Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting and well done! I found this course to be very interesting and covered a broad array of topics related to robotics. The professor was excellent and captured my interest from the begining. He was passionate and very knowledgeable. Totally enjoyable!
Date published: 2020-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Step-by-step Usable Lessons I've thought of getting this course for a few years now and glad I finally did. Professor John Long explains how a variety of robots are built, their many applications, and a glimpse at future robotic technology.
Date published: 2020-05-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good introduction The course provides a good introduction to Robotics. The Robotics Department at Vassar College seems to be a bit underfunded, and it shows. However, the lecturer does a good job with the rather meager resources available.
Date published: 2020-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I bought this a while back but never had time to go over it more thoroughly. I found it to be a nice introduction and kept things within my grasp. I have gone through 17 lectures at this point and feel motivated to learn more - and I bet there is a lot of that! I would love to advance my telescope GOTO mount and the course is giving me ideas.
Date published: 2020-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent beginning for understanding robotics As a retired mechanical engineer I have background in most of the concepts introduced in the course, but Professor Long pulls them all together in a series of highly interesting lectures. Many of the lectures made me aware of trade-offs in robot design that I would not have appreciated before. The use of commercially available robots make the series even more relevant and interesting.
Date published: 2019-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect l This is my favourite course so far..enthusiastic professor, great demonstrations and explanations
Date published: 2019-07-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Past,Present and Future The wonderful thing that appeals to me about The Great Courses ,are the varieties of educational choices that are available. I particularly enjoy, History,Science , and Culture. These three subjects link the past, present and future. Robotics does the same, skillfully weaving all three. Robotics is a generalized introduction to the subject. Will it enable your 12 year old to build a Star Wars style robot, like the evil General Greivous? Not really, would you be able to build a robot female from this course, or companion- as in Metropolis, not really. But there are hints of coming attractions alluded to in this area. This course will inspire further study and possibly a future career in research or Interplanetary exploration. It is enthusiastically presented, and thought provoking.
Date published: 2019-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I got the course last week and already about 1/2 way through it. I found it interesting and well explained. I have purchased other Great Courses and find all of them put together well.
Date published: 2019-02-25
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Course Trailer
The Arrival of Robot Autonomy
1: The Arrival of Robot Autonomy

Plunge into the world of robots with this engaging introduction. When did we start thinking about robots? What three components are responsible for so many advances in robot design? Why is behavioral autonomy so essential to the development of modern robotics?...

39 min
Robot Bodies and Trade-Offs
2: Robot Bodies and Trade-Offs

Why just watch robots when you can understand how they actually work? Deconstruct a Roomba to learn the five functional categories of parts all robots need. Then, explore a universal lesson about robotics: because robots can't do everything well, trade-offs (such as simplicity versus maneuverability) are always involved....

33 min
Robot Actuators and Movement
3: Robot Actuators and Movement

Investigate robot actuators: the motors and transmissions that underlie all robotic movement. You'll learn about the early use of springs as motors in automata; how electricity spins the magnets that make motors move; how movement defines what a robot is; and different types of motors (including DC and servo motors)....

33 min
Robot Sensors and Simple Communication
4: Robot Sensors and Simple Communication

Intelligent behavior in robots is rooted in the sensors that determine how much robots know about the world around them. Professor Long demonstrates how sensors work to communicate across the electromagnetic spectrum, including through infrared (like in Roombas) and visible light (for underwater robots that communicate using flashing blue lights)....

31 min
Robot Controllers and Programming
5: Robot Controllers and Programming

What turns a remotely controlled machine into an autonomous robot? Self-control. So where does self-control in robots come from? Find out in this lecture on robot controllers: the computer-like part of robots that uses sensory information to decide how the robot should achieve its immediate and long-term goals....

31 min
Human-Inspired Robot Planning
6: Human-Inspired Robot Planning

In robotics, the most important problem mobile robots must solve is how to navigate, or move with purpose, in the world. Here, learn how simultaneous localization and mapping (using internal models, beacons, and dead reckoning navigation) is the key to a robot's autonomy in both structured and exploratory situations....

31 min
Animal-Inspired Robot Behavior
7: Animal-Inspired Robot Behavior

Consider an approach to creating robots that's inspired not by maps but by the simple sense-and-act behavior of animals. You'll learn the benefits of behavior-based robotic architecture (including quicker reactions and stronger sensors), and see how simple animals including ants have inspired roboticists to build fascinating inventions....

30 min
Basic Skills for Making Robots
8: Basic Skills for Making Robots

So you want to make a robot. Where should you start? Learn how to work with tools like multimeters and solid-core wires; how to perform basic tasks including stripping wire and building simple circuits; and how to "hack" into existing robots to get them to perform tasks they weren't intended to do....

34 min
Designing a New Robot
9: Designing a New Robot

Move from kits and hacks into the actual design and construction of more complex robots for research or business. As you explore the iterative decision-making process used by robotics engineers, you'll meet intriguing robots including Madeline, the first transphibian vehicle, and RayBot, an artificial fish used for surveillance....

31 min
A Robot for Every Task?
10: A Robot for Every Task?

Wouldn't it be great to have a robot that took out your trash or put away your books? Explore how robots are designed to perform specific tasks, and the choices roboticists must consider in doing so-including the stability of the workplace and the minute steps of the task itself....

29 min
Robot Arms in the Factory
11: Robot Arms in the Factory

Each year, many tens of thousands of new robots are purchased to help us manufacture cars, medicines, and other everyday materials. And it all started with variations on the robotic arm. Here, examine early prototypes of pick-and-place robots; consider the trade-offs between range and control of motion; and ponder how far we've come with industrial robotics....

31 min
Mobile Robots at Home
12: Mobile Robots at Home

Advancements in modern robotics have made robots useful, safe, reliable, easy to use, and affordable to have in our homes. So how exactly do different home robots-such as vacuum cleaners like Roomba, gutter cleaners like Looj, and lawn mowers like MowBot-adjust to the unique demands of their respective tasks?...

33 min
Hospital Robots and Neuroprosthetics
13: Hospital Robots and Neuroprosthetics

Hospital robots have designs and functions meant to tackle the complexity of the modern medical workplace. First, discover how robots like HelpMate and Da Vinci work in patient wards, surgical theaters, and other settings. Then, delve into the burgeoning field of neuroprosthetics, which use the human nervous system for control of artificial limbs....

28 min
Self-Driving Vehicles
14: Self-Driving Vehicles

Lane changes, off-roading, irregular traffic patterns-how do robotic cars handle it all? Find out in this lecture on the trade-offs (especially between speed and safety) involved in creating self-driving vehicles. Peer into the future of how you're likely to get from place to place, perhaps without having to do a thing....

30 min
Flying Robots: From Autopilots to Drones
15: Flying Robots: From Autopilots to Drones

Take to the air for an eye-opening look at aerial robots, from the autopilot features in commercial airplanes to unmanned drones that can deliver packages. Topics include the role of gyroscopic sensors and recent technological advancements that are extending the functionality and power of flying robots like never before....

32 min
Underwater Robots That Hover and Glide
16: Underwater Robots That Hover and Glide

Some of the most exciting robots on the planet are found underwater. Here, learn how today's roboticists have developed unique solutions to creating autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), like Wave Glider, that have overcome critical challenges involving sensors, power supply, and design to do things like circumnavigate the globe or travel to great depths....

33 min
Space Robots in Orbit and on Other Worlds
17: Space Robots in Orbit and on Other Worlds

Find out how space missions have pushed us to the limits of what autonomous robots can do. Central to this lecture are several fascinating robots, including Robonaut 2 (a humanoid robot working on the International Space Station) and the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, who are helping us better understand the complex geography of Mars....

33 min
Why Military Robots Are Different
18: Why Military Robots Are Different

Explore the tension between semi-autonomous military robots and our need to oversee their safety and control. In looking at military robots such as the Predator unmanned aerial system and the Phalanx weapons system, you'll learn about the unique trade-offs involved in the speed and accuracy of action, and the ability to distinguish friend from foe....

33 min
Extreme Robots
19: Extreme Robots

Walking and running robots, whether they move on four legs or two, offer some of the most extreme physical challenges in all of robotics. What are the advantages of legged robots that make them so attractive to roboticists? How do robots with legs balance themselves and move around in different environments?...

33 min
Swarm Robots
20: Swarm Robots

A huge challenge in robotics is getting robots to work as a team to do things they can't do alone. Enter swarm robots: simple, similar mobile robots that combine to generate complex behaviors. Investigate this area of robotics that's barely in its infancy, but has vast potential for scientific research, military defense, and more....

28 min
Living Robots?
21: Living Robots?

Robots are starting to perform the core features of life, to the point where it may be possible to have a robot that actually "lives." Professor Long introduces you to robots that "eat" by harvesting energy; robots that "grow" by building and improving themselves; and robots that "evolve" by designing themselves autonomously....

29 min
Social Robots
22: Social Robots

Enter the brave new world of social robotics, where robots are built specifically to communicate with humans and other autonomous physical agents. With the help of the robot Baxter, discover how simple signals like spoken words, expressions, and body language can create a dynamic user interface between human and robot....

31 min
Humanoid Robots: Just like Us?
23: Humanoid Robots: Just like Us?

Have we reached the point where robots are becoming just like-if not better than-human beings? Probe this fascinating question by examining recent developments in artificial intelligence, robot bipedalism and dexterity, the concept of the "uncanny valley," and three imitation games (including the classic Turing test) to determine where we stand with humanoid robots....

32 min
The Futures of Robotics
24: The Futures of Robotics

Because it's a multidisciplinary field, there isn't just one future for robotics, but instead multiple futures. What could some of them look like? Consider everything from companion robots that can coordinate our activities to surgical robots that can work autonomously inside our bodies using updates from a "robotic cloud system."...

34 min
John Long

The field of robotics offers an endlessly exciting way of seeing our world. Almost everything around you - any machine, any electronics component, any animal, anything that humans do - has potential implications for robotics, which has implications for you.


Duke University


Vassar College

About John Long

Dr. John Long is a Professor of Biology and a Professor of Cognitive Science on the John Guy Vassar Chair of Natural History at Vassar College. He also serves as the Director of Vassar's Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory, which he helped found in 2003. Professor Long received his Ph.D. in Zoology from Duke University.

Internationally recognized for his work in biorobotics and evolutionary robotics, Professor Long creates autonomous robotic models of animals-both living and extinct-in order to study how the animals work, behave, and evolve. He also designs and builds bioinspired robots in collaboration with computer scientists, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, physicists, and development-stage robotics companies. Professor Long's research currently is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). He has received previous research funding awards from the NSF, the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Professor Long is the author of Darwin's Devices: What Evolving Robots Can Teach Us about the History of Life and the Future of Technology. He and his robots have been featured in the journal Science, in the international press; on numerous news programs; and in science documentaries, including Through the Wormhole, Evolve, and Predator X.

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