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USC Conference Plugs Into Robotics

USC Conference Plugs Into Robotics
Those who attended a robotics conference at USC received a parting gift.

As it does every summer, the Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) Conference brought together top researchers working on the algorithmic and mathematical foundations of robotics and its applications.

This year’s event, the seventh in the series, was hosted by USC Viterbi School of Engineering professors Gaurav Sukhatme and Stefan Schaal.

It was not a leap into the unknown for the pair.

“Stefan and I are members of the original team that founded the conference,” Sukhatme said. “We both continue to serve as directors of the RSS board and have both served previously as chairs of the conference.”

Researchers gathered in the Andrus Gerontology Center’s Aida and Ron Stever Courtyard for breaks, meals and looks at robots brought by manufacturers, until a sonorous gong struck by program chair and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Roy summoned them back to the center’s auditorium. There, they listened to presentations on topics ranging from how to get robots to grasp, rather than simply cage and capture objects; how to train robots to recognize prone humans, which could be useful in a search for fallen stroke victims; and viewed systems to control robots using gestures rather than handheld devices.

The best paper award went to a team from the University of Pennsylvania for “Identifying Homotopy Classes of Trajectories for Robot Exploration and Path Planning.” The runner-up was Marin Kobilarov PhD ’08, a former Sukhatme student now at the California Institute for Technology, for his work on “Cross-Entropy Randomized Motion Planning.”

The conference included a presentation of the first Dick Volz U.S. Best Robotics Ph.D. Thesis Award to Robert Webster III.

Some 400 researchers from around the world – Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, Canada, Japan and Korea – were in attendance along with others from the United States.

Four experts in the field of robotics gave talks on computer vision (David Forsyth of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), robots in operating rooms (Catherine Mohr of Intuitive Surgical), balance and locomotion (Andy Ruina of Cornell University) and driverless cars (Chris Urmson of Google). USC Viterbi robotics pioneer George Bekey was on hand to observe the proceedings and greet colleagues.

The next robotics conference will be held next July in Sydney, Australia, where Sukhatme and Schaal plan to participate.

USC Conference Plugs Into Robotics

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