Robotics: Challenges & Opportunities in the 21st Century

Robotics is now faced with new challenges to develop applicable and profitable robotic devices for domains less constrained than the industrial ones. There is, here, a major challenge for the 21st century Robotics that can be only overcome through the tight collaboration between academic and industrial partners. The goal of the session is to discuss current progress in robotics research and emerging application areas arising from the demographic shift of the society. Existing cooperation work from the HeKKSaGOn network will be presented. Furthermore, we will discuss the different possibilities for collaborative start-up projects between Japanese and German Universities. 

  • Prof. Tamim Asfour, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Chair)
  • Prof. Kazuhiro Kosuge, Tohoku University (Co-Chair)
  • Prof. Shinya Aoi, Kyoto University
  • Prof. Minoru Asada, University of Osaka
  • Prof. Essameddin Badreddin, University of Heidelberg
  • Prof. Fumitoshi Matsuno, Kyoto University
  • Prof. Satoshi Tadokoro, Tohoku University
  • Prof. Florentin Wörgötter, University of Göttingen
  • Prof. Kazuya Yoshida, Tohoku University
  • Prof. Katja Mombaur, University of Heidelberg 
Project abstract:

Robotics is an interdisciplinary research area that involves mechanics, electronics, computer science, biomedical engineering, artificial intelligence and even more. It is a key technology for health, well-being, safe and resilient society, by expanding our ability and changing our lifestyle. The development of the intuitive and efficient human-machine interfaces has enabled a variety of applications. One is the robots that snuggle up with humans to provide assistance for handicapped persons and care for the elderly generation. Advancement of robotics combined with biomedical engineering, artificial intelligence and neuroscience improves the quality of life. Another application is remotely-operated robots for hazardous operations at locations that are difficult and/or dangerous to access such as mining, construction, contaminated sites, disaster response, and space exploration. The capability to present a sense of realism and execute appropriate actions beyond distance and time develops a new teleoperation ability. An extreme application in this direction is outer space exploration that will expand the boundary of our scientific knowledge and our habitable zones in the future. The recent rapid progress of AI and machine learning technologies bring synergies to robotics to create higher-level of motion intelligence in these applications. Today, we are facing difficult challenges of natural disasters and emerging deceases. In particular, COVID-19 imposes a new normal lifestyle to prevent the infection to the virus by keeping enough distances. The robotics that enables substantial snuggling-up interaction at large physical distance will also contribute in such situations. In the project, we plan to have an online workshop and an in-person workshop every year to facilitate the discussions among the participating researchers from the six HeKKSaGOn Universities, to promote substantial collaborations using possible GermanyJapan funding schemes and to accelerate the exchange of young researchers such as PhD students and Postdoc fellows.


Lead coordinator:

Name: Kazuya Yoshida
Position: Professor
Institution: Tohoku University
Department, Faculty: Graduate School of Engineering, Department of Aerospace


Other coordinator(s):

Name: Tamim Asfour
Position: Professor
Institution: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Department, Faculty: Department of Informatics, Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics

Collaboration between Kyoto and Göttingen: The work with between Kyoto (Prof. Matsuno) was the successful attempt to implement neural controller from Göttingen (Prof. Wörgötter) onto the snake-like screw-drive robot (name: Nejihebi Robot) from Kyoto. This was the work of Timo Nachstedt who spent 8 weeks there and used these results for his Master's thesis. During this time general reactive control has been achieved, but still no goal directed movement. This was complemented by Yuichi Ambe from Kyoto, who joined the group in Göttingen for about 4 months to work on adaptive control of multi-legged and compartmentalized robots and used this work for his PhD, which is about to finish now. The work on the on the Nejihebi was continued by Sromona Chatterjee during her Master's thesis, where she implemented advanced reinforcement learning mechanisms (using the PI^2 algorithm) to achieve in simulation goal-directed movement of the robot. She went to Kyoto for two weeks to successfully implement this on the real machine. All in all this collaboration has led to three joint publications between Kyoto and Göttingen. 

The working group participated actively in all previous HeKKSaGOn Presidents Conferences. In addition, several meetings between members of the groups took place in conjunction of international robotics conferences (ICRA, IROS, Humanoids).