Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

December 19th, 2008

Robots: Robot Toys

In the spirit of the holiday season, today’s episode is all about robots as toys. We speak to Mark Tilden, robot designer at WowWee Robotics, about designing robots for children, and what he thinks that scientists and researchers can learn from the toy industry. We are also holding a contest to give away his latest creation, the Femisapien, to one of our listeners, so read all about it below.

Mark Tilden

Mark Tilden is a true robotics lover, having built thousands of robots of all shapes and sizes in the last few decades. During the first part of his career he pioneered BEAM robotics (which stands for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics), a philosophy of building robots based on simple analog circuits and control instead of highly-complex systems, leading to low-cost and efficient systems. His bio-inspired bots manage to walk, crawl, roll or shake in complex environments using only a few transistors and basic sensors.

After working at the University of Waterloo in Canada and subsequently at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Tilden’s research eventually evolved into toy design when he was hired as a consultant for WowWee robotics in Hong Kong. His RoboSapien humanoid robot was controlled using only 28 transistors, and has sold in the millions. In our interview Tilden tells us about the difference between robotics in scientific research and in the toy industry. He also speaks about his latest creation, the Femisapien, and how he hopes to interest young girls in the field of robotics.

Christmas Contest: Win a WowWee FemiSapien

Guess what our Femisapien did on her first weekend in Switzerland for a chance to win one! Answers can be posted on our forum as a description, video, drawing or picture until Thursday the 1st of January noon (GMT). The closest guess wins and the most creative posts will be encouraged. A short video will be posted on the 2nd of January to reveal the winner and the correct answer.


Further reading:

Latest News:

Further information on the robots mentioned in this episode on the Robots robot forum, including robot actors, dancers and performers around the world, a web version of the “Japan: Robot Nation” show, and a list of our favorite last minute robot Christmas presents as well as other recommendations for the holiday season around the web.

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November 7th, 2008

Robots: Androids, Human Presence and the Uncanny Valley

This episode covers android science and human-robot interactions with expert Hiroshi Ishiguro from Osaka. After the interview we feature the last installment of Jack Graham’s Selkies story, as well as a poll on the future of Androids.

Hiroshi Ishiguro

Hiroshi Ishiguro is Professor of the Department of Adaptive Machine Systems, and the group leader of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University.

If you’ve ever seen an Android robot in the news, it probably came out of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. Starting from the robotic replicate of his then 5 year old daughter, Prof. Ishiguro then went on to model a female android after Ayako Fujii, the NHK news announcer. Finally, his latest robot Geminoid, which is a close copy of himself, is able to replace its creator in lectures and interviews.

His robots are highly actuated to give them human like facial expressions and reflexes. However, because the AI needed to interact in a human-like manner is not always advanced enough, Prof. Ishiguro has been looking to partially teleoperate his robots. Another approach investigated is to make his robots autonomous by having them perceive and react to their world thanks to networks of cameras and microphones.

Using these robots as a tool, Prof. Ishiguro has been exploring the field of Android Science, which looks at both the appearance and behavior of humanoid robots and their impact on human robot interactions. In particular, he is looking to verify the existence of the uncanny valley and to explore how to make androids which sufficiently resemble humans to be likable. On the more philosophical side, his androids open the door to understanding what human presence really means.


What is your take on androids? Will androids ever become indistinguishable from humans, both in looks and behaviour? Will they become unrecognizable like the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica, or remain awkward like Data from Star Trek? Take the poll on the Robots forum!


In this last installment of the Jack Graham’s Selkies story Mangan sets his Selkies free with a new schooling algorithm in a sea full of sharks. Will this new generation of robotic swimmers escape the jaws of the sharks? Tune in to find out…


Latest News:

As always, you can find more info on the robots mentioned in this episode on the robot forum, including what may be your future robot
, Australia’s anti IED robot SPIKER as well as videos and a slideshow of 25 years of CMU’s Field Robotics Center.

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July 4th, 2008

Robots: Robot Soccer

To close this year’s soccer season after Spain’s victory in the EUROCUP we went to the robotic kingdom to see who was driving the game. With Prof. Manuela Veloso from Carnegie Mellon University and President-Elect of
the International RoboCup Federation, we’ll be looking behind the scene of the best known competition in robot soccer. Finally, we’ll be discussing the future of artificial dribblers and their odds against the human 2050 world champions with a poll and discussion on our forum.

Manuela Veloso

Robot SoccerManuela Veloso is Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, President-Elect of
the International RoboCup Federation and leader of the Coral Research Group (Cooperate, Observe, Reason, Act, and Learn). Since the first official Robocup soccer games in 1997, she’s been active in presenting teams to the Sony AIBO 4-legged league, the smallsize league, simulation league and Segway league with a great success at adding stars to the shirts of her robotic players with numerous first places in world and US championships.

In this episode we’ll be focusing on CMDragons’ cookie-box-like omni-wheeled robots from the small size league and their off-board perception.

We’ll also be looking at how the CMDash team has tamed the AIBO robot dogs to perceive their world and cooperate in a decentralized manner. Veloso gives us some insight on the challenges related to competing against different opponents and the need for teams to adapt during the games.

Finally, since the AIBOs are no longer produced, the RoboCup Federation is now making way for the Nao humanoid as the next challenging platform in robot soccer along with other research driving leagues such as the Nanogram league previously featured in Talking Robots (see Brad Nelson‘s interview).


Do you think robots will be able to beat humans at soccer by 2050?


View results

More discussions on this topic on our forum.


Latest News:

Visit the Robots Forum for links and discussions about
Pixar Animation’s Wall-E Robot Movie, the cutest robots as selected by TIME magazine and the 2008 European Robot Football Cup mentioned in the podcast.

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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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March 28th, 2008

Talking Robots Podcast LogoTalking Robots: Therapy Robots for Autism
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In this episode we interview Kerstin Dautenhahn who is Research Professor in the School of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences at University of Hertfordshire in the UK, where she is a coordinator of the Adaptive Systems Research Group. Autism is a developmental disorder affecting around 91 people in every 10,000, mainly causing difficulties in social interactions, communication and imagination. Using therapy robots in the AuRoRA project, Dautenhahn has been pushing autistic children to learn essential social skills such as turn taking, joint attention and imitation. Armed with a lot of patience and zeal, her team has been adapting their robots and therapy sessions to each individual child, whether it’s about playing with wheeled robots or Dautenhahn’s toddler-sized Kaspar humanoid. She also presents her new project on Interactive RObotic social MEdiators as Companions (IROMEC) which looks at how autistic children can learn to cooperate and interact with each other through the introduction of a robotic mediator.


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