On the 17th February the UCL Institute of Robotics held the first in person UCL Robotics conference after being previously an online only event. Attendees came from various backgrounds and interests to meet at the main campus of UCL in central London, a quarter of attendees from industry. With talks being categorised into four main areas;
- Foundational Technologies in A.I. & ML, Autonomous Navigation & Path Planning, Communications, Computer Vision, Control and Sensing, Localization & Mapping, VR/AR
- Foundational Technologies in Bio-inspired Robots, Haptics Human-Robot Interaction, Legged Robotics, Materials, Mechanism Design, Multi-Robot Systems, Soft Robotics
- Applications of Robotics in Healthcare and Beyond (e.g. diagnosis, surgery, rehabilitation)
- Industrial Applications of Robotics and Beyond (e.g. field operations and services, manufacturing, transportation)
The event was kicked off by Robert Skilton, Head of Research at RACE at UK Atomic Energy Authority who provided an excellent overview into the work his division focuses on. Including robotics for all aspects of nuclear related activities such as maintenance of reactors, decommissioning of reactors and the UK’s close links with Japan since the 2011 earthquake. His talk covered robotics from small Boston Dynamics Spot robots used for autonomous inspections to large robots utilising path planning and AI for maintenance of fusion reactors. Along with virtual reality and augmented reality for training of operators within the field of nuclear energy combining haptics and tele-robotics. Highlighting some of the success stories and spin out companies that have been incubated via collaboration between industry and academia.
The event was broken into four tracks, two in the morning and two after lunch based on the four areas mentioned at the beginning. I co-chaired the “Applications of Robotics in Healthcare and Beyond” track which had range of talks from flexible force sensored gloves to aid training for childbirth by Carmen Salvadores Fernandez (who also won best overall poster at the conference) to MR scanner compatible robotics for Artery Catheterisation. All the talks were highly engaging highlighting the applicability of robotics in healthcare and the translation from research to hospital.
In-between the two sessions posters were displayed showcasing projects from departments around the university from Mechanical Engineering to The Bartlett School of Architecture. Along with demonstrations of robotics including Boston Dynamics to VR and haptic robotics from Haply for surgical simulation.
The afternoon saw the final track of sessions, with talks from industry applications and bio-inspired robotics. Including a great talk by Vijay M. Pawar on utilising autonomous aerial robotics for 3D printing, highly useful in remote areas coupled with multi robot assistance for task completion. Although he couldn’t attend a representative of Dimitrios Kanoulas’s lab provided an excellent overview and state of the art talk on “Robots with Legs & Arms: Cognition for Real-World Loco/Manipulation in Complex Environments”.
The event was closed by another keynote speaker, Sriram Subramanian RAEng Chair in Emerging Technologies & Vice Dean (Enterprise) of Engineering Sciences. Who gave an entertaining talk on “Industry-University Partnership on Frontier Robotics Research and Innovations -Swarm Sound Modulators for multi-sensory experiences”. Including his work on using of tiny ultrasonic speakers to create haptics using air in addition to his experiences and grants that have provided him the means to carry on his research.
Overall the event and day was very successful showing a good range of robotics and demos from the robotics institute. The in person nature of the event ensured better opportunities to network and talk to others about their work, the inclusion of industry members was promising for undergraduates to see along with members of the public who have an interest in robotics. Special thanks to UCL’s Robotics Institute who’s site can be found here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/robotics/ucl-robotics-institute-0 to the organisers of the event including Matchy Ma. The next event which is supported by UCL’s Robotics Institute will be ICRA 2023 https://www.icra2023.orgbeing held 29th May until 2nd June. Here’s hoping that the event is held next year, looking forward to it!
Photo Credits: Digby Oldridge
Talks can be viewed online here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/robotics/ucl-robotics-23-revisiting-event
Poster Abstracts & Demo information from the event can be viewed here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/robotics/ucl-robotics-23-posters-and-demos
Agenda of the event can be found here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/robotics/sites/robotics/files/agenda_-_ucl_robotics_23.pdf