Robots that touch and feel from ICRA 2017

Robots that touch and feel from ICRA 2017


Between May 29 and June 3, KMLE participated in the 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Singapore, one of the largest conferences in robotics with over 3000 attendees, where the research leaders of the field presented their latest findings.  Distributed robotics is one of the new research areas that KMLE will explore in the following months and years, and this week at ICRA has given some real insights into the work that we will be doing in the future in our Labs.

The number of topics covered during this conference is huge, and I will therefore here only concentrate on the parts that I personally attended. During the first day I followed the one-day workshop The robotic sense of touch focusing on the development of tactile sensors and how they can contribute to robot intelligence.  Tactile technology and data analysis have been accompanied by an increased understanding of the ways in which tactile perception can support robot autonomy and cognition.

For instance, Alexander Schmitz and Sophon Somlor, from Waseda University, showed how the use of advanced computational techniques such as deep learning and Bayesian inference, together with tactile sensors, can help a robot to manipulate and grasp different objects.

Lorenzo Natale from the IIT presented the artificial skin of iCub, a humanoid robot developed for research into human cognition and AI, and showed how they coupled the sense of touch with vision, allowing for example visual-tactile coordination.

Towards the end of the day, Katherine Kuchenbecker, from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and University of Pennsylvania, talked about haptic intelligence for robots. She highlighted the fact that autonomous robotic systems would greatly benefit from haptic intelligence, enabling robots to interact with objects as humans do. Overall, this workshop has clearly shown that bio-inspired technologies are revolutionising how robots sense and perceive the world.

The following day, I attended the Industry forum, a place where key figures in industry discussed how robotics and automation are significantly changing the industrial and manufacturing landscape.

New advances in these fields have pushed industry leaders to coin the term fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 was also a main topic in the plenary session. Peter B. Luh from University of Connecticut, US, talked about Industry 4.0 and its relation to IoT, and disruptive technologies such as 3D printing and robotics.

Then it was time for the exhibition and start-up corners, where both large and small companies could present their solutions. Starting with a robotic turtle, whose applications and use cases are still uncertain I discovered other applications, such as delivery robots from ROBOTIS, who also showcased their TurtleBot3 mobile robot platform.

Finally, there were many demonstrations related with haptic technologies applied to tele-operation in the healthcare domain, something that Konica Minolta Laboratory Europe is already exploring together with King’s College London. Some of these approaches relate with the experience of the hackathon to fuse visual and tactile information using respectively Konica Minolta’s Wearable Communicators (WCc) Glasses and Neuro Digital’s Haptic Gloveone.