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AIC Seminar Series

The Wizkid Robot

Frederic KaplanOZWE[Home Page]

Notice:  hosted by Yasmina Chitti

Date:  Monday, April 27th 2009 at 4:30pm

Location:  EK255 (SRI E building)  (Directions)


Although great progress has been made on keyboards, monitors and mouses in recent decades, user-computer relationships are stuck on one major hinge: regardless of technological advances, it is always the user who must make a move, both physically and mentally, to the computer, and adjust to the machine’s environment. Engineer Frédéric Kaplan and designer Martino d’Esposito are determined to reverse this process. The Lausanne-based duo (Kaplan is an artificial intelligence researcher at EPFL, the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne; d’Esposito is a designer who also teaches at ECAL, the University of Art and Design Lausanne) have started designing machines able to identify their user, put forward choices and perform services. A prototype robot named "Wizkid" had a first outing in February 2008 on the occasion of the “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Frédéric Kaplan, working within the EPFL CRAFT Laboratory, applied the findings of his academic and industrial research in the field of advanced interfaces to QB1, combining robotics and artificial intelligence. Martino d’Esposito, contributing his joint experience as industrial designer and lecturer at ECAL, created the machine’s formal language to enhance its new status in relations with humans. The type of 3D gesture interaction featured in QB1 is based on several inventions developed at EPFL over the past two years. Several Swiss high-tech companies were involved in the development of the hardware parts of the machine, among them the robotics firm Bluebotics. The high potential of this new generation of machines led Frédéric Kaplan and Martino d’Esposito to found the company OZWE together – a spin-off from EPFL – to open up marketing prospects and to build upon the support the project has received from its inception at the EPFL+ECAL Lab, an innovative venture bent on leveraging both of the Lausanne-based schools’ assets by executing common projects. Nicolas Henchoz, the Director of this joint lab, explains that “Design too often comes into consideration only a step beyond the engineer’s work. This project combines both skills at every strategic stage”.

   Bio for Frederic Kaplan

Frédéric Kaplan graduated as an engineer of the Ecole Nationale Supérieur des Télécommunications in Paris and received a PhD degreee in Artificial Intelligence from the University Paris VI. After ten years of research at the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris, he now supervises a new team on interactive furniture at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). In his research, he has been exploring technologies endowing objects with a personal history, thus creating ecosystems in perpetual evolution thanks to differentiation and learning processes. In parallel with his research in artificial intelligence, Kaplan collaborates with developemtal psychologists, ethologists, neuroscientists, designers and architects. He authored two books available in French, "La naissance d’une langue chez les robots" ("The Birth of a Language Among Robots") (Hermes, 2001) and "Les machines apprivoisées: comprendre les robots de loisir" (Tamed Machines: Understanding Entertainment Robots") (Vuibert, 2005). Martino d’Esposito is the co-founder of Lausanne-based design agency D’Esposito & Gaillard. A product design graduate from the Lausanne University of Art and Design (ECAL), d’Esposito designs objects and furniture for companies such as Ligne Roset, Cinna, Neweba and Monodor. He also rejoined ECAL on the faculty side and is currently a Professor in the Industrial Design department of the school.

   Note for Visitors to SRI

Please arrive at least 10 minutes early as you will need to sign in by following instructions by the lobby phone at Building E. (or call Wilma Lenz at 650 859 4904, or Vicenta at Lopez at 650 859 5750). SRI is located at 333 Ravenswood Avenue in Menlo Park. Visitors may park in the parking lots off Fourth Street. Detailed directions to SRI, as well as maps, are available from the Visiting AIC web page. There are two entrances to SRI International located on Ravenswood Ave. Please check the Builing E entrance signage.

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