Brains and machines: Back to neuromorphic engineering

Screen Grab from EETimes.After some time off to focus on teaching at UCL, in the last couple of years I’ve been starting to write about neuromorphic engineering (and other topics related to intelligent machines) again. This started at the beginning of 2018 when I wrote a case study on photonics in neuromorphic systems for my book on reporting on emerging technologies. Last year I wrote a feature for Nature Electronics delayed special issue on neuromorphic computing (now scheduled to come out this summer) and this year I’ve started writing for EETimes again. I commissioned a special project on the subject for them and have also started writing a regular column on Brains and Machines.

My passion for this subject is greater than ever, and I am working on a book on this subject. More as the work develops.


Cloning developmental robots

YaniCubI was at a conference about humanoid robotics, and particularly the iCub, yesterday and Mark Lee from the University of Aberystwyth was talking about the difficulties of ‘raising’ truly developmental robots: robots that learn about their bodies and environments through experience the way we do. This got me thinking.

Being an analog girl at heart, and given that robots have a lot of essentially analog components (even if they are driven with digital controllers), I’d always assumed that truly intelligent humanoids would haveto be raised developmentally. Each individual would have to learn about it’s unique set of motors and sensors and processors and what they could do and how they could interact with the world before they would be able go out and do things. Now I wonder if it has to be as drastic as that. Read More …

The iCub cometh

Sbopenbots_3I’ve been taking a break from writing to work on another project this spring and summer but managed to find the time to finish off a story about the iCub. This open-source robot is designed to allow academics to concentrate on implementing their theories about learning and interaction without having to focus on designing and building hardware, and is part of the general trend towards open source in the field. You can find out more by reading the full piece in EE Times.

Photo: The iCub is an artificial toddler with senses, 53 degrees of freedom, and a modular software structure designed to allow the work of different research teams to be combined.

From spinal cords to sofas

SofaThose of you interested in my last article on central pattern generator chips may also want to read a new piece I’ve written for EE Times, this time on the use of CPGs in modular robots. It partly covers the salamander robot built by Auke Ijspeert and his team EPFL (and widely reported on after an article about it appeared in Science), but goes on to discuss how CPG-based locomotion may is being used to make Roombots: modular, self-organizing furniture that can walk around on its own.

This kind of work is an important step in the evolution of modular robotics, which I first got a chance to write about some years ago. There are very real problems to be grappled with, both in terms of the electronic and the mechanical design. This article explains how the EPFL team are handling the control side of this problem.