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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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 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.

Links:


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.

Links:


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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March 13th, 2009

Robots: The REEM-B and HUBO Humanoids

In this episode we talk about humanoid robots, or robots that resemble me and you, at least in some shape or form. We first speak with Davide Faconti, leader of the REEM project, one of the few European contenders in this field. We then speak with Jun Ho Oh from Korea who was the general chair of the last International Conference on Humanoid Robots for his snapshot view of the field. We then look at the HUBO humanoids developed in his lab.

Davide Faconti

Davide Faconti is a devoted robotics passionate and the leader of the REEM humanoid robot project. Having built his first humanoids when competing in the Robocup 2002 and 2003 championships, Faconti quickly moved on to bigger and better robots. Over the last 3 years he has been working with his team of engineers and researchers to build a new breed of humanoid robot from scratch. Sponsored by PAL Technology out of the United Arab Emirates but based in an office in Barcelona, the REEM lab has managed to produce two fully-functional prototypes, the REEM-A and REEM-B.

Even though 3 years of development by a small team is not much compared to some of the major humanoid projects such as the Honda ASIMO, the latest-version REEM-B robot sports some impressive and innovative features. Laser range finders integrated into the feet of the robot allow it to map its environment while walking. It’s payload is an impressive 12kg, while its battery life when unloaded is a full 2hrs. These functions were recently presented in a press conference in Abu Dhabi to a huge reception of journalists and VIPs including his Highness Sheik Tahnoun, and proved that humanoid robots are becoming mainstream worldwide. Check out the video below:



Jun Ho Oh

Jun Ho Oh is the director of the HUBO Lab and Professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) where he’s developed several versions of the HUBO humanoid, named by the general public. The latest version weighs 56kg and measures 125cm, has 10 independent fingers, 2 eyes (vision camera), and 41 degrees of freedom which allow it to walk and move its body parts. However, uncontent with being able to move on their own two legs, his robots can also hop-on a Segway-like vehicle and drive around. His latest robot, the HUBO-FX1 has even raised the bar in bipedal locomotion, by being able to transport people. By compensating for our human uneasiness and motion, the HUBO-FX1 turns out to be a large chair with human-like legs, capable of beating the best elephant rides.

His expertise with humanoids lead him to chair last year’s IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids08), strong of 200+ visitors, international exhibits and demonstrations. Based on this experience, we will be asking for his snapshot view on the state-of-the-art in humanoid robotics.

Links:


Latest News:

For more information and discussion on this week’s Robots news, including the new rescue robot enlisted at Yokohama fire department and Astrobotic’s lunar robot visit the Robots forum!

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