IROS 2021 Conference: social HRI, impact-aware robotics & more

The mobile manipulator robot TIAGo and the IROS 2021 Conference logo

PAL Robotics at IROS 2021 Conference

We were delighted to play an active role in the IROS 2021 Conference – the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots Systems. The annual IROS event aims to create opportunities to meet, discuss, and become familiar with the most recent advances in the field of robotics, autonomous and intelligent systems, human-compliant robots, medical robotics, and more. 

IROS has the goal of offering a place to gather new findings and ideas, with the opportunity to discuss them across the robotics community. The event is sponsored by IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), RSJ (The Robotics Society of Japan), IEEE Robotics & Automation Society, IES (the IEEE Industrial Electronics Society), SICE (Society of Instrument and Control Engineers), and the NIF (New Technology Foundation). 

Here are our highlights of the IROS 2021 Conference at PAL Robotics:

Workshop: RoboTac – New Advances in Tactile Sensation, Interactive Perception, Control, and Learning

We had the opportunity to join the RoboTac 2021 workshop on ‘New Advances in Tactile Sensation, Interactive Perception, Control, and Learning’ – A Soft Robotic Perspective on Grasp, Manipulation, & HRI. Here the topics included: 

  • Human Sense of Touch
  • Tactile Sensing Technologies
  • Tactile Interactive Perception, and Predictive Coding
  • Tactile Grasp, and Manipulation, & HRI (Soft and conventional Robotic Systems)

During the RoboTac workshop, PAL Robotics’ PhD Student Luca Lach presented his research paper, ‘TIAGo RL: Simulated Reinforcement Learning Environments with Tactile Data for Mobile Robots’ In this work, Luca Lach and co-authors (Francesco Ferro and Robert Haschke) presented open-source reinforcement learning environments for the TIAGo robot. They produced tactile sensor measurements that resemble those of a real sensorised gripper for PAL Robotics’ TIAGo, encouraging research in transfer learning of DRL policies. Find out more about the research here. 

The workshop included a panel discussion and best paper award, as well as a number of keynote speakers. The organisers of the session were: Mohsen Kaboli (BMW Group), Tapo Bhattacharjee (Cornell University), Etienne Burdet (Imperial College London), Vincent Hayward (Sorbonne University), and Henrik Jörntell (Lund University). Find out more about the RoboTac workshop here

TIAGo NeuTouch

Technical session: Social Human-Robot Interaction I

This session focussed on Social Robotics, and PAL Robotics’ Senior Scientist in Social Robotics, Séverin Lemaignan chaired this IROS session together with co-chair Lionel Robert (University of Michigan). During this session those that joined presented their papers on social robotics including ‘Text-Based Robot Emotion and Human-Like Emotional Transition, ’Personalization of Human-Robot Gestural Communication through Voice Interaction Grounding’, and ‘A Unified Bi-Directional Model for Natural and Artificial Trust in Human-Robot Collaboration.’

Paper presentation: ROS for Human-Robot Interaction

PAL Robotics’ Séverin Lemaignan also presented a paper to introduce a new open-source standard (based on ROS) to enable robots to recognise and represent humans around them. This will enable the development of a broad range of interoperable & socially intelligent behaviours for service robots. Severin also tells us his aim is for PAL Robotics’ robots to be equipped with this new state-of-art framework in the future. The paper was co-authored by Youssef Mohamed (PhD student at KTH). Read more about the paper here. The open-source code is available here

Workshop: Impact-Aware Robotics

We were invited to participate in the workshop Impact-Aware Robotics, hosted by Alessandro Saccon (Eindhoven University of Technology), Yan Gu (University of Massachusetts), and Abderrahmane Kheddar (CNRS). The themes of the workshop included: 

  • Robot Design and Control:
    • mechatronic design
    • optimization-based co-design
    • model predictive and optimization-based control
    • whole-body control
  • Path Planning, Perception, and Sensing:
    • optimization-based and perceptive motion planning
    • sensor fusion under uncertainty

PAL Robotics’ CTO Luca Marchionni, participated in this session and presented PAL Robotics’ Kangaroo robot, which is currently in development. Kangaroo is a new legged platform with a mechatronics design which makes it suitable for dynamic locomotion and impact resilience. With Kangaroo robot so far:

  • The first prototype was built and initial validation tests were performed
  • Control software is being developed for stress testing the prototype, the team will validate the design hypothesis, and evaluate its performance.
  • Presented at ICRA 2021

Find out more about the workshop Impact-Aware Robotics here.

The research legged platform Kangaroo seen from behind

Workshop: Open Deep Learning Toolkit for Robotics 

This workshop ‘Open Deep Learning Toolkit for Robotics: Towards Democratizing Artificial Intelligence’, was hosted by PAL Robotics’ CEO Francesco Ferro, and Sofia Battilana, PAL Robotics’ Relationship & Events Manager. The session covered topics including:

  • Deep Learning and AI Applications in the Webots Robot Simulator
  • Deep Learning models for efficient video-based action recognition
  • Using Open Deep Learning Toolkits in ROS/ROS2
  • Robotic grasping in Agile Production
  • Learning Efficient Representations for Perception, Tracking, and Localization
  • How to benefit from learning in predictive control
  • European Training Network on PersonalizedRobotics as Service-Oriented applications

This workshop was created within the framework of the Open DR European Project and brought to life with some of the Open DR project partners along with PAL Robotics. The invited speakers were Abhinav Valada (University of Freiburg),  Alexandros Iosifidis (Aarhus University), Francisco Martin Rico (Rey Juan Carlos University), Laura Ferranti (Delft University of Technology), Ole Green (AgroIntelli), Roel Pieters (Tampere University), Silvia Rossi (University of Naples), and Stefania Pedrazzi (Cyberbotics). 

We would like to give thanks to the workshop co-organisers: Alessandro Di Fava (Robotnik Automation), Anastasios Tefas (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), Nikolaos Nikolaidis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), Jens Kober Delft University of Technology), and Erdal Kayacan (Aarhus University). Find out more about the session here

Workshop and paper presentation: The Roles of Robotics in Achieving the UN’s Social Development Goals

The workshop looked into how robotics can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development goals, find out more about those here. Here, PAL Robotics’ Séverin Lemaignan presented the recent work he conducted in a school for autistic children where they closely followed the UNICEF recommendations on AI for children, more details on these are here. In doing this, they demonstrated that socially intelligent robots can be co-designed with their end-users in an ethical and responsible way, ensuring above all that they improve the well-being of their users. This work also embodies the aims and approach that PAL Robotics takes when developing social robots

The paper was developed in collaboration with Nigel Newbutt (The University of West of England), Louis Rice (The University of the West of England), Joe Daly (The University of West of England), and Vicky Charisi (European Joint Research Centre).

The workshop itself had the objective of leveraging the collective experience of the robotics community in order to identify the opportunities and challenges brought by robots with respect to achieving the Sustainable Development goals. Find out more about the workshop here. 

The home collaborative robot ARI with a woman engineer

Robotics competitions at IROS: awards ceremony 

There is a strong commitment from IROS to robotics competitions and at PAL Robotics we have been supporting competitions for a number of years, to help push current boundaries in the field. The following competitions took place at this year’s IROS Conference:

  • RAMI (Robotics for Asset Maintenance and Inspection) 
  • F1Tenth
  • RSJ Virtual Challenge for Students 

PAL Robotics’ Business Manager, Carlos Vivas joined the awards ceremony as competition chair at IROS, after helping to organise competitions together with others including Pedro Lima (Instituto Superior Técnico), Carlos Balaguer (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid), and Minoru Asada (Osaka University). 

PAL Robotics’ TIAGo robot was the chosen platform for some of these competitions due to the robot’s modular design, flexibility, and the option for teams to access the platform in simulation. Find out more about the robotics competitions at IROS 2021 Conference here

We thoroughly enjoyed participating in the IROS 2021 Conference and we would like to thank all of the organisers and all those that attended our sessions, for what was once again a great event. We look forward to IROS 2022! To find out more about PAL Robotics and our robots. To talk with us about collaborating or to ask any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

To read more about us, don’t miss the blog about our work and research in robotics.

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