Stuttgart – It is a busy time of year for researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. Aside from contributing to ground-breaking science in their field every day, our scientific leaders are currently attending important conferences all over the world. It gets even more exciting if a researcher is invited to give a keynote speech at a world-renowned conference that other top scientists are attending. Such is the case for Katherine J. Kuchenbecker, Director of the Haptic Intelligence Department, for Metin Sitti, Director of the Physical Intelligence Department, for Peer Fischer, who heads the Micro Nano and Molecular Systems Lab, and for Sebastian Trimpe, Leader of the Intelligent Control Systems Cyber Valley Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart. All four of these researchers have given keynotes in the past days, weeks or months, highlighting their international reputation and cutting-edge science in their respective field.
“A keynote is an honorary talk, similar to a career achievement award, that is given by an established researcher to recognize and publicize his or her scientific contributions”, explains Kuchenbecker. She gave a keynote talk on Tuesday in Pittsburgh in the US at the Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) conference, a prestigious single-track independent robotics conference that is held annually.
Meanwhile, Metin Sitti (see image below) delivered a keynote last week at the 4th IEEE/IFToMM International Conference on Reconfigurable Mechanisms and Robots (ReMAR 2018) in Delft in the Netherlands. There he presented – among other projects – his team’s research on a nature-inspired, multiple locomotion capable millirobot, which received great media attention earlier this year. “A keynote is special since all conference attendees attend such a talk,“ says Sitti. He will hold another keynote this week at CCF-GAIR 2018, the largest Chinese robotics conference with more than 3000 people attending.
Peer Fischer, who is also a Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Stuttgart, gave several keynote talks since the beginning of this year. His first was at the International Conference on Sculptured Thin Films in New Delhi, India. At the 92nd American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Colloid & Surface Science Symposium, a conference held in State College, Pennsylvania in the US, he gave a keynote on Active and Adaptive Matter, and at a conference on Bio-inspired Magnetic Systems (BIMS) in Exeter, the UK, he presented a plenary talk titled “From Microswimmers to Nanorobots”.
“It is considered a great honor to be invited to give a keynote,“ Trimpe agrees. “The keynotes are the main presentations at a conference, given by invitation only.“ Trimpe’s keynote at the 50th International Symposium on Robotics (ISR) in Munich last week was his first at an international conference. “The list of keynote speakers was impressive, including leading scientists in the general field of robotics”, Trimpe says. “I was also very pleased to receive a lot of positive feedback after my keynote.”
Trimpe’s keynote was titled “Machine Learning for Dynamic Systems” – an exciting and growing research area. In his talk, Trimpe looked at learning for autonomous systems such as robots or self-driving cars that sense, make decisions, and act autonomously in the physical world. “Key to building such intelligent autonomous systems is the combination of the disciplines of machine learning and dynamic systems & control, as I was arguing in my keynote”, Trimpe summarizes his speech. “I was highlighting special challenges that we face at this intersection of disciplines and presented some of our latest research addressing these.”
“Telerobotic Touch“ was the title of Kuchenbecker’s talk, which summarized research she has been pursuing since the beginning of her career. She spoke about giving a sense of touch to operators of robotic teleoperation systems like the Intuitive da Vinci surgical robot. The idea is to enable surgeons to feel what the remotely controlled robot is touching, so they no longer solely rely on their eyesight. “Keynoting at RSS is particularly special to me because I gave the RSS Early Career Spotlight talk in 2009”, says Kuchenbecker. “Spotlight talks are prestigious because they are voted on by a board of more senior scientists. Being invited now to give a keynote at the same conference nine years later shows that I have progressed from being a junior scientist to being an established leader in my field.” Kuchenbecker also delivered a keynote talk titled “Tactile Reality” at the IEEE Virtual Reality conference in Reutlingen in March of this year.
Keynote speeches are a great opportunity for a scientist to present his or her research during the prime time of a conference, but they also serve another purpose: “Keynoting at RSS is also important to me because it gives me a chance to present our institute and our interdisciplinary Ph.D. program, our IMPRS-IS, to a group of top robotics researchers and students from around the world”, Kuchenbecker explains. “Perhaps our next director or a future IMPRS-IS Ph.D. student will be in the audience!”