Automated kingdom: robots set to congregate at Skolkovo Robotics Forum
The Skolkovo Technopark is once again getting ready to be taken over by robots for its annual Skolkovo Robotics Forum, which attracts robots – and the humans who make them – from all over the globe.
This year’s event features speakers from as far away as Chile, Canada and South Korea, and will focus on driverless transport, medical robots and robots for rehab, with panel discussions devoted to robots’ rights, space robotics and robots in agriculture, among many other topics. As in previous years, there will be a range of masterclasses for young roboteers from the age of five.
Foreign speakers at this year’s conference include Emilio Frazzoli, co-founder and CTO of nuTonomy, an MIT spinoff developing software for self-driving cars.
“We’ll be talking a lot about driverless transport, not just in terms of technology, but also about the legal aspects when the vehicles reach public roads,” says Olga Avryasova, executive director of the Skolkovo Robotics Forum.
“This is really a burning topic right now. We will discuss technical barriers with colleagues from Yandex as well as with foreign colleagues,” she said, while the legal implications of the technology will be scrutinized by speakers including Igor Drozdov, chairman of the board of the Skolkovo Foundation and a qualified lawyer.
Forum participants will be able to witness driverless technology in action thanks to Skolkovo Foundation resident VIST, the partner’s forum, which will demonstrate a driverless KAMAZ NEO truck on Skolkovo territory during the event. Inside the Technopark, the company will be offering visitors the chance to hop inside a model of a truck and remotely control a driverless dump truck located all the way over in Morocco.
Autonomous dump trucks and remote-controlled excavators, bulldozers and loaders are all elements of VIST Mining Technology’s robotised mine system. The technology enables mining to be carried out in hazardous or adverse climatic conditions, or in remote areas where mining companies face the problem of a lack of personnel.
Also in the spotlight at this year’s event will be the application of robotics in the field of medicine and rehabilitation. Alon Wolf, a professor at Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology and the inventor of a surgical snake robot, will deliver a talk devoted to medical robotics. He will be followed by Lenar Valeev, CEO of Eidos-Medicine, a Skolkovo resident company that makes simulators for training surgeons.
Fresh from designing a new robotic surgical system that was recently used to operate on a pig named Roza, Russian Academy of Sciences professor Sergei Sheptunov will speak at the forum, describing how Russia’s chief urologist Dmitry Pushkar operated on Roza’s uterine fibroids earlier this year in the Russian city of Penza in order to enable the sow to become pregnant. Pushkar wore 3D glasses and controlled the operation to remove the uterine fibroids via a special console equipped with a screen showing a close-up image of the pig’s insides. Keyhole surgery carried out with the robotic surgical instrument enables people and animals to recover from the surgery far more quickly than they would from a regular operation, specialists said last month, not to mention leaving hardly any scarring.
ExoAtlet, a Skolkovo resident startup that makes exoskeletons that help disabled people to walk again, will demonstrate its new model at the Skolkovo Robotics Forum. The company’s robotic suits are already in use in clinics across Russia and South Korea, and this year the company is expanding its operations to Europe, China and the U.S.
The potential of robotics for rehabilitation will also be on show via a Cybathletics competition for users of prosthetic arms and legs, and other technology that can restore lost abilities. Skolkovo has previously hosted similar events to showcase tech for disabled people.
“These will be demonstrative competitions to introduce forum participants to the format of the Cybathletics,” said Avryasova.
As well as a range of high-profile foreign speakers – including Soo-Young Lee, co-director of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology – this year, the exhibition part of the forum will also include foreign robotics companies. These include China’s iFlytek, a leading voice recognition company.
“What sets them apart is that Chinese language is quite difficult for voice recognition: traditional systems that work like Google and Yandex don’t yet have enough data to teach their systems to recognize Chinese. iFlytek has made great progress in this field,” said Avryasova. Their presence at Skolkovo Robotics will enable Skolkovo resident companies seeking to enter the Chinese market to make contact with a reputable partner in voice recognition there, she noted.
There will also be several robotics teams from Belarus, including from Rozum Robotics, which makes wirelessly controlled robotic arms for use in industry, restaurants or at home.
“This is quite an interesting solution that Russian companies haven’t really yet ventured into. It’s great that these Minsk developers are sounding out the Russian market and that they have chosen Skolkovo Robotics Forum to start that process,” said Avryasova.
The 50 robots and robotic systems on show at the forum will also include underwater robots, robots designed to teach children, drones, warehouse robots and a robot concierge presented by Skolkovo resident Promobot.
As in previous years, Skolkovo Robotics Forum is set to wow younger visitors to the Technopark, who can take part in a wide range of free masterclasses and Robo Games aimed at children aged five to 17.
A workshop for older children is being run by TRIK, a Skolkovo resident startup that makes kits that enable children to build their own working robots, from remote-controlled cars to drones.
This year, the event’s general partner is Russia’s biggest lender, Sberbank, which will have its own pavilion at the forum and a full day of events devoted to topics including using unmanned convertiplanes for cargo delivery, assistive technologies and industrial exoskeletons. Albert Yefimov, head of the Sberbank Robotics Laboratory, will speak at the forum.
Skolkovo Robotics Forum takes place at the Skolkovo Technopark on April 24 from 10 a.m. Attendance is free of charge but participants should register in advance. The forum’s events will be held in Russian and English with simultaneous translation provided. Free shuttles will run to Skolkovo from Park Pobedy metro station.