Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

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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June 5th, 2009

Robots: Autonomous City Explorer

Today marks Robots’ 1-year anniversary, so

Happy Birthday Robots!!

In today’s show we talk about a fresh and unique project coming from the Technical University of Munich under the supervision of Prof. Martin Buss. The Autonomous City Explorer or ACE, is a fridge-sized robot whose mission is to get around the city of Munich, but instead of using GPS or an in-built map, the ACE asks pedestrians for directions! Armed with stereo-vision cameras, a touch screen, and an inquisitive personality, ACE roams the city of Munich in search of Marienplatz, one of the city’s downtown pedestrian squares.

Our first guest and one of the leaders of the ACE project, Dirk Wollherr, tells us about the design and goals of the ACE robot. Our second guest, Astrid Weiss from the University of Salzburg, tells us about the sociological aspects of human-robot interaction and what it takes to make a robot that people actually want to communicate with and help find its way.



Dirk Wollherr

Dirk Wollherr is a senior researcher at the Technical University of Munich. Along with Kolja Kühnlenz, he’s in charge of the technical aspects of the ACE robot, including the sensors used for navigation and interaction with passerbys and the algorithms used to analyze gestures of human beings. Wollherr describes the intricacies of making a robot understand what humans perceive so naturally, such as pointing in the direction of a target. He also talks about the navigational challenges involved in traversing busy streets and ever-changing environments.


Astrid Weiss

Astrid Weiss is PhD student at the HCI & Usability Unit of the ICT&S Center at the University of Salzburg where she studies Human Robot Interactions under the supervision of Prof. Manfred Tscheligi. With her background in sociology, she’s become an expert in analyzing the impact of humanoid-like robots on society, their acceptance by humans and how usable they are. She was present during the ACE tests in Munich, interviewing people who helped the robot and getting their first impressions. She’ll be telling us why humans help the robot, and what are the important features and limitations of the current interactions with passerbys. Weiss is currently engaged in the EU-project ROBOT@CWE which aims at investigating concepts needed for humans and robots to work together in various environments.

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Latest News:

You can find many pictures of this year’s Maker Faire along with more information on the Dustbot and the Roadmap for US Robotics in the Robots Forum.

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May 22nd, 2009

Robots: Robot Actors at the Theater

In this week’s show we take a closer look at Robots, not the podcast but the play that has been playing to sold-out audiences in Switzerland over the last 3 weeks. We first speak with Christian Denisart, the director of the play, who describes what inspired him to do a play featuring robot actors. We then speak with Nicola Tomatis from Bluebotics, the company responsible for the robots themselves, who describes the technical challenges involved in creating 3 very different robot actors.

Christian Denisart

Christian Denisart is a Swiss theatre director who is very active in the french-speaking Swiss theatre scene. Born in France but with roots in Switzerland, Denisart’s career included singing and acting before he started directing his own plays. In 2001 Denisart founded a theatrical company named Les Voyages Extraordinaires to act as an umbrella under which he creates theatrical pieces.

Denisart’s most recent play, called Robots, has just finished a widely-successful three-week showing at the Barnabé Theatre. What makes Robots special and interesting to us is that 3 of the 5 main characters are mobile robots! It’s the story of a man so scared of human contact that he surrounds himself with robots, including Igor, a metallic butler, Bruno, a state-of-the art robotic dog, and Leila, a robotic recreation of a dancer. The man is in love with a woman, but discovers throughout the play that real relationships don’t quite work in the same way as his relations with his robots.

Robots has been widely covered in the press, including SwissInfo and Engadget. Plans are in the works to take the show on tour, so keep an eye out on your local theatre listings!

Nicola Tomatis

Nicola Tomatis is the CEO of the spin-off company Bluebotics SA based in Lausanne Switzerland. Their area of expertise includes ANT®, an innovative navigation solution based on laser scanners for mapping and moving an autonomous robot in its environment. Their portfolio includes tour guide robots, entertainment robots, robot butlers for parties, space robots and even robots that can bring you your coffee when you’re working hard at your desk. Their latest brainchildren are three robots developed for the play ROBOTS, an obedient robot dog, a distinguished servant and a sensual female. The robots are the result of a 10 year collaboration with the designers at the ECAL, automaton artist François Junod and Christian Denisart.

Nicolas Tomatis completed his PhD under the supervision of Roland Siegwart at the EPFL on “Hybrid, Metric – Topological, Mobile Robot Navigation”. He joined BlueBotics in 2001 and is CEO since year 2003.

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Latest News:

For more information on this week’s news, including Kawada Human Interactive Robot HIRO, as well as videos of ACE asking for directions to get around Munich and Metin Sitti’s micro-robots micro-robots playing soccer visit the Robots Forum.

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January 30th, 2009

Robots: Human-Robot Love

In this episode we look at a subject that doesn’t always come to mind when you think of robots: love and relationships. Our first guest David Levy is the author of the book Love and Sex with Robots which has received wide media attention in the past year because it predicts that humans and robots will soon engage in genuine relationships, both physical and emotional.

We then speak to robot anthropologist Kathleen Richardson from Cambridge about her review of Levy’s book and her take on the meaning and likeliness of human-robot couples.

David Levy

David Levy is best known for his many years as a Scottish International Master of Chess, but it’s his recent doctoral thesis entitled “Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners” at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands that has been getting him extensive media coverage lately. In an unusual combination of psychology, sociology and robotics Levy studied the dynamics of sex and relationships between humans and robots.
Levy tells us about his belief that robots will soon become a ubiquitous part of our society, and it will be common for people to have relationships and even marry their robotic partners. He explains the dynamics of relationships and sex as he sees them, and how they can be extended to relations with artificial partners or robots as they become more advanced and life-like. Finally he tells us in his own words what he hopes that people take away from his latest book Love and Sex with Robots.

Kathleen Richardson


Kathleen Richardson recently completed her doctoral studies in the department of social anthropology at the University of Cambridge during which she conducted fieldwork in robotic labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her thesis, “Annihilating Difference? Robots and Building Design at MIT”, examined the breakdown of boundaries between humans and non-humans through a study of robots. She has also given several talks on human-robot relationships and her work has been featured in the New York Times.

She’ll be presenting her review of David Levy’s book “Love + Sex with Robots” and will tell us why genuine love relationships between humans and robots are mostly unfounded speculations grounded in science fiction fantasies. She also discusses the attachment that humans can feel for “things” and the ambiguities that might raise.

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Latest News:

For a video of the net launching security robot, a video of the MDS robot Nexi, and more on the functioning of the MCMS micro-grippers have a look at our forum!

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April 11th, 2008

Talking Robots Podcast LogoTalking Robots: Personal Robots
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In this episode of Talking Robots we talk to Cynthia Breazeal who is an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA, where she founded and directs the Personal Robots Group at the Media Lab. With her creaturoids, animoids, humanoids and robotized objects, Breazeal has been working to make robots and humans team up in a human-centric way, work together as peers, and learn from one another. Breazeal’s work includes personal robots such as the very expressive Kismet, the Huggable™ robot teddy, Leonardo the social creature and the MDS (Mobile/ Dextourous/Social ) humanoid robot.

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