Category Archives: Robot News

Special session on Soft and Underactuated Robots at ICIAfS2014

Special session on Soft and Underactuated Robots at ICIAfS2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 22-24th December 2014.

Organized by the Technical Committee on Sot Robotics, IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.

Session chair: Thrishantha Nanayakkara, Centre for Robotics Research, Department of Informatics, King’s College London

Scope: Locomotion and manipulation strategies of soft invertebrates like octopus and underactuated control strategies of vertebrate limbs have begun to raise a number of questions about the role of the body itself in the computation required to control interactions with the environment. The conventional idea of a controller residing in microprocessors separate from the body being controlled has been challenged with the idea that the body itself actively contributes to the computation that maps states to actions of the body. The extreme examples are in passive dynamic walkers that can maintain a steady state speed of walking with no sensors and actuated joints. Therefore, the conventional view that extra degrees of freedom in soft and underactuated robots cause challenges to design closed loop controllers is being challenged with the alternative view that proper design of the soft robot can in fact reduce the burden on the closed loop controllers. Moreover, recent findings show that a soft robot can enhance information transfer in its embodied sensors by controlling the stiffness of the embodiment that hosts the sensors.

These exciting topics of recent research can provide future solutions to energy efficient robust robots that can serve in many industrial and service industries that require robots to work in shared workspaces with humans, or in applications like landmine detection without having to cut vegetation, agriculture, and underwater exploration. Therefore this special session contributes to the theme – “sustainable development through effective man-machine co-existence”.

Apart from the scientific merit, we encourage you to submit papers to this session based on its potential to promote science in developing countries.

Deadline for first paper submission: 15th September 15th October, 2014 following the guidelines given here. Please choose the “special sessions track“.

Registration fees: US$380 per participant. One author can submit upto two papers. If an author cannot be present, he/she should send the presentation in PPT or PDF format to the session chair Thrishantha (email: ) before the start of the session and should be available via Skype for the Q&A session.

Contact: For any questions, please contact Thrishantha (email: )

The London Robotics Network Launches

The London Robotics Network is an open network of people around London interested in robotics. We organise meetings, events and networking for the London robotics community.

Our vision is to bring together all of London’s robotics community to exchange ideas, find opportunities, mentor and support one another and enjoy ourselves building robots and doing robotics.

London is filled with creative minds working in robotics, which is one of our generation’s disruptive technologies. The fusion of cheap computers, low-cost prototyping, and widespread sensing has made this a boom time for robotics, and it is time that we, the roboticists of London, had a meeting place to gather and discuss our successes, our discoveries, our challenges and the burning plastic smell of our failures. The London Robotics Network is this space.
The founders come from industry, academia, and government, and represent a diverse range of robotics interests – from hardware engineering through to bio-inspired dragonfly robots. We welcome membership (free of charge to individuals) from all backgrounds and interests – to join, please register on our _connect forum, and express your interests in a post.

The LRN is open to everyone interested in robotics and robot-like things. We want to avoid specialisation and try to bring together people from different communities. We’re about the people, not their organisations, and we’re as interdisciplinary as possible.
The Network will meet from time to time, both informally and formally, as the members see fit – please make your preferences known. Our first proposed meeting is a Plenary session at Imperial College on the 30th of September, where several of our founders will speak briefly of interesting robots they have developed and invite an open discussion on how to develop the Network.

Introducing the Core-Snake

The Core-Snake is a variable stiffness laparoscopic camera that uses granular jamming to alternate between soft and rigid states. The soft state enables it to be flexible and dexterous, while the rigid state enables it to be a stable platform for the camera.

Allen Jiang Hamlyn 2013 Core Snake

Developed by Allen Jiang at the Centre for Robotics Research (CoRe) at King’s College London, Department of Informatics.

Presented at the Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics 2013

Maria Fox and Thrish Nanayakkara on Robosapians

Professor Maria Fox and Dr. Thrishantha Nanayakkara discuss the current state of the UK’s tech and manufacturing industry in an article with The Work Foundation titled “The rise of the Robosapiens.” The emphasize that  investing in education and engineering will help UK become a leader, rather than a passer-by, in the next generation.

This article was written as part of an invited talk by The Work Foundation’s annual debate, “Will robots and enhanced humans steal our jobs?

Full article here:

Follow the debate here:

King’s College London featured on BBC TWO Newsnight (2013-05-30)

In a piece on how killer robots may affect the future of military warfare, BBC 2 reports on how robotics is used today and how they may develop into weapons. The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is debating on the ethical use of “killer robots,” with UN rapporteur Christof Heyns calling for a halt to their current use.

Featured here is King’s College London’s Centre for Robotics Research, which is focused on humanitarian and medical robotics. In fact, most robotic research has little to do with military applications, despite the common stigma. Professor Maria Fox from the Department of Informatics emphasizes that “terminator-style robots” is not the type of machines anyone working in the field envisage.

KCL Qualifies for the DARPA Robotics Challenge

DARPA, the United States defense research agency known for their self-driving car grand challenge, recently launched a new challenge: the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). This time, the target is to create and control a humanoid robot to transverse and operate in an environment designed for humans. With recent events such as the Fukashima disaster, DARPA hopes to have robots capable of performing search, rescue, and repairing tasks in places too dangerous of human workers. The DRC competition involves a virtual controls track, with the top teams of this area to win a million dollar humanoid robot, the ATLAS robot by Boston Dynamics. The virtual controls track focuses on methods and algorithms to control a robots movements and decision making to navigate and manipulate its way through various situations. Considering humanoid robots have existed for decades, and natural walking and manipulation has barely been achieved, this is no easy task. Any organization capable of entry to the DRC competition gains international recognition for their innovative abilities.

As the only team from the UK to enter, King’s College London’s DRC team consisted of just several Msc students co-supervised by Ph.D students and academic staff. Through their hard efforts and dedication, the team overcame multiple obstacles such as having a small team and low resources. With just two computers just powerful enough to run the simulations and control schemes, the team spent hundreds of hours in the lab to put King’s College London in the spotlight. With over 100 competitors in the DRC competition, King’s College London is among the 20% to pass through the qualification round. KCL is now competing in league with top organizations, such as MIT and NASA JPL.

drc scoreboard

For more information about the team: