce two fully-functional prototypes, the REEM-A and REEM-B.

Even though 3 years of development by a small team is not much compared to some of the major humanoid projects such as the Honda ASIMO, the latest-version REEM-B robot sports some impressive and innovative features. Laser range finders integrated into the feet of the robot allow it to map its environment while walking. It’s payload is an impressive 12kg, while its battery life when unloaded is a full 2hrs. These functions were recently presented in a press conference in Abu Dhabi to a huge reception of journalists and VIPs including his Highness Sheik Tahnoun, and proved that humanoid robots are becoming mainstream worldwide. Check out the video below:



Jun Ho Oh

Jun Ho Oh is the director of the HUBO Lab and Professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) where he’s developed several versions of the HUBO humanoid, named by the general public. The latest version weighs 56kg and measures 125cm, has 10 independent fingers, 2 eyes (vision camera), and 41 degrees of freedom which allow it to walk and move its body parts. However, uncontent with being able to move on their own two legs, his robots can also hop-on a Segway-like vehicle and drive around. His latest robot, the HUBO-FX1 has even raised the bar in bipedal locomotion, by being able to transport people. By compensating for our human uneasiness and motion, the HUBO-FX1 turns out to be a large chair with human-like legs, capable of beating the best elephant rides.

His expertise with humanoids lead him to chair last year’s IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids08), strong of 200+ visitors, international exhibits and demonstrations. Based on this experience, we will be asking for his snapshot view on the state-of-the-art in humanoid robotics.

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For more information and discussion on this week’s Robots news, including the new rescue robot enlisted at Yokohama fire department and Astrobotic’s lunar robot visit the Robots forum!

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November 21st, 2008

Robots: Bio-inspired Locomotion

In our 13th episode we talk with biologist Robert Full from UC Berkeley about the research he’s been doing on animal locomotion and how his insights have been inspiring engineers to create robots. We then talk to expert Auke Ijspeert from the EPFL on his insight on bio-inspired locomotion.

Robert Full

Prof. Robert Full is the director of the Poly-Pedal Lab at UC Berkeley where he has been interacting with engineers, biologists and mathematicians for the interdisciplinary study of locomotion in animals and robots.

By studying how cockroaches run over complex terrain or how crabs can run in sand, he’s inspired roboticists to create the RHex robot with open-loop control and bouncy legs capable of running along in rough terrain. With the running out of the way, Full then looked at climbing animals such as geckos and the Van der Waals forces which allow their hairy feet to cling to a wall. The resulting bio-inspired dry adhesives have been covered in Talking Robots by Prof. Ron Fearing and Prof. Mettin Sitti. However, what happens when a gecko slips or even falls? After a quick inquiry from an engineer about the use of gecko tails, Full found the answer by discovering that geckos can actively use their tail to stabilize and even do controlled gliding!



Finally, Prof. Full presents his view on bio-inspired engineering, the use of robots for biologists, and the amazing compliance and robustness of living creatures still unachievable by robots.

Auke Ijspeert

Prof. Auke Ijspeert is a long-time colleague of Full, meeting at countless conferences and exchanging visits to each other’s labs on both sides of the Atlantic. As professor of the Biologically Inspired Robotics Group at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, he is involved in many bio-inspired robotics projects such as the Salamandra Robotica, and has been featured in a Talking Robots interview on his work. Ijspeert tells us a bit about Full’s work as seen by the scientific community, and what he thinks are Full’s most important contributions to the field of robotics.

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Death of the Phoenix Lander, World’s largest robotic truck and Honda’s assisted walking prototype presented in the podcast.

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October 24th, 2008

Robots: Jumping and Crawling in Millirobots

This episode concentrates on how to scale down robots to the size of our creepy crawly friends, insects. Sarah Bergbreiter tells us about the micromachining techniques required to build jumping robots at this small scale and the applications in sensor networks. Aaron Hoover then talks about his 6-legged crawling robot that is slowly approaching the cockroach in size and locomotion capability.

Sarah Bergbreiter

Sarah Bergbreiter is Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland where she directs the Micro Robotics Lab.

With her vision of mobile sensor networks composed of large numbers of autonomous robots, Bergbreiter first started designing the CotsBots, built entirely from commercial off-the-shelf components. She then went to micro-sized robots which could be used in a non-invasive manner in their deploying environment. As a first step in her endeavor she contributed to Seth Hollar and Anita Flynn‘s walking microrobot and then went on to her own tiny jumping robots to achieve better mobility. To enable jumping, she demonstrated the quick release of a mechanical leg based on a silicon micro rubber band (see video here).

Finally, to avoid spending hours in a clean room, Bergbreiter is looking to develop fabrication techniques for the fast prototyping of novel robots, in particular with respect to challenges in scaling down robotic components for energy storage, actuation, power, sensing and control.

Aaron Hoover

Aaron Hoover is a research assistant in Prof. Ron Fearing’s lab at the University of California at Berkeley. His expertise lies in the use of novel manufacturing techniques based on smart composites, flexure joints and folding structures. Hoover’s efforts to mimic complex biological systems such as beetles that can run over a myriad of surfaces has culminated in the 2.4g RoACH hexapod robot. The RoACH is capable of crawling autonomously at 1 body length per second and can last for almost 10 minutes on a single charge. Check out a video of the RoACH in action!

Selkies

In the third quarter of the science fiction story “Selkies” by author Jack Graham, we meet researcher Sylvia Ochoa from the UN Marine Fisheries and follow Mangan in his endeavor to shark-proof his robot-seals. Don’t miss his other SciFi stories straight out of Cambridge MA on lonesomerobot.com, such as “arm” and “posthuman playground“.








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Latest News:

Visit the Robots forum for links, videos and discussions
about the wirelessly-powered robot swarm, the new robotic instrument which allows surgery on a beating heart and the iPhone’s robotic legs.

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July 18th, 2008

Robots: Modular and Reconfigurable Robotics

In today’s episode we focus on modular robotics, or robots assembled out of many smaller modules. Whether all the modules are the same (‘homogeneous’) or of different types (‘heterogeneous’), modular robots can accomplish many different tasks simply by adjusting their configuration. We speak with two experts in the field, Kasper Støy from Denmark and Robert Fitch from Australia.

Kasper Støy

Kasper Støy is an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark, famous for his pioneering work with self-reconfiguring modular robots such as the CONRO. Much of Kasper’s work involves the design of algorithms to control the locomotion or self-reconfiguration of modular robots into useful shapes, such as the simulated 747 seen below.



Støy shares his recent experience at the ICRA Contingency Challenge, a competition in which teams have only a few hours to solve an unexpected problem in a planetary environment using only the material they have at hand. To achieve this goal Støy’s team integrated several different types of modular robots, including the ATRON (seen below) homogeneous robot and his latest creation, the Odin heterogeneous robot. Along with some LEGO and a bit of duct tape, Støy’s team managed to put together a system that could potentially be used to complete tasks on Mars. Check out all their videos on the team’s YouTube channel.



Robert Fitch

Our second interview is with Robert Fitch who is a research fellow with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics in Sydney, Australia. Fitch received his PhD in computer science with Daniela Rus from Dartmouth College in 2004 and then held a research position at the National ICT Australia in Sydney. He presents his latest self-reconfiguring robot whose millions of simulated modules can make a large cube robot locomote in any type of environment. By changing its shape on the go, the large cube can ooze around and over obstacles without splitting. To render a system which is scalable in the number of modules, he has been looking at how to control the reconfiguration of his robots in a decentralized manner, possibly using learning techniques to automatically determine the interesting moves to make. Finally Fitch presents the envisioned applications and hardware implementations for his self-reconfigurable modular robots.

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Latest News:

Visit the Robots Forum for links and discussions about
Japanese worker-chasing surveillance robots, shopping from the comfort of your home with your robotic best friend and the Care-O-bot 3 advanced household robot presented in the podcast.

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