The first UK-RAS Conference on ‘Robotics and Autonomous Systems’ (RAS 2017) was held on Tuesday 12th December 2017 at the UWE Bristol Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC). The conference addressed the synergetic interaction of human and robotic technologies. Robots and agents have begun to enter our everyday lives they begin to do so in an increasingly autonomous way and these increasing levels of interaction will pose serious challenges to the capability of robots to interact with humans in an increasingly autonomous way. Interactions could span from having robots carry out “dirty, dull and dangerous” tasks for us in many challenging environments and at varying levels of autonomy, to information-oriented and task-oriented interaction, emotional interaction, and even social interaction.
Robots could accomplish daily tasks when interacting with humans, like personal assistance, child care and education, or senior care, independently or collaboratively. This autonomy makes behaviour less predictable with existing models not currently equipped to capture these types of interactions. We need a better understanding and models of the principles that not only take situational and task aspects into account but also include detailed user models. We thus encourage contributions that try to tackle this question by focusing on more realistic and life-like scenarios.
The conference covered work on recent advances in adaptive robot interaction, machine learning and knowledge acquisition. The conference had contributions from a broad range of fields and covered diverse topics including: human-robot interaction, artificial intelligence, field robotics, hardware modelling and abstraction, task planning, monitoring, robot simulation, multi-robot systems and more.
A sub-theme of the conference was the very significant challenge of ascending the Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), from fundamental academic research to commercial/industrial exploitation. There is still a huge need for fundamental research spread across a wide range of application domains, but as the UK-RAS community matures, showing that the research has a clear path to societal and/or economic benefit, will become more and more important. In order to convey the highly valuable lessons that can be learned by early career researchers attending this event, all of the event’s invited speakers were asked to present their work in this exciting technology domain in the context of their experiences of traversing the so-called ‘Innovation Pipeline’.
The conference brought together early-career researchers and PhD students in all areas of robotics and autonomous systems research for an engaging and focused day of single-track presentations, poster sessions and robot demos. The final programme is the result of a thorough review process to give attendees an opportunity to see the best research in all areas of robotics and autonomous systems.
Organised by Professor Tony Pipe (Bristol Robotics Laboratory) & Marianne Knight, UK-RAS Network Manager