Honda Research Institute to collaborate with Edinburgh Centre for Robotics

Last Friday 22nd January 2016, Professor Sethu Vijayakumar, Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and Personal Chair in Robotics in the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, concluded a contract signing with Honda Research Institute Europe, in the Informatics Forum’s Turing Room. This marks the beginning of a fruitful collaboration in the domain of interactive robotics between the Centre and Honda RI, the home of the world famous ASIMO humanoid. Professor Vijayakumar said:

“It was a pleasure to renew our decade-long association with Honda through concrete inward investments to the Centre in the form of Ph.D. studentships. The president of Honda RI, Professor Bernhard Sendhoff, hinted that there may be opportunities for a much broader and closer engagement since the underlying research themes of shared interactive autonomy pursued in the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics resonate nicely with the core aim of intelligent systems development at Honda RI. I am extremely supportive of this initiative and look forward to even closer ties.”

The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and Honda Research Institutes are already recruiting students for the “Learning control and manipulation using tactile information” studentship as part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems.

Honda RI at Gateway Event

After Professor Sendhoff and Dr Gienger visited the School of Informatics facilities last Friday, Dr Gienger gave a presentation, as part of our fortnightly Gateway Events, on “Movement Learning and Control for Robots in Interaction”, where he talked about imitation learning research at the Honda Research Institute Europe. Starting from their perspective on robot movement representation and control, he introduced a probabilistic approach towards learning and imitating elementary object movement skills based on kinematic (camera) data. He then presented the concepts that permit representing forces and thus enable the interaction with the environment. The last part of the talk covered recent research on learning sequential movement skills.

In contrast to other Gateway events which more specifically address the CDT-RAS students, aligned students and students from the other CDTs also attended the presentation by Honda Research Institute, Europe. Dr Michael Herrmann, from the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and co-organiser of Gateway Events, commented that:

"The more pragmatic approach at Honda RI may appear more prosaic than the results of academic research, but it highlighted that robotics is a largely empirical science which requires both hypothesis-driven exploratory search as well as the exploitation of opportunities for practical applications. It was interesting to see that some standard techniques which are being acquired by the CDT students are not yet mature enough to be relevant for applications, although Honda RI just as other private research institutes are clearly interested in this respect."

Dr Michael Gienger is working successfully with Honda RI since 2003, and his experience enabled him to provide the Centre not with a mere update on the current research activities at Honda RI, but also with deeply valuable insights into the power of modern robotic methodologies in applied research and practical applications.

Useful links

Professor Sethu Vijayakumar’s web page

Honda Research Institute Europe

School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and Honda studentship

Upcoming ECR Gateway Events