Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

June 4th, 2010

Robots: Online Human-Robot Interactions

Today’s episode was recorded at the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab in the middle of some beautifully expressive robots such as the Huggable, Tofu and Leonardo. There, we had a chance to speak with Sonia Chernova about the Mars Escape online game that is being used to learn about how humans and robots can work in teams. We then speak with Kenton Williams about the technical aspects behind one of their most expressive robots, Nexi.

Sonia Chernova

Sonia Chernova received her PhD from CMU, where she worked with Manuela Veloso (see Robots interview).

She is now working as a post-doc at the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab , directed by Cynthia Breazeal (see Talking Robots interview). At MIT, she’s looking at how to create robots that are able to assist and work with humans in a natural, predictable and robust way by gathering data through a new online game dubbed Mars Escape in a world premiere at using the Internet to study human-robot interactions. Anyone can participate in this experiment by taking on the role of a robot or an astronaut in an attempt to escape from their oxygen-deprived Mars-base without leaving anything important behind. Give it a try!

Using the data from thousands of players, Chernova will look at how to use the dialogs and actions performed online to generate a computational behavior model for each player. This model will then be tested online and then implemented in the Nexi Robot in a physical replica of the Mars Escape game that will be set-up in the Boston Museum of Science.

Finally, Chernova will be joining Worcester Polytechnic Institute as an Assistant Professor of Robotics Engineering in the fall of 2010.

Kenton Williams

Kenton Williams is expert in the bolts and nuts of Nexi. As a Mechanical Engineer, he will be telling us about the technical aspects and challenges behind the robot and his thesis on making Nexi learn physics!


Latest News:
For more information on this episode’s news, including videos of Anybots’ and Willow Garage’s telepresence robots and more information on Microsoft’s surprising move, visit the Robots Forum.

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May 21st, 2010

Robots: The Nao Humanoid

Today’s episode was recorded at ICRA in Anchorage Alaska, one of the major conferences in robotics with a 1575 head count and 857 papers. At the robot exhibit, we met with the Vice President in Engineering of French-based company Aldebaran, Luc Degaudenzi and with his colleague Cédric Vaudel who is the Sales Manager for North America. Aldebaran makes the Nao humanoid robot which has been seen at Robocup, showing off his soccer skills. We also talk with Nao in our first ever interview of a robot! Nao will be presenting himself and his version of Star Wars.


Listen in to our podcast where Nao will present himself and tell us a story in our first interview ever with a robot!

Nao has four microphones fitted into his head and a voice recognition and analysis system. He can also express himself by reading out any file stored locally in his storage space or captured from a web site of RSS flow. Nao sees by means of two CMOS 640 x 480 cameras, which can capture up to 30 images per second. He can react to touch by means of a capacitive sensor placed on the top of his head. Finally, Nao can communicate through infrared senders/receivers or also by logging on to your local network via Wi-Fi.

Luc Degaudenzi

Luc Degaudenzi is director of research and development at Aldebaran Robotics where he manages a crowd of around 40 people working on electronics, mechatronics and fun software for the Nao robot. Before working at Aldebaran, Degaudenzi worked in the mobile phone sector as technical and program director at Matra, Alcatel and Sony Ericsson. He’ll be telling us about the Nao platform, its possibilities and its first kicks at Robocup.

Cédric Vaudel

Cédric Vaudel is North America Sales Manager at Aldebaran Robotics.

After working for IBM for several years, he decided to take part in the robolution. Now, he coordinates business priorities and strategy deployment of Aldebaran Robotics in the whole region of America. He’ll be telling us about the origins of the name Nao and where he thinks the Humanoid market will be going in the future!


Latest News:

For more information on this episode’s news, including a video of ABB’s robot drummer as well as details on the promising echolocation device for robots and the 4 nanometer robot, visit the Robots Forum.

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May 7th, 2010

Robots: 50 Years of Robotics (Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of our 50th episode special! To celebrate 50 episodes of Robots, we’re doing a review of some of the greatest advances in robotics during the last 50 years, and predictions on what we can hope to see in the next half century. In last week’s episode we covered embodied AI, robot toys, androids, underwater robots, education robots and brain-machine interfaces.

In today’s episode we speak with Jean-Christophe Zufferey on flying robots, Dan Kara on the robotics market, Kristinn Thórisson on AI, Andrea Thomaz on human robot interactions, Terry Fong on space robotics and Richard Jones on nano robots.

Finally, don’t forget to check out all the new features of our website including episode browsing by topic, interviewee and tag or leaving comments under our blog posts or in the forum.

Jean-Christophe Zufferey

Jean-Christophe Zufferey is a researcher at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he works on cutting-edge research in Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs). His latest advances have led him to create the startup SenseFly that specializes in small and safe autonomous flying systems for applications such as environmental monitoring and aerial photography.

Dan Kara

Dan Kara is President of Robotics Trends and the Robotics Business Review, which are web-portals and research firms specialized in the robotics markets. He’ll be telling us about the past products which have marked the minds and the future developments that will be gathering the buck in the future.

Kristinn R. Thórisson

Kristinn Thórisson is Associate Professor at the School of Computer Science, Reykjavik University in Iceland.  Active in the field of Artificial Intelligence for a couple decades, Thórisson is pioneering new approaches such as constructivist AI which he hopes will bring us towards more adaptive and complex artificial systems.

Andrea Thomaz

Andrea Thomaz is professor at Georgia Tech and the director of the Socially Intelligent Machines Research Laboratory. Lately, she’s been seen with her new humanoid Simon and his expressive traits. We were able to catch her at this year’s ICRA conference for a little chat on the past and future of human robot interactions.

Terry Fong

Terry Fong is the Director of the Intelligent Robotics Group at the NASA Ames Research Center. As an expert in space robotics, he’ll be telling us about robots leaving the solar system to explore our universe and how humans and robots will work together towards this endeavor.

Richard Jones

Richard Jones is the author of the book Soft Machines: nanotechnology and life and a blog on the subject also named Soft Machines. From the University of Sheffield in the UK, where he is Professor of Physics, Jones has been looking at how to make nanoscale robots which can eventually be used in the body for medical applications.


Latest News:

For more information on this episode’s news, including a video of Kumagai’s balancing BallIP robots, McGill’s rapid ice sculpture prototyping system, and Stanford’s perching UAV as well as more coverage from the ICRA 2010 conference, visit the Robots Forum.

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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.


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!…”


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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