Robot Revolution: From the Lab to the World

Swiss university spin-offs flex their robotic muscle in honor of the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS). Hear from the hottest companies and researchers and interact with a robot that balances on a ball, a service bot that acts as a guide, and a pair of tiny fliers.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


October 01, 2011 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)

The future in which robots are a normal part of everyday life, present in your car, your home, your office, is here. Technologies that were once only the subject of university research are now making their way to market. And a number of Swiss companies that began in academia are leading the pack.

As part of our series on robotics and in conjunction with the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), swissnex San Francisco brings you an evening of some of the hottest robotic spin-offs and inventions bubbling up from university labs.

Introductory remarks on the future of Swiss robotics are followed by live demonstrations of the Gilberto  interactive robot, the CoaX and Flybox robotic micro-helicopters, and the Rezero ballbot. Plus real-time Webots simulations from Cyberbotics and inventions from ViSSee.

This is a project by the U.S.-wide program ThinkSwiss-Brainstorm the Future. As a leading country in science, research, and technology, Switzerland is working with its American counterparts to address key global topics such as sustainability to better understand trends and arrive at solutions.


7:00 pm  doors open
7:30 pm  introductory remarks
7:40 pm  presentations, demos, and Q-n-A
9:15 pm  reception and networking
10:00 pm  doors close


Péter Fankhauser

Péter Fankhauser is a student of Robotics, Systems, and Control at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich). He works part-time as control and mechanics specialist at Skybotix, where he helps develop micro helicopters. At the 2011 Universum Award, he was nominated and won in the category, “Innovation Student of the Year.” He founded and leads a team of thirteen students taking part in a one-year project to develop a robot that balances and drives on a single ball, thus moving in an elegant, organic way. The team has been invited to give several presentations and exhibitions in Switzerland, Germany, Scotland, and the US. In the fall of 2011, he will conduct a six-month internship at the Florida Institute of Machine and Human Cognition.


Lukas Limacher

Lukas Limacher is a master’s student in mechanical engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich). He is specializing in robotics, systems, and control. He works part-time at ETH Zurich as a teaching assistant and is currently working on a research project to build an AUV Robot, based on the kinematics of a turtle. In 2010, he completed an internship at the Disney Research Center in Glendale, California, where he presented the project “Rezero,” on which he has been working on together with Péter Fankhauser and other ETH Zurich students.


Olivier Michel

Olivier Michel is the CEO of Cyberbotics, a software company specialized in mobile robots simulation which he founded in 1998. From 2003 to March 2005, he conducted research at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in the Biologically Inspired Robotics Group (BIRG) and in the Swarm-Intelligent Systems Research Group.
Michel graduated as an engineer from the Université de Technologie de Compiègne in 1993 with a specialty in computer science and also received a DEA (diplome des études appliqués) in systems control. He earned a Ph.D. in computer science in 1996 from the University of Nice. He is the author of Webots: Professional Mobile Robot Simulation and An Artificial Life Approach for the Synthesis of Autonomous Agents. He coauthored Vision Sensors on the Webots Simulator and Artificial Neurogenesis: An application to Autonomous Robotics.


Nicola Rohrseitz

Nicola Rohrseitz is the founder and CEO of the Swiss start-up ViSSee. He studied Microengineering at the EPFL, conducting his M.Sc. thesis in Underwater Robotics at the University of Tokyo in 2005. By applying control theory techniques to free flying fruit flies during his Ph.D. in Physics and Neuroscience at the ETH Zurich, he discovered disruptive computational principles that in 2009 became the foundations of ViSSee.
In 2010, ViSSee was listed among Switzerland’s 10 best business ideas and, among other awards, Rohrseitz recently won the DeVigier prize, which recognizes the top five young entrepreneurs of the nation.


Pascal Strupler

Pascal Strupler is the Chief Engineer of Skybotix, where he is responsible for developments concerning software as well as hardware of the autonomous vehicles and evaluating new innovations. He received his master’s degree in 2010 in Robotics, Systems, and Control from ETH Zurich and holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Information Technology.


Nicola Tomatis

Nicola joined BlueBotics SA as R&D manager in 2001 and has been the company’s CEO since 2003. He earned his M.Sc. in computer science in 1998 from ETH Zurich and his Ph.D. in robotics in 2001 from EPFL. From 2001 to 2005, he was a senior researcher with the Autonomous Systems Lab. He has authored or co-authored more than 40 book chapters, journal articles, and conference papers.
In 2008, Tomatis received the IEEE-RAS Early Career Award in Robotics and Automation and, in 2009, was included in the Swiss business magazine Bilan’s list of 20 start-up leaders making Switzerland. Bilan also chose Tomatis as one of the 300 most influential people of Switzerland in 2010.

More Info

BlueBotics SA, a spin-off company of the Autonomous Systems Lab at EPFL, was founded in 2001 with the mission to market innovative and promising mobile robotics technologies. The company is now active in two areas: Automation and service robotics. Bluebotics’ core business is the navigation market, where the company proposes ANT®, its innovative navigation solution.

Cyberbotics is the leading company in mobile robot prototyping and simulation software. The company was founded in 1998 by Olivier Michel as a spin-off of the MicroComputing and Interface Lab of EPFL. Cyberbotics develops and markets Webots, the award-winning fast prototyping and simulation software for mobile robotics, a reference software used by over 820 universities and research centers.

Skybotix AG is a spin-off of ETH Zurich. Active in the field of Micro Aerial Vehicles, Skybotix develops aerial systems for different applications ranging from indoor reconnaissance, inspection of power plants, and educational and scientific applications.

ViSSee is creating the future of human-machine interfaces. A spin-off company of the ETH Zurich, its sensor technology allows robots to measure their speed and distance to objects without contact and with low power consumption.

This event is part of our Robots Among Us series and is in part a project of the U.S.-wide program ThinkSwiss-Brainstorm the Future. As a leading country in science, research, and technology, Switzerland is working with its American counterparts to address key global topics such as sustainability to better understand trends and arrive at solutions.


Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos