Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

October 5th, 2012

Robots: Rethink Robotics - Transcript

In today’s episode we speak with Rodney Brooks at the offices of Rethink Robotics about their first product Baxter, his ambition to revolutionize manufacturing and latest tips for young entrepreneurs.

Rodney Brooks
Rodney Brooks built his career as Professor in robotics and former Director (1997 – 2007) of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and then the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). In the 1980s, he revolutionized the field of robotics by introducing the idea that the world is its own best model, and that to be robust, robots should react to their environment (behavior-based robotics) rather than rely on complex models of the world. From this research in behavior-based robotics, Brooks then studied human-robot interactions with former graduate students, now well known researchers, such as Cynthia Breazeal and Maja Mataric. He is also a Founder, former Board Member (1990 – 2011) and former CTO (1990 – 2008) of iRobot.

In 2008, Brooks founded Rethink Robotics, a Boston-based company aimed at revolutionizing manufacturing and reducing offshoring by making low-cost robots that can easily be taught to help with different tasks on the work-floor by everyday employees. Their first product “Baxter” has five cameras and two arms, each with 7 degrees of freedom, a payload of 5 kg and equipped with interchangeable manipulators.

In this interview, Brooks tells us about his vision for manufacturing and the design decisions that were taken to address challenges such as vision, manipulation, and human-robot interactions. Businesses will need to “rethink” their idea of automation before embracing adaptable, compliant and human-like robots rather than typical assembly-line super-performers.

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April 20th, 2012

Robots: Bringing them to Market

Following up on Episode 99, this episode features Steven Cousins and Roland Siegwart, whom we had the pleasure to meet at the SCHUNK Expert Days, organized by SCHUNK GmbH this spring. Our interviews bring to surface the dynamic interplay of academia and industry – we talk about the transition from the research lab to the market. Listen in and find out which robotic applications are bound to make great breakthroughs soon!

Steve Cousins

Steve Cousins is the President and CEO of Willow Garage. He earned his PhD in Computer Science at Stanford University, and has gained experience as a researcher and manager in both academic and industrial research labs. Prior to joining Willow Garage, Steve was the senior manager of the User-Focused Systems Research Group at the IBM Almaden Research Center, one of the top human-computer interaction research groups in the world. Earlier, Steve managed the Advanced Systems Development Laboratory at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Willow Garage is an unusual company set up to make robots help people. Human-scale “personal robots” will perform tasks in natural human environments, ranging from helping around the home to assisting in flexible manufacturing. Willow Garage’s role has been to help accelerate progress in this field. The PR2 robot combined with the open source Robot Operating System (ROS) enables researchers to more quickly explore applications of personal robots.

Roland Siegwart

Roland Siegwart is the Vice President of Research and Corporate Relations at ETH Zurich, and the director of the Autonomous Systems Lab. He received both his Diploma in Mechanical Engineering and his Doctoral Degree in 1989 from ETH Zurich. He then spent one year as postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. Back in Switzerland, he worked part time as R&D director at MECOS Traxler AG and as lecturer and deputy head at the Institute of Robotics, ETH Zürich. In 1996 he was appointed as professor for autonomous microsystems and robots at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) where he served among others as member of the direction of the School of Engineering (2002-06) and funding chairman of the Space Center EPFL.
Roland Siegwart is a member of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences, IEEE Fellow and officer of the International Federation of Robotics Research (IFRR). He served as Vice President (2004/05) and AdCom Member (2007/10) of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, and was a member of the final decision body of the German Excellence Initiative. He is co-founder of multiple successful spin-off companies in robotics and related fields and board member of various Swiss institutions and foundations, including CSEM and inspire AG. He is a strong promoter of project based learning as a key asset in engineering education and sustainable industrial alliances for accelerating technology transfer and innovation.

Roland Siegwart’s research interests are in the design and control of robots and systems operating in complex and highly dynamical environments. His major goal is to find new ways to deal with uncertainties and enable the design of highly interactive and adaptive systems. Prominent application examples are walking quadrupeds, personal and service robots, planetary exploration robots, autonomous micro-aircrafts and driver assistant systems.

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April 6th, 2012

Robots: History and Outlook

In today’s episode we speak with two authorities in robotics, George Bekey and Rodney Brooks about the last 50 years of robotics, the ongoing robot revolution and future prospects.

George Bekey

George Bekey is one of the father of robotics. In the 1960s, he designed and built the first four-legged robot in North America. He later founded the Biomedical Engineering Department and the Robotics Research Laboratory at the University of Southern California.

His laboratory designed and built several five-fingered robot hands and developed grasping theory. Their work included a knowledge-based approach to grasping and the use of robot hands as models for prosthetic hands. He also worked with his students to develop an autonomous helicopter, study gait control in legged robots and create a walking machine governed by genetic algorithms. His experience led him to write a book on Autonomous Robots published in 2005.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Bekey was chosen by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to lead a 2005-2006 assessment of the state of robotics in the United States, Western Europe and the Pacific Rim. The team’s findings culminated in a report to its federal sponsors on American competitive advantages and weaknesses on the international stage.

He retired after 40 years as a full-time faculty member at USC and continues to be active in his community and in his profession. He currently serves on the advisory boards of several robotics and high-tech companies.

In this interview, we discuss the history of robotics and his vision of the future with emphasis on bio-inspiration, learning, human robot interactions and ethics.

Rodney Brooks

Rodney Brooks has been one of the main actors in the field of robotics over the past 30 years. He received degrees in pure mathematics from the Flinders University of South Australia and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1981. He held research positions at Carnegie Mellon University and MIT, and a faculty position at Stanford before joining the faculty of MIT in 1984 where his work focused on computer vision, artificial intelligence, robotics, and artificial life.

Brooks was the director of the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (C-SAIL) Laboratory until 2007 and one of the founders of iRobot. He is currently the founder, chairman and CTO of Heartland Robotics that aims to revolutionize manufacturing and increase productivity of industries using robots that are teachable, safe and affordable.

Per was able to briefly meet with Brooks at the RobotDalen conference in Sweden. A video of Brooks’ keynote can be found below.

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December 16th, 2011

Robots: Turning Robots into Products

In today’s episode we look at robots made by Adept Technology Inc. with Product Marketing Manager, Erin Rapacki. She tells us about what it takes to make robots a product.

Erin Rapacki

Erin Rapacki has had a dream career, setting foot in many top robotics companies, including DEKA, iRobot, Anybots and now Adept Technolog Inc. where she is Product Manager.

Adept has been around for 28 years and is mostly known for its robot arms. She tells us about the future of manufacturing and current developments in soft manipulators.

Beyond the industrial world, Adept has been building expertise in mobile robotics. Their main platform, the Adept MT series, is able to autonomously navigate in human environments. The idea is to provide partners with a platform that solves core navigation challenges and can be extended with specialized payload. Example applications include transporting samples in hospitals, providing telepresence for specialists, and industrial scenarios.

Finally, Rapacki develops on her recent article on the Automaton blog entitled Dear Reader, I Have News for You: Robots Are Boring. In particular, she discusses the media hype surrounding robotics and the need to give people respect for robotics by showing them useful “boring” systems. We’ll also be thinking about the need for researchers to ask real world questions and the potential for cloud robotics.

Holiday Robots

Like last year, we ask our listeners to submit videos or audio related to robotics and the holidays! Content can be fictional, scientific or business oriented. We’ll be posting the material on our dedicated YouTube channel and select segments will be featured in the episodes until the end of the year. To submit material, simply go to www.robotspodcast.com/christmas or send us your material by email to christmas@robotspodcast.com.

Check out our first submissions below or go to our YouTube Channel.

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November 4th, 2011

Robots: Made in Brazil

In today’s show, we take you all the way to Brazil. Marcelo Becker from the University of São Paulo (USP) talks to us about how mobile robots are going to help change agriculture, manufacturing and driving in his country. We then speak with Marcel de Sena Dall’Agnol a student at USP about the excellent robotics competition they organized at SEMATRON, which is a mechatronics conference organized by USP undergraduates.

Marcelo Becker

Marcelo Becker is Professor at the University of São Paulo, one of the top universities in Brazil. He directs the Mobile Robotics Lab that aims towards real-world applications with potential positive impact. His projects focus on agricultural mobile robots, educational robots, intelligent warehouses forklifts, quadrotors and autonomous cars with partner FIAT. More broadly, Becker discusses the growing interest for robotics in Brazil, public perception and the future of the field.

Before joining USP, Becker was Professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais (PUC Minas) where he was also the co-head of the Mechatronics Engineering Department and of the Robotics and Automation Group (GEAR). He also was visiting Professor at the Autonomous System Lab (ASL) at the EPFL in 2006.

Marcel de Sena Dall’Agnol

Marcel is a third year student in EECS at the University of Sao Paolo. This year he was one of the organizers of SEMATRON VII, a week-long series of activities directed towards students in Mechatronic Engineering in São Carlos and nearby cities. During the week, students at the University of São Paulo have their lessons suspended in order to fully participate in the event which offers lectures, courses, a cultural activity and technical visits to companies. The event is one of the largest of the kind in Brazil, with around 500 participants. Internationally renowned companies such as FIAT, National Instruments, Embraer and Petrobrás have sponsored the event in past editions.

In this interview, we will be talking about one of the main attractions, the robotics competition. During the one-day event, students gather around robotic kits made by local company PNCA. The kits let students build robots from scratch and come with an easy-to-use programming interface. The task this year, inspired from the Fukushima disaster, was to retrieve victims from a nuclear power plant while avoiding hazards.

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