Lowe’s Innovation Labs hosted an event in collaboration with Applied Singularity on ‘Building Advanced Robotics using Robot Operating System (ROS)’. At this meetup, held on 28th October 2017, Dr. Keshav Chintamani, Senior Researcher from IMEC – a Belgian R&D hub working in nanotechnology and digital technologies, shared his learning and experiences around critical enablers and frameworks for building advanced robots, having worked extensively in research and development of systems for NASA, ESA and the European Commission.

Review of the Advanced Robotics event hosted by Lowe’s Innovation Labs

The event was attended by people comprising of technology professionals and enthusiasts and was widely received on social media as well. The talk was divided in two halves starting with an exploration of the vast robotics ecosystem in Europe and ending with details about building robotic solutions using ROS – an open source operating system commonly used in high-tech robotics.

The event began with Dr. Keshav describing his work at IMEC and at University of Ghent. He talked about some of his early contributions to Augmented Reality (AI), just-in-time training platforms for astronauts, search and rescue robots and his current work in internet of robotic things, a new phenomenon that excited the audience. He used this to segway into the growth of robotics in different European countries based on different economic and technological challenges that were the need of the hour. From strawberry picking robots pushing the agriculture industry forward in Belgium, to space exploration robotics for European space agency – the audience got a bird’s eye view of how necessity has driven development in different industries. One example that stood out was that of the ‘Petrobot’ – a robot used for inspection of storage tanks and pressure vessels to reduce risk of injuries to the human inspectors which is a serious problem in the oil and gas industry.

The second half of the talk dealt with the practical approach to building such robots from both hardware and software perspectives. Dr. Keshav spoke about the multiple aspects of building these bots such as sensors, control architecture and power distribution systems. He introduced multiple software that is commonly employed in programming each building block with a deep emphasis on ROS. This was then followed by a Q&A session, which was akin to a beginner’s guide to ROS that described different elements of the OS, applications and challenges of working with this robust, yet complicated system. The captivated audience, after incessantly scribbling in their notebooks throughout the four hour session, was given a final boost of excitement with a practical demonstration of a small robot Dr. Keshav had built using ROS that scanned an area and moved through the space in a deliberate and cautious manner.

The session left the participants elated. Dr. Keshav introduced the audience to the exciting possibilities of advanced robotics, and more importantly the challenges that accompany it. The biggest take-away from the event was learning about incredible impact that robotics can have on solving critical problems along with a cautionary note about the resilience and dedication required to make a dent it in the field.

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