Home Bots & Brains Report: SAS Open D[N]A Café with RoboValley focusing on Symbiotic Robotics

Report: SAS Open D[N]A Café with RoboValley focusing on Symbiotic Robotics

by Pieter Werner

The key theme of SAS Open D[N]A Café on March 4 was symbiotic robotics, the interaction between humans and robots. The host of this café, Arthur de Crook, interviewed Jaimy Siebel and Joost van de Loo of RoboValley, the thriving robotics community driven by TU Delft Robotics Institute. RoboValley aims to stimulate the development of intelligent robotics by furthering collaboration between industry, government and academia. Here are some takeaways.

Intelligent robotics is about interacting with humans

Robots need a certain level of intelligence to be able to work with or amongst humans. If we can improve the interaction between robots and humans, people can make more and better use of the capabilities of robots. The ambition is to create a so-called symbiotic relationship between humans and robots. This means they are dependent on each other, communicate well and can achieve much more by working together.

Five fundamental design principles for intelligent robot systems

At the moment, you cannot really describe robots as ‘intelligent’. They are typically focused on performing a single task and can at most make rudimentary decisions, such as turning left or right. According to Jaimy Siebel, Managing Director of RoboValley, there are five fundamental design principles that robot systems should meet to be considered intelligent:

  1. They should be safe and secure;
  2. Highly responsive, so that anyone can program or steer them, preferably with voice commands, and the robot should be able to uptake those commands and break them down into tasks;
  3. Transparent in their decision-making, so that it is clear why a robot has made a particular choice – the behavior is explainable – and humans remain in control;
  4. The robotic systems must be versatile, able to perform multiple tasks and take over tasks from other actors – robots or humans – when necessary;
  5. And last but not least they must be able to challenge people. In other words, they do not simply do what people do – they do it in a way that challenges people and enables them to develop their skills.

We need to think about robots as part of an ecosystem

When thinking about robotics, it is important to look across the whole system: people and machines together. We should not be looking at one person and asking how a machine could enhance their work. Instead, we need to look across “work” and encounter the entire ecosystem of people and machines and the environment (context) combined, and question ourselves how we could make it all better for all actors involved. Accordingly, you need to design the whole process following the design principles outlined above. In this way, robots can become part of our daily lives in a safe and relevant way.

From lab to real life

It is relatively easy to design robotic systems in isolation, in a lab. However, it is much harder to make them work in real life, outside the lab. It also takes a long time to develop robots that work well and fit in real life if you start in a lab. RoboValley is therefore working on developing so-called ‘worklabs’. It aims to create robots in replica work environments that mimic the real world much more closely, including social and environmental aspects. In this way RoboValley wants to shorten the development cycle and increase the use of robotics in our daily lives.

Interested in the recording of this D[N]A Café? Click here.


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