Robots and Humans

Leading researchers discuss human-robot interaction and new developments in human-friendly robots.

Event Details


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


May 22, 2012 from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)

From its past, largely industrial focus, the field of robotics is now rapidly expanding into the human realm. This shift was brought on in part by advances in technologies that make human-centered applications possible. A new generation of robots can now interact, explore, and work with humans. And this robotic boom is sure to directly touch people’s lives at home, at work, and within communities, not to mention provide support in education and health care.

Hear from speakers at the forefront of research on robot-human interactions as they discuss the standards and requirements that need to be taken into consideration when developing new robots. To be functional in everyday life, for instance, they must be safe and quick to respond to changes in their environment.

Oussama Khatib, from the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford University, presents new concepts for safe, dependable, and competent robots including design, novel sensing modalities, efficient planning and control strategies, methods for modeling human motion and skills, and other requirements. These developments are providing exciting prospects for novel clinical therapies, athletic training, and performance improvement.

Aude Billard leads the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). She shares recent advances in the development of robust algorithms to enable robots to learn by imitating humans as well as examples of applications for flexible manipulation and quick adaptation, such as catching an object that is just starting to fall.

Exemplifying robot-human interaction, RoboGames gold medal-winning ThinBot, a robotic bartender, serves cocktails during the reception and Oussama Khatib demos a haptic device.


6:30 pm  doors open
7:00 pm  presentations and audience Q&A
8.30 pm  reception with robot bartender ThinBot, networking, and haptic robot demonstration
10:00 pm  doors close


Aude Billard

Aude BillardAude Billard is Associate Professor and Head of the LASA Laboratory in the School of Engineering at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). She received her M.Sc. in physics from EPFL and a MSc. in knowledge-base systems as well as a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence from the University of Edinburgh. Prior to joining EPFL in 2006, she was an assistant professor of computer sciences at the University of Southern California. She was elected a member of the Administrative Committee of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. She was the recipient of several best paper awards at ICRA, IROS, ROMAN, of the best IEEE reviewer award and she served as general chair for HRI and Humanoids conference.


Oussama Khatib

Oussama Khatib received his doctorate in electrical engineering from Sup’Aero, Toulouse, France, in 1980. He is a professor of computer science at Stanford University and co-editor of the Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics series. He has served on the editorial boards of several journals and as chair or co-chair for numerous international conferences. He co-edited the Springer Handbook of Robotics, which received the PROSE Award for Excellence in Physical Sciences & Mathematics and was also the winner in the category Engineering & Technology. He is a fellow of IEEE and has served RAS as Distinguished Lecturer, member of the Administrative Committee, and Program Chair of ICRA (2000). He is President of the International Foundation of Robotics Research (IFRR) and a recipient of the Japan Robot Association (JARA) Award in Research and Development and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Pioneer Award.

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ThinBot Bartender

The brainchild of creator Kevin Roche, ThinBot is a robotic art project that prepares classic and contemporary up drinks in homage to the “Thin Man” movies of the 1930s and 1940s. In bartending mode, it can deliver a martini, gimlet or one of the other drinks in its repertoire with a cheery chime less than a minute after it has been selected from the easy-to-navigate touchscreen control.

At rest, it glows softly in ever-changing colors, a 3-tier table fountain fashioned of metal and crystal (the fountain, in fact, an ice water stream keeping the ingredients chilled as it awaits the next drink order). ThinBot made its first appearance at BarBot 2012 in San Francisco, and was awarded the Gold Medal in the bartending robots competition at the international Robogames held in April, 2012.

This event is part of our Robots Among Us series and is 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