ICRA-X is an outreach activity to the general public in the region that hosts the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. It will feature lively presentations from distinguished experts on popular and cutting-edge topics in the field. ICRA-X is aimed at enlightening the greater community, especially the young generation.

ICRA-X 2017 Speakers

Antonio Bicchi (University of Pisa & Italian Institute of Technology, Italy)

The Quest for Natural Machine Motion

We do not know how robots of the future will look like, but both the layman and the expert agree that they will not be like the heavy, rigid machines we have seen moving clumsily and somewhat menacingly in the past.  Many researchers are indeed focusing on how to build softer robots which can move naturally around in an environment shared with humans.

Gentleness and strength, safety and efficiency, capability and adaptability, smoothness and effectiveness are the contradictory goals that such a naturally moving machine should achieve. In this talk, I will discuss how new materials and design approaches, new sensors and actuators, new control approaches, and new human-robot interfaces can enable the next generation of robots for assisting and cooperating with humans.

Bio: Antonio Bicchi is Senior Scientist with the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa and Professor of Robotics at the University of Pisa. He graduated from the University of Bologna in 1988 and was a postdoc scholar at MIT AI Lab in 1988–1991. His main research interests are in Robotics, Haptics, and Control Systems. He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, and has organized the first WorldHaptics Conference (WHC'05). He co-chaired the Int. Symp. on Robotics Research (ISRR'15), and the Program Committee of the Int. Conf. Robotics and Automation (ICRA'16). He is the recipient of several awards and honors, including an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council for his research on human and robot hands.


Emilio Frazzoli (Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA & Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology)

Driving Toward Tomorrow

How is technology going to change mobility in the future? How will our lives and our cities change as autonomous cars become a reality? In this talk, I will explain the vision that is being pursued by nuTonomy for a future in which safe, reliable, and affordable mobility is provided to all through a fleet of autonomous shared vehicles, augmenting and complementing other transportation options.

Bio: Emilio Frazzoli is a Professor of Dynamic Systems and Control at ETH Zurich, as well as co-founder and CTO of nuTonomy, a startup developing autonomous cars for mobility on demand systems. In acknowledgement of his work in robotics, fleet management, and autonomous systems, Prof. Frazzoli has received numerous major awards, including the the 2015 IEEE George S. Axelby Award and the 2017 IEEE Kiyo Tomiyasu Award. He has published more than 250 papers in the field of robotics, autonomous vehicles, and UAVs. A former full professor at MIT, he directed the research group that put the first autonomous vehicles on the road in Singapore.


Oussama Khatib (Stanford University, USA)

Ocean One: A Robotic Avatar for Oceanic Discovery​

The promise of oceanic discovery has intrigued scientists and explorers for centuries, whether to study underwater ecology and climate change, or to uncover natural resources and historic secrets buried deep at archaeological sites. A robotic avatar could go where humans cannot, while embodying human intelligence and intentions through immersive interfaces. In collaboration with KAUST, MEKA Robotics, we developed Ocean One, a bimanual force-controlled humanoid robot. With the support of French Ministry of Culture’s Underwater Archaeology Research Department, we deployed Ocean One in an expedition in the Mediterranean to Louis XIV’s flagship Lune, lying off the coast of Toulon at ninety-one meters. In the spring of 2016, Ocean One became the first robotic avatar to embody a human’s presence at the seabed. We foresee that robotic avatars will search for and acquire materials, support equipment, build infrastructure, and perform disaster prevention and recovery operations — be it deep in oceans and mines, at mountain tops, or in space.

Bio: Oussama Khatib received his PhD from Sup’Aero, Toulouse, France, in 1980. He is Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University. His research focuses on methodologies and technologies in human-centered robotics including humanoid control architectures, human motion synthesis, interactive dynamic simulation, haptics, and human-friendly robot design. He is a Fellow of IEEE. He is Co-Editor of the Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics (STAR) series and the Springer Handbook of Robotics, which received the PROSE Award for Excellence in Physical Sciences & Mathematics. Professor Khatib is the President of the International Foundation of Robotics Research (IFRR). He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the IEEE RAS Pioneer Award in Robotics and Automation, the IEEE RAS George Saridis Leadership Award in Robotics and Automation, the IEEE RAS Distinguished Service Award, and the Japan Robot Association (JARA) Award in Research and Development.


Zexiang Li (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong)

Essential Ingredients of Building a Successful Robotic Startup​​

Though the robotics market is estimated to grow at double digits till 2022, and over USD100 million was raised by robotic startups in January 2017, our study reveals that less than 5% of robotic startups last longer than 4 years, and the number is much lower for startups whose primary founders came directly from academia. The major cause leading to the closure of robotic startups is that startups failed to deliver their products to the market in a progressive and constructive manner before using up the resources, especially the monetary investment.

What is the secret code of building a startup in the robotic field, or any hardware field? How to move quickly from lab prototype to pilot production and mass manufacturing? How to effectively manage supply chain that deals with materials, components, modules, and design & manufacturing services? How to organically scale up the teams with co-founders, engineers, technicians, workers and operation staff? How to timely raise funds and get appropriate mentors’ guidance? In a nut shell, what are the essential ingredients of building a successful robotic startup?

I believe there is a secret code, or formula to run a robotic startup successfully. In this talk, I unfold the critical challenges exhibited before and during the operation of a robotic startup, and how to tackle these challenges to iteratively make prototypes, test products in the market, collect feedback, analyse and improve the product. I will use some example robotic startups residing in Songshan Lake Robotic Startup facility (Xbot Park) which I founded to illustrate the deployment of the secret code.

Bio: Zexiang Li attended South-Central University in 1978, received his BS degree in EE and Economics from CMU in 1983, then his MS degree in EECS, MA in math and PhD in EECS, all from UC Berkeley. He worked at ALCOA, CMU RI and MIT AI Lab. He was an assistant professor at NYU. In 1992, he joined the ECE Dept of HKUST. He co-founded the Automation Technology Center (ATC) and more recently the HKUST RI. Zexiang Li’s major awards include the ALCOA Foundation Fellowship, the E. Anthony Fellowship, the University Scholar award from CMU, the E.I. Jury award from UC Berkeley, and the Outstanding Young Researcher award from NSF China. He became an IEEE Fellow in 2008. Zexiang Li served as an associate editor for the IEEE TRA. He was the general Chair for ICRA’11. Zexiang Li's research areas of interest include a multi-fingered robotic hand, parallel manipulators, work piece localization and inspection, motion control, precision assembly, and UAVs. He is the author of more than 100 journal and conference papers, and the books “A Mathematical Introduction to Robotic Manipulation” (CRC Press 1993), and “Nonholonomic Motion Planning” (Kluwer 1994). Zexiang Li has co-founded several companies with his colleagues and students from the Automation Technology Center, including Googol Technology, DJI, QKM Technology, and ePropulsion. He recently co-founded the Songshan Lake Robotic Startup Center and the Clearwater Bay Venture Capital for robotic startups.


Axel Thallemer (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Additive-generative Industrial Design for Robotic Automation

Teaching by research and tutoring Bachelor, Master and Ph.D. students of Industrial Design focusing on low-cost/low-tech robotics with the emphasis on simplicity by smart mechanics powered by artificial muscles co-developed by the speaker for Festo. For both innovation and strategic design management education is shown via case studies how to teach through research in a multidisciplinary manner. Blurring boundaries of professional compartmentalisation and contrary to fragmentation of knowledge are leading towards a new era of innovation by not mimicking nature. Visualisations clearly depict the design process, the managing of both the conceptual development and the alternative morphologies resulting in the final prototypes in comparison to the common industrial solutions. In the presented project this method is being illustrated via pneumatic gripper systems. Three bio-mimetically induced end effectors are designed and protoyped by additive-generative fabrication. Subsequently it is shown, that these three grippers may not be manufactured by traditional production methods.

Bio: Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Axel Thallemer is Full Professor with tenure at National University of Singapore and Deputy Head of Research for Industrial Design. In his fifteen years of employment by industry he designed at R&D center of Porsche, followed by founding and being Head of Festo Corporate Design, afterwards freelance consulting in industrial context. Previous professorships were in Munich, Hamburg and Austria (Dean and Chair of Industrial Design at Linz university, scientifically repositioning Bachelor and Master curricula under the academic brand “scionic®”); currently there are some 16 additional visiting professorships and circa 35 patents. Life Fellow of The RSA in London, founded 1754 and i/IDSA, IEEE, ICED as well as ICoRD and JED reviewer. Member of project group formulating action recommendation “Additive Fabrication” for German Industry on behalf of acatech – German National Academy of Science and Engineering, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities.


Jim Ostrowski (Blue River Technology, USA)