News Release

Contextual Robotics Institute Shines at International Robotics Conference

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Henrik Christensen, the director of the Contextual Robotics Institute, gave several talks at IROS 2016.

San Diego, Calif., Oct. 14, 2016 -- With talks about manufacturing, robots and health care, as well as robot competitions, the Contextual Robotics Institute at UC San Diego made a significant contribution to the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems this week in Daejeon, South Korea.

More than 2200 took part in the conference, which is one of the premier events for the robotics community. Henrik Christensen, director of the Contextual Robotics Institute, gave three presentations and chaired a session. Laurel Riek, an associate professor of computer science, also gave an invited talk. Michael Tolley, a mechanical engineer, was one of the organizers for the conference’s Folding in Robotics workshop.

“We got a lot of attention for the Contextual Robotics Institute,” said Christensen.

He took part in the conference’s Futurist Forum on Oct. 11 and gave a talk titled “Manufacturing in an non-flat world.” Here is the abstract:

 Over the last few decades we have seen tremendous progress on materials, processes and material handling. At the same time the world is going towards an extreme degree of customization. Already today most cars are available in millions of different configurations. We see electronics that have a product life time of months. The trend is likely to continue and at the same time integrated manufacturing will allow for a highly distributed factory where transport over extended distances will pose a major challenge. We have already started to see this with re-shoring efforts. The future of manufacturing will see tight coupling between design, fabrication, delivery and full life-cycle considerations. In this presentation we will present key driver for change and discuss the integration of fabrication across all aspects of the life-cycle.

He also took part in a workshop on Challenges in Robot Competitions on Oct. 10. He talked about the US First Robotics competition. Christensen has been involved with the contest at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he was on faculty before joining UC San Diego. Here is the abstract of that talk:

The US FIRST competition was launched to inspire students to engage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as part of their education. The world has a serious deficit of people educated on those topics. The FIRST competition was initially only for high school students. Today there are 4 different leagues from pre-school to high school. The competition by now involves more than 3,000 teams across 24 countries. The contest engages 75,000 students and more than 15,000 mentors. The contest was launched 1989 by Dean Kamen and Woodie Flowers, MIT. The teams are given 6 weeks to build a robot that solves a real world task such as playing basketball or conquering a castle. The teams have to use a standard set of components and there are strong safety, size and weight. Building a robot from scratch in 6 weeks is a major challenge. The robot has to have an option for both autonomous and tele-operated operation. The team has to provide the full logistics for participation from fund raising, over design to construction and deployments including logistics, promotion and cheering. It is almost like running a small company for the students. We will provide an overview of the FIRST competition and the key aspects of how it helps promote robotics and STEM based education.

Christensen also gave opening remarks for the conference’s Government Forum Oct. 13. His time in South Korea also allowed him to take part in the planning meeting for the next high-profile event for the robotics event, the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, which will take place May 29 to June 3 in Singapore. He is the program co-chair for that meeting.

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Laurel Riek gave an invited talk at IROS 2016.

Meanwhile, Riek gave an invited talk titled “Healthcare Robotics: Nothing About Us without Us” to the conference’s Autonomous Technologies Forum. Here is the abstract: Robots have the potential to be a game changer in healthcare: improving health and well-being, filling care gaps, supporting care givers, and aiding health care workers. However, before robots are able to be widely deployed, it is crucial that research, industrial, and health stakeholder communities work together to establish a strong evidence- base for healthcare robotics and employ inclusive design processes in their practice, in order to surmount likely adoption barriers. This talk is motivated by a phrase commonly used in the disability activism community, “Nihil de nobis, sine nobis - (nothing about us without us)”, and will discuss how to build healthcare robots for all.

Mechanical engineering Mike Tolley, along with colleagues at Harvard and elsewhere, put together a workshop to highlight techniques and applications for foldable robots. Here is the description of the event:

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Michael Tolley co-organized a workshop on folding robots.

The intent of this workshop is to spread the techniques and applications of foldable robots, and encourage their use in research and education. Origami has a long history in art, mathematics, and biology, and similar folding techniques have produced exciting advances in design and fabrication. This has resulted in structures that can drastically change their size, algorithms that generate origami folds to approximate any shape, and self-folding sheets that autonomously transform into 3D structures.

These techniques are now applied to a variety of challenges in robotics: Microrobots harness laminate fabrication and pop-up assembly to automate the fabrication of complex centimeter scale machines; Satellites can be folded into small packages and then unfolded in space; Origami mechanisms are capable of complex and functional behaviors; and soft robots can be built from flexible planar materials.

In addition to being a rapidly evolving field in its own right, foldable robotics is also used by many researchers as a practical and inexpensive means to create platforms for other research. Swarms of robots can be built cheaply and in parallel, while educational robots can be customized with inexpensive tools for a variety of lessons.

We have gathered a group of speakers with first-hand experience using folded and laminate machines to provide a comprehensive overview of existing design and fabrication techniques. Researchers unfamiliar with the field will quickly learn the basics, and experienced designers will share and discuss the latest methods and research.

One of the many strengths of folded fabrication is its low cost, high speed, and transportability. Therefore, we will also include a hands-on tutorial to introduce these techniques to participants. We will provide materials and equipment to teach laminate structures, basic component design, and fabrication techniques.

This hybrid workshop/tutorial is for folding experts and novices alike.

Christensen, Riek and Tolley will take part in the Contextual Robotics Forum Oct. 28 at UC San Diego. Christensen will give a talk on shared autonomy. Riek will take part in the tech showcase where she will demonstrate a human-robot drumming team. 

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Media Contacts

Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering