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Robotic Vision Quarterly Newsletter - June 2017
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creating robots that see


Research Fellow Trung Pham presenting at our Robotic Vision Summer School (RVSS) 2017


DIRECTOR'S MESSAGE

 

Welcome to our third public newsletter. We hope that this is an informative and enjoyable way to keep up to date with what’s happening in our Centre's quest to create robots that see.
 
Since the last newsletter our focus has been on improving the way we present our work to the wider world, and also preparing for our major review in September.  Since the last newsletter we’ve hosted over 40 groups at our four laboratories, from school children through business and government agencies to politicians.  We have just launched a revamped web site (please visit roboticvision.org) that better portrays our science and our impact areas.  It also hosts a robotic vision resources hub that we hope will become the “go to place” for anybody looking to get started in this new field: a curated collection of the best software, datasets, social media and educational resources. We’ve commissioned STEM Matters to write a series of 12 articles about our research, and our researchers, pitched toward mass media.  A few of our researchers are active contributors to The Conversation and their articles have been highly downloaded and a couple have been picked up by other media channels . Finally, our 2016 annual report was released last month and can be downloaded from HERE.  If you’d like a paper copy but didn’t receive one please contact  our Centre Coordinator Kate Aldridge
 
The Centre is predominantly funded by a 7-year grant from the Australian Research Council and in September we will undergo a mid-term review.  Preparations are well underway and we continue to strive to improve all aspects of the Centre’s operation: our external engagement and profile, internal training and communications and of course our scientific research program.
 
We believe that the ability to see, to visually understand the complex world around us and respond to it, is critical for the next generation of robots that will perform useful work in agriculture, environmental monitoring, healthcare, infrastructure inspection, construction, manufacturing and so on. A number of exciting new projects have started since the last newsletter and the details are included below. If you have problems that robotic vision might solve, please get in touch. If you’d like to help us translate our science into impact and wealth creation, please let me know.
 
Enjoy the issue.

Professor Peter Corke
Centre Director

 
2016 ANNUAL REPORT
Our 2016 Annual Report is available for download. Click on the image above or visit our website roboticvision.org 
NEW WEBSITE & RESOURCES HUB
Our new website and resources hub are live! Click on the image above to visit the new sites or go to www.roboticvision.org 
ROBOTIC VISION SUMMER SCHOOL

Group photo taken at this year's Robotic Vision Summer School (RVSS) 2017 

ROBOTIC VISION SUMMER SCHOOL (RVSS) 2017

The Centre’s Robotic Vision Summer School (RVSS) is held annually at ANU’s Kioloa Campus and provides a premium venue for graduate students and industry researchers to learn about fundamental and advanced topics in robotic vision.

This year’s Summer School attracted 52 students and 22 presenters.  The event received very positive feedback and we share the experiences of some of the international students that attended below. The profile of RVSS is starting to develop internationally and we are looking forward to making this one of the lasting legacies of the Centre. RVSS 2018 will be held from the 4th to 9th February 2018. You can register your interest via rvss@roboticvision.org
Our Chief Investigators and International Guests talk about their Summer School experience in this video
Tarlan Suleymanov, Oxford University
"I had the pleasure to participate in RVSS. This week-long training had amazing talks delivered by experts in the area of robotic vision, hand on tutorials and workshops. The summer school was organised in Kioloa Campus surrounded by nature, a few minutes away from the beach and where we had a chance to observe kangaroos. It was a great opportunity to learn and understand about the state-of-the-art in a wide range of robotic research topics in a short period of time. We had lots of chances to speak and make connections with researchers and students from different backgrounds working on various aspects of robotic vision."​
Stephen James, Imperial College London
"I have returned to London after a two week visit down under to attend the Robot Vision Summer School (RVSS). Each of the talks were interesting and exciting, giving myself and many other plenty of food for thought. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the summer school and had to opportunity to meet some incredible people. 

Following RVSS, I visited Queensland University of Technology (QUT), allowing me to re-connect with many of the acquaintances I had made during the summer school. This visit gave me the opportunity to get a closer look at the great research that is taking place at the Centre. Moreover, it gave myself and others the chance to make new connection and even opportunities for future collaborations. I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who made my visit so special."
Quentin Bateux, IRISA
"I'd like to thank everyone that made RVSS possible, as this summer school was an amazing personal experience. By maintaining a good balance between formal talks and courses, discussion sessions, group projects and free time, I felt that every opportunity to spark interesting conversations was fulfilled. I had many interesting debates and exchanges on many aspects of robotics and computer vision, be it during a hike in the forest, while programming turtlebots, after the projection of a though-provoking sci-fi movie featuring futuristic robots or around a campfire. The invited speakers were also really good at fostering high-level conversations around aspects of robotics that may seem a bit far away from the PhD or Master's point of view, by making everyone keep in mind the greater picture of what robotics and robotic vision are and can be in today's and tomorrow's society, and how important it is for everyone involved in this community to keep in mind the human issues that robotics can address, and the ones that it can create."
REGISTER YOUR INTEREST NOW FOR RVSS 2018 
rvss@roboticvision.org
INNOVATION CHALLENGES

Chief Operating Officer Dr Sue Keay and Research Fellow Juxi Leitner hosted the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge 

MANUFACTURING MEETS ROBOTIC VISION

 
With the support of PwC the Centre is running a series of innovation challenges aimed to identify people and companies in the Australian robotics and vision communities. The first of these, in manufacturing was held in Brisbane on the 10th March 2017.

The aim of the challenge is to identify companies we can collaborate with on solving challenges, partners who we can work with or already have solutions to some of the problems we are asked to address, and companies who might be interested in working with us to commercialise our technologies in the future.  We had a lot of interest from the companies represented and will run our next Open Innovation Challenge on robotic vision applied to food production on the 23rd June 2017. Details here

 
HUMANOID ROBOTICS PROJECT
Project Manager Belinda Ward pictured with Pepper at The Cube, QUT. Image credit: QUT Media

CENTRE SECURES $1.5 MILLION FOR A HUMANOID ROBOTICS PROJECT

Centre Chief Operating Officer, Dr Sue Keay and Project Leader Belinda Ward have successfully secured $1.5 million from the Queensland Government for a humanoid robotics project using Softbank's Pepper robot. ST Solutions Australia (STSA), a subsidiary of SoftBank Corp. has joined The Precinct, Queensland's innovation and startup centre located in Fortitude Valley. The QUT Research Project based in our Centre will explore the vision capabilities of SoftBank's Pepper Robot and aims to apply the latest developments in Robotic Vision to Pepper and engage researchers from a variety of disciplines to design and develop applications to assess the impact of social robotics. Read the full media release here and for more information contact br.ward@qut.edu.au
AMAZON ROBOTICS CHALLENGE
Team meeting underway at Centre Headquarters for the 2017 Amazon Robotics Challenge

CENTRE TEAM SELECTED AS FINALISTS 
 
Congratulations to our Centre Team for making the finals for Amazon’s 2017 Robotics Challenge.

Last year the team came in sixth place. The challenge is to create a robot that could work in an Amazon warehouse, recognising and picking items and correcting any mistakes. The 16 teams are competing for a US$250,000 prize.

Centre Research Fellow and Project Leader Juxi Leitner said “We use the competition to create opportunities for our undergraduate and early PhD students to see how to develop robotics technologies for the real world. The challenge is a great way of testing various technologies required to make robots better, from improved mechanical systems, to learned computer vision algorithms, as well as, tight software integration of all the required parts.” The Team will travel to Japan in July to compete in the challenge.
ENVIRONMENT - Where We Live
HOW TO MAKE A DRIVERLESS CAR 'SEE' THE ROAD AHEAD

How do self-driving cars “see”, and why did Intel spend $15-billion on Mobileye? A very interesting article in The Conversation from our Chief Investigators Michael Milford and Jonathan Roberts.

Microchip manufacturer Intel has invested heavily in the driverless car race with the latest US$15 billion (A$19.5bn) purchase of Israeli tech company Mobileye.

Mobileye develops sensors and intelligence technology behind automated driver-assistance systems and many self-driving cars. Its tech enables a car to “see” and understand the world. Other recent purchases include the deep learning tech company Nervanamicrochip maker Movidius and automotive tech company Delphi. Intel is also working with the automotive companies BMW and Volkswagen to begin trials later this year.

Intel is strategically putting together all the critical capabilities required to develop self-driving cars that can “see” and intelligently understand the world around us.

Seeing is safe
Most self-driving cars use a combination of sensing technologies. These include visual sensors, such as cameras, and range-to-object detecting sensors, such as lasers and radar. 


Until the last decade or so, range-based sensors have dominated commercially developed systems in robotics and self-driving cars. These sensors reliably tell the distance to all objects surrounding the platform to ranges of 100 metres or more. Read the full article at The Conversation
HEALTHCARE - How We Live
Centre Researchers awarded $996,000 in Australia-India Strategic Research Fund Grant

NEW CLASS OF MEDICAL ROBOTICS TO MAKE KEYHOLE SURGERY SAFER

Centre Researchers CIs Gustavo Carneiro and Jon Roberts, AI Ross Crawford and Research Affiliates Ajay Pandey and Anjali Jaiprakash are Chief Investigators on a collaboration that has received $996,000 in an Australia-India Strategic Research Fund grant from the Australian Government.

Project leader and renowned orthopaedic surgeon Professor Ross Crawford said the new robotic imaging system will allow surgeons for the first time to track the position of soft tissue in real time and in 3D.

“Patients recover from keyhole surgeries more quickly than open surgeries because the surgery is minimally invasive,” said Professor Crawford, from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision.

“However, keyhole surgeries are very complex for surgeons to learn and perform due to the sheer difficultly in seeing into and navigating their instruments through the tiny spaces inside the body.  Even experienced surgeons can cause complications to patients when performing these procedures.

“The robotic imaging system we’re building will vastly improve both visualisation and access issues, making keyhole surgery more accurate than ever before. Read the full media release here
RESOURCES - Means To Live
RESEARCH PROJECT CONFIRMED FOR NEW POSITIONING SYSTEM IN UNDERGROUND MINING
 
Mining3, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Caterpillar have signed a collaborative agreement for the research and development of a new positioning system for underground mining. Formally commencing in March 2017, and with financial support from the Queensland Government as part of its Advance Queensland Innovation Partnerships program, the project offers potential solutions to the challenge of accurately estimating the position of vehicles in underground mining environments.

The intended outcome of the research project is a cost-effective, reliable, camera-based positioning system for locating and tracking underground mining vehicles within one metre of accuracy. As well as a sophisticated, multi-sensor system that provides centimetre-accurate positioning which will ultimately enable the automation of mine vehicles. Essentially it delivers the equivalent of GPS to underground mining, without the requirement for significant infrastructure installed throughout the mine.

Project leader and Centre Chief Investigator Michael Milford said, “If you know where everything is on a mine site at all times you will be able to optimise how the mine site operates, improving safety and productivity. We believe that we can develop next-generation positioning technologies which can be deployed throughout the fleets of underground mining vehicles all around the world.” Read the full media release here
Asparagus farm at Cowra NSW. Image credit: Alex Martin, ANU

ASPARAGUS HARVESTING PARTNERSHIP AT ANU
Our Australian National University (ANU) node of the centre is starting a partnership with Mulyan Pty Ltd, an asparagus farm in Cowra NSW, to develop an autonomous harvesting robot for green asparagus. Ed Fagan of Mulyan farms says, “Harvest of asparagus is difficult to achieve using traditional agricultural machinery due to the unstructured and sparse nature of the crop and the fact that only a part of the crop is harvested each day. We have a team of farm hands that go back over every acre of asparagus in the farm every day during the harvest period, making asparagus one of the most expensive crops in the portfolio in terms of manpower.”   

The team at ANU will undertake an 18 month project to develop a prototype vision based harvesting system that identifies asparagus spears in real time for harvest using dense geometric SLAM techniques, image based visual servo to cut, capture and collect the spears, and then store spears in cold water to capture the maximum taste of the spear as quickly as possible. 
DEVELOPING OUR FUTURE LEADERS
KNOWLEDGE LEADERSHIP WORKSHOPS KICK OFF

In 2016, the Centre commissioned a tailor-made knowledge leadership program for our early career researchers from workplace psychologists, Evexia. Following a leadership training day in October at our annual symposium RoboVis, our first workshops were held at each Centre node during March and April this year. Facilitators Jo Karabitsios and David Whittingham travelled to each node to deliver the day long workshops to our research fellows and PhD researchers, covering the first 2 modules in the program:

1. Your Brand – defining your individual Research Leadership Brand and Purpose Statement, and developing relevant written and oral presentations skills through activities
2. Leading with Influence – focusing on empirically derived social influencing factors, positive engagement and disruption management, along with emotion recognition and cognitive restructuring.

The workshops were a great success and we received some excellent feedback from our researchers, featured below. For further information regarding our Knowledge Leadership program please contact our Chief Operating Officer Dr Sue Keay.
Yan Zuo, PhD researcher, Monash University
“I think the workshop will benefit a Ph.D. researcher since a lot of the skills we developed are applicable towards research including improving confidence during conference presentations as well as using cognitive restructuring to change our perspective when things don’t go the way we want (i.e. not getting a conference paper accepted) and allow us to continue to improve. Thanks to the Centre for setting up the leadership workshop for the opportunity to grow our leadership skills - I look forward to the upcoming second workshop!”
Sareh Shirazi, Research Fellow, QUT
“The first task of the workshop was focused on delivering a 2-minute pitch about our research, while being recorded by the camera for the purpose of further self and group evaluations. This practice helped us to verbalise our research in a simple, understandable and non-technical way for general audiences. This could be a useful tool for those people who experience some stress and anxiety when having to address larger audiences.”
Rafael Felix, PhD researcher, University of Adelaide
“Why is it so important that computer scientists and engineers learn how to recognize emotions, sell their self-brand and engage in public talks? So that we might become leaders in the future of our research. As leaders, it is very important to know how to manage people’s interests and handle uncomfortable social scenarios. We are constantly interacting with peers, students and lecturers - it is valuable learning how to communicate better. I would like to thank the Centre for the opportunity to grow as a researcher and as a person. I firmly believe that this training will have a beneficial impact on my relationships.”
Chuong Nguyen, Research Fellow, ANU
“As a research fellow, I believe that the workshop helped me recognise my drawbacks, provide techniques to communicate more effectively with others, and techniques to deal with challenging situations. I look forward to the second part of the workshop later this year.”

The next workshops covering Modules 3 & 4 will run at each node in June and July. The group will then come together for a training day during our annual symposium, RoboVis, in mid-October. 
EDUCATION
ROBOT ACADEMY
The QUT Robot Academy was launched on the 12th May. The academy is an open online robotic education resource. It provides free-to-use undergraduate-level learning resources for robotics and robotic vision. It contains university-level short video lessons and full online courses.
Click on the image below to visit https://robotacademy.net.au


Chief Investigator Michael Milford

MATHS-FUELLED FICTION BOUND FOR SCHOOLS
Michael Milford’s Maths Thrills program is offering a free Maths Thrills school pack for schools across Australia! Schools can register for their free pack through the Math Thrills website. The program is funded by a $25,000 AMP Tomorrow Fund grant. See the full media release here
NEWS, EVENTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS


Officer in the Order of Australia (AO)
Dr Alex Zelinsky, the Chair of the Centre’s Advisory Committee, has been made an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) in the 2017 Queen’s birthday honours. This Article in the Canberra Times talks about his amazing career and accomplishments.
 
Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Centre Director Peter Corke has been recognised as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). The HEA is an independent non-profit organisation committed to world-class teaching in higher education. The QUT Academy of Learning and Teaching Review Panel commended Peter's important and significant contribution to learning and teaching at QUT and globally. Selected feedback from the review panel included: "Your work in establishing the Robot Academy and the development of lasting resources demonstrates your commitment to making what can be a conceptually difficult and challenging topic as accessible as possible to students from diverse backgrounds". "Your integration of learning and teaching within the research-led field of robotics is commendable and serves as fresh inspiration for others working in diverse contexts to strive toward meeting this challenge as well." 
ARC Future Fellow Dr Anders Eriksson
Associate Investigator Dr Anders Eriksson has been awarded an ARC Future Fellowship. The fellowship is valued at $801,340 over a 4 year period and commences in 2017. The project aims to undertake research in the fields of computer vision and optimization that will have a significant impact on the design of numerical algorithms for solving a wide range of problems in Computer Vision, Virtual Reality and Robotic Navigation. 

 
Robotics, Vision and Control: Fundamental Algorithms In MATLAB® (second edition) 
The second edition of Peter Corke's book Robotics, Vision and Control: Fundamental Algorithms In MATLAB® (second edition) is out and available here. Here's Peter (pictured) with a copy of the new book at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) held in Singapore earlier this month.
Dr Rodney Brooks visits QUT
Founder, Chairman and CTO of ReThink Robotics, Dr Rodney Brooks, visited our Centre Headquarters at the end of March. He gave a formal public lecture and then visited our lab for an informal Q&A session covering topics including, but not limited to, life, death, old age, surfboards, startups, robots and revenge. He also signed our Baxter robot and was interviewed on local radio ABC 612 Brisbane. Listen here

A mathematics undergraduate in his native Australia, Rodney received a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford in 1981. From 1984 to 2010, he was on the MIT faculty, and completed his service as a Professor of Robotics. He was also the founding Director of the Institute’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and served in that role until 2007. In 1990, he co-founded iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT), where he served variously as CTO, Chairman and board member until 2011. 

Robot vs Volcano
Chief Investigator Matt Dunbabin’s efforts to blow up a robot inside a volcano were captured in a National Geographic segment covering Matt’s part in research on a little-known shark living in the volcano. 

World Science Festival Highlights
The World Science Festival was held in Brisbane from the 22nd to 26th March and was a great success, featuring lots of work at QUT and the Centre. Our Baxter robot made an appearance for the opening at the Queensland Museum. CI Jonathan Robots spoke in the Apprentice Program: Roboticist’s Apprentice workshops and Automated Autos: The Future of Driverless Driving and Drones. CI Michael Milford hosted Science Gets Social: Mathematics in Movies. Centre Director Peter Corke was on the panel for Frankenstein Anxiety: Robots and the Replacement of Ourselves. 

The COTSbot was put in the hands of the public at the QUT tent during the Street Science showcase with people taking turns at firing the pneumatic injector arm. Our Medical Robotics team had their Snake robot and Kinova arm at the festival Photos from the festival are on Flickr
 
Dr Rodney Brooks with Research Fellow Juxi Leitner in our manipulation lab. Centre Headquarters QUT.
Our signed Baxter Robot by Dr Rodney Brooks. Baxter was created by ReThink Robotics in 2012.
Centre Chief Investigator Matt Dunbabin is featured in this National Geographic segment
World Science Festival highlights, Brisbane March 2017
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