DISRUPTIVE: BIOINSPIRED ROBOTICS
Host Terrence McNally interviews Radhika Nagpal. Podcast published July 27, 2015.
Hello, welcome to DISRUPTIVE the podcast from Harvard’s Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering. I’m your host, Terrence McNally.
The mission of the Wyss Institute is to: Transform healthcare, industry, and the environment by emulating the way nature builds.
Our bodies — and all living systems — accomplish tasks far more sophisticated and dynamic than anything yet designed by humans. By emulating nature’s principles for self-organizing and self-regulating, Wyss researchers develop innovative engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing.
They focus on technology development and its translation into products and therapies that will have an impact on the world in which we live. At the Wyss, folks are not interested in making incremental improvements to existing materials and devices, but in shifting paradigms. In this episode of DISRUPTIVE, we will explore: BIOINSPIRED ROBOTICS.
Many of the most advanced robots in use today are still far less sophisticated than ants that “self-organize” to build an ant hill, or termites that work together to build impressive, massive mounds in Africa.
From insects in your backyard, to creatures in the sea, to what you see in the mirror, engineers and scientists at Wyss are drawing inspiration to design a whole new class of smart robotic devices.
We’re going to explore this exciting territory in a three-part episode of DISRUPTIVE, featuring three members of the Wyss faculty, CONOR WALSH, ROBERT WOOD, and RADHIKA NAGPAL.
Today’s guest, Radhika Nagpal is the Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Bioinspired Robotics Platform Co-Leader and a Core Faculty member at the Wyss Institute. Naming her one of the ten scientists and engineers who “made a difference” in 2014, NATURE Magazine wrote that her “self–organizing, swarm robotics are today’s state of the art in collective artificial intelligence.”
Radhika is developing programming paradigms that enable new types of autonomous robotic systems to mimic the collective behaviors of living creatures to meet real-world challenges. Inspired by social insects and multicellular systems, she’s developing sensor networks that monitor the environment, and robots that collectively construct or self-assemble complex structures without human supervision. Her recent work includes the Termes robots for collective construction of 3D structures, and the Kilobot thousand-robot swarm.
Welcome, Radhika Nagpal to DISRUPTIVE…In order for listeners to get a sense of you as a person, beyond your work and ideas, Rahdika, can you take us back and tell us a bit about your path?