DISRUPTIVE: BIO-INSPIRED ROBOTICS features three separate interviews with (1) RADHIKA NAGPAL, (2) ROBERT WOOD, and (3) CONOR WALSH

Written on October 7th, 2015

Disruptive radhika2   

Welcome to the second episode of my new monthly podcast series produced with Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

DISRUPTIVE: BIO-INSPIRED ROBOTICS features three separate interviews with (1) RADHIKA NAGPAL, (2) ROBERT WOOD, and (3) CONOR WALSH. 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

In this one, RADHIKA NAGPAL talks about her work Inspired by social insects and multicellular systems, including the TERMES robots for collective construction of 3D structures, and the KILOBOT thousand-robot swarm. She also speaks candidly about the challenges faced by women in the engineering and computer science fields.

In part two, ROBERT WOOD discusses new manufacturing techniques that are enabling popup and soft robots. His team’s ROBO-BEE is the first insect-sized winged robot to demonstrate controlled flight.

In part three, CONOR WALSH discusses how a wearable robotic exosuit or soft robotic glove could assist people with mobility impairments, as well as how the goal to create real-world applications drives his research approach.

The mission of the Wyss Institute is to: Transform healthcare, industry, and the environment by emulating the way nature builds, with a focus on technology development and its translation into products and therapies that will have an impact on the world in which we live. Their work is disruptive not only in terms of science but also in how they stretch the usual boundaries of academia.


– See more at:



Radhika Nagpal’s interview transcript


Written on November 26th, 2013


Aired: 11/24/13

After its recent IPO, Twitter is valued at nearly $25Billion. Now what is Twitter? Millions of tweets created and shared by users plus some ads. But how many users get a piece of that $25Billion? Well, none.

Where would Facebook be without Friends? What would Twitter, Amazon, Yelp, and any network whose value is based on our data, be without us – sharing photos and feelings, making purchases, registering opinions. More than programming or advertising, TV has always been about selling our eyeballs. Likewise, today’s online giants are selling our visits, our clicks, our shares.

JARON LANIER, in his new book, WHO OWNS THE FUTURE?, writes: “At the height of its power, Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. Today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography is Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”

He believes the emerging business model in which companies with relatively few employees profit off the participation of all of us, could doom any hope of a rebirth of the middle class. Lanier wants to solve a problem not many are talking about, and he envisions a radical solution — “a highly humanistic economy – one that will reward people for the valuable information they share with networks and the companies that control and profit from them.