Newton Howard is the director of the Mind Machine Project (MMP) started in 2009 to revisit fundamental assumptions about the nature of the brain, cognition, computing, and intelligence. The project focuses on four areas of expertise including Mind, Memory, Body, and Brain/Intent with world renowned experts from a wide range of fields joining forces to create Artificial Intelligence (AI).
In our conversation, we look at mistakes made in the field of AI up to date, smart materials, the importance of understanding the brain to recreate intelligence, and hopes that this understanding will lead to breakthroughs in the medical field.
Over the years, Newton has studied the “physics of cognition”, the “theory of intention awareness” and Psychiatry at universities around the world including the University of Paris 1 – La Sorbonne, Oxford and George Washington University. He currently holds a position at the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms where his research interests include wet computers, brain language and brain interfaces.
Ari Requicha is the founder of the Laboratory for Molecular Robotics (LMR) at the University of Southern California which is a an interdisciplinary center whose ultimate goal is to control the structure of matter at the molecular scale. For the past 20 years, his research has been aimed at pushing the limits of the infinitely small, by developing systems for manipulating and automatically assembling nanoscale objects using Atomic Force Microscopes (AFMs). The ultimate goal is to design components such as nanosensors and nanoactuators for the nanoscale robots of the future.
However, a single nanorobot won’t be nearly enough to achieve any real-world application, such as monitoring your body for harmful bacteria. Therefor, Requicha is investigating algorithms for programming self-assembling and self-repairing distributed systems composed of large numbers of nanorobots.
In this interview, he gives us an expert’s overview of the field, from his perspective as editor-in-chief of IEEE Transactions on Nanotechnology and tells us about the future of molecular manufacturing and nanorobots.
Grégory Mermoud is a PhD student at the Distributed Intelligent Systems and Algorithms Lab at the EPFL, Switzerland. Mermoud’s research focuses on developing efficient and original methodologies for modeling and engineering self-organization and self-assembly of a broad range of systems from distributed robotics, micro/nanosystems, chemical systems, to intelligent agents.
During his interview, Grégory Mermoud gives us his views on the remaining challenges in the domain. Based on his ongoing research experience, he talks about which specific problems have to be studied in more depth in order to lead to potential breakthrough applications for nanorobotics.
With the holiday season ahead of us and Christmas dinners already started, many of us are starting to feel the pinch at our waistlines and are planning some ambitious weight-loss goals as New Year’s resolutions. To help with those resolutions, today’s show will focus on robotic help for losing weight! We speak with Cory Kidd from Intuitive Automata about his robotic weight-loss coach that can help you take those pounds off and keep them off, and may take your Roomba‘s place as your new robotic best friend.
We’ll also be holding a Christmas contest for a chance to win two kits to build tiny hyperactive bug-like robots offered by Didel SA. For a chance to win, just tell us “who created the giant 6-legged robot” featured in one of our episodes this year at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Sam Ogden
Cory Kidd is a recent Ph.D graduate from the Personal Robotics Group at MIT’s Media Lab, where he studied human-robot social interaction and the use of robotic interfaces to help people lose weight. He tells us about how his prototype robotic weight-loss coach drastically improved the chance of success of weight loss, as well as his new company Intuitive Automata that will be commercializing the product.
During his Ph.D studies Kidd designed Autom, a sociable robot who’s sole purpose is to help you keep track of your diet, stay motivated and achieve your personal weight-loss goals. Autom is embedded with learning algorithms that adapt to your personality and your progress, as well as years of research in human-machine interaction to help you connect with the robot and take it seriously when it recommends your daily diet!
Kidd tells us about how people react to inanimate objects as soon as you put a set of eyes on them and which aspects of embodiment are important in creating a true bond between a human and a robot which ultimately aids the robot in succeeding in its task. He also speaks about a study he conducted using a prototype version of Autom and how it performed compared to traditional weight-loss techniques such as pen-and-paper or a virtual avatar on a computer screen.
Don’t miss our Christmas contest for a chance to win two robot Kits offered by Didel SA.
With the first kit, you’ll make a tiny “Bimo” robot that runs around like a hyperactive bug using two motors. The kit contains a radio controller and all the electronic components which you’ll need to build your robot. You’ll need your own soldering iron so make sure you have that handy. Once you’ve built your robot, you can reprogram its microcontroller if you’re unhappy with its original behavior.
In the second kit, you’ll be designing legs for a vibrating robot called the Milpat Veloce. Think out of the box and you might be strapping all types of slippery or hairy surfaces under the robot for maximum speed, climbing or hopping.
Two win these two kits just answer to the following question by email at email@example.com. We’ll be randomly picking a contestant with the correct answer on the 1st of January.
In today’s show we’ll be looking at robots used for the rehabilitation of stroke patients. Our first guest, Ludovic Dovat for the National University of Singapore is part of a multi-national team working on robotic devices that help patients regain the use of their hands. Our second guest, David Brown, is co-founder of Kinea Design near Chicago that makes a rehabilitation robot called the KineAssist. As a physiotherapist, he gives us his hands-on view on how robots can help patients re-learn to walk.
Dovat explains that most stroke victims are sent home as soon as they are able to walk and do not have a chance to re-learn essential but more delicate tasks like gripping and writing due to the complexity and expense of rehabilitating the hand. His robotic systems are used in conjunction with physiotherapists to ease the recovery process for both victim and therapist and help patients lead fuller and ultimately happier lives while reducing the cost of the therapy.
He specializes in post-stroke disabilities and novel engineering that can help his patients get back on their feet. With a nice balance between his background in physiotherapy and academic science, he’s been in the field, with machines such as the KineAssist that can challenge patients with difficult walking exercices while catching them if they fall. Over the years, Kinea Design has been expanding their portfolio with products like arm prosthetics and haptic interfaces for DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program which Dean Kamen just recently presented in our show.
More generally, Brown tells us about his patients, colleagues and the market of rehabilitataion robots from a medical perspective.
Rainer Konietschke is part of the team at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics of the German Aerospace Centre working on the MiroSurge project, whose goal is to design a new generation of surgery robot for minimally-invasive surgery. Current endoscopic surgery is difficult for surgeons because they must work with long slender instruments that provide little feedback, and have a limited view of the operating area through a single camera. Konietschke and his colleagues’ goal with the MiroSurge is to overcome these limitations through robotics.
The MiroSurge robotic surgery system can provide a surgeon with 6 degrees of freedom inside a patient. Two of the robotic arms feature force capture sensors, which provide force feedback to the surgeon, putting him back in contact with the tissue being manipulated. The third robotic arm features a pair of cameras that provide the surgeon with a 3-dimensional view of the interior of the operating area. Konietschke tells us about the ultimate ambition of the MiroSurge project, which is to have a robot that can track a beating heart and compensate for its motion, allowing a surgeon to operate on it without having to stop the heart! He then wraps up the interview by speaking about soft actuators that allow surgeons to move the robot arms around manually with as much effort as moving a feather.
Woong Youn Chung
Woung Youn Chung is surgeon and Associate Professor at the Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, Korea. His resent success published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons has been to develop a robot-assisted method to treat hundreds of patients with thyroid cancer using the Da Vinci robot by Intuitive Surgical. The Da Vinci robot is actuated by arms that can perform precise and minimally invasive surgery and are teleoperated by a surgeon through a console with 3-D vision and joystick-like buttons and pedals. He’ll be telling us what the advantages, disadvantages and challenges are when using such medical robots and how technologies, such as those developed by Rainer Konietschke, can help in the field of surgery.