The METERON SUPVIS Justin Orbit-to-Ground Experiment video was judged "best video" by the ICRA 2019 video committee.

May 24, 2019      

MONTREAL – More than 4,200 attendees discussed the latest robotics trends, innovations, and research at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, held here this week. Produced by the IEEE Robotics & Automation Society, this year’s event included more than 1,300 papers and presentations by robotics researchers from around the world.

In an analysis of the papers provided by the GVU Center at Georgia Tech, the 4,370 authors of the 1,389 papers submitted for the conference covered 162 different topics around robotics and automation, with a large majority covering deep learning in robotics and automation. The top 10 subjects at the show, according to the Georgia Tech analysis, were:

  1. Deep Learning in Robotics and Automation (186 papers)
  2. Motion and Path Planning (114 papers)
  3. SLAM (87 papers)
  4. Autonomous Vehicle Navigation (80 papers)
  5. Learning and Adaptive Systems (80 papers)
  6. Medical Robots and Systems (75 papers)
  7. Optimization and Optimal Control (72 papers)
  8. Multi-Robot Systems (68 papers)
  9. Mechanism Design (59 papers)
  10. Learning from Demonstration (55 papers)
Gregory Dudek ICRA 2019 learning article

Gregory Dudek, ICRA 2019 general chair.

“For the last few years, deep learning and fully automated extraction of data from big piles of data has been a big trend,” said Gregory Dudek, the general chair of the ICRA committee. “Now what we’re seeing in robotics is the incorporation of classical knowledge with machine learning.”

Dudek said he’s seeing research take classic controllers and deep learning to build a hybrid system that uses both of these technologies. “That’s a very hot new thing, which has a lot of promise,” he said. “It’s basically using insights you get from pure learning for building the guarantees that you get from classical methods.”

Continued optimism for robotics

The increased attendance, interest from large industrial robot makers, and even startup companies at the show all indicate a continued growth and optimism around robotics, Dudek said. Companies that developed prototypes a few years ago are now showing more mature systems that can do new tasks.

“The stuff from the past few years is super impressive, and every year it gets more impressive,” said Dudek. “Boston Dynamics was here with one of their walking robots, and it’s the one they showed at the MARS conference last year. So it’s the same family of robots, but of course they’re better, they’re more robust. It blew my mind how cool it is and how robust it is, and that it’s becoming productized.”

In another example, Dudek said a company he’s connected with, Independent robotics, was showing off an amphibious hexapod that both walks and swims. “In the past years, it was kind of flaky in terms of its ability to do both,” he said. “But now it nails it, and with some crazy new legs.”

In terms of new areas for robotics, Dudek mentioned seeing movement in the forestry sector, an area where robots have not been seen before, as well as drone quadcopters being used in underground mining applications.

The ICRA 2020 event will be held in Paris, from May 31 through June 4, 2020. Head here for more details on next year’s event.