IJARS team at ICRA 2015

June 9, 2015

Seattle, mostly known for Microsoft, Starbucks, Boeing, Space Needle, grunge music and rain, was a perfect host for the ICRA 2015 conference. Although we did not get to experience the rain in Seattle, our ICRA experience was better than ever.

The all women organizing committee did an outstanding job, starting from a program offering a broad overview of recent robotics developments and applications, a wide array of forums and workshops, a large exhibition (over 65 exhibitors) that included universities, publishers and industry representatives, to subtle details such as a practical size conference digest, an intuitive conference app and an umbrella to be found in the conference package.

IJARS team (an all female team as well), congratulates Ruzena Bajcsy (Honorary Chair), Lynne Parker (General Chair) and Nancy M. Amato (Program Chair) for their exceptional work.

IJARS team in front of the Washington State Convention Center

Forums and Special Events caught our attention this year more than ever, tackling topics close to our interests. We would like to emphasize the importance of the newly introduced PhD Forum and Go, Girl, Go Forum that facilitate education and integration for the generations of roboticists yet to come. IJARS will be playing its part in supporting the shared goal with its Rising Star initiative planned for this fall.

Developing Countries Forum and Government Forum, organised for the first time, placed the emphasis on the mobility of research and researchers, funding priorities, collaboration and promotion of knowledge, as well as on the impact robotics will have on our lives and the challenges it will raise in the future. The Developing Countries forum was especially insightful as it presented the robotics research and education in countries such as Peru, Mexico, Ghana, India, Pakistan, South Africa...

Another first this year was the RoboHub Social Media Workshop organised by Sabine Hauert (Bristol Robotics Laboratory), Hallie Siegel (Robohub Managing Editor) and Evan Ackerman (Senior Writer at IEEE Spectrum Automaton Blog). The workshop provided researchers with useful advice on how to promote their research and properly "translate" it to a wider audience to achive maximum outreach - something the Robohub staff is an authority in.

IJARS at the Women in Engineering Lunch

Since IJARS supports women in robotics through its own initiative, the IEEE RAS Women in Engineering Lunch was a point of high interest and a great outlet for us to share ideas and discuss how to get engaged even further. It was also a unique opportunity to meet Prof. Ruzena Bajcsy, an inspiring woman figure in the field of robotics, as well as to hear the talk by Jessica Hodgins from Disney Research and Raja Chatila who gave the opening speech.

Industry Forum organized by Aude Billard (EPFL), Dana Kulic (University of Waterloo), Angelika Peer (University of the West of England Bristol) and Yuru Zhang (Beihang University) provided a good insigh into the topics intersecting industry and academia such as: tech transfer from academia to industry and transitioning from academia to industry (tackled also in IJARS 2015 Highlights). Leila Takayama, senior user experience researcher at Google[x], gave a great session titled "Just a Few of the Many Flavors of Impact" sending a strong message: Invent a future we want to live in. The forum also featured presentations by IERA Award winners: Francois Brocher from Kinova Inc, and Tom Lipinski from Q-Bot Limited.

The plenaries this year included industry and academic participants. One of the plenaries many consider to be one of the highlights of this year's conference was Dean Kamen's: "Innovation: Past, Present and Future" centered around the importance of students becoming excited and engaged in science and technology, which is the basis of future development; a topic he is an authority in - being the founder of: "FIRST" - an organization dedicated to motivating the next generation to understand, use and enjoy science and technology.

Keynotes that caught our attention were Robotics in Education in Africa by Ayorkor Korsah, emphasizing the importance of robotics education in Africa in respect to the low levels of industrialisation in countries such as Ghana, Seeing, Caging, Grasping by Danica Kragic concerning caging grasping which bounds the mobility of an object rather than immobilizing it completely, and Clothing Assistants: Challenges for Robot Learning by Carme Torras, which showcased the progress made in grasping garments and helping people to dress in the context of assistive robotics.

IJARS team with Danica Kragic

This year's IEEE RAS George Saridis Leadership Award was presented to Bruno Siciliano for his outstanding leaderhip in the robotics community as a research innovator, inspired educator and ambassador of science and technology. Whoever had the privilege to collaborate with Dr. Siciliano knows this award is very well deserved. IJARS team, who had this privilege, congratulates him and looks forward to further collaborations!

Standing on the shoulders of giants, the young researchers cannot be dismissed: congratulations to the receivers of the Best Student Paper Award: "Grasping without Squeezing: Shear Adhesion Gripper with Fibrillar Thin Film" by Elliot Wright Hawkes, David Christensen, Amy Kyungwon Han, Hao Jiang, Mark Cutkosky. The future looks bright with students like these.

A highlight for the IJARS team was also our Editorial Board gathering; we want to thank all the members who attended and joined us in discussions on new ideas and plans for the IJARS journal.

Caption from the IJARS Editorial Board gathering

Nine videos were recorded for our IJARS video series, stay tuned as we will be publishing the first one on our website soon. To visualize how we experienced this year's ICRA and what IJARS video lecturers and interviewees think were the conference highlights, see the video we have prepared for you: