Robotic Vision Quarterly Newsletter - October 2017
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creating robots that see

We won! Amazon Robotics Challenge 2017, Nagoya, Japan. Image credit: Amazon Robotics Challenge



Welcome to our latest public newsletter. 
A lot has happened since the last newsletter.  We won a major international robotics challenge, had two reviews, commenced a national technology roadmap and held our annual conference.

The full story of our win at the Amazon Robotics Challenge can be found below.  The backstory is that Amazon makes significant use of robots to move products within their fulfilment Centres but human workers are still required to reach into shelves and grab specific items. Robots currently lack the visual ability to distinguish objects, the manual dexterity to grasp objects and the hand-eye coordination to reach for objects.  This is a perfect robotic vision problem.  The competition brought 16 international teams together to demonstrate their solution to Amazon’s problem. Last year we came sixth, this year first!

In July we had an international science review conducted by Professor Henrik Christensen from the University of California San Diego.  Henrik visited three of our nodes to run the ruler over our science and to gain a perspective on how we operate.  There was a strong endorsement of the Centre’s mission and approach and some valuable recommendations.  This was a great foundation for the more formal mid-term review carried out by the ARC (our primary funder) in September.  I haven’t yet seen the recommendations from this review but my discussions with the panel on the day were very positive.

Our conference, RoboVis, is an annual opportunity to bring almost everybody in the Centre together in one place.  It’s a chance to renew friendships, catch-up on what’s happening across the Centre and in the wider robotic vision community and to celebrate our achievements.  We were also joined by the chair of our Centre Advisory Committee and the members of our End User Advisory Board.  This was our fourth annual meeting and I am very impressed to see, not only how much our Centre has grown, but how much more cohesive it has become.

Finally, the Centre has commenced a national road mapping activity for robotic and vision technology.  A number of countries have such roadmaps which are used to inform research investment and policy.  Input to national policy is one of the many ways that a Centre of Excellence can create impact and we have set an ambitious target of having our roadmap launched by May 2018.

As always, up to date information about Centre achievements can be found on our website and our YouTube channel. If you have comments about the newsletter, questions about what we do or how to engage with us, please feel free to email me.
Enjoy the issue.

Professor Peter Corke
Centre Director


A series of workshops across key sectors including resources, built and natural environment, manufacturing, services (including transport & logistics) and healthcare will be held in October and November for leaders in Australian academia, industry and government, however submissions are being sought from all interested parties.

“Australia currently has a real advantage in Robotics and Computer Vision at this point in time and, as a national research centre and the world’s first research centre specialising in robotic vision, we want to make sure Australia really benefits from these new technologies,” the Centre’s Chief Operating Officer Sue Keay said.

“We have identified six sectors that are key to the Australian economy – resources, built and natural environment, manufacturing, services (transport & logistics), healthcare and defence – and in addition to formal workshops involving government, academia and industry, we are calling for submissions from interested Australians and Australian companies to help us create Australia’s very first robotics and computer vision roadmap.”

“Australia is currently ranked 30th in the world for global automation according to the International Federation of Robotics[1] despite our high levels of niche manufacturing. So, on the surface, while we are Robotic leaders in many areas, it appears Australia is lagging on this measure and that’s of concern.”

“Australia’s first Robotics and Computer Vision Roadmap is about more than just making industries more automated. The strength of our Robotics and Computer Vision technologies will drive the transformation of existing industries and create whole new industries. This has significant impact for the future of Australia’s workforce as well as ensuring we have vibrant, competitive and sustainable industry sectors.”

“These are technologies that can solve many of the key challenges facing Australia in terms of productivity and sustainability,” Sue said. “Our Robotics and Computer Vision Roadmap will give us a clearer idea of what the industry looks like in Australia and how best to support take-up by existing companies and to create new companies based on these technologies.”

The US released its third Roadmap for US Robotics in 2016 while the UK and Singapore also have Robotic Roadmaps. The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision will release Australia’s first robotics and computer vision roadmap in May 2018 as part of the World International Conference in Robotics and Automation in Brisbane. This will be the first time the Conference has been held in the Southern Hemisphere.

More information about submissions, workshops and the roadmap is available here 

Chief Operating Officer Dr Sue Keay
Media enquiries should be directed to Sue Keay M. 0408 778 667

Project Lead Tabetha Bozin
Tabetha joined the Centre as Roadmap Project Lead in August. Roadmap enquiries should be directed to Tabetha

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

Our fourth summer school will be held again at ANU’s Kioloa Campus from the 4th to 9th February 2018. This international summer school targets Masters and PhD students, academics and industrial researchers. The week-long event is a great opportunity to learn about fundamental & advanced topics in robotic vision from our domestic and international researchers and includes talks, workshops, demonstrations and social events. Registrations close 22nd December 2017 and more information can be found on the Summer School website
Our fourth annual Centre conference, RoboVis, was held at Tangalooma Resort, Moreton Island from the 10th-13th October. This year we were joined by Chair of our Centre Advisory Committee, Dr Alex Zelinsky and the members of our End User Advisory Board Russel Rankin, Alan Davie, Trent Lund, Peter Katsos, Rob Wood and Andrew Harris. The symposium included guest speakers, a technical program, 3 minute thesis spotlights, technical demonstration sessions, a research poster session and social events including wild dolphin feeding, Trivia Night, Bonfire Night and Centre Awards.

Highlights of the event included a Women in STEM breakfast forum with Guest Speaker Mathilde Desselle and industry presentation from PwC's Trent Lund.

The symposium ended with a Knowledge Leadership Workshop for our Research Fellows and PhD Researchers, the last in a series of customised knowledge leadership training modules to help support the development of our early career researchers. Details of the event are on our website with photos on Flickr
Watch Queensland's own rapid response tool for monitoring coral bleaching

Queensland researchers are developing a new tool to ramp up rapid response efforts to coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. QUT experts are partnering with the Australian Institute for Marine Science (AIMS) to test whether small drones, machine learning and specialised hyperspectral cameras can monitor the Great Barrier Reef more quickly, efficiently and in more details than manned aircraft and satellite surveys.

QUT’s project leader and Centre Associate Investigator Associate Professor Felipe Gonzalez said the team survey three reefs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park from 60 metres in the air while AIMS divers recorded precise levels of coral bleaching from under the water.

By taking readings from the air and verifying them against the AIMS data from below the surface, we are teaching the system how to see and classify bleaching levels,” said Professor Gonzalez an aeronautical engineer from QUT’s Institute for Future Environments and Australian Centre for Robotic Vision.

“Flying 60 metres above the water gives us a spatial resolution of 9.2 centimetres per pixel, which we’ve found to be more than enough detail to detect and monitor individual corals and their level of bleaching.

“This is great news for us because low-altitude drones can cover far more area in a day than in-water surveys and they’re not hampered by cloud cover as manned aircraft and satellites are – a system like this has the real potential to boost the frequency of monitoring activities in an economical way.

“The more data scientists have at their fingertips during a bleaching event, the better they can address it. We see small drones with hyperspectral cameras acting as a rapid response tool for threatened reefs during and after coral bleaching events.”

Read the full media release here
Centre Chief Operating Officer Sue Keay opens the Social Robots in Healthcare workshop held in Brisbane

The Centre held a sold-out workshop on Social Robots in Healthcare in July. There was enormous interest in the event, which was limited to 100 attendees, and it was mainly aimed at bringing together stakeholders from outside and within QUT to look at developing programs of healthcare-related research that might benefit from the Centre's access to the humanoid robotics platform, Pepper.

There were some interesting talks at the workshop, including Centre visitor Ron Arkin’s talk on the ethical challenges of patient-caregiver relationships. The workshop included presentations from Business, Law, Public Health, Economics, and Human-Computer Interaction and, of course, Robotics.

"The Social Robots in Healthcare was a great opportunity to find out about technologies that will soon make an integral part of our future healthcare facilities. The closing session ran by Dr Sue Keay was especially enlightening as the panel discussed potential technical, social, economic and psychological challenges around the adoption of robotics technologies in healthcare." Mathilde Desselle, QUT

The introduction to the workshop is on the Centre’s YouTube channel. Given the high level of interest in the subject we will look to hold another workshop. If you would like to be kept informed about our next social robots and healthcare event please email with the Subject Line: SOCIAL ROBOTS

Humanoid Project Lead Belinda Ward with Softbanks Pepper Robot
RESOURCES - Means To Live
Our second roadmap workshop, for the Resources sector, was held in Brisbane on Monday 23rd October with representatives from industry, government and academia. Australia is clearly leading the world in mining automation and has a great opportunity to take leadership in the global supply chain covering all aspects of resource discovery, extraction, processing and rehabilitation.
Participants discussed many of the advantages Australia has over competitors that focus on industries with long innovation cycles (automotive, aerospace etc). We have an opportunity to implement short innovation cycles in the local resources sector but we need a better connected local ecosystem.  Australians are experts in solutions for remote, difficult locations and we need to be recognised for this.
Despite many advantages Australia must overcome the challenges of risk aversion, absorptive capacity (how quickly companies can take up ideas), geography and culture. We apply ingenuity to develop robotic and vision technologies and we also need to use ingenuity to solve the social and structural impediments to Australia becoming a high tech nation.

The Centre has run 9 Knowledge Leadership workshops as part of a tailor-made program from workplace psychologists, Evexia. The program wrapped up for this year with a full-day workshop at our annual symposium, RoboVis.

The workshops were a great success and we received some excellent feedback from our researchers. For further information regarding our Knowledge Leadership program please contact our Chief Operating Officer
Dr Sue Keay.
The Robot Academy was launched in May this year and introduced in the June newsletter.  Since then it’s had over 125,000 page views from some 30,000 unique users from over 100 countries.  Over half of the users are returning visitors.  It’s clear that a number of universities are starting to adopt lessons from the Robot Academy in their teaching. Listen to RoboHub podcast here and find the Robot Academy here
2017 Amazon Robotics Challenge Win
Our Centre's Team won the 2017 Amazon Robotics Challenge in Japan with our robot named Cartman, securing the $80,000USD first prize. Cartman is a custom-made cartesian robot with both a claw and suction gripper. It's design gave the team "more flexibility to complete the tasks than most robots can offer," said team leader Research Fellow Juxi Leitner. "Cartman is robust and tackles the the task in an innovative way and is also cost effective". Read more about the challenge here

Marr Prize Honorable Mention Award ICCV 2017
Congratulations to Chief Investigator Hongdong Li and colleagues for winning the Marr Prize Honorable Mention Award at the International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV) currently on in Venice, Italy. The Marr Prize is the most presitgious best paper award in the international computer vision community.

PI Andy Davison elected as Fellow
Congratulations to Partner Investigator Professor Andy Davison from Imperial College on being elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RA Eng). Becoming a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering is one of the highest honours that an engineer can receive in the UK. It recognises outstanding and continuing contributions to the profession. Read more
Fellow of ATSE
Centre Director Peter Corke has been elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technoloy and Engineering (ATSE). ATSE Fellows are some of the most influential names in technological sciences and engineering. See the media release here
World's 25 Women in Robotics 
Research Affiliate and bio roboticist Dr Anjali Jaiprakash was announced as one of the world’s 25 Women in Robotics you should know about. The announcement was made on the 10th October on Ada Lovelace Day – a day celebrating the achievements of women in technology. Read more here
Professor Henrik Christensen conducts International Science Review
The Centre was fortunate to have Professor henrik Christensen from UC San Diego conduct an international science review to evaluate the quality of the science within the Centre. Henrik spent a week in Australia visiting QUT, ANU and the University of Adelaide and meeting researchers across all nodes of the Centre.

Dr Sue Keay named Superstar of STEM
Chief Operating Officer Dr Sue keay was named one of 30 Superstars of STEM by Science & Technology Australia (STA). The goal of the program is to help women learn how to speak about their science and inspire others to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Read the media release here
Queensland Young Tall Poppy
Congratulations to Research Affiliate Anjali Jaiprakash named a Queensland Young Tall Poppy in this year’s awards. Anjali has been honoured for excellence in her field of medical robotics and is working on the development of a vision-based robotic leg-manipulation system for knee arthroscopy and a retinal diagnostic system for the early detection of blindness. See the full media release here

SA Science Awards - Excellence in Research Collaboration
Chief Investigator Anton van den Hengel and the team at the Australian Centre for Visual Techologies (ACVT) won the award for Excellence in Research Collaboration in the SA Science Awards for their work in developing a world leading intelligent medical deveice with LBT Innovations Ltd. The awards showcase the critical importance of science and research to the development of industry and our society. Read more about the awards here

Robotronica Success
QUT’s Robotronica was held on the 20th August in Brisbane and attracted a crowd of around 22,000. This is the 3rd festival held by QUT. Sue Keay was interviewed on ABC News and on ABC radio with her sister Dr Andra Keay who gave a talk at Robotronica titled “Rise of the Robots: Rise of the Useless Class”. Some photos of the event are available here and Sue's interview on ABC Breakfast TV is here

First Place in the VQA 2.0 challenge
Congratulations to Damien Teney (ACVT), Peter Anderson, Anton van den Hengel, and the rest of the team who placed first in the VQA 2.0 challenge. Participants are given an image and a natural language question about the image – the task is to provide an accurate natural language answer. More information about the 2017 challenge is here and you can see the leader board here
Professor Henrik Christensen with University of Adelaide Researchers
Chief Operating Officer Dr Sue Keay was named a Superstar of STEM by Science & Technology Australia (STA)
Research Affiliate Dr Anjali Jaiprakash named Queensland Young Tall Poppy
Chief Investigator Anton van den Hengel and ACVT Team win in the SA Science Awards
QUT's Robotronica was another great success attracting a crowd of around 22,000
First place in the VQA 2.0 challenge
Our first Centre T-Shirt Ambassador, Professor Leslie Willcocks. Image credit: Matthew Willcocks
Our Centre T-shirts attract quite a bit of attention when we are out and about! We are pleased to announce our first official T-shirt Ambassador, Professor Leslie Willcocks from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Leslie visited QUT in November and gave a keynote presentation “Service Automation – Taking The Robot Out of The Human….Emerging Benefits, Challenges and Lessons”. He has co-authored with Professor Mary Lacity “Service Automation: Robots and the Future of Work”.

During his visit Leslie toured our Centre headquarters at QUT and received a Centre “creating robots that see” T-shirt. Leslie wrote to us after gaining such a huge following of people stopping him in the street and in airport lounges to comment and ask about his T-shirt. Leslie wrote to us asking if he could get some more! Our thanks to Leslie for sending in these great photos.
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