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Fostering ethical thinking in computing

Robohub

Traditional computer scientists and engineers are trained to develop solutions for specific needs, but aren't always trained to consider their broader implications. Each new technology generation, and particularly the rise of artificial intelligence, leads to new kinds of systems, new ways of creating tools, and new forms of data, for which norms, rules, and laws frequently have yet to catch up. The kinds of impact that such innovations have in the world has often not been apparent until many years later. As part of the efforts in Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing (SERC) within the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, a new case studies series examines social, ethical, and policy challenges of present-day efforts in computing with the aim of facilitating the development of responsible "habits of mind and action" for those who create and deploy computing technologies. "Advances in computing have undeniably changed much of how we live and work. Understanding and incorporating broader social context is becoming ever more critical," says Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing.


Winners of the DIH Champions Challenge 2020 revealed at the #EDIH2021 conference

Robohub

On the 27th of January, DIHNET revealed the winners of the 2020 DIH Champions Challenge at the virtual EDIH Conference 2021 "Gearing up towards European Digital Innovation Hubs". The awards ceremony gathered more than 1176 participants including Digital Innovation Hubs, designated EDIHs, regions and Member States, representatives of EEN, Clusters, SME associations, among other stakeholders. DIHNET.EU was pioneer in launching the annual DIH Champions Challenge for identifying mature Digital Innovation Hubs in Europe. Begoña Sanchez, Innovation Systems and Policies manager at Tecnalia, and member of the DIHNET consortium, explains that the main purpose of this initiative is "to provide the DIHs community with a process for identifying good practices, showcase and support success stories of Mature DIHs that can inspire and guide other DIHs in their development." In this second edition, four DIHs were shortlisted as finalists: the am-LAB, the Basque Digital Innovation Hub (BDIH), the FZI Research Center for Information Technology and the ITI Data Hub (The Data Cycle Hub). The DIHNET consortium revised the proposals with the contribution of two external evaluators: Jan Kobliha, Ministerial Counsellor at the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, and Thorsten Huelsmann, manager of the Digital Hub Logistics Dortmund, winner of the 2019 DIH Champions Challenge.


Robots that feel by seeing

Robohub

While modern cameras provide machines with a very well-developed sense of vision, robots still lack such a comprehensive solution for their sense of touch. At ETH Zurich, in the group led by Prof. Raffaello D'Andrea at the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, we have developed a tactile sensing principle that allows robots to retrieve rich contact feedback from their interactions with the environment. I recently described our approach in a TEDx talk at the last TEDxZurich. The talk features a tech demo that introduces the novel tactile sensing technology targeting the next generation of soft robotic skins. The sensing technique is based on a camera that tracks fluorescent particles, which are densely and randomly distributed within a soft, deformable gel. The randomness of the patterns simplifies production of the gel and their density provides strain information at each pixel of the resulting image.


Call for keynote speakers at the first Reddit Robotics Showcase (RRS2021)

Robohub

The reddit r/robotics subreddit is a global online community of 138,000 users, ranging from hobbyists and students to academics and industry professionals. This year, we have invited our community to share their work as part of an online showcase. No matter how big or small, all projects are welcome, and a work in progress is valid. The showcase is as much about people sharing their robotics experiences as their projects, hence this is not a formal conference or symposium. The showcase date is planned for the weekend of July 31st.


One robot on Mars is robotics, ten robots are automation

Robohub

The difference between robotics and automation is almost nonexistent and yet has a huge difference in everything from trade shows, marketing, publications to academic conferences and journals. This week, the difference was expressed as an opportunity in the Dear Colleague Letter below from Professor Ken Goldberg, CITRIS CPAR and UC Berkeley, who suggested that students whose papers were rejected from ICRA, revise them for CASE, the Conference on Automation Science and Engineering. This opportunity was expressed beautifully in the title quote from Professor Raja Chatila, ex President of IEEE Robotics and Automation Society and current President of IEEE Global Society on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. "One robot on Mars is robotics, ten robots on Mars is automation." Over 2000 papers were declined by ICRA today, including many that can be effectively revised for another conference such as IEEE CASE (deadline 15 March).


Researchers introduce a new generation of tiny, agile drones

Robohub

If you've ever swatted a mosquito away from your face, only to have it return again (and again and again), you know that insects can be remarkably acrobatic and resilient in flight. Those traits help them navigate the aerial world, with all of its wind gusts, obstacles, and general uncertainty. Such traits are also hard to build into flying robots, but MIT Assistant Professor Kevin Yufeng Chen has built a system that approaches insects' agility. Chen, a member of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Research Laboratory of Electronics, has developed insect-sized drones with unprecedented dexterity and resilience. The aerial robots are powered by a new class of soft actuator, which allows them to withstand the physical travails of real-world flight.


Rapid robotics for operator safety: what a bottle picker can do

Robohub

Dutch brewing company Heineken is one of the largest beer producers in the world with more than 70 production facilities globally. From small breweries to mega-plants, its logistics and production processes are increasingly complex and its machinery ever more advanced. The global beer giant therefore began looking for robotics solutions to make its breweries safer and more attractive for employees while enabling a more flexible organisation. The environment is constantly changing and the robot has to be able to respond immediately. Automatically adapting to the situation Dennis van der Plas, senior global lead packaging lines at Heineken, says, "We are becoming a high-tech company and attracting more and more technically trained staff. Repetitive tasks – like picking up fallen bottles from the conveyor belt will not provide them job satisfaction."


Self-supervised policy adaptation during deployment

Robohub

We consider an SAC agent trained with an IDM, with and without adaptation, and compare to CURL, a contrastive method discussed in a previous post. We compare the generalization ability of methods in the visualization below, and generally find that PAD can adapt even in non-stationary environments, a challenging problem setting where non-adaptive methods tend to fail. While CURL is found to generalize no better than the non-adaptive SAC trained with an IDM, agents can still benefit from the training signal that CURL provides during the training phase. Algorithms that learn both during training and deployment, and from multiple training signals, may therefore be preferred.


#329: Robots-as-a-Service, with Afshin Doust

Robohub

Doust explains the company's modular, robots-as-a-service subscription business model. They discuss robotic solutions for the agricultural industry, disinfecting robots to combat COVID19, and other exciting new developments at AIS. Afshin Doust is the Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Intelligent Systems (AIS). He is a seasoned entrepreneur with professional experience in finance, sales, business consulting, and strategic management with a keen interest in assembling teams to resolve business challenges. Afshin took the role of CEO at AIS in 2016, with the goal to lead the team towards the vision of creating innovations in autonomous robotic solutions for a wide range of applications.


Robots4Humanity in next Society, Robots and Us

Robohub

Speakers in tonight's Society, Robots and Us at 6pm PST Tuesday Feb 23 include Henry Evans, mute quadriplegic and founder of Robots4Humanity and Aaron Edsinger, founder of Hello Robot. We'll also being talking about robots for people with disabilities with Disability Advocate Adriana Mallozi, founder of Puffin Innovations and Daniel Seita, who is a deaf roboticist. The event is free and open to the public. As a result of a sudden stroke, Henry Evans turned from being a Silicon Valley tech builder into searching for technologies and robots that would improve his life, and the life of his family and caregivers, as the founder of Robots4Humanity. Since then Henry has shaved himself with the help of the PR2 robot, and spoken on the TED stage with Chad Jenkins in a Suitable Tech Beam.