by Georges Giralt
Currently robotics research is undergoing a dramatic change in scope with the important perspective of a large host of real world applications that take the robot out of well engineered work-sites in the shop-floor.
In particular, human-centred robotics, a multi-faced frontline and most challenging domain, stresses the issues and problems arising when the robot has to operate in human environments and directly to interact with a non-professional user. Thus, with the objective to assess novel perspectives, to clarify research directions and to foster international co-operation, two special events with limited number of invited participants were organised in 1999.
1. US/Europe Workshop
The US/Europe Workshop on Personal Personal Robotics: from Service Robotics to the Personal Robot and Personal Robotics Challenges and problems - was organized in Toulouse, France, on 14-15 January 1999. This workshop was supported by the US National Science Foundation and for the European side by CNRS and the Midi-Pyrenees Regional Authorities. John Canny (Berkeley) and Rachid Alami (LAAS-CNRS) were the two co-organisers. Worth to mention is that besides the twenty researchers representing Europe (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden) and the ten US representatives, four leading Japanese researchers were invited and outstadingly contributed to the workshop. Five observers were also invited.
The two-day program was set as a real WS with a few introductory subject-situation presentations followed by three working-group discussions that were reported to open an half day general discussion. The core themes covered showed both commonalties of interest and differences in viewpoints. EU participants highlighted the aspects related to Service and Personal Robots ranging from professional to domestic contexts. US participants emphasised the issues of Interface Robotics: wearable computing and sensing, human augmentation, telepresence, intelligent objects and smart rooms.
2. First Europe-Jan Symposium
The First Europe-Jan Symposium on Human Friendly Robotics was held in Tokyo, 8-9 November 1999. The symposium was sponsored by the French and Italian embassies in Tokyo, the European Commission, and held in co-operation with the AIST-MITI.
The objectives of the symposium were to discuss and to encourage future develop-ments of fundamental technologies, to assess current field trends, to look at research perspectives as well as real world applications opportunities, and to foster international co-operation.
The symposium comprised two parts. First, one and a half days of workshop convening invited participants, with technical presentations and panel discussions. Second, one final afternoon session open to a larger public and to the press to present the WS highlights and achievements. Participation comprised eighteen experts from Japan and fifteen from Europe (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden). Furthermore, two experts and four sponsors delegates participated to the full symposium as observers and about thirty invitees attended the open session the second day.
Besides important commonalties in interest and perspectives, two central aspects can be reported to differently categorise the on-going work in Japan and in Europe. The presentations from Japan highlighted:
One of the major benefits of both events lies in the importance of the viewpoint exchanges that brings to share a broader understanding of the key-issues and trends of a fast moving domain.
Current research developments related to Human Centred Robotics, based in the same shift in paradigm, sketch slightly different domain definitions and conceptual frameworks:
Specially worth to mention are the possibilities open for increased exchanges and co-operation between laboratories and the initiative to create an European Robotics Research Network, EURON.
Georges Giralt - LAAS-CNRS Toulouse
Tel: + 33 5 61 33 6348