Tag Archives: robotics

Skolkovo Robotics 2016 conference was opened to the notes of Vivaldi

Игорь БогачевThis is the fourth year the conference is being held, and for the first time it was held in an open-air format. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t very cooperative, with grey sky, clouds, wind and rain. On the other hand, it was an appropriate background to the opening notes of the conference – Vivaldi’s “four seasons”.  The first speaker to open the conference was the head of IT cluster at “Skolkovo”, Igor Bogachev. In his speech  Mr. Bogacev especially mentioned the crucial role of Skoltech in the development and promotion of robotics, and the fact that a large number of promising start-ups in this area were made by students and post-graduate students of Skoltech.

IMG_20160520_102509Alexander Kuleshov, Skoltech’s president, began his speech by thanking the audience: “Thank you for coming, even in such a disgusting weather – it shows the great interest in robotics. Today robots are not only machines, but also we can call a robot any device capable of performing “human-like” function. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the function of development of robotics in our country was taken over by the “Skolkovo” IT-cluster. Unfortunately, robotics is an area where our country is behind, and we are talking not about machines, but the “intelligence” in the software, which is required for robot navigation, control, operation of sensors. We have a lot of work to do in these areas. I am pleased to see here an absolutely multyaged audience. This means great interest in Robotics among old and young. I think that the combination of youth and experience will give a good result in the future”.

After the official part of the conference, participants began work on the program, which featured a few dozen presentations, workshops and demonstrations, including performance demonstration of the  “reSET” team, representing Skoltech in the Eurobot international competition.

Kopiya-IMG_8805One of the most exciting presentations was the presentation of Skoltech’s head of Robotics lab, Dzmitry Tsetserukou. He presented the projects of his lab and The Skoltech Eurobot team and the history of its creation. he explained that the goals of the Eurobot contest and the importance of this event for the robotics science. “I worked a lot abroad and noticed that in countries such as Japan, they know Russian scientists of the past, even Lomonosov’s name. But they almost have no idea about contemporary scientists in Russia. My goal is to change this situation, at least in the field of robotics , and we have a potential for it”.

 

 

 

The first open-air Skolkovo Robotics international conference

Skolkovo Robotics day

We are pleased to invite you to the fourth Skolkovo Robotics conference and exhibition. This year it is being held in an open-air format for the first time.
Skolkovo Robotics will be held in and around the Technopark at the Skolkovo innovation center on May 20 from 9 am to 9 pm. Attendance is free of charge, and all events are held in both English and Russian. To see the full program and register for the event, click here.

The assembly of robot makers, now in its fourth year, comprises both a conference and an exhibition, and this year is being held in an open-air format for the first time.

“Remember the Boston Dynamics video, where the robot Atlas went outside for a walk? This year, we’re taking our robots outside the exhibition to walk around Skolkovo,” said Albert Yefimov, head of the Skolkovo Foundation’s Robocenter, the event’s organizer.

“Skolkovo was created as an exposition platform for high technology. I see this as an open-air exhibition of the achievements of robotics,” said Yefimov. “We’ll show what city robot technology really looks like.”

The event, which is free of charge to attend, is aimed both at those working in the robotics industry and those simply interested in bionic beings, and is one of the biggest of its kind in Europe.

“We are trying to make the event useful for as wide a circle of people as possible, with a focus on those who make or want to make robots,” said Yefimov.

“Our aim is that people should leave the conference thinking: ‘Why didn’t I get involved in robotics earlier?’ or ‘Why didn’t I know that it could be done like that?’”

Robocenter head Albert Yefimov giving a robot a helping hand at last year’s Robotics event. Photo: Robocenter.

The conference is divided into eight themed sections devoted to the use of robotics in the fields of medicine, industry, agriculture, driverless technology, education, deep learning, design and marketing.

“We want to cover as many aspects as possible of the interaction between man and machine,” said Yefimov.

Robots without borders

About 80 experts from countries including the U.S., Germany, France, Singapore, Denmark, India, Israel and Australia will take part in Skolkovo Robotics 2016, including representatives of leading companies, institutes and foundations working in robot technology and artificial intelligence.

They will take to the main stage of the conference to take part in panel discussions devoted to topics including robot companions for seniors, the Asian robot market, robot-assisted surgery, driverless vehicles, drones and marine robotics.

This year’s speakers include Manohar Paluri from Facebook AI Research, an expert in the field of visual recognition technology, and Nathan Harding, the co-founder of Ekso Bionics, one of the world’s first producers of exoskeletons. He will talk about human exoskeletons, which can augment human abilities and enable disabled people to walk again.

“At Skolkovo Robotics 2016, I am hoping to meet robotics professionals working in parts of the world that are not currently part of my network,” said Harding. “I am hoping to see how they are approaching robotic solutions differently in ways that may be useful for those of us working in the U.S.”

Silicon Valley Robotics head Andra Keay will address the conference. Photo: Andra Keay.

Andra Keay, head of the Silicon Valley Robotics industry group and one of the most influential entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley working with robotics startups, will talk about how the robotics revolution is unfolding and why Silicon Valley is currently winning the robotics race.

Returning to Skolkovo Robotics for the third time is Frank Schneider of the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics, a German research facility. He will talk about real world trials and competitions for unmanned systems in the field of civil defense, emergencies and elimination of consequences of natural disasters. Unmanned aerial, ground and underwater vehicles are now used widely by disaster relief agencies across the world to access areas that are impossible or dangerous for humans to reach.

“We are eager to learn from the Russian robotics community (e.g. the use of robots through EMERCOM [the Emergency Situations Ministry]), meet experts and mingle with innovative start-ups,” said Schneider.

Also speaking at the conference is Catherine Simon, organizer of the Innorobo robotics event in Paris that will be held immediately after Skolkovo Robotics, on May 24-26. Several Skolkovo companies will head straight to Innorobo following Skolkovo Robotics.

“It’s very important for us that high-ranking foreign speakers are coming to the event,” said Yefimov. “For the dialogue between innovators and scientists to stay alive, we must give it constant support.”

The event will also feature four master classes, including one by Skolkovo resident company CAPK, which will teach visitors to fly coptors. CyberTech Labs, another Skolkovo resident, will hold master classes on educational robotics for adults and children together with Skolkovo Robocenter partners National Instruments technology center and the League of Robots.

Robots on parade

The exhibition part of the event will showcase more than 40 startups working in robotics from around Russia, said Skolkovo Robotics’ program director Olga Avryasova.

“This year we are seeing a wider spectrum of applications among the projects, as well as growth in the number of exhibitors,” said Avryasova.

“Forty percent of them are already resident companies of the Skolkovo Foundation. But the other 60 percent are completely new companies that are exhibiting at Robotics for the first time, including at least four new exoskeleton projects,” she said.

Avryasova said that all the teams working on civilian drones in Russia, and all the Russian producers of roboticised prosthetic limbs, would present their work at the event.

Some of the participants of last year’s Skolkovo Robotics pose for a group photo. This year’s event will see the robots take to the streets of the innovation center. Photo: Sk.ru.

The aim of the exhibition is not only to show off Russian achievements in the field of robotics. The overall manifesto of the Skolkovo Foundation is to help its resident tech startups commercialize their products, and the Robotics event is no exception. Representatives of major companies and venture capital funds will also be in attendance at the event.

“We invite clients to our events who can tell the innovators which direction to move in, and what needs to be done,” said Yefimov.

“We’d like to see results at least as good as in previous years – that’s new contracts and partnership agreements,” said Avryasova.

“Of course, the results are not always immediately obvious – contracts are not signed at the conference itself or the next day. But talking to the companies reveals that their first contact with future investors and partners was made at Skolkovo Robotics,” she said.

The Robocenter also expects to attract new residents as a result.

One of the conference topics is exoskeletons in neurorehabilitation. Photo: Sk.ru.

“We expect new stars to appear who will be interested in the opportunities presented by the Skolkovo Foundation, and we expect the Robocenter to get new participants,” said Avryasova.

“Robot technology is today one of the leading areas of global tech development, and at Skolkovo we pay particular attention to this field,” said Skolkovo Foundation president Viktor Vekselberg. “This is attested to by the creation two years ago of the Skolkovo Robocenter, which already unites about 60 Russian companies,” he said.

Robot talent show

Skolkovo Robotics is organised in cooperation with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech). The head of Skoltech’s space robotics lab Dzmitry Tsetserukou will speak at the conference, along with his colleague, Professor Dmitry Vetrov.

“Significant input comes from Skoltech in the form of the robotics startups founded by its students,” said Avryasova, adding that the startups will be represented at the exhibition.

At least half of the Skolkovo resident startups set up by Skoltech students or graduates are robotics projects, according to Yefimov.

Following the conference part of the event, visitors to Skolkovo Robotics can prepare to be wowed by the entertainment program organised by Moscow Technological Institute (MTI) – the event’s general partner – with whom Skolkovo also organizes the popular annual Robonoch (Robonight) event.

In addition to the traditional robot dance shows and a film screening, there will be an exhibition of pictures, more performances by robots and much more, the organizers promise.

Text: Shura Collinson, Sk.ru

After a conversation with Putin, a prodigy from Yaroslavl got an invitation to Skoltech

Ilya Rajewski 2Ilya Rajewski has become a celebrity after “Direct Line with the President” (an annual event in which the president of Russia answers citizens’ questions), when he not only complained that he was not allowed to go to “Artek” and “Sirius” (a science summer camp for talented kids), but also told about his plans to become a scientist and study at Skoltech. Not long afterwards, the talented fifth-grader from Yaroslavl received an invitation to come to Skoltech and to get acquainted with its research centers and laboratories, including the robotics lab, which he so keen on. 

At eight years young, Ilya skipped grades, he speaks good English, already exploring 3D-modeling, has an interest in robotics and he even passed the program in Chemistry for 8th grade. The boy repeatedly became the winner of competitions in mathematics, English, natural history and reading. Last year he has written a book called “My Adventures in MINECRAFT”.

The latest passion of Ilya is rockets and the idea of a rocket ship with turbo engine. This is why he wants to study science: “My dream is to develop a rocket fuel in “Skolkovo”, Ilya told reporters, “I love science, and “Skolkovo” is just about science. It will be very interesting to me there .

The interest of talented fifth-grader has not gone unnoticed. During a Skype conversation Alexei Sitnikov, Skoltech Vice-President invited Ilya to visit the University. According to the Sitnikov, Skoltech will be glad to see wonder kid from Yaroslavl, but he will have to learn a little bit more: “Looking how fast Ilya develops his education, I think that this will happen very soon”, said Sitnikov, “Therefor, I would like to invite Ilya to come visit us and see what we have built and what we develop, so he can made the  choice for himself”.

Belarusian startup tour

IMG_20160407_094627In the past several years Belarus has earned the reputation of the leading “IT country” in the Eastern European region. The latest success of the Belarusian IT entrepreneurship is MSQRD, the popular face swapping app that was just recently bought by Facebook. Therefor it’s no surprise that the Russian StartUp Tour is crossing the border ever since it began.

On a sunny spring day in Minsk, hundreds of students, researchers and entrepreneurs gathered at the Belarusian State University of Agricultural Technology to attend the different lectures, seminars, mentoring sessions, and of course to network and make connections.

IMG_20160407_115814One of the first speakers was Skoltech professor Dzmitry Tsetserukou, who’s actually a native Belarusian. Prof. Tsetserukou presented Skoltech to the audience that filled the big hall, and told them about the cooperation with MIT, the labs and the stipends for the talented lucky ones who will get to Skoltech. After that Tsetserukou focused on his big love and expertise – robots. He started with the global perspective of the field, and in Russia and Belorussia’s rank in that industry. Then he moved on to the latest innovations in robotics, with particular emphasis on its use in agriculture (after all, it is an agricultural university and besides, agriculture is one of the main themes of the tour this year). Eventually he presented some of the robotic projects done in Skoltech. During his presentation, Tsetserukou was engaging the audience with questions and high energy. Afterwards he was surrounded by students and colleague professors, who wanted further information.

IMG_20160407_120309After the event we asked Prof. Tsetserukou to tell us the secret of his energized presentation. “First of all it’s my home town”, He replied and smiled, “but even more than that, I like my work, I like what I do and I’m highly motivated to make historical achievements. To be a part of this innovation is a great opportunity for me. Another motivation of mine is to make an excellent environment for my students, so the students grow up in an international level laboratory. I saw my students work as a team, encountering problems and solving them together. They were so excited that they couldn’t sleep before project demonstration. The robotics lab is like a home for the students. They are very motivated that sometimes they don’t go home, but stay to sleep in the lab. When you love what you do, you will most likely be successful in your future career in the technology innovation”.

IMG_20160407_125905To sum up we asked Prof. Tsetserukou how he would describe the desired students for Skoltech. “We are looking for motivation and skills. We would like to find the golden standard for Skoltech students to choose the best ones, to make them leaders in technology innovation. We need more such leaders in both Russia and Belarus, so we will have more success stories like MSQRD who will contribute the technology development in our own countries”.

 

So if you think you have the skills and feel the motivation burning in you, we invite you to come to the Open Doors event on April 23rd, or directly apply to Skoltech.

From Kazakhstan to Bucknell University to an internship at Skoltech

BucknellKsenia Tsoktoeva – “I want to make a worthy contribution to the work at the Laboratory of Robotics team and improve my own level in Computer Science”.

Among Bucknell’s student Ksenia Tsoktoeva’s interests, a special place belongs to programming and computer science. So when she thought about her internship, it became apparent that working under the guidance of prof. Dzmitry Tsetserukou at the Skoltech Laboratory of Robotics will be the best choice and the reason to cross the Atlantic again. Ksenia told us about her expectations from the internship and the work on the Reachbot project.

Please tell us about yourself first. Where are you from and how you became a student of the University in US?
- I grew up in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. When I was in 9th grade, I was at physical-mathematical school, and I filed an application to study in Canada. I had a long time desire to try to learn abroad, and my parents supported me in that. Everything went well and from the 10th grade I lived and studied in Vancouver.
Moving to the Canadian school was easy to get used to – in our school, there were many students from Russia, Kazakhstan, Spain, Germany, Mexico and other countries, and in the international collective you adapt quickly. The education system in Canada involves a number of mandatory classes and you also can choose what you like or need. I was good at math and took extra hours of math and physics.
In December 2013 I was able to get to the Top 25% in the Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge competition, which was conducted by the Canadian Mathematical Society. A year later with the same result, I participated in the Canadian Senior Mathematics Contest at the University of Waterloo and became the champion among schoolchildren.

You’ve been very successful in high school in Canada. Why didn’t you choose a university in Vancouver for example?
- There are two factors – personal and financial. By the end of school, my family had moved to the United States and in America there’s a much better developed system of scholarship grants. The choice fell on Bucknell University in Lewisburg not only because it is one of the best American universities, but also because, thanks to the success at the Olympics, I was able to get a grant that covers 2/3 of my tuition fees. The important thing was that Bucknell, although prestigious, is very small university and the average teacher or professor there has about nine students. This format and interaction of students and professors suited me more than studying at a large university, where one professor may have a few dozens or even a hundred or two hundred students, whose names he doesn’t even remember.

What do you do at the University?
- Now I’m just trying to understand and decide for myself what areas I am most interested in. The largest number of hours I have now taken is in applied mathematics, statistics, programming, mathematical studies, linear algebra and philosophy.

How did the idea come to Skoltech?
- The idea to try an internship at Skoltech came when I realized that no one in America is waiting especially for a first-year student on serious internship. Spending time on carrying papers from the printer to the shredder is not for me. Four years is a very short time and I want to spend it with the maximum benefit. I never studied computer science and programming before the university. This opportunity presented itself in Bucknell. In the last semester I started studying Python, and in the next one I will begin learning Java and C++. I had programming in mind, and although I understand that as long as I have the level of a beginner programmer, I want to learn more about the development of software, and how it works from the inside. So when I got the answer from Skoltech, that they liked my resume and I was invited for an internship, there was no doubt.

What do you expect from an internship in Skoltech?
- I expect to learn a lot. Once I finish the semester in early May, I’m going to start preparing for the internship based on recommendations of prof. Tsetserukou. I would like to be good intern and make a proper contribution to the work of the team.

What will you do after the internship?
- I hope to continue my education. I will try to expand my field of knowledge. I will get a Ph.D. and, of course, an internship at Skoltech will be another important step towards this goal.

TeterukovDzmitry Tsetserukou, Skoltech professor, head of the Laboratory of Robotics:

– During her internship Kseniya will be working with the Reachbot team. This is a project dedicated to teaching a team of two robots with varying degrees of mobility (SLAM and NAO) to achieve goals and move objects together. The mobile robot SLAM should, scanning the area with help of 3D-scanner, to determine its location and nature of the terrain. Finding an obstacle in the form of steps, for example, which it cannot pass, SLAM will give the command to the NAO humanoid robot with 25 degrees of freedom, to climb the stairs, take the object and give it to the mobile robot.
Ksenia will join to the team and will be responsible for creating communication programs for the two robots. She will also be involved in the development of computer vision software for Reachbot’s objects recognition.
I think that she would like her tasks. The project is complicated, but she is a good student and had promised to work hard.

 

Robotics presentation – more diverse and more practical

Robotics presentation 1As the 3rd term of the academic year came to its end, Skoltech students presented their projects created in the robotics laboratory, at the final seminar “The Age of Intelligent Machines” of the “Dynamic systems and control” course.

Five teams of prof. Dzmitry Tsetserukou’s students showed the originality of solutions and real commercial potential of projects:

  • Industrial Robot – Andrey Rykov and Alexander Anikin.
    Team advisor (TA): Prof. Victor Lempitsky.
  • SwarmAir/Quadcopter control – Ivan Kalinov, Stanislav Kruglik, Daniil Merkulov and Anastasia Vasilenko.
    TA: Evgenii Tsykunov, Yuri Sarkisov, Anastasia and Nikita Rodnichenko.
  • Autonomous Navigaton of Mobile Robot Eugenii Izrailit, Georgii Klushin, Anastasia Stelvaga and Kalan Abe.
    TA: Artem Pavlov and Oksana Gareeva
  • Haptics – Maria Victorova and Pavel Sukhov.
    TA: Dzmitry Tsetserukou.
  • EuroBot - Petrovskii Aleksandr, Yurieva Evgeniya, Shipitko Oleg, Marko Simic, Postnikov Alex and Golovanov Sergey.
    TA: Gonnochenko Aleksey and Artem Pavlov.

The participation in the courses and the competitions is aimed to help students to develop practical skills in robotics for specific tasks. They master the design of mechanical parts, electronics, coding, but not less important is the development of teamwork skill.

Robotics presentation 3Apart from their knowledge, creativity and dedicated staff of teachers and advisors, the students had for their disposal both the new Robotics lab, and a special grant. Prof. Tsetserukou expressed his appreciation and gratitude for that: “I want to thank Igor Seleznev, Director of Research Programs. Thanks to a grant from the Unmanned Vehicle Program, one team was able to develop a guidance system based on monocular visual odometry. The system uses a web camera to determine the position quadrocopters, without the use of GPS-sensor”

At the end of all presentations, the judges announced the winning teams. As in past years, the judges took in consideration ideas and its compliance to applied robotics, as well as how the project relates to the curriculum. Apart from professor Tsetserukou and Lempitsky, the panel of judges included graduates Dmitry Suvorov and Roman Zhukov, who themselves participated in past seminars like this.

Robotics presentation 2“We have seen a growing level of the participants and how they implement their projects”, said Roman Zhukov, “Three years ago, when it was just the beginning, the main part of the course was theory and calculations. On the second workshop, it was already 50:50 modeling and application development. In this current presentation we saw an even larger share of applied results. This shows that students actively use the equipment, and learn to work with it.
An important practical aspect is the teamwork on the project – during preparation for the workshops the teams has all to become a basis of future startups. For example, our technology created for participation in the Eurobot contest, formed the basis of our startup Webot“.

In this spirit, we wish great success to all the teams, hoping they will all manage to commercialize their ideas. Our congratulations go to this year’s winners: team EuroBot with their robots for future Eurobot-2016 contest, and team Autonomous Navigation of Mobile Robot. Well done and good luck!

Robotics presentation 5

Winners: the Autonomous Navigation of Mobile Robot team.

Robotics presentation 4

Winners: the EuroBot team.

A delegation from Airbus Group and Philips visited Skoltech

One of Skoltech’s main goals is establishing strong and substantial cooperation relations with key industrial players. Airbus and Philips are most certainly such players, and a delegation from both companies visited Skoltech to establish working relationships and identify promising areas of cooperation. The delegation was led by Dr. Jean Boti, chief technical officer at Airbus group, who soon will takes over as Philips director of  innovations and strategy. Continue reading

Supporting Children with Disabilities: Smart Robots go to School

Webot, a telepresence robot, replaces children who cannot attend school. photo courtesy of Wicron (click on image to enlarge)

Webot, a telepresence robot, supports children who cannot attend school by ‘representing’ them in class. photo courtesy of Wicron (click on image to enlarge)

The first Day of September is known in Russia as Den znanii (‘Knowledge Day’). All across the vast country, crowds of still-fresh students and somewhat-excited schoolchildren gather to hear university presidents and schoolmasters ring the ‘first bell’. The quaint ceremony traditionally marks the opening of the school year.

Yet for children with disabilities who can neither join the festivities nor attend class this day might be a difficult and painful one. But help is on the way: this year, for the first time in Russia, a smart telepresence robot will go to school. Webot, developed by a team of Skoltech PhD students, stands in for pupils who cannot attend class.

The mobile, friendly white robot will be installed in five elementary schools in the Astrakhan region. It is equipped with a flat screen, camera and microphone designed to easily transmit anything students with disabilities need to see and know: lectures, activities, or homework assignments.

Webot‘s round head unit and long ‘neck’ rotate in all directions, and the robot can follow any person –  a teacher, a friend, even a first love. And if the home-ridden student wishes to answer a question, Webot will be happy to do that for them. The robot can even joke around.

Webot in the classroom. photo courtesy of Wicron (click on image to enlarge)

Webot in the classroom. photo courtesy of Wicron (click on image to enlarge)

“Equality and Opportunity for all Children”

“It is like an avatar, allowing kids to move around, even from a distance”, says Stas Ashmanov, a Skoltech PhD student with Prof Ivan Oseledets and managing partner of Wicron, a Moscow based startup behind Webot and smart home assistants. “It is as if we ‘teleport’ kids from home to school. We want kids to know that even if they are in pain or limited in movement, they can still learn and grow and participate in school life. It is all about equality and opportunity for all children”.

How does the technology actually work? Webot’s functionalities are managed and controlled over the internet. All a remote student needs to do is switch on her or his home computer and go online. When connected to ‘its’ student, the robot immediately faces the user and represents it in the classroom. When fully charged, the robot’s battery lasts the whole day.

The developers – which include Ashmanov, along with fellow students Dmitry Suvorov and Roman Zhukov (PhD candidates under the guidance of prof Dzmitry Tsetserukou) – feel the ambitious project is a perfect example of Skoltech’s goal to create innovation that positively impacts society. Webot’s school tele-presence project was crowd funded, and receives support and guidance from Russia’s Ministry of Education. Currently, each of the five schools participating in the experiment received one robot. Future plans foresee more robots attending classrooms nationwide.

Text: Ilan Goren

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