Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

April 23rd, 2010

Robots: 50 Years of Robotics (Part 1)

Today we celebrate the 50th episode of ROBOTS!

For the occasion we speak with 12 scientists about the most remarkable developments in robotics over the last 50 years and their prediction for the next half-century. This 50th special is split into two episodes with the second half airing in two weeks.

Today we’ll be talking to Rolf Pfeifer on robotics in general, Mark Tilden robot toys, Hiroshi Ishiguro on androids, Oscar Schofield on underwater robots, Steve  Potter on brain machine interfaces and Chris Rogers on eduction robots. Our next episode will give you a snapshot view on nano robots, AI, flying robots, human robot interactions, robot business, and space robots.

We’ve also upgraded our website so that you can easily browse through episodes by topic, interviewee, tag or just listen to one of our favorites, so have a look!

You can interact with the ROBOTS community by leaving comments directly under episode posts or on our new sleek forum. To do both, just log-in once in the top bar of the website.

Rolf Pfeifer

Rolf Pfeifer is Professor at the University of Zurich where he directs the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He pioneered a new approach to artificial intelligence (“New AI”), which emphasizes the role of embodiment and argues that thought is not independent of the body, but tightly constrained, and at the same time enabled by it.

Mark Tilden

Mark Tilden is a famous robot inventor who builds new robots on a daily basis. He pioneered a philosophy for making simple and reactive robots and tagged it BEAM robotics (which stands for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics). Lately, Tilden has been making famous products such as the Robosapien and Femisapien robots at WowWee.

Hiroshi Ishiguro

Hiroshi Ishiguro is professor at Osaka University in Japan where he directs the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. Ishiguro is most know for his near-real Androids which closely resemble human models, including himself, his daughter and a famous news anchor. Geminoid F, his latest model, was recently featured in the blogosphere.

Oscar Schofield

Oscar Schofield is Professor of Bio-Optical Oceanography at the Rutgers Coastal Ocean Observation Lab or COOL lab at Rutgers University.

Schofield is an expert in underwater robots, taking part in recent projects such as the Scarlet Knight glider which crossed the Atlantic Ocean fully autonomously while dodging fishing nets, strong currents and even the occasional shark.

Steve Potter

Steve Potter is the Director of the Potter Group which is part of the Laboratory for NeuroEngineering, a collective research unit shared between Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Having interfaced robots to in-vitro neurons, Potter talks about the field of brain-machine interfaces and its potential impact in medicine and neuroscience

Chris Rogers

Chris Rogers is a professor of mechanical engineering at Tufts University in the US.

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.

Links:


Latest News:

For more information on this episode’s news, including videos of the PR2 robot folding towels and Honda’s U3-X robot and links to the MIT Personal Robotics group’s Mars Escape game, have a look at the Robots Forum.

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March 12th, 2010

Robots: The Future of Artificial Intelligence

In this episode we stray into the realm of artificial intelligence, what it means, its early beginnings and where it may be going in the future. We speak with Kristinn R. Thórisson from Reykjavik University in Iceland who’s been involved in the AI scene for the last 20 years. He tells us about some of the great advances, but also some of the disappointments in the field, and where he thinks AI will be used in the near future. We then attempt a closing definition on the question “What is a Robot?” with Prof. Wendelin Reich from the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Kristinn R. Thórisson

Kristinn R. Thórisson is Associate Professor, School of Computer Science, Reykjavik University in Iceland. After completing his doctoral studies at the famous MIT Media Lab, Thórisson has gone on to found several companies specialising in AI as well as two separate AI labs in Iceland (CADIA and IIIM). Thorisson leads us on a guided tour of AI since it’s inception in the 50s, through ages of promise and darkness, to where it’s at right now. He also talks about his own research into constructivist AI and where he hopes to see AI in the future, from wide-ranging fields such as simulation or even governance at a national scale.



What is a Robot?

This week we received an excellent “Robot” definition from Wendelin Reich who is professor in social psychology at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study at Uppsala University, Sweden.


A robot is an artificial, physically embodied ‘agent tool’. In other words, a thing that a large number of people call a ‘robot’ tends to satisfy the following criteria:

(1) It can be described as an ‘agent’ [more precisely put: it displays the typical properties of objects which we humans, and other animals, were evolutionarily designed to view as agents: self-propelled motion; goal-orientation; instrumental rationality etc.*];

(2) it is a physical object [as opposed to a virtual agent etc.];

(3) it has been constructed by someone else [humans or aliens, but not biological evolution];

(4) it fulfills a function for this someone [which makes it a ‘tool’];

(5) and it is, or is expected to be, under ultimate control by this someone [that is, a robot is autonomous only to the extent that we allow it to be so, and a ‘rogue robot’ is, by definition, an undesirable aberration].

At ROBOTS we’re pretty convinced with this definition and would like to know what you think! Therefore, we’ve started a discussion topic on our forum that you can use to debate this definition and all the other great ones we’ve received that are listed below. Sincere thanks to all the contributors who made this debate possible!


“A robot is a physical machine manipulated to automatically perform an undesirable work function that supports a desired human outcome.” Kevin Makice

“A reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move material, parts, tools, or specialized devices through various programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks.” Robot Institute of America, 1979

“A robot is a physical apparatus designed to perform a specific function. Functional complexity varies greatly – from the simple repetitive task involving little or no embedded software, to a set of complex tasks requiring decisions to be made based on parameters sensed in real time. These tasks and decisions may involve cooperation with other robots and/or assistance from one or more humans either directly or remotely.”

“A robot is an intelligent machine that moves, reacts and interacts with its environment in an autonomous manner.” Pius Agius

“A robot must be able to sense its environment, understand that environment and make calculated and intelligent decisions to affect that environment or its position within that environment while producing useful work without human intervention.”

“A robot is a machine with a very small and very powerful processor (and or sensing devices) with an equivalent powerful software program mounted on a strong flexible frame or chassis which out performs all present machine of its time in all parameters/categories (accuracy, easy to program or instruct/easy controls,intelligent,reliable)”

“I think a robot should have a certain amount of autonomy, or be preprogrammed enough to do some work by itself. If it’s completely remote controlled, it shouldn’t be called a robot. I’m bringing this up because it seems like there are a lot of machines being used in the military and by police to disarm bombs and such, which, from what I gather, are really just remote controlled. Am I right? They look like what we think robots should look like, because they have arms and they’re mobile. But my opinion is, if they can’t really do anything on their own, they shouldn’t be called robots!…”

Links:


Latest News:

As always, more information on this episode’s news including 100+ years Popular Science archives, Japan’s Kojiro anthropomimetic robot and the open-source Roomba-enhancing project Gåågle Bot can be found on the Robots Forum.

View and post comments on this episode in the forum

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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.

Links:


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December 18th, 2009

Robots: Weight-Loss Coach

Take the 5-minute survey to help us improve ROBOTS!

With the holiday season ahead of us and Christmas dinners already started, many of us are starting to feel the pinch at our waistlines and are planning some ambitious weight-loss goals as New Year’s resolutions. To help with those resolutions, today’s show will focus on robotic help for losing weight! We speak with Cory Kidd from Intuitive Automata about his robotic weight-loss coach that can help you take those pounds off and keep them off, and may take your Roomba‘s place as your new robotic best friend.

We’ll also be holding a Christmas contest for a chance to win two kits to build tiny hyperactive bug-like robots offered by Didel SA. For a chance to win, just tell us “who created the giant 6-legged robot” featured in one of our episodes this year at contest@robotspodcast.com.

Cory Kidd

Photo: Sam Ogden

Cory Kidd is a recent Ph.D graduate from the Personal Robotics Group at MIT’s Media Lab, where he studied human-robot social interaction and the use of robotic interfaces to help people lose weight. He tells us about how his prototype robotic weight-loss coach drastically improved the chance of success of weight loss, as well as his new company Intuitive Automata that will be commercializing the product.

During his Ph.D studies Kidd designed Autom, a sociable robot who’s sole purpose is to help you keep track of your diet, stay motivated and achieve your personal weight-loss goals. Autom is embedded with learning algorithms that adapt to your personality and your progress, as well as years of research in human-machine interaction to help you connect with the robot and take it seriously when it recommends your daily diet!

Kidd tells us about how people react to inanimate objects as soon as you put a set of eyes on them and which aspects of embodiment are important in creating a true bond between a human and a robot which ultimately aids the robot in succeeding in its task. He also speaks about a study he conducted using a prototype version of Autom and how it performed compared to traditional weight-loss techniques such as pen-and-paper or a virtual avatar on a computer screen.




Introducing Autom™ from Erica Young on Vimeo.

Contest

Don’t miss our Christmas contest for a chance to win two robot Kits offered by Didel SA.


With the first kit, you’ll make a tiny “Bimo” robot that runs around like a hyperactive bug using two motors. The kit contains a radio controller and all the electronic components which you’ll need to build your robot. You’ll need your own soldering iron so make sure you have that handy. Once you’ve built your robot, you can reprogram its microcontroller if you’re unhappy with its original behavior.

In the second kit, you’ll be designing legs for a vibrating robot called the Milpat Veloce. Think out of the box and you might be strapping all types of slippery or hairy surfaces under the robot for maximum speed, climbing or hopping.

Two win these two kits just answer to the following question by email at contest@robotspodcast.com. We’ll be randomly picking a contestant with the correct answer on the 1st of January.

Links:


Latest News:

For more information on today’s ROBOTS news, including Festo’s CyberKite’, Arimaz’s MyDeskFriend Pingo and the TETRA Micromouse visit the Robots forum!

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November 20th, 2009

Robots: Learning

In this episode we speak with two experts in robot learning. Andrea Thomaz from Georgia Tech looks at how humans can teach and humanoids learn with the hope to create good human-robot interactions. We then speak with Sethu Vijayakumar from the University of Edinburgh about machine learning and how it can be used to teach a robot hand to balance a pole.

Andrea Thomaz

Andrea Thomaz is professor at Georgia Tech and the director of the Socially Intelligent Machines Research Laboratory. With a foot in human-robot interactions thanks to her PhD and Post-doc at MIT with Cynthia Breazeal, Thomaz went on to design her own humanoid-creature named Simon augmented with an amazing designer head and flanked with the most expressive ears you’ll be seeing anytime soon. Simon features an articulated torso, dual 7-DOF arms, and anthropomorphic hands from Meka Robotics.


With Simon and other humanoid robots such as Junior, she is looking at how to make social robots that can learn from humans in their everyday environment. With this endeavor in mind, her lab is studying how humans actually teach and draws conclusions that could be useful when designing future machine learning algorithms. She is also taking inspiration from nature to make robots that can learn in an incremental manner by observing and reproducing what people in their environment are doing, similar to what happens when you put two kids together in a playpen.

Andrea Thomaz is also the author of the Blog “So, Where’s My Robot?” where she posts thoughts on social machine learning. Finally, she was awarded the prestigious “MIT Tech Review 2009 Young Innovators Under 35“.

Sethu Vijayakumar


Sethu Vijayakumar is the Director of the Institute of Perception, Action & Behavior in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh and an associate member of the Institute for Adaptive & Neural Computation. With the Statistical Machine Learning and Motor Control Group there he’s been looking at how robots can learn complex tasks such as balancing a pole using an anthropomorphic arm. His pursuit of the holy grail in machine learning has brought him to tackle the intricacies related to highly changing and dynamic environments. Because of this, his research interests span a broad interdisciplinary curriculum involving basic research in the fields of statistical machine learning, robotics, human motor control, Bayesian inference techniques and computational neuroscience. Finally, he’ll be telling us more generally how machine learning is different from human learning and what he sees as the next steps in this area with a short escapade in the world of prosthetics.

Since August 2007, he holds a Senior Research Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering, co-funded by Microsoft Research in Learning Robotics.

Links:


Latest News:

For more information on the autopsy-performing Virtobot, a great video of the Pac Man Robot Game and to revisit some of 2009′s memorable robots, including SCRATCHBOT, Festo’s Robot Penguins, the Wirelessly controlled Beetle and Robot Fashion Model HRP-4C have a look at the Robots forum!

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