PLENARY TALKS 

From Compliant Mechanisms to Soft Robots
Michael Yu Wang, Hong Kong University of  Science and Technology, China

Abstract — Compliant mechanisms provide kinematic solutions for transferring or transforming motion or force in a mechatronic system. Rather than relying on sliding or rolling motion as in traditional mechanics, compliant mechanisms produce their mobility based on the deflection of flexible members. This enables the integration of multiple functions into simple topologies, by embedding sensors and actuators to build fully functional and distributed devices capable of complex tasks. Further, the simple topologies in structural, mechanical, and electronic integration could lend themselves to advanced manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing with materials specialized in electro-mechanical sensing and actuation in addition to structural support, such as electroactive polymers and nanoparticle composites. Compliant mechanisms show promise for developing soft robots in addressing many pressing needs such as next generation medical implants and biomimetic medical devices.
This presentation describes an overview of a class of such compliant mechatronic systems and methods for their design and fabrication. It focuses on a computation method for designing compliant mechanisms with distributed compliance and/or made of multiple materials. It also presents an overview of  exploratory solutions to modeling of soft continuum, hyper-elastic simulation for soft robots, distributed control of soft actuators (polymers or fluids), strategies for soft manipulation and locomotion, and rapid prototyping and fabrication of elastic robots.

Biography — Michael Yu Wang is a Professor and the Founding Director of HKUST Robotics Institute. Before joining HKUST in 2015, he served on the engineering faculty at University of Maryland, Chinese University of Hong Kong, and National University of Singapore. He has numerous professional honors–National Science Foundation Research Initiation Award, 1993; Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award from Society of Automotive Engineers, 1994; LaRoux K. Gillespie Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award from Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 1995; Boeing–A.D. Welliver Faculty Summer Fellow, Boeing, 1998; Distinguished Investigator Award of NSFC; Chang Jiang (Cheung Kong) Scholars Award from the Ministry of Education of China and Li Ka Shing Foundation (Hong Kong), and the State Natural Science Prize (Class II) from the Ministry of Science and Technology of China. He received the Kayamori Best Paper Award of 2001 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, the Compliant Mechanisms Award-Theory of ASME 31st Mechanisms and Robotics Conference in 2007, Research Excellence Award (2008) of CUHK, and ASME Design Automation Award (2013). He is the current Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Trans. on Automation Science and Engineering, and served as an Associate Editor of IEEE Trans. on Robotics and Automation and ASME Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering. He is a Fellow of ASME, HKIE and IEEE. He received his Ph.D. degree from Carnegie Mellon University (1989).


Innovations in Infrastructure Service Robotics
I-Ming Chen, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Abstract — Infrastructure robotics is a discipline studying robotic systems and methodology for buildings and civil infrastructure construction, inspection, and maintenance. The target could be buildings, estates, parks, bridges, power plants, power transmission lines, underground tunnels, sewage pipes, port facilities, etc. Developing robotic technology for infrastructures has the following significance:
1) Economics and sustainability – Robotic technology would be able to reduce the reliance on unskilled workers and also skilled workers operating on sophisticate construction machinery and thus transform population-reliant GDP growth to productivity-reliant GDP growth.
2) Productivity – Robotic technology will streamline and further optimize current construction process for shorter project period, and also assure quality consistency of the construction project.
3) Safety and health – Robotic technology will reduce the human exposure to hazardous and inaccessible areas and environment during construction so as to change the public mind set of the construction industry as an attractive career goal.
In this talk, several infrastructure robotics projects, ranging from construction robots, tunnel inspection robots and logistics robots carried out in Singapore will be introduced. With new actuators, low cost sensors, and open source robotics software, infrastructure robots represent a new breed of intelligent systems that help the society to overcome manpower shortage and ageing workforce issues. These projects are examples of user-led and user-inspired robotics R&D effort led by government agencies, universities, research institutions, and industrial alliance of local and overseas robotics and construction machinery manufacturers, start-up companies, and system integrators. The ultimate goal is to strengthen the robotics R&D capability in Singapore and to foster a robotics industry and the ecosystem that transform Singapore into a Smart Nation.

Biography — Professor I-Ming Chen is an internationally renowned robotics researcher. He received the B.S. degree from National Taiwan University in 1986, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA in 1989 and 1994 respectively. He has been with the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore since 1995. He is currently Director of Robotics Research Centre and also Director of Intelligent Systems Center in NTU. Professor Chen also acts as the Deputy Program Manager of A*STAR SERC Industrial Robotics Program to coordinate project and activities under this multi-institutional program involving NTU, NUS, SIMTech, A*STAR I2R and SUTD. He is a member of the Robotics Task Force 2014 under the National Research Foundation which is responsible for Singapore’s strategic R&D plan in future robotics. His research interests are in wearable devices, human-robot interaction and industrial automation. Professor Chen is Fellow of IEEE and Fellow of ASME, General Chairman of 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2017) in Singapore.


Medical Robotics – the next 25 years
Guang-Zhong Yang, The Hamlyn Centre, Imperial College London, U.K.

Abstract — Surgical robotics has evolved from a niche research field 25 years ago to a burgeoning area of innovation and development, spearheading evolution in precision medicine, personalised healthcare, and quality-of-life improvements. The commercial success of the first-generation clinical robotic systems has inspired an ever-increasing number of platforms from both commercial and research organisations, resulting in smaller, safer, and smarter devices that aspire to roam the human body and blur the lines of disease prediction and prevention. For such endeavours to be clinically successful, challenges relating to not only research, but also regulation, intellectual property protection, and potential litigation need to be addressed. In this talk, we will look back through the last 25 years at how surgical robotics has evolved to a major area of innovation and development. With improved safety, efficacy and reduced costs, robotic platforms will soon approach a tipping point, moving beyond early adopters to become part of the mainstream surgical practice. These platforms will also drive the future of precision surgery, with a greater focus on early intervention and quality of life after treatment. We also project forward, on how this relatively young yet rapidly expanding field may reshape the future of medicine, as well as the associated technical, commercial, regulatory, and economic challenges that need to be overcome.

Biography — Professor Guang-Zhong Yang is director and co-founder of the Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery. The Hamlyn Centre (http://www.imperial.ac.uk/hamlyn-centre/) has been established for developing safe, effective and accessible imaging, sensing and robotics technologies that can reshape the future of healthcare for both developing and developed countries. Focusing on technological innovation but with a strong emphasis on clinical translation and direct patient benefit with a global impact, the centre is at the forefront of research in imaging, sensing and robotics for addressing global health challenges associated with demographic, environment, social and economic changes. The Centre plays an active role in international collaboration and outreach activities, as well as in the training of surgeons and engineers in robotic technologies, thereby facilitating a fully integrated clinical approach. In addition to its core research activities, the Centre offers comprehensive PhD and MRes programmes for researchers with a strong technical or clinical background. Through its endowment fund and close working relationship with industry, government and non-government organisations, the Centre also offers Advanced Fellowships, International Fellowships, Faculty Exchange Programmes, and Research Secondment for specific research projects and technical areas. Professor Yang is also the Chairman of the UK-RAS Network (http://ukras.org). The mission of the UK-RAS Network is to provide academic leadership in RAS, expand collaboration with industry and integrate and coordinate activities of the EPSRC funded RAS capital facilities, Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) and partner universities across the UK. Professor Yang’s main research interests are in medical imaging, sensing and robotics. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, fellow of IEEE, IET, AIMBE and a recipient of the Royal Society Research Merit Award and listed in The Times Eureka ‘Top 100’ in British Science. Professor Yang is the founding editor of Science Robotics (http://robotics.sciencemag.org/ ) – a journal of the Science family dedicated to the latest advances in robotics and how it enables or underpins new scientific discoveries. He was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s 2017 New Year Honour List for his work in biomedical engineering.


An Evolutionary Developmental Perspective of Brain-like Intelligence
Yaochu Jin, University of Surrey, Guildford, U.K.

Abstract — This talk discusses the organizational principles of neural systems from the evolutionary developmental perspective. We first provide a brief introduction to evolution and development of human brain and nervous systems. Then computational models for brain-body co-evolution and co-development are presented. Our experimental results reveal that energy minimization is one main principle behind the self-organization of nervous systems and there is a close coupling between the body and brain in evolution and development. Finally, we present computational models of neural plasticity embedded in the reservoir computing and discuss their influence on the learning performance of spiking neural networks.

Biography — Yaochu Jin received the B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. degrees from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, in 1988, 1991, and 1996, respectively, and the Dr.-Ing. degree from Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, in 2001. He is a Professor in Computational Intelligence with the Department of Computer Science, University of Surrey, Guildford, U.K., where he heads the Nature Inspired Computing and Engineering Group. He is also a Finland Distinguished Professor, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland and a Changjiang Distinguished Professor, Northeastern University, China. His main research interests include evolutionary computation, machine learning, computational neuroscience, and evolutionary developmental systems, with their application to data-driven optimization and decision-making, self-organizing swarm robotic systems, and bioinformatics. He has (co)authored over 200 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers and has been granted eight patents on evolutionary optimization. Dr Jin is the Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON COGNITIVE AND DEVELOPMENTAL SYSTEMS and Complex & Intelligent Systems. He is an IEEE Distinguished Lecturer and was Vice President for Technical Activities of the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society (2014-2015). He was the recipient of the Best Paper Award of the 2010 IEEE Symposium on Computational Intelligence in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, and the 2014 and 2017 IEEE Computational Intelligence Magazine Outstanding Paper Award. He is a Fellow of IEEE.