Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

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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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.

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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.

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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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November 6th, 2009

Robots: Stroke Rehabilitation

In today’s show we’ll be looking at robots used for the rehabilitation of stroke patients. Our first guest, Ludovic Dovat for the National University of Singapore is part of a multi-national team working on robotic devices that help patients regain the use of their hands. Our second guest, David Brown, is co-founder of Kinea Design near Chicago that makes a rehabilitation robot called the KineAssist. As a physiotherapist, he gives us his hands-on view on how robots can help patients re-learn to walk.

Ludovic Dovat

Ludovic Dovat has recently completed his PhD at the National University of Singapore, where he worked in conjunction with doctors and engineers from the Imperial College in London and Simon Fraser and McGill Universities in Canada on robotic systems designed specifically for hand rehabilitation for stroke victims. He tells us about three of the systems that they’ve designed and successfully tested with stroke victims to help them re-learn complex tasks such as handwriting, manipulation and coordination of their fingers.

Dovat explains that most stroke victims are sent home as soon as they are able to walk and do not have a chance to re-learn essential but more delicate tasks like gripping and writing due to the complexity and expense of rehabilitating the hand. His robotic systems are used in conjunction with physiotherapists to ease the recovery process for both victim and therapist and help patients lead fuller and ultimately happier lives while reducing the cost of the therapy.

David Brown

David Brown is co-founder of Kinea Design, Associate Professor in the Departments of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Science, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Northwestern University in Chicago.

He specializes in post-stroke disabilities and novel engineering that can help his patients get back on their feet. With a nice balance between his background in physiotherapy and academic science, he’s been in the field, with machines such as the KineAssist that can challenge patients with difficult walking exercices while catching them if they fall. Over the years, Kinea Design has been expanding their portfolio with products like arm prosthetics and haptic interfaces for DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program which Dean Kamen just recently presented in our show.

More generally, Brown tells us about his patients, colleagues and the market of rehabilitataion robots from a medical perspective.

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Latest News:

Have a look at the Robots forum for more information about iRobot’s move into healthcare robotics and Boston Dynamic’s PETMAN robot.

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July 31st, 2009

Robots: Smart Homes

In today’s episode we look at how technology can improve the quality of life of people with dementia. Our first guest, Roger Orpwood, is the director of the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, or BIME, in the UK. He presents his smart homes which are being used to help dementia patients stay independent and receive better care. Our second guest Andrew Sixsmith, is Professor at the Simon Fraser University in Canada. He was the leader of the INDEPENDANT project which looked into what it takes to insure the quality of life of elderly people.

Roger Orpwood

Roger Orpwood has been the Director of the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME) in the UK since 2004. BIME is an independent design and development charity working in the fields of medicine, health care and assistive technology for disabled people. By marrying research and product development, they have been pushing new technologies out the door to the people who really need it.
Nearly 300 projects have been completed since Orpwood joined the Institute, and over 100,000 products sold as a result.

Their latest endeavor has resulted in Smart Homes that are already improving the quality of life of people with dementia by making sure they don’t put themselves into harm’s way while guiding them in their everyday tasks. Within the belly of this robotic home, patients improve their sleep behavior and are able to stay independent for longer amounts of time.

Orpwood also discusses the intricacy of working in real world situations and highly multidiciplinary environments composed of care givers, doctors, engineers and patients. Finally, we look at what it means to do research and product development at the BIME and the beauty of performing the whole path from the lab to people’s home.

Roger Orpwood has visiting chairs in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath, and more recently in the School for Health.

Andrew Sixsmith

Andrew Sixsmith is the director of the Gerontology Research Centre at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, where he is developing ways of using technology to facilitate independent living of patients with dementia. Though keeping dementia patients safe is a priority, Sixsmith has also been looking at ways of increasing their quality of life. As part of the project INDEPENDENT for example Sixsmith developed a music-playing device designed specifically for dementia patients, who are not always capable of learning new complex interfaces such as those found in modern mp3 players. Sixsmith also talks about the importance of designing systems with the dementia patient’s experience in mind, and not that of the people taking care of them.

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Latest News:

For videos and discussion on the baseball robots, advertising on the moon and Evolta’s new adventure, visit the Robots Forum.

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