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Closing BrIAS Sustainable Robotics Seminar Season

Author

Sezen Avci ; Contributors : Carl Morch, Shirley Elprama, Michel van der Schoon

The Brussels Institute for Advanced Studies (BrIAS) has successfully concluded its 2024 seminar season with a focus on a theme of growing importance: “Sustainable Robotics”. The official launch on January 18, 2024, began a series of exciting events and fellowships in Brussels. 

Introduction

Robotics and automation have radically transformed our lives, becoming omnipresent in a variety of sectors, from manufacturing to healthcare or transportation. Yet, among this ubiquitous integration, questions of sustainability are becoming an imperative. Researchers at FARI – AI for the Common Good Institute have been actively exploring how robotics can help to foster a better and more sustainable future through the achievement of  the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Sustainability was at the heart of 13 seminars and 4 forums over several months, where researchers explored the sustainability of robotic and automated devices, and how robotics could contribute to global sustainability.  

The program was led by program directors Prof. Emanuele Garone and Prof. Bram Vanderborght, with co-directors Prof. An Jacobs and Carl Mörch. It would not have been possible without the contribution of junior fellows Dr Shirley A. Elprama, Dr Andrés Cotorruelo-Jiménez, Dr Michel Joop van der Schoop, Dr Fatma Demir, Dr Luca Rossini, and the organization of Dr Anja Garone.

The weekly seminars welcomed leading Senior and Junior Fellows to Brussels, providing a dynamic platform for the exchange of ideas and expertise. These researchers, from all over the world, enriched the discussions with their diverse perspectives and cutting-edge research. During the BrIAS program the exchange of knowledge culminated in four conference style forums covering agriculture, sustainable robotic technologies, human-robot collaboration and warfare. 

Highlights 

One of the forums organised by Brias focused on the role of human robot collaboration in surgery and in industry. Presenters from industry and academia shared how they integrated sustainability in their work and research.  

Shirley A. Elprama, Post- doc at IMEC-SMIT-VUB and FARI, presented her research on the acceptance of occupational exoskeletons during the second Sustainable Robotics Seminar.  

The forum on sustainable robotic technologies presented the audience with interesting talks on the impacts that robots and their development have on the SDGs, both desirable and undesirable. This was pointed out by showing examples of new sustainable materials and the use of robots for recycling or waste management, but also the necessary management of their energy consumption and cost of resources. 

Michel Joop van der Schoor, Post-doc researcher at VUB and FARI also presented parts of his research on sustainability in the design process of a service robot. He underlined the importance of including social and ecological aspects of sustainability from the very beginning of each robot development.  

Conclusion 

The 2024 BrIAS seminar series on “Sustainable Robotics” highlighted the dual challenges and opportunities presented by the integration of robotics in our society. Through insightful discussions and presentations, the series underscored the importance of considering sustainability at every stage of robotic development and deployment. The exchange of innovative ideas and international expertise not only advanced the understanding of sustainable robotics but also paved the way for future research and collaboration in this critical field. 

As we look forward to the next seminar season, the lessons and insights gained from these sessions will undoubtedly help shape a more sustainable future in robotics and beyond.

Missed the event? You can watch again the sessions of each forum, as well as Shirley and Michel’s contributions, here. 

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