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PerMIS 2006 Plenary Addresses

Prof. Henrik Christensen
Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

Title: Evaluation of Robots for Human-Robot Interaction

Abstract: Robotics is gradually maturing as a discipline which also implies an increased need for comparative R&D. At the same time robots are more and more deployed to serve as assistants to humans be it for search and rescue or as part of normal daily chores in the home. To enable evaluation of progress in research it is essential that rigorous methodologies for evaluation and performance characterisation are adopted. Often a number of objections are put forward as to why such rigorous experimental protocols are not well suited for robotics. Some of the typical objections will be presented and discussed in the presentation. To illustrate the value and strategy of experimental evaluation two example applications will be presented. Both applications are closely tied to robots that serve as assistants to people as part of daily operations.

A Wizard-of-Oz study has been used for the design of a strategy for joint human-robot mapping of domestic setting as part of creation of a cognitive robots for assistance to people in their homes. The Wizard-of-Oz study clearly illustrate some of the challenges that a robot has to cope with and indicate a number of important issues to be considered in the design of dialog behaviours and associated autonomous functionality. We will here discuss the use of initial exploratory system designs to ensure early integration of the end-user.

Another study has considered the deployment of iRobot PackBot systems for assistance to soldiers as part of urban intervention. Integration of robots into a unit of soldiers poses a number of interesting challenges. There is a here a need to consider the impact of the system on the robot operator and to re-consider the entire strategy for urban intervention when a unit is equipped with a light-weight robot for scouting. Results from a study with the international brigade from the Swedish military are presented and a number of important lessons from a long-term (12 month) study is reported.

Experience from prior studies clearly illustrate the value of a careful design for evaluation and characterisation of systems, which goes beyond the simple verification of theoretical models. Observations and lessons from an extensive set of studies are summarized.

Biography: Henrik I Christensen is the Kuka Chair of Robotics and a Professor of Computing with the College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology. The appointment is part-time during 2006, which is a transition period from the earlier appointment at the Swedish Royal Institutute of Technology , which included leadership of the Center for Autonomous Systems. He does research on mobile robotics, autonomous systems, computer vision, and biologically inspired robot systems. The overall emphasis is on a holistic approach to design of systems, incl mathematically well defined methods for design, analysis and implementation of systems. A fundamental idea is that methods should be evaluated in realistic settings which involves an interesting scenario and a full systems context. He is involved in a large number of national and international projects. Dr. Christensen is a co-founder of the company Intelligent Machines and serve as a scientific advisor to Evolution Robotics. Research cooperation involves research labs and companies on three continents. In addition he has been actively involved in a number of community efforts in particular as the founding coordinator of the EU network of excellence in Robotics - EURON (2000-2006). Dr. Christensen is a fellow of the International Foundation of Robotics Research and served as an IEEE RAS distinguished lecturer (2004-2006). He also serves on the board of trustees of the Swedish STINT foundation.


Prof. Shigeo Hirose
Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan

Title: Development of Rescue and Demining Robots in Tokyo Institute of Technology

Abstract: In this plenary talk, I will explain about our activities on rescue and demining robots. As for the robots for rescue operation, I will first explain my previous efforts on snake-like robots with slender and actively bending bodies. I will then show several types of snake-like "Soryu" robots which consist of three crawler-driven segments and their connecting joints. The Soryu has been adapted with a specific driving mechanisms to move inside narrow and winding paths among debris and is designed to protect against dust and water. A newly introduced crawler belt made of thin metal with rubber knobs will also be explained. I will also present a debris-inserting inspection camera, we are developing with a snake-like expandable rod mechanism. In general, I will introduce our development process for these and other devices. We believe that the most effective rescue tools will be the ones which are widely used in our daily life. Based on this belief, we also paid special attention to the development of ordinary-life-embedded rescue devices. For example, automobile jack-up devices which can be used for rescue operations will be shown. As for the demining robots, I will explain about my preliminary efforts to develop walking-demining robots, and their tool-detachable foot mechanisms. I will explain about our latest activities on a practical demining vehicle named "Gryphon." It has a weight balanced arm with metal and ground penetrating radar and a 3D camera. It can measure the uneven ground and can drive the sensors along the surface of the ground. I will show the result of the experiments in several places such as in Croatia.

Biography: Shigeo Hirose was born in Tokyo in 1947. He received the B. E. degree with first class honors in Mechanical Engineering from Yokohama National University in 1971, and his M. E. and Dr. E. degrees in Control Engineering from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1973 and 1976, respectively. He was Research Associate and Associate Professor of the same university, and since 1992 he has been a Professor of Tokyo Institute of Technology, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He is a Fellow of IEEE, JSME and RSJ. His research interest is in the creative design of robotic mechanisms and their control. He has been awarded more than 30 academic prizes including the "Medal with Purple Ribbon" from the Japanese government (2006), the first Pioneer in Robotics and Automation Award (1999), and the Best Conference Paper Award (1995) from the IEEE Robotics & Automation Society.


Prof. Hugh Durrant-Whyte
ARC Federation Fellow, Research Director
ARC Centre of Excellence for Autonomous Systems
The University of Sydney, Australia

Title: Maximal Information Systems

Abstract: Information provides a quantitative metric for describing the value of individual systems components in autonomous systems tasks such as tracking, mapping and navigation, search and exploration; tasks in which the objective is information gain in some form. An information model is an abstraction of system capabilities in an anonymous form which allows a priori reasoning on the system itself. By construction, information measures have properties of composability and additivity and thus provides a natural means of modelling and describing large scale systems of systems.

This talk will begin by describing how information measures arise naturally in autonomous tracking, mapping and navigation, search and exploration tasks. It is then demonstrated that the performance of individual sensors and platforms can be modelled using these information measures and that system-level performance metrics can be computed. These ideas are illustrated in a series of tasks involving mixed air and ground autonomous systems. These include flight-tests of cooperative UAVs engaged in tracking and navigation tasks, mixed UAV, ground vehicles and human operatives, engaged in mapping and picture compilation operations, and operations involving multi-platform search in constrained environments. In each, it is shown how information provides both a performance metric and design objective underpinning large-scale systems of systems operation.

Biography: Hugh Durrant-Whyte received the B.Sc. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of London, U.K., in 1983, and the M.S.E. and Ph.D. degrees, both in Systems Engineering, from the University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A., in 1985 and 1986, respectively. From 1987 to 1995, he was a Senior Lecturer in Engineering Science, the University of Oxford, U.K. and a Fellow of Oriel College Oxford. From 1995 to 2002 he was Professor of Mechatronic Engineering at University of Sydney. In 2002 he was awarded an inaugural Australian Research Council (ARC) Federation Fellowship. He also now leads the ARC Centre of Excellence in Autonomous Systems. His research work focuses on autonomous vehicle navigation and decentralised data fusion methods. His work in applications includes automation in cargo handling, mining, defence, and marine systems. He has published over 300 technical papers and has won numerous awards and prizes for his work. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Technical Sciences, a Fellow of the IEEE and an IEEE Robotics Society Distinguished Lecturer.


Dr. Martin Buehler
Boston Dynamics, USA

Title: Developing Dynamic Legged Robots - Towards Greater Mobility Without Falling Over

Abstract: Mobility can be an important contributor to robot intelligence, for gathering information, implementing decisions, and interacting with the environment. While wheeled and tracked robots have a relatively easy time moving around, we have to invest some intelligence first into legged robot design and control in order to harvest their potentially much greater mobility.

This talk will describe several recent legged robots that walk, run, balance, climb, carry loads, resist kicks and negotiate rough terrain with new levels of dynamic mobility, robustness, and performance. In the process we will encounter interesting issues related to the system design, performance metrics, energy efficiency, and the experimental evaluation of these systems.

Biography: Martin Buehler received the M.Eng. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Yale University in 1985 and 1990. His doctoral work focused on the design, control and analysis of juggling robots and the analysis of a hopping robot. After a Postdoc at MIT's leglab on dynamic legged locomotion, he joined McGill University, Montreal, in 1991 as an NSERC Junior Industrial Research Chair and a Scholar of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. He founded and headed the Ambulatory Robotics Lab, which produced one, four and six legged robots, including the ARL Monopods I and II, Scout I and II, CARL, PAW, RHex and AQUA, funded by major Canadian government, DARPA and industrial contracts and grants. In 2003 he received McGill's William Dawson Scholar Award. In the same year he moved on to become Director of Robotics at Boston Dynamics, Cambridge, USA. Dr. Buehler served as an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation from 1998 - 2003, and is currently on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Robotics Research and the Journal of Field Robotics. He has supervised over 30 graduate students at McGill and has published over 100 papers on legged robot design and control, dynamic manipulation and motor control.


Dr. James Albus
National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA

Title: Building Brains for Thinking Machines

Abstract: In this talk, Dr. Albus will describe how research in computer science, control theory, and the neurosciences are converging towards intelligent systems that can mimic human performance in a broad range of applications. He will discuss current efforts to build machines that can perceive the environment, build an internal model of the external world, and use that model for decision-making, reasoning, planning, and real-time control of complex machines in uncertain, and potentially hostile, environments. He will suggest how system architectures designed for autonomous mobility systems are computationally similar in many respects to the human brain, and vice versa.

This work is part of a broad NIST program of research and engineering of intelligent systems to reduce costs and improve quality in manufacturing and construction, and to save lives of civilians on the highway and soldiers in combat. The research is conducted in collaboration with the Army Research Laboratory, DARPA, the Department of Transportation, and the U.S. manufacturing industry.

Biography: Dr. James S. Albus founded and led the Intelligent Systems Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology for 20 years. He is currently a Senior NIST Fellow. Over a long and varied career Dr. Albus has made a number of scientific contributions. During the 1960's he designed electro-optical systems for more than 15 NASA spacecraft. During the 1970's, he developed a model of the cerebellum that after 30 years is still a leading theoretical model used by cerebellar neurophysiologists today. Based on that model, he invented the CMAC neural net, and co-invented the Real-time Control System (RCS). RCS is a reference model architecture for intelligent systems that has been used over the past 25 years for a number of systems including the NBS Automated Manufacturing Research Facility (AMRF), the NASA telerobotic servicer, a DARPA Multiple Autonomous Undersea Vehicle project, a nuclear Submarine Operational Automation System, a Post Office General Mail facility, a Bureau of Mines automated mining system, commercial open architecture machine tool controllers, and numerous advanced robotic projects, including the Army Research Lab Demo III Experimental Unmanned Ground vehicle. The latest version of the RCS architecture has been selected by the Army for the Autonomous Navigation Systems to be used on all Future Combat System ground vehicles, both manned and unmanned. He is also the inventor of the NIST RoboCrane. He is currently working with DARPA and other government agencies on a concept for a National Program for Understanding the Mind, a.k.a "Decade of the Mind."

Dr. Albus has received numerous awards for his work in control theory including the NIST Applied Research Award, the Department of Commerce Gold and Silver Medals, the Industrial Research IR-100 award, the Presidential Rank Meritorious Executive, the Jacob Rabinow award, the Japanese Industrial Robot Association R&D Award, and the Joseph F. Engelberger Award for robotics technology. In 1998, he was named a "Hero of Manufacturing" by Fortune magazine.

Dr. Albus is the author of more than 180 scientific papers, journal articles, book chapters, and official government studies on intelligent systems and robotics. He has lectured extensively throughout the world and authored or co-authored five books:

  • Engineering of Mind: An Introduction to the Science of Intelligent Systems - Wiley, 2001
  • Intelligent Systems: Architecture, Design, and Control - Wiley, 2002
  • The RCS Handbook: Tools for Real-Time Control Systems Software Development - Wiley, 2001
  • Brains, Behavior, and Robotics - Byte/McGraw-Hill, 1981
  • Peoples' Capitalism: The Economics of the Robot Revolution - New World Books, 1976

He is a member of the editorial board of the Wiley Series on Intelligent Systems serves on the editorial boards of six journals related to intelligent systems and robotics.

Dr. Albus received a B.S. in Physics from Wheaton College (Illinois) in 1957, a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Ohio State University in 1958, and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from University of Maryland (College Park) in 1972.

Featured Presentations

Mr. Chuck Shoemaker
Robotic Research LLC, USA

Title: Army Science and Technology Initiatives for Autonomous Tactical UGVs: The Last 10 Years

Abstract: The U.S. Army has focused growing attention and resources on the development of the Science and Technology Base required to make Autonomous UGVs a tactical reality. During the last 10 years a few of the Basic and Applied Research programs in this area have demonstrated capabilities and maturity levels leading the Army to invest major resources to accelerate the technology maturation required for initial deployment of this technology. This paper addresses a number of the critical efforts that have been the linchpins of this technology evolution.


Dr. Mike Montemerlo
Stanford University, USA

Title: Winning the DARPA Grand Challenge

Abstract: The DARPA Grand Challenge has been the most significant event for the robotics community in more than a decade. A mobile ground robot had to traverse 132 miles of unrehearsed desert terrain in less than 10 hours. In 2004, the best robot only made 7.3 miles. In 2005, Stanford won the challenge and the $2M prize in less than 7 hours travel time, and ahead of four other finishers. This talk, delivered by the Software Lead developer of the Stanford Racing Team, will provide insights into the software architecture of Stanford's winning robot. The robot massively relied on machine learning and probabilistic modeling for sensor interpretation and control. The speaker will explain some of the basic algorithms that made this victory possible, and share some of the excitement characterizing this historic event.

Invited Talks

Dr. Douglas Gage
XPM Technologies, USA

Title: Meaningful Metrics and Evaluation of Embodied, Situated, and Taskable Systems

Dr. Gary Berg-Cross
Engineering, Management, and Intergration, USA

Title: Improving Knowledge for Intelligent Agents: Exploring Parallels in Ontological Analysis and Epigenetic Robotics


Dr. Robert Finkelstein
Robotic Technology, Inc., USA

Title: Memetics and Intelligent Systems


Dr. David Sparrow
Institute for Defense Analyses, USA

Title: Challenges in Autonomous System Development