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IROS 2010 Workshop on Ubiquitous Networking Robotics

dylan-glas's picture

I recently attended the Ubiquitous Networking Robot workshop at IROS 2010 in Taipei. This was the 11th workshop in a series at IROS and ICRA conferences since its inception in 2004. Presenters included academic speakers from several organizations in Japan and the European Union, representatives from industry, including Toshiba and NEC, and an invited talk from Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro, from Osaka University.

The theme of this year's workshop was "Network Robot Services for the Elderly." Many speakers focused strongly on this theme, expressing concern with growing problems concerning the elderly population such as physical health risks like inactivity and poor diet, as well as mental health risks such as lack of participation in a community and lack of contact with relatives and friends. Many robot applications were proposed to address these issues. Several recent studies were presented, investigating the possibilities of using robots to help medical staff to monitor elderly people in their homes, to encourage elderly people to live more physically and socially healthy lifestyles, to mediate between people to help them grow and maintain friendships, and to provide companionship and assistance during daily tasks such as shopping.

The technical side of the workshop focused mainly on necessary infrastructure technologies for enabling networked robot systems. A common topic was "ambient intelligence," employing intelligent sensor networks to support robot services, primarily for tracking and modeling the motion of people in the environment and for localizing the robots in real-world spaces. Several speakers also focused on the network communication infrastructure itself, as a critical component of any networked robot system.

An encouraging sign from this year's workshop was the significant progress demonstrated by many groups in addressing the pragmatic issues of real-world network robot systems. In fact, 8 of the 13 speakers reported on robot deployments in locations such as city streets, shopping malls, hospitals, and homes of the elderly. This technological progress and the renewed focus on providing assistance for the elderly are promising signs for a future of real-world networked robot systems that can make a positive contribution to society.