Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

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.

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January 1st, 2010

Robots: New Year’s Special

For this special episode, we’ll be speaking with three people who made it into Christine’s news section for a debriefing on why their robot was such a breakthrough and what they see coming up in 2010. Our first interview is with Cecilia Lashi, the co-coordinator of the Octopus European project that made the news with their soft bio-mimetic robotic octopus arm. Our second guest, Carl Morgan, is from the hobbyist community. He presents Joules, the sleek silver humanoid that rides behind your tandem bike and does all the pedaling. Finally, we speak with Carson Reynolds who is professor at the University of Tokyo, he’ll be telling us about his high-speed robotic hand with incredible dexterity.

Cecilia Laschi

Assistant Professor Cecilia Lashi joins us from the ARTS Lab at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, Italy, where her group takes inspiration from the sea surrounding them when creating robots. Their European Octopus project which they coordinate aims at developing soft robotic arms inspired by octopus muscles to create a robot with nearly infinite degrees of freedom. Laschi discusses their preliminary achievements with their latest robotic octopus arm that was featured in Robots news and her hopes for the future of soft robotics.


Carl Morgan

Carl Morgan was featured in the news this year for his elegant Joules robot that he developed in response to a bet with his pro-cyclist son. From his workshop in the basement, this retired electrical engineer built a kinetic sculpture which has the power to push a tandem bike and its rider up a hill with elegance and style. With more and more hobbyists diving into the bolts and nuts of robotics, he tells us how he hopes more and more people will be picking up their screwdriver in 2010.




Carson Reynolds
Our final guest brings us to japan which has attracted a large portion of this year’s news. Assistant professor Carson Reynolds from the Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory in Tokyo tells us about their work in high-speed visual servoing and their robot hand that can grasp a grain of rice with a tweezer or dynamically catch a flying mobile phone. He is hoping to see more high-speed control in the year to come, with dynamic systems approaching and even surpassing the speed and dexterity of human reflexes.

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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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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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March 27th, 2009

Robots: Learning with LEGO

In this episode we focus on engineering education at the elementary school level, and how robotics can play a key role in shaping the engineers of the future. We first speak with Chris Rogers, professor at Tufts University and developer of ROBOLAB, a framework for using LEGO Mindstorms sets to teach robotics in the classroom. We then speak with Liz Herron, the manager of the LEGO Education Center in Texas about her hands-on experience with kids and robots.

Chris Rogers

Chris Rogers is a professor of mechanical engineering at Tufts University in Massachusetts in the US. His research interests are broad, and he’s been seen studying fluid dynamics, the flight of insects and tele-robotics, but it’s his commitment to the engineering education of children that brought him on our show today.

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. Rogers tells us about the importance of science and engineering in the classroom, and how teachers can perhaps help shape the roboticists of tomorrow. He also talks a little about the LEGO NXT, the latest line of robotic kits from the company that can be seen in the video below:



Liz Herron

Liz Herron manages the first, and only, LEGO Education Center in the United States which serves the needs of children ages 3 – 12. The center focuses on math, science, and technology skills and offers several levels of robotics courses for children over the age of seven. With LEGO Mindstorms, they create nano-like robots to explore the human body, robot police dogs to help the community or robotic families. With imagination as a drive, the kids are actually learning about team work and engineering.

Herron has been in education for many years, teaching or supporting all elementary grades from pre-school through grade 6. Nominated for teacher of the year several times, her peers quickly honored her creative, innovative and passionate approach to education. Strong of this background, she’ll be telling us about her hands-on experience with the kids at the LEGO Education Center and the amazing solutions which they can whip-up.

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Latest News:

For more information and discussion on this week’s news, including videos of the first robot super model “walking” the catwalk, research on the biomimetic robotic octopus arm as well as the new type of artificial muscle visit the Robots Forum.

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