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Listening like a Human, Playing like a Machine


In this episode, our interviewer Audrow Nash speaks to Gil Weinberg, Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Music and the founding director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology. Weinberg leads a research lab called the Robotic Musicianship group, which focuses on developing artificial creativity and musical expression for robots and on augmented humans. Weinberg discusses several of his improvisational robots and how they work, including Shimon, a multi-armed robot marimba player, as well as his work in prosthetic devices for musicians.

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Past and Present Podcast Team Members

Welcome to the 300th episode of the Robohub podcast! You might not know that the podcast has been going in one form or another for 14 years. Originally called “Talking Robots,” the podcast was started in 2006 by Dario Floreano and several of his PhD students at EPFL, in Switzerland, including Sabine Hauert, Peter Dürr, and Markus Waibel, who are all still involved in Robohub today.  Since then, the podcast team has become international, with most of its interviewers in the United States and Europe, and all of its members being volunteers.

To celebrate 300 episodes of our podcast, we thought we would catch up with some of our former, as well as current, volunteers from around the world to find out why and how they got involved in the podcast, how their involvement impacted on their lives and careers, and what they’re doing in their day jobs now.

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On the Novelty Effect in Human-Robot Interaction

From Robert the Robot, 1950s toy ad

In this episode, we take a closer look at the effect of novelty in human-robot interaction. Novelty is the quality of being new or unusual.

The typical view is that while something is new, or “a novelty”, it will initially make us behave differently than we would normally. But over time, as the novelty wears off, we will likely return to our regular behaviors. For example, a new robot may cause a person to behave differently initially, as its introduced into the person’s life, but after some time, the robot won’t be as exciting, novel and motivating, and the person might return to their previous behavioral patterns, interacting less with the robot.

To find out more about the concept of novelty in human-robot interactions, our interviewer Audrow caught up with Catharina Vesterager Smedegaard, a PhD-student at Aarhus University in Denmark, whose field of study is Philosophy.

Catharina sees novelty differently to how we typically see it. She thinks of it as projecting what we don’t know onto what we already know, which has implications for how human-robot interactions are designed and researched. She also speaks about her experience in philosophy more generally, and gives us advice on philosophical thinking.

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Using Natural Language in Human-Robot Collaboration


In this episode, we hear from Brad Hayes, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, who directs the university’s Collaborative AI and Robotics lab. The lab’s work focuses on developing systems that can learn from and work with humans—from physical robots or machines, to software systems or decision support tools—so that together, the human and system can achieve more than each could achieve on their own.

Our interviewer Audrow caught up with Dr. Hayes to discuss why collaboration may at times be preferable to full autonomy and automation, how human naration can be used to help robots learn from demonstration, and the challenges of developing collaborative systems, including the importance of shared models and safety to allow adoption of such technologies in future.

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A Robot to Help with Artificial Insemination

Source: CC0

In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Zhuoran Zhang, PhD student at the University of Toronto, about how robots can be used to assist in artificial insemination. Zhang discusses how precise robotic manipulators can be used to extract a single sperm and how sperm can be evaluated for fitness using computer vision. Zhang also discusses his future plans.

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Robot Operating System (ROS) & Gazebo


In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Brian Gerkey, CEO of Open Robotics about the Robot Operating System (ROS) and Gazebo. Both ROS and Gazebo are open source and are widely used in the robotics community. ROS is a set of software libraries and tools, and Gazebo is a 3D robotics simulator. Gerkey explains ROS and Gazebo and talks about how they are used in robotics, as well as some of the design decisions of the second version of ROS, ROS2.

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On Design in Human-Robot Interaction


In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Bilge Mutlu, Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, about design-thinking in human-robot interaction. Professor Mutlu discusses design-thinking at a high-level, how design relates to science, and he speaks about the main areas of his work: the design space, the evaluation space, and how features are used within a context. He also gives advice on how to apply a design-oriented mindset.

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Halodi Robotics’ EVEr3: A Full-size Humanoid Robot


In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Bernt Børnich, CEO, CTO, and Co-founder of Halodi Robotics, about Eve (EVEr3), a general purpose full-size humanoid robot, capable of a wide variety of tasks.  Børnich discusses how Eve can be used in research, how Eve’s motors have been designed to be safe around humans (including why they use a low gear ratio), how they do direct force control and the benefits of this approach, and how they use machine learning to reduce cogging in their motors.  Børnich also discusses the longterm goal of Halodi Robotics and how they plan to support researchers using Eve.

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ERICA: A Robot Made to Look Human

In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Dylan Glas, Senior Robotics Software Architect at Futurewei Technologies and former chief architect for the ERICA android in the ERATO Ishiguro Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction Project, about his work on ERICA, a realistic android robot.  Glas discusses how ERICA was designed, the uncanny valley, the software architecture of ERICA, and some of the research studies that ERICA has been involved in.

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Misty II: A Robotics Platform for Developers


In this episode, Audrow Nash speaks with Ian Bernstein, Founder and Head of Product at Misty Robotics, about a robotics platform designed for developers called Misty II.  Bernstein discusses the motivation behind making a robotics platform for developers (relating it to personal computers), Misty II’s hardware extensibility and software “skills,” and the future direction of Misty Robotics.

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A Social Robot Companion for Older Adults



In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Dor Skuler, CEO and co-founder of Intuition Robotics, about a socially assistive robot for older adults named ElliQ. Skuler discusses the motivation for ElliQ, how it infers context and changes its behavior accordingly, and how ElliQ adapts its behavior over time.

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Semantics in Robotics



In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Amy Loutfi, a professor at Örebro University, about how semantic representations can be used to help robots reason about the world.  Loutfi discusses semantics in general, as well as how semantics have been used for a simulated quad rotor to do path planning within constraints.

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Safe Robot Learning on Hardware



In this interview, Audrow Nash interviews Jaime Fernández Fisac, a PhD student at University of California, Berkeley, working with Professors Shankar Sastry, Claire Tomlin, and Anca Dragan. Fisac is interested in ensuring that autonomous systems such as self-driving cars, delivery drones, and home robots can operate and learn in the world—while satisfying safety constraints. Towards this goal, Fisac discusses different examples of his work with unmanned aerial vehicles and talks about safe robot learning in general; including, the curse of dimensionality and how it impacts control problems (including how some systems can be decomposed into simpler control problems), how simulation can be leveraged before trying learning on a physical robot, safe sets, and how a robot can modify its behavior based on how confident it is that its model is correct.

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IROS 2018 Exhibition (Part 3 of 3)


In this interview, Audrow Nash interviews Ryan Gariepy, Lars Grimstad, and Péter Fankhauser.

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Presented work at IROS 2018 (Part 3 of 3)



In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Pauline Pound, Philippe Morere, and Yujung Liu about the work they presented at the 2018 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) in Madrid, Spain.