Friendly robots

Robotics is this year’s theme for Delft University of Technology. It was introduced at the university’s 174th birthday celebration on January 8, by the the publication of the book ‘Robotics for future presidents’.

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Instead of putting the well-known research projects of the Delft Robotics Institute in the spotlight, experts from elsewhere were interviewed for this book. According to them, robots are definitely on their way out of the factory and into our midst. This transformation opens a spate of questions on vision, behaviour, learning, interaction and ethics of robots, and that’s what this book is about.

Another refreshing feature of the book is that it allows for disparate views. When discussing robot swarms, for example, Marco Dorigo (Free University Brussels) is pitched against Vijay Kumar (University of Pennsylvania). They both work on swarm behaviour of robots. Dorigo is perfectly happy acknowledging that engineers cannot fully predict interactions with a swarm (of driving, crawling or flying robots). The much more strict Kumar stresses safety comes first with his unmanned helicopters. “If it is not predictable, humans will not trust it,” he said.

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