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05 March

The Robotics Science and Systems (RSS) conference is on track for Atlanta, GA this summer. It will be adjacent to RoboCup so should be able to attract a range of participants. There had been a chance of attracting RSS to McGill and Montreal, but that would have represented a huge amount of work (for me!) and Georgia Teach seems to have superb infrastructure and financial support for this kind of thing. The big news is that RSS seems to have had a substantial increase in submissions this year, so the conference seems healthy and it promises to be exciting. Reviewing is in progress, and official figures should be available soon.

RSS is a key conference for hard core scientific results in all of robotics, from mapping algorithms to mechanical design. It features a single track of 30 to 60 minutes presentations of original scientific results. RoboCup involves a series of robot competitions from version seriosu teams. These include physical robots an software simulations. The teams that compete are typically composed of graduate students and/or professional who are pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
07 March

The Computer and Robot Vision (CRV) 2007 will take place in Montreal this summer and the reviewing has just finished. Greg Mori and Richard Vaughn, the co-chairs, did a great job. The acceptance rate for orally presented papers was 25%. and the paper quality seems to be high. It will be combined with 3 other conferences: The Precarn Conference (Robotics, Intelliegnce Systems and ICT), Graphics Interface (Computer Graphics and HCI) and Artificial Intelligence. Tal Arbel from McGill is the general chair of the whole thing, working with Gary Gudbranson of Precarn. They have done a lot of work to make the entire combined project very appealing. The invited speakers for CRV are Michael Black (Brown U), Larry Matthies (JPL), and Martial Hebert (CMU) each of which is a real expert in an impressive domain that combines basic science with a cool appliction -- directly connecting to the human brain, controlling robotics on other planets and using vision in autonomous vehicles.

The entire package of 4 conferences will be a nice combination with a low registration cost, and Montreal in the summer tiem is really attractive. This combines a lot of cool science, amazing applications and some business networking. CRV is sponsored by the Canadian Image Processing and Pattern Recognition Society (CIPPRS) which is the Canadian branch of the International Pattern Recognition Society (I am the president, so I am not totally impartial, but all the above comments are still true).

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
13 April

I am at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Rome, and Tandy Trower (general manager of the Microsoft Robotics Group) gave a long presentation pitching Microsoft Robotics Studio to the robotics research community. The reaction was quite mixed. MSRS has a number in interesting features and it promises to help provide a standard easy-to-use interface for robotics enthusiasts and certain researchers. Most importantly, it is an endorsement of robotics as a field that is on the verge of really opening up and having major impact. This is consistent with the recent Scientific American cover story authored by Bill gates. On the other hand, it is a closed proprietary system and it may reduce the amount of innovation in robotics software, if it is successful. This is probably a natural consequence of the maturation of any field, and in particular a software-intensive one, so it is not necessarily a bad things.

Herman Bruyninckx from K.U Leuven (and head of Euron) gave a very spirited rebuttal to Trower and argued that every time Microsoft enters a new market the range of alternative solutions becomes much smaller and more polarized. He was quite provocative and got a very strong level of support from the audience. At present, there are several alternative open source robotics toolkits and packages around.

Part of Trower's presentation included a brief discussion os MSRS 1.5 beta, which will have more features than the current version. Of course, the open source Player/Stage software which is now widely used was also discussed and a call went out that this is a key time to support that effort. All in all, it was one of the most talked-about events at the conference.

Even if MS Robotics Studio fails to get traction with the research community due to functional limitations, it may bias a whole generation of students who eventually do robotics, and thus become an almost-unavoidable presence.


By Gregory Dudek at | Read (7) or Leave a comment |    
25 April

Robots are increasingly being used for warlike purposes. While we are very far from building a robot like the one on the movie "The Terminator", fully automated machine guns have already been deployed between North and South Korea. There are active research projects in several counties aimed at bulidng autonomous combat vehicles, and some of there are close to the point at which they can automatically deliver lethal force. Singapore seems to have a funding competition regarding what seems to be an automatic robot assasin.

In this context, Georgia Tech is running a web-based survey on the use of robots capable of delivering lethal force.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
30 April

Last Friday I was at the University of Texas at Austin for the doctoral defense of Mohan Sridharan. Mohan's thesis dealt with color recognition and constancy (and re-calibration) for navigation and localization.

A key part of his work deals with adapting to illumination changes. This is accomplished by using a hybrid representation of both color and illumination change, and using different mechanisms to deal with gradual versus sudden changes. He passed comfortably.

The robotics labs there were large and very active. I finally got a chance to ride on a Segway myself, which was surprisingly easy and smooth. Most Segways one finds in robotics labs are not suitable for human riders.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
02 June

The 2007 Computer and Robot Vision (CRV) just finished. It is an annual conference sponsored by the Canadian Image Processing and Pattern Recognition Society (CIPPRS, which I happen to be the president of, so be aware this is not objective). CRV took place in Montreal combined with AI 2007, Graphics Interface and the Precarn conference. From all accounts the conference combination worked well and there is a desire to hold all four conferences together again next year where the venue will be Windsor, Ontario. Having Precarn in the mix had the conference overall a bit more professional and upscale, and people were nervous about possible increased costs, but it all worked out nicely. Windsor is certain to be the venue for the next AI/GI/CRV, but Precarn still needs to decide if they will join.

Speakers included Michael Black who spoke about Markov Random Fields (MRF's) for image restoration. In addition to showing of some of his own ideas Michael provided a nice overview of the area and discussed methods to avoid explicit computation of the partition function. This material was especially appealing to me since it is related to the research of my former student Abril Torres (Luz-Abril Torres-Mendez) who worked with me on the recovery and restoration of range images using MRF's. Invited speakers included Martial Hebert and Larry Matthies from CMU and JPL respectively, who each also gave very nice talks on image motion analysis and on vision based navigation and scene understanding. I sadly missed most of Larry's talk due to an administrative meeting, but the people who talk to me about it were very enthusiastic, which is no surprise since Mars landing applications are always good and Larry delivers a consistenly great presentation. Martial actually gave 2 different long talks, both of which included a nice restrospective introduction as well as some cool very recent results (some of which were only archieved the week of the conference and have not yet appeared in print).

The one minor downer was an expensive banquet at the Marriott that featured a really absymally tough dry capon (chicken). I rarely focus on food, but this thing was truly memorable.

Other features of the conference were a trade show and an open house at the McGill Research Center for Intelligent Machines (CIM). Both had pretty good attendance and seemed to go over quite well.

(Read more about Abril's work on MRF's here.)

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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