An important part of my job is to stay on top of what’s currently happening in robotics. Given the fast pace in robotics, it sometimes feels more like trying not to drown! A great way to see all the latest trends is to attend a few key conferences. IROS and ICRA are the two biggest robotics conferences in the world and I often go to those. I attend a few other smaller more focused conferences to study precise subjects – such as control theory at the great DLMC conference in Zurich.

This year, IROS is being held in Daejeon, South Korea. The weekend right before IROS, ROSCon is taking place in Seoul. ROS is the amazing open source framework that we use and love at Shadow. ROSCon focuses purely on this framework and is a get together occasion for this vibrant community.

So this led me to spend ten days in Korea. Trying to survive ten days of conference, with seven hours of jet lag is an interesting experience. I thought I’d share it with you…

You meet awesome people

bowling night

As a remoty, those trips are a great way to connect with my colleagues. We get to eat, drink, go bowling, play semi-virtual golf… We are also able to talk about work and the company informally. I cherish those moments with my awesome colleagues!

Through the years of collaborating with researchers and companies all over the world, it’s also a good time for meeting with past and present collaborators. I particularly enjoy meeting people that I’ve never met in the flesh but have collaborated with.

You see cool stuff

Something I really love when processing a lot of data in a short time is that “oh wow” moment — when you can’t wait to test some idea and see if it will truly take you one step closer to your roadmap goals. You’ve probably had those moments!

I usually pack that feeling tightly and store it up for later use, when I need a shot of productivity booster!

Going through 10 days of conference, I had a good streak of those!

Disclaimer: I get really excited about weird things.

For example this paper about blind grasping — or grasping without sensors — was an eye opener for me… excuse the pun… It’s very close to the ideas I’ve been looking at when researching grasp measurements methods. Differentiating the thumb in the control of the hand while grasping instead of treating it as just another finger is brilliant.

Or this paper that uses deep learning on automatically generated data and can then grasp quickly different objects in a very cluttered environment. It seems like a very efficient approach to address the grasping planification.

Atlas walking in Gazebo

As discussed in the roadmap I’m also convinced that having good simulators is necessary if we want to take robotics forward. During ROSCon, I had the opportunity to exchange about a simulator we use – Gazebo – with Louise Poubel who’s part of the Gazebo team. I was pleased to hear about the latest progress of modeling grasping in Gazebo during the haptix project.

I was also lucky enough during those conferences to hear amazing talks from great people. For example Gill Pratt from Toyota research explained his views on fully autonomous cars versus guardian intelligent systems that help the drivers when they make mistakes.

And of course cool robots

Huge quad-copter from UconSystem and humanoid from Robotis.

I wouldn’t leave you without talking about some cool demos that I saw. I’m still a kid when it comes to robots doing demos! For example, at ROSCon, a turtlebot was bringing fresh beer to people, happily navigating the crowded space. I also got to see some pretty impressive quad-copters from UconSystem and a full size humanoid from Robotis.

I never tire of doing our own card trick to show people what our Shadow Hand can do. It’s always fun to see their reaction!

The Shadow Dexterous Hand performing our card trick demo.

Final words

This was a quick overview of my amazing 10 days in South Korea taking in two really interesting conferences. I had a great time with my colleagues, met lots of talented people, and am coming back to work with a huge drive to try new things and push our roadmap forward!

Remember to get in touch on Twitter @ugocupcic.