RoboUniverse New York 2015 – Initial Reaction

by on May 13, 2015

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Hi all
I attended the last day (5/13/2015) of the RoboUniverse conference and exhibit in New York City. It was a good experience and I got to hear some interesting talks. I am usually deeply involved in the technical aspects of robotics, so it was interesting hearing about some of the other aspects.

This was the initial premiere of the RoboUniverse conference and exhibit. They are planning on having several more of these events in different locations/countries throughout the year, and then be back in New York next year. For this event there were 1500 preregistration from 31 countries and 30 states. I was only there on the last day (so I do not know about the prior 2 days) but I would estimate that there was around 400 people in attendance. There were probably around 30 exhibitors present for the exhibit hall. Initially when I said I would go to this event I was expecting to see 100+ exhibitors, however being that this is the first year it will probably grow.

(This is getting tricky to write since some of this is past tense, and some is present tense from when I am writing this. However it is past tense for when you read this).

The goal of RoboUniverse is for end-user education. Some of the topics of interest include:

  • Internet of Things(IoT) intersecting with Robotics
  • Looking at new technologies (AI, driver-less cars, etc..)
  • Workshops and talks to spread information to end users
  • Provide startup information for potential robotic startup companies

While the keynote was going on there were a lot of people talking about how awesome the Steve Wolfram talk was the day before. Unfortunately I missed it, however the title was Putting Sophisticated Computation into Everything.

In the next few posts I will be discussing some of the different talks and products that I had a chance to see. However there were a few small things that do not fit into a full post, but I wanted to share below:

Dr. Vijay Kumar from the Penn State GRASP lab gave a keynote talk on “drones”. He made several interesting points:

  1. If you look in a dictionary the definition of Drone is a “low humming sound”. Not a flying robot like the media seems to claim.
  2. A rule of thumb for quadcopters is that it takes 200W of power to lift each kilogram (of payload).
  3. Smaller quadcopters are safer, and result in less bandaids for developers.

I also heard a story from Jennifer Stein about the recent First Robotics competition, and one of the two all girl teams that entered.
After one of the rounds the robot from the all girls team got flipped over. One boy decided to come over ask the girls “Do you know why your robot flipped?” when the girls said “no” he said it was because it was built by girls. Shortly after this, that boy’s team had to compete against the all girls team. After the girl’s team won, they turned to the boy’s team and asked “Do you know why we won?”, when the boys said “no” a girl responded “it is because we have vaginas”.

In conversation Jennifer talked passionately about getting girls involved in STEM and robotics. She also said that based on her experience with education many of the speakers who were technologists were wrong, and did not really know what they were talking about when they discussed how to educate young students in STEM and robotics. I do not know who is correct, however it does prompt the fact that many people talk about STEM, and many of them have no (or minimal) experience with actual education of high school students and below.

Stay tuned for more content about “if robots will take our jobs”, disaster response, and some hands on experience with some robots.

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