13 episodes

We don’t know how hard something is to do until we try it. That’s especially true when it comes to robotics.

Crazy Hard Robots tells the stories of crazy-smart people and the ‘crazy hard’ problems they solved when creating technology of the future. Listeners journey through the robotics ecosystem, exploring both common (“Will robots take my job?”) and uncommon topics (“The economics of robotics”), as we debunk the myths about what robots can and can’t do, and talk about innovations that are around the corner.

Crazy Hard Robots IAM Robotics

    • Technology
    • 5.0 • 3 Ratings

We don’t know how hard something is to do until we try it. That’s especially true when it comes to robotics.

Crazy Hard Robots tells the stories of crazy-smart people and the ‘crazy hard’ problems they solved when creating technology of the future. Listeners journey through the robotics ecosystem, exploring both common (“Will robots take my job?”) and uncommon topics (“The economics of robotics”), as we debunk the myths about what robots can and can’t do, and talk about innovations that are around the corner.

    Howie Choset - Robotics Professor, Entrepreneur and Inventor

    Howie Choset - Robotics Professor, Entrepreneur and Inventor

    Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is known all over the world for great research in robotics. Howie Choset is one of the most well-known robotics professors at CMU. For decades he and his students have taken on some of the most interesting and challenging research projects in robotics. They are well known for their many attempts to and iterations of building snake robots, and they are now working on robots for automating recycling tasks and more. Howie is even working on how to put snake robots on the moons of Saturn!  

    In addition to that, Howie and many of his students have founded robotics companies all over the world. From robotic surgery with snake robots, to navigation software, to modular robotic components, the companies Howie has helped found are solving super interesting problems. Tune in to Crazy Hard Robots to hear Howie and Tom talk about some of the hardest problems in the world of robots.  

    In this episode: The technical challenges of snake robots Starting a robotic surgery company Howie gives a live demonstration to compare how people think vs. robots Landing snake robots on the moons of Saturn   About Howie Choset  Howie Choset is a Professor of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University where he serves as the co-director of the Biorobotics Lab and as director of the Robotics Major. He received his undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Business from the University of Pennsylvania in 1990. Choset received his Masters and PhD from Caltech in 1991 and 1996. Choset's research group reduces complicated high-dimensional problems found in robotics to low-dimensional simpler ones for design, analysis, and planning. Motivated by applications in confined spaces, Choset has created a comprehensive program in modular, high DOF, and multi- robot systems, which has led to basic research in mechanism design, path planning, motion planning, and estimation. 

    This work has been supported by both industry and government; DOD support includes two MURIs, one of which Choset received the CO-PI, a young investigator award, and multi-PI awards for modular systems. Choset.s group has produced over 60 journal papers (including 2 in Science and one in Proceedings of the National Academies of Science), 180 conference papers and 15 patents. Choset.s work has also been recognized by several best paper awards and nominations at ICRA, IROS and other robotics meetings. Choset's research program has made contributions to challenging and strategically significant problems in diverse areas such as surgery, manufacturing, infrastructure inspection, and search and rescue. 

    In addition to publications, this work has led to Choset, along with his students, to form several companies including Medrobotics, for surgical systems, Hebi Robotics, for modular robots, and Bito Robotics for autonomous guided vehicles. Recently, Choset.s surgical snake robot cleared the FDA and has been in use in the US and Europe since. Choset also leads multi-PI projects centered on manufacturing: (1) automating the programming of robots for auto-body painting; (2) the development of mobile manipulators for agile and flexible fixture-free manufacturing of large structures in aerospace, and (3) the creation of a data-robot ecosystem for rapid manufacturing in the commercial electronics industry. This year, Choset co-lead the formation of the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute, which is a $250MM national institute advancing both technology development and education for robotics in manufacturing. Finally, Choset is a founding Editor of the journal Science Robotics.

    • 34 min
    Erin Bishop - Investor, Entrepreneur and Robot Storyteller

    Erin Bishop - Investor, Entrepreneur and Robot Storyteller

    In the world of robotics, Erin Bishop has seen it all. As an early leading product manager in autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) Erin quickly became a well known market influencer.  Since then, Erin has been a thought leader and trusted storyteller in the Silicon Valley robotics community. She helped found and invest in robotics startups, including several with successful exits. Now Erin is working with the high-powered team at nVidia to bring robotic simulation to the masses. Her experience has guided her to advocate for new capabilities that will bring the autonomous robotics industry to the next level.

    Tune in to Crazy Hard Robots as Erin Bishop, robotics expert, chats with Tom about simulating autonomous robots and the environments they impact.

    In this episode Erin and Tom discuss:


    Northstar simulation technologies for the future of robotics
    Working with Silicon Valley Robotics startups and being acquired by Google
    The business case for mobile robots and fleet management
    The FIRST Robotics competition
    The future of robots and Tesla’s humanoid robot ambitions

    About Erin Bishop

    Erin Bishop: Angel Investor, Serial Entrepreneur, and Robot Storyteller. Erin advocates the use of high-fidelity simulations so robot code updates can be verified and validated across thousands of procedurally generated scenarios in Unity, Unreal, or Nvidia ISAAC Sim. Erin has worked at DEKA, iRobot, Adept, Industrial Perception (acquired by Google), Sense Photonics (acquired by Ouster), and consults with robotics companies at various stages.

    • 47 min
    3 Key Factors for Robotic Picking, with Right Hand Robotics CTO, Lael Odhner

    3 Key Factors for Robotic Picking, with Right Hand Robotics CTO, Lael Odhner

    Right Hand Robotics is one of the leading companies in autonomous robotics, specifically autonomous grasping. Their robots are able to see and pick a wide range of products for eCommerce automation, and they do it completely by themselves. In this episode, the CTO of Right Hand Robotics, Lael Odhner, shares his experience and talks about how the company was founded and its early history. Lael is one of the few genius-level technologists driving the robotics engineering state of the art. Listen in to hear about how Lael and the team have changed the game with autonomous grasping by inventing some really unique hardware.   

    In this episode, Lael and Tom discuss:   

    Meeting professor Rob Howe from Harvard  Working on a DARPA autonomous grasping project  

    The different types of robotic hands and how they have evolved recently  

    Founding Right Hand Robotics  

    Three key factors to selling robotic grasping systems    



    Lael Odhner is a robotics researcher and designer with widely varied interests, including active material actuators, biologically inspired control systems, and robot hands. He attended Yale University as an associate research scientist where he and his team developed high-performance, low-cost robot hands for DARPA’s Autonomous Robotic Manipulation project. Dr. Odhner received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, where he also received his M.S. and B.S.

    • 40 min
    Craig Markovitz, CMU EIR & Blue Belt Technologies founder

    Craig Markovitz, CMU EIR & Blue Belt Technologies founder

    Craig S. Markovitz is an Entrepreneur in Residence in the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship and a Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).  He is also the inaugural Prosser Mellon Fellow at the RK Mellon Foundation as well as a Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship Specialist with the law firm of Troutman Pepper.

    Markovitz is co-founder of Blue Belt Technologies, Inc., a spinoff from the Robotics Institute at CMU and served as the company’s Chief Executive Officer for over 7 years.  In this capacity, he launched the company, raised capital, managed operations, and led a January 2011 merger with HealthpointCapital.  He then transitioned to Chief Operating Officer and helped to lead substantial growth of the company from pre-revenue and 18 employees to multi-million in revenue and 150 employees.  Craig was a key member of the deal team that led to an acquisition by Smith and Nephew, plc in January 2016 for $275,000,000.

    In addition, Markovitz was Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Spotlight Medical, Inc.  Spotlight was a spinoff company based on technology developed jointly by Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Pittsburgh.  He managed this company to a successful exit as well.

    • 35 min
    Saman Farid, Founder & CEO of Formic

    Saman Farid, Founder & CEO of Formic

    A venture capitalist turned robotics entrepreneur, Saman Farid witnessed the low adoption rates for robotics and saw an opportunity to help make robotic solutions easier to deploy. It wasn’t easy going from a venture capitalist to an entrepreneur. However, Farid realized he didn’t want to be a cheerleader for robotics companies, he wanted to be out on the playing field. After years of funding several successful advanced technology solutions, Farid took the leap and founded Formic, which combines financial innovation with a firm understanding of robotics in order to enable manufacturing customers to deploy and scale automation quickly and with minimal risk.

    Tune in to Crazy Hard Robots as Saman Farid, founder and CEO of Formic, chats with Tom about how his venture capital experiences led him to entrepreneurship.

    • 32 min
    Çetin Meriçli, CEO of Locamation

    Çetin Meriçli, CEO of Locamation

    Çetin Meriçli, Ph.D. is a co-founder and the CEO of Locomation. Formerly a Special Faculty – Commercialization Specialist at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, Dr. Meriçli has over 15 years of experience in developing and deploying complex robotic systems for real-world applications – and he has played key roles in over a dozen high profile applied robotics projects.

    His expertise can be read in over 40 publications on subjects covering his accomplishments including safe and efficient machine learning for robust robot autonomy and perception, robot learning from human demonstration and feedback, interactive learning, sliding autonomy through learning, long-term autonomy and lifelong learning, data-driven high-fidelity robot simulation, human-robot interaction, probabilistic robotics, multi-robot coordination and planning, and software engineering practices for robot software development.

    • 44 min

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