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IROS 2017

By: , Posted on: October 30, 2017

The last week of September was full of great new ideas for Robotics fans.

Vancouver, BC, Canada was the place chosen for the 30th annual International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. The theme for IROS 2017 was “Friendly People, Friendly Robots.”

The IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems is sponsored by the IEEE Robotics & Automation Society, a technical professional association of more than 377,000 individual members in 150 countries. The IEEE is a leading authority in technical areas ranging from computer engineering, biomedical technology and telecommunications, to electric power, aerospace and consumer electronics, among others. The IEEE Robotics & Automation Society is a very active worldwide research association working on the future of robotics. It is a truly interdisciplinary field!

The 2017 conference brought together approximately 2500 robotics and automation experts that are exploring the frontier of science and technology in intelligent robots and smart machines.

Robots and humans are becoming increasingly integrated into various application domains. We work together in factories, hospitals, and households, and share the roadways. This collaborative partnership of humans and robots gives rise to new technological challenges and significant research opportunities in developing friendly robots that can work effectively with, for, and around people.

Who would say that a man could perform minimally invasive cardiac surgery? This is real right now — my favorite booth at IROS featured the famous da Vinci Surgical System and it was definitely the most crowded. Conference attendees were able to see and control this amazing machine, and feel in our hands what robots and humans can do together.

da Vinci System

This robot enables surgeons to perform operations through a few small incisions with a magnified vision system that gives surgeons a 3D HD view inside the patient’s body. It allows the surgeon’s hand movements to be translated into smaller, precise movements of tiny instruments inside the patient’s body.

It was not just da Vinci who caught my attention, however. IROS 2017 was full of relevant workshops and sessions for medical applications, and many were extremely educational for me. The plenary that Dr. Maja Mataric gave on social engagement was inspirational.

Dr. Mataric is a pioneer of socially assistive robotics; her research enables robots to help people through social interaction in therapy, rehabilitation, training, and education, developing robot-assisted therapies for autism, stroke, Alzheimer’s and other special needs, as well as wellness interventions.

My take away from IROS this year is an inspiring comment from Dr. Mataric: “it doesn’t matter how cute your robot is or how amazing the number and algorithms are if you do not test with real people, if you do not know the impact your research will have in human life. So think outside the box, get out of your labs and go meet people who really need this technology.”

If you want to understand why she inspired me, take a look at these two videos showing how the world is changing. This link shows a brief demonstration of robot-instructed exercise interaction and this link is a video of how an  exercise and stroke rehab socially assistive robot may work to encourage rehabilitation and daily life activities.


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