ICRA 2023 – London Robotics Conference Without an Equal

 It always takes a while to take the measure of a big conference – and ICRA is one of the biggest in robotics! True, an event like Automatica will have more visitors on the show floor, but ICRA brings together the robotics research community in a way that is hard to beat.

It was the first time ICRA had been hosted in the UK, and much credit to the local organising team for making it happen – Prof. Kaspar Althoefer and Dr Helge Wurdemann have worked tirelessly for many, many years firstly to put the bid together (with a wide range of supporters) and then to implement and execute the conference itself.

The Shadow Robot team has exhibited and demonstrated in a wide range of events over the years, whether on our own behalf or supporting colleagues and customers with their marketing events (and do [reach out] if you want robots for a marketing campaign!), so we’re used to the stresses and challenges of getting robots to the show, setting up a stand, and making sure our visitors get to experience the technology. It’s kind of weird doing shipping and logistics from NW5 to E16 but the process works and made sure we had everything we needed on the day!

We were showing three things at ICRA – firstly, the fantastic Telerobot system we’ve been developing, with human-like dexterity and agility in a compact form. We’ve been using the newest motion tracking technology from Polhemus to give us really precise movement tracking, and this gives us unparalleled dexterity at the fingertips. It’s very intuitive to use, and we had a stream of people trying the system and understanding what the art of the possible was now. We’re looking forward to the next steps in research as people start to build on this capability for the future.

We also were showing some magnetic sensor technology we’ve been working with. This is very much an early stage sensor, but it’s showing promise as a way to get better sensing capabilities on robot hands. We’re looking at deploying it in fingertips and on other parts of the Shadow Hand in the future – it seems to have the sensitivity and responsiveness we need. Watch this space!

Finally, we’ve been doing some improvements to the Hand itself based on insights and understanding coming from teleoperation trials and tests. Whilst some of these are “under the hood”, we’re testing out some new concepts of flesh on the palm to see how they improve grasping. These will make it into the production Hand “Real Soon Now” as they say.

Of course it wouldn’t be a robot conference without the opportunity to catch up with colleagues from all over the world, to find out what they are working on, where they have moved to, and what they are excited by. The “robot dog” parade kept us entertained, and it’s great to see Stelarc performing in the flesh and metal.

Next year ICRA will be in Japan, in Yohohama, and who knows what we will have to show you then? See you there!