Highlights from our Annual Conference - October 2021

Our 2021 Annual CDT Conference took place on Friday 1st October when we welcomed 70 students, 30 academics and 34 industry partners to our online event.

CDT Director Professor Michael Mistry opened the proceedings by welcoming delegates to the conference and providing an overview of the activities of the CDT in the 2020/21 academic year.

Dr Amit Pandey delivered the first keynote of the day with his presentation titled “Useful and Intelligent Artificial Social Beings: The Needs and The Opportunities”, which highlighted the huge opportunities in the sector and discussed potential use cases of robots, with a focus on innovation and applied perspectives. The talk also covered the multidisciplinary nature of the domain, the challenges that the robotics community must address, and the need for a bigger collaborative ecosystem.

Students then had an opportunity to present their posters in the Gathertown poster room before the next keynote from Dr Sabine Hauert from University of Bristol, who delivered a talk on “Swarms for people”.  Dr Hauert’s presentation discussed the opportunities to build a unified framework for the engineering of swarms across scales that makes use of machine learning to automatically discover suitable agent designs and behaviours, digital twins to seamlessly move between the digital and physical world, and user studies to explore how to make swarms safe and trustworthy.

During the lunch break delegates were allocated a virtual lunch table to allow them to network with other attendees.  This was followed by an industry session and a further student poster session.

For the first time, some of our alumni joined the conference to talk about their experiences as PhD students, and their career paths since graduating.  We all enjoyed hearing from them, and current students valued their advice.  This session was so successful, it is set to be a permanent feature of future conferences.

Professor Lydia Kavraki from Rice University delivered the third keynote of the day. Professor Kavraki’s research interests span robotics, AI, and biomedicine. In robotics and AI, she is interested in enabling robots to work with people and in support of people. Her research develops the underlying methodologies for achieving this goal: algorithms for motion planning for high-dimensional systems with kinematic and dynamic constraints, integrated frameworks for reasoning under sensing and control uncertainty, novel methods for learning and for using experiences, and ways to instruct robots at a high level and collaborate with them.

Delegates then reconvened for a social event and competition to name one of the new Spot robots based at Heriot-Watt University before the final keynote of the day, presented by Andra Keay, the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics who discussed “The Evolution of Modern Robotics”, with a focus on where robotics is meeting the real world right now.

The conference closed with the announcement of prize winners as follows:

Spot robot naming competition – Billy Lyons

Best case study – Eleftherios Triantafyllidis

Best poster – Paul Baisamy