Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

July 13th, 2012

Robots: Launching Startups

Today we talk with Andra Keay, founder of Robot Launch Pad, robotics startup accelerator based in Silicon Valley, about latest events, lean startup methodology, funding, and gender.

Andra Keay
Andra Keay is a Robot Startup Evangelist passionate about growing robotics, one startup at a time. Supported by key actors in the field including Erin Rapacki and Ryan Calo, Robot Launch Pad aims to bridge the software, web and mobile startup worlds of Silicon Valley and San Francisco with the robotics community and the flourishing local maker sphere. In this interview, Keay tells us about the excellent startup events organized by Robot Launch Pad in April including the Robot Retreat, the Robot Block Party, Mega Startup Weekend and a Cloud Robotics Hackathon. She brings us into her world of lean startup methodology, minimum viable products and tells us about the importance of women in science.

Before launching Robot Launch Pad, Keay completed her Master of Digital Cultures in the area of Human-Robot Interactions at the University of Sydney. Her project on “the Naming of Robots” explored how roboticists express identity and gender through their technology. Passionate about robotics for a long time, she has also been running science and robot workshops for children since 1995, including coaching competition teams in Moonbots, First Lego League and RoboCup Jnr.

Finally, don’t miss Andra Keay’s other blogs, Robot State and Andragy.

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June 1st, 2012

Robots: Robotic Fish and Mannequins

In today’s episode we talk to Maarja Kruusmaa about robotic fish and the robotic mannequin they are developing at Fits.me, alongside with Diana Saarva, the COO of Fits.me.

Maarja Kruusmaa

Professor Maarja Kruusmaa is the head of the TUT Center for Biorobotics in Estonia and the R&D Director of Fits.me. She accomplished her PhD in 2002 in Computer Engineering in Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, before becoming professor in 2008 at Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia.

She is now involved in the FILOSE, robotic fish locomotion and sensing project, whose team attempts to build robots that mimic how fish react and adapt to the water flow around them. In the first part of the interview Professor Kruusmaa talks about why they are using a novel, soft and compliant body approach for robotic fish rather than the more common linked chain. She describes how this embodiment helps reduce the computational load and how it allows them to make a simpler and cheaper robot that is more reliable than a more rigid version would be. We also hear about opportunities that come from sensing and adapting to the flow and the advantages of robotic fish compared to conventional UAVs, before talking about possible applications, such as underwater archeology.

Professor Kruusmaa is the R&D Director of Fits.me since 2009, working alongside COO Diana Saarva. They have created a virtual fitting room which enables users to virtually try on clothes before buying them, with the help of shape-shifting robotic mannequins which can grow from slim to muscular in just a few moments. This allows buyers to enter their measurements and see what clothes would look like on them.

Fits.me robotic mannequin

In the second part of the interview, Professor Kruusmaa and Diana Saarva talk about the Fits.me idea. It is particularly interesting to hear about how they developed the cooperation between the technology/research side and the entrepreneurs/business side.

Diana Saarva

Diana Saarva and the Fits.me mannequin

Diana Saarva joined Fits.me in September 2009, and became the COO in 2011. She is responsible for supervising and coordinating all client operations and developing new business development.

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Thanks David!

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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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January 13th, 2012

Robots: From Reasearch to Industry in the AUV Market

Today David Lane from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh talks about his journey from research to business and back. He talks about how he got started in offshore work and robotics research and how that led him to develop new smarts for existing hardware. David shares his personal view on how the Thunderbirds, diving and the space race contributed to his focus on underwater technology. He also discusses his research on autonomous underwater vehicles, involving software architecture for decision making as well as complex sensors for understanding the world around you and underwater communication.
Further, David shares his experience of starting the company SeeByte, including the important first customer acquisition. In developing a working commercial solution, bridging the gap between where the university stops and industry starts, was an essential component.

David in the Ocean Systems Laboratory

David in the Ocean Systems Laboratory

David Lane

David Lane graduated in 1980 with a BSc in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and again in 1986 with a PhD in Underwater Robotics. In 1979 he worked offshore in the North Sea as diver/maintainer for British Oceanics Ltd, and from 1980-82 as a Development Engineer at Ferranti Ltd. From 1982 he held a series of research and academic appointments, culminating in a Professorial Chair at Heriot-Watt University in 1998. In 2001 he founded SeeByte Ltd and as CEO until 2010 led the company’s organic evolution from startup to a multi-million dollar organization. He is now at the Ocean Systems Laboratory.

His technical interests are in autonomous systems, sensor processing and underwater robotics. Over a 30 year period he has published widely in the scientific literature, making contributions in underwater vehicle control, servoing, docking and obstacle avoidance. He has developed flexible actuator sensing and control technology for novel robot gripper and biomimetic underwater propulsion applications. In sensor processing, he has led projects applying novel signal processing and data fusion methods using sonar and video systems to marine science and mine countermeasures detection and visualization. He has also led work on robot architecture, autonomous planning and SLAM navigation, culminating in practical automated systems working offshore performing inspection, repair and maintenance.

This interview focuses a lot on the business side of robotics and Davids journey from research to industry and back.

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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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