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ICRA 2023



Sethu Vijayakumar

Sethu Vijayakumar

Programme Director, The Alan Turing Institute and Professor of Robotics, University of Edinburgh
United Kingdom

Presentation - From Automation to Autonomy: Machine Learning for Next-generation Robotics  

The new generation of robots work much more closely with humans, other robots and interact significantly with the environment around it. As a result, the key paradigms are shifting from isolated decision making systems to one that involves shared control -- with significant autonomy devolved to the robot platform; and end-users in the loop making only high level decisions.

This talk will briefly introduce powerful machine learning technologies ranging from robust multi-modal sensing, shared representations, scalable real-time learning and adaptation, and compliant actuation that are enabling us to reap the benefits of increased autonomy while still feeling securely in control.

This also raises some fundamental questions: while the robots are ready to share control, what is the optimal trade-off between autonomy and control that we are comfortable with?

Domains where this debate is relevant include deployment of robots in extreme environments, self-driving cars, asset inspection, repair & maintenance, factories of the future and assisted living technologies including exoskeletons and prosthetics to list a few.


Sethu Vijayakumar is the Professor of Robotics at the University of Edinburgh, UK and the Founding Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics.  He has pioneered the use of large-scale machine learning techniques in the real-time control of several iconic robotic platforms such as the SARCOS and the HONDA ASIMO humanoids, KUKA-LWR robot arm and iLIMB prosthetic hand. He had held adjunct faculty positions at the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan. One of his landmark projects (2016) involved a collaboration with NASA Johnson Space Centre on the Valkyrie humanoid robot being prepared for unmanned robotic pre-deployment missions to Mars. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a judge on BBC Robot Wars and winner of the 2015 Tam Dalyell Prize for excellence in engaging the public with science. Professor Vijayakumar helps shape and drive the UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) agenda in his recent role as the Programme Director for Robotics and Human AI Interfaces at The Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and AI.