Bio-Inspired Robotics Conference – SAB2016

Back on 26th August 2016 we drew to a close SAB2016, the 14th international conference of the series on bio-inspiration for robotics and algorithms from more or less any discipline at theory stages, to simulations and empirically applied. For me, nothing can take away my reverberating proud feeling I have for being a part of a diverse, kind and like-minded collection of people with a sheer fascination for nature, paired with the talent and vision to pursue it for the betterment of society and life. I mean, isn’t that the dream!?

Over the three days, I met with a leading Thai research scientist in bio-inspired robotics and still the only Thai academic I’ve met working on this area. We’re thinking of a move there, so it’s particularly good news. It was also my first experience as session chair track at an international conference. On the morning of the final day I chaired the Simulation and Agent Modelling track, a subtopic of my PhD research. Beyond the keynotes, which I’ll come back to below, the most interesting papers (imo) was a PhD extension to spinoff company in Plymouth, which is trying to apply hybrid-soft robotic grabbers to the challenging task of (apple and pear) fruit picking and another ideation paper on dung beetles inspired robotics – I’m looking forward to hearing these progress.

My least favourite moment of the conference was hearing that Stefan Nolfi, who I’d met in passing at an ECAL/ALife conference in Italy a few years earlier and who’s keynote talk I had much anticipated, gave news of being called from the conference. His work has been a highlight of my research lab colleagues, as it inspired works on evolutionary CTRNN models to govern generalist swarming agents to solve problems and led the field over the past couple of decades.

This year’s keynotes were particular highlights, primarily on empirical works and each excellently presented, though none were directly in my research work areas. Jochen Triesch, Goethe University Frankfurt spoke on the recent framework release for sensory self-calibration of adaptive perception in Developmental Robotics. Og DeSouza, Federal University of Viçosa gave an historical record talk from his seminal research on termite colony ecology and evolution until recent studies on the Complex System interactions (at species, colony and individual-levels) that lead to their survivable, adaptive and intelligent behaviours. Anthony Pipe, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, gave us behind the scenes access to a series of research directions underway at BRL, with focuses on collective intelligence, swarming robotics, soft-robotics and new forms of human-friendly robotics for in the home and workplace. Finally, Stefano Nolfi, Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies CNR was scheduled to talk on Evolutionary Swarm Robotics for collective problem solving, however was called away before the talk.

[Update]- To keep the memory alive, I’ve collected below the conference poster (with artwork by Solé, the incredibly creative long-time artist for the SAB conferences and poster formation by Jim Finnis with the organising team) and a couple of screenshots from the conference website that Alex Giagkos, Suresh Kumar and myself created.

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