RO-MAN 2020 virtual event: workshops on socially assistive robotics, HRI, manipulation and more

This year’s RO-MAN event (the 29th RO-MAN!) was as diverse and interactive as ever, despite taking place virtually, with presentations, workshops, Q&A sessions, live demos and more. The PAL Robotics team were delighted to participate once again, and joined workshops on themes including socially assistive robotics, HRI, interaction and learning, and robot manipulation to give talks and present research papers. 

RO-MAN’s event theme this year was, Robots with Heart, Mind, and Soul – referring to the interaction of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics which is leading the Robot and Human Interactive Communication community towards new frontiers where perceptual, reasoning, manipulation, and interaction capabilities are effectively deployed in real world applications.

The main conference included presentations on new methods, studies, designs, theories, and applications of Human-Robot Interactive Communication systems and technologies surrounding it. The Keynote Speakers at this year’s conference were: Prof. Roger K. Moore, Prof. Ana Paiva and Dr. Jun Baba.

Our workshop highlights including Socially Assistive Robots and Navigating Human Environments 

The PAL Robotics team were very happy to take part in a number of different workshops. First of all, the Quisar (Quality of Interaction in Socially Assistive Robots) workshop led by Anouk Vanmaris or and Antonio Andriella focussed on the quality of interaction in socially assistive robots. As well as aiming to define the quality of interaction, the workshop looked at metrics for a general evaluation of interaction between SAR and their users. During this workshop, PAL Robotics’ CEO, Francesco Ferro delivered a presentation on the “Evolution of PAL Robotics’ service robots toward an improved human-robot interaction.”

The workshop Crowdbot “Robots from pathways to crowds: ethical, legal and safety concerns of robots navigating human environments” discussed and examined the challenges that we will face when considering robots participating in our society, including robot-human crowd interaction simulation and robot navigation control. This included sessions by Prof. Takayuki Kanda, Prof. Elizabeth Broadbent, Prof. Sami Haddadin, Dr. René von Schomberg, Prof. Carl Macrae and Prof. Alan Winfield. PAL Robotics’ CTO Luca Marchioni, joined to talk about our social humanoid robot ARI, and in particular the paper, “Robot control and navigation: ARI’s autonomous system.” 

HOBI, the workshop on “Hand-OBject Interaction: From human demonstrations to robot manipulation” included a talk by Dr. Guillem Alenyà and Dr. Julia Borras on “Learning grasping for manipulation of rigids and clothing”. In this project they have developed methods to learn grasping actions and during the live demonstration two TIAGo robots were used to set up a tablecloth, fold a towel and help with dressing. 

Guillem Alenyà and Júlia Borràs presentation on robot manipulation

TIAGo robot manipulation bi-manually a cloth


Elisa Maiettini and Baptiste Busch also spoke at this workshop on “On-the-fly learning from a human demonstrator: experiments with a humanoid robot” and “Towards more fluid in-hand manipulation” respectively. Luca Lach, PAL Robotics’ Software Developer and PhD student joined this workshop to talk about a paper he co-wrote, “Leveraging Touch Sensors to Improve Mobile Manipulation.” The paper presents novel, tactile-equipped end-effectors for the service robot TIAGo that are currently being developed.

The workshop SSIRH “Solutions for Socially Intelligent HRI in real-world scenarios” aimed to bring together a large community of researchers working on autonomous and innovative challenges inherent to Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) to increase the presence of robots in real-world scenarios. Keynote speakers were Mohsen Kaboli, PhD, Alessandra Sciutti, PhD, Victor Paleologue, PhD and Tapomayukh Bhattacharjee, PhD

We particularly enjoyed the presentation by Mohsen Kaboli in this workshop on “The importance of the sense of touch in Human-Robot/Vehicle Interaction.” During the workshop our Robotics Engineer, Dr. Alessandro Di Fava also gave a talk “Towards Real-World Scenarios: Perception Enhancements and Emotional Expressions in Social Robots,” and how the audio and expressions components in ARI can boost expressiveness and user engagement.

At the BAILAR workshop (4th Workshop on Behaviour Adaptation, Interaction and Learning for Assistive Robotics) the invited speakers here were Prof. Bruno Siciliano, Prof. Mohamed Chetouani and Prof. Loredana Zollo. In this workshop, our Robotics Software Engineer, Sara Cooper also presented “ARI Robot: the social robot for AI development,” highlighting ARI’s different abilities for social interaction. 

Finally, PAL Robotics’ paper on “ARI: the social assistive robot and companion” was submitted for this event, by our team members; Sara Cooper, Dr. Alessandro Di Fava, Carlos Vivas, Luca Marchionni and Francesco Ferro. At the virtual event, Sara Cooper, hosted a Q&A session on the paper, focusing on a review of healthcare robots, in particular socially assistive robots, and PAL Robotics new ARI robot’s potential to fulfil some of the user-cases in demand, as well as sharing some live demos of ARI in the session. 

PAL Robotics presenting TIAGo robot and ARI social robot

The history of RO-MAN events

The annual RO-MAN conference, organised by the IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) is a forum where state-of-the-art results, the latest developments as well as future perspectives relating to robot and human interactive communication are presented and discussed.

The annual conference covers a wide range of topics related to robot and human interactive communication, involving theories, methodologies, technologies, empirical and experimental studies. The conference also traditionally welcomes papers related to the study of robotic technology, psychology, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, human factors, ethics and policies, interaction-based robot design and other topics related to human-robot interaction.

PAL Robotics would like to thank RO-MAN, and the IEEE for their work in making this virtual event a success. Find more information about upcoming virtual events that PAL Robotics is attending by visiting our website, and learn more about our robots ARI and TIAGo. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to visit our contact page to communicate with us!

If robotics is what interests, then you cannot miss out our blog on robots and technology!

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