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Robots Podcast #141: Kendra Kerrisk on automatic milking

Posted 20 Oct 2013 at 00:36 UTC (updated 20 Oct 2013 at 00:59 UTC) by John_RobotsPodcast

Kendra Kerrisk with robot

Kendra Kerrisk, a member of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the The University of Sydney, developed a strong interest in the dairy industry while a student at Massey University in New Zealand, an interest which she continued to pursue during her doctoral studies at the University of Melbourne. Following that, she worked for Dexcel (formerly Dairying Research Corporation and now merged with Dairy InSight as DairyNZ), in New Zealand, on the world’s first pasture-based automatic milking system (AMS) research farm. She has contributed significantly to the body of knowledge regarding automatic milking systems in a pasture-fed diary context. As AMS Research Leader within the FutureDairy program, she has also contributed to the development of the world's first robotic rotary (Automatic Milking Rotary).

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Robots Podcast #140: Getting started with RobotGrrl

Posted 5 Oct 2013 at 19:27 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

In Robots Podcast #140, interviewer Sabine talks with Erin Kennedy at the Open Hardware Summit at MIT. Kennedy is famously know as RobotGrrl, the self-made roboticist and proud maker of the RobotBrrd, Buddy 4000 and BotBait. Starting at age 13, she taught herself programming, electronics, pcb design and mechanical engineering. She’s been sharing her passion for robotics through her blog and weekly G+ Hangout Robot Party that brings together robot enthusiasts to share their latest contraptions. She’s now bringing her work to the next level with robot kits commercialized through Indiegogo last year and funded at 151%.

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Robots Podcast #139: Dash Robotics

Posted 23 Sep 2013 at 01:52 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

photo of Nick Kohut at work

In Robots Podcast #139, interviewer Matthew Schroyer speaks with Nick Kohut, CEO of Dash Robotics, about their foldable hexapod robot and the ongoing crowdfunding campaign to get them into the hands of budding engineers, kids and hobbyists. The fours cofounders of Dash Robotics are all alumni of Ron Fearing’s Biomimietic Millisystems Lab at UC Berkeley.

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Robots Podcast #138: Construction with amorphous materials

Posted 9 Sep 2013 at 14:48 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

photo of Nils Napp

In this episode interviewer Sabine talks with Nils Napp from the Self-organizing Systems Research Group at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. Napp tells us about his project to create robots that can reliably build structures in uncertain, unstructured terrain. Just as termites can build complex structures using shapeless materials like mud, his robots build structures out of foam, toothpicks or bags of sand. As a first example, he’s been working on ramp building in chaotic environments remnant of disaster scenarios.

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Robots Podcast #137: Venture Capital

Posted 26 Aug 2013 at 01:12 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

photo of Diana Saracini

Diana Saraceni is a venture capitalist at 360 Capital Partners. In this interview she talks with Per about her first robotics investment, 3 years ago in Invendo Medical, and her views on how the market has changed since then. Hardware is now perceived as less risky, even though it is more challenging to scale than software. Recent success stories have further helped promote VC funding in robotics. Saraceni discusses the importance of the founding team, as well as their advisors, for the success of a company. Finally, she shares her view on open source vs. proprietary technology from a venture capitalist’s perspective.

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Robots Podcast #136: Drone Journalism

Posted 10 Aug 2013 at 21:39 UTC (updated 10 Aug 2013 at 21:40 UTC) by John_RobotsPodcast

photo of Matthew Schroyer with fixed-wing drone

In episode #136, Sabine speaks with Matthew Schroyer, founder of the Professional Society of Drone Journalists (PSDJ) and co-founder of Drones for Good. Matthew has a Master’s in journalism from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he works on the National Science Foundation grant called EnLiST, which offers entrepreneurial leadership training and professional development for K-12 STEM teachers. For EnLiST he has initiated the “Drones for Schools” program, which teaches core science and engineering concepts behind unmanned aerial systems.

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Robots Podcast #135: Jonathon Roberts, autonomous systems

Posted 28 Jul 2013 at 17:14 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

photo of Jonathon Roberts

“As Director of the Autonomous Systems Laboratory in CSIRO's ICT Centre [Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Information and Communication Technologies], Dr. Roberts leads more than 45 scientists and engineers. Research in this laboratory spans robotics, computer vision and pervasive computing technologies such as sensor networks. Dr. Roberts' particular research interest is in robot guidance systems so robots – including flying robots – can operate autonomously in unstructured and dynamic outdoor environments.” (From Dr. Roberts' page on the ICT website) Dr. Roberts was interviewed by Ron Vanderkley.

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MIT Study Locates Stored Memories in Brain

Posted 25 Jul 2013 at 22:14 UTC by steve

Scientists have long pondered the question of how and where the brain stores episodic memories, complex associations of objects, space and time. MIT research led by Susumu Tonegawa reveals new details of the location of both actual memories and artificially induced false memories within the hippocampus of a mouse brain. The image above shows the mouse's memory traces in red. Not surprisingly, the brain demonstrated exactly the same neural mechanisms for storage of real and false memories. So how are the memory associations made?

These associations are encoded by chemical and physical changes in neurons, as well as by modifications to the connections between the neurons. Compared to most studies that treat the brain as a black box while trying to access it from the outside in, this is like we are trying to study the brain from the inside out. The technology we developed for this study allows us to fine-dissect and even potentially tinker with the memory process by directly controlling the brain cells.

It has been suspected that memories were located in the temporal lobe since the 1940s when researchers discovered that electrical stimulation of the region caused patients to spontaneously recall past events. But proof of this theory had to wait until it was possible to demonstrate that the activation of specific hippocampal cells was sufficient to produce memories. The MIT researchers are using a new technique called Optogenetics to do just that. Understanding how biological memory works may lead to new breakthroughs in machine learning. Unfortunately the MIT paper is pay-walled but the abstract is available.

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Random Robot Roundup

Posted 23 Jul 2013 at 20:45 UTC (updated 23 Jul 2013 at 20:46 UTC) by steve

This week's roundup includes a lot of fun and interesting stuff! We've got insects, consciousness, language, sensory awareness, backflipping robots, and more.

  • Let's start with the backflipping. RoboJenny sent us this video of a robot doing some pretty amazing gymnastics.

  • Linguistics researchers have found that the origins of human language go back a lot further than we thought. Like 500,000 years back!

  • In a new paper (PDF format) from UK researchers studying insects, evidence that passive forces may be as or more important than muscle power in limb movement, with potential applications to robot limbs.

  • Roboticists in Brazil have proposed a new goal-driven attention model for robots that combines top-down and bottom-up features. They describe it in a new paper (PDF format).

  • RoboMetric let us know about their VisitorBot kickstarter to fund an open source telepresence robot.

  • The Daily Beast weighs in with the latest round of opinion pieces on whether or not robotics helps or hurts the economy (they say it hurts). PBS Newshour offered a more balanced and in-depth look at the complexities of the issue.

  • The always thoughtful and fascinating Conscious Entities blog recently posted a piece titled "What's wrong with Killer Robots?"

  • The Swirling Brain swirled up a story about robot waiters in Bangkok restaurants.

  • And, last up this week, a new paper (PDF format) on an interesting research project investigating new technologies for telesurgery with an experimental setup that relies on Wii Remotes.

Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please. Don't forget to follow us on twitter and Facebook. And now you can add us to your Google+ circles too.

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CMU Snake Robot Trial at Nuclear Power Plant

Posted 18 Jul 2013 at 16:27 UTC by steve

A CMU press release (PDF format) describes a recent field test of CMU's modular snake robot in which it navigates inside an Austrian nuclear power plant. The robot moved through pipes, open valves, and inside various types of vessels. The Zwentendorf nuclear power plant was built in the 1970s but never made operational and lacks any radioactive material, making it ideal for testing and training purposes. As this was the first field deployment test, the robots was limited to a maximum range of 60 feet but will make longer excursions on future tests. From the press release:

"Our robot can go places people can’t, particularly in areas of power plants that are radioactively contaminated,” Choset said. “It can go up and around multiple bends, something you can’t do with a conventional borescope, a flexible tube that can only be pushed through a pipe like a wet noodle"

The robot is 37 inches long, made up of 16 modules that have two half-joints each, giving the robot a total of 16 degrees of freedom. It can emulate the gaits of a natural snakes but can also configure itself in unique ways not possible for a biological snake. The snake bot relies on SLAM to assist it with navigation and carries a video camera and other sensors that allow it provide gravity-compensated video that's always right-side-up. You can see more photos on the press release media page. A more detailed report (PDF format) of the field test is also available. Read on for video of the snake bot in action.

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