Robots Under The Living Roof

The Vancouver Winter Olympics were seven years ago, yet the Convention Centre West building still impresses with its carefully plotted lines, glass-everywhere views and displays of local art. Just this week, it was home to the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, tagline Friendly People, Friendly Robots.

Robotocists from Japan to Germany to Canada sat under the six acre living roof discussing their groundbreaking research on topics from Human Movement Understanding for Humanoid and Wearable Robots to High Level Cognitive Capabilities in Robotics, Agricultural Robotics, HoloLens, Medical Imaging Robots and Human-Telerobot Interaction.

From a Convention Centre perch facing out towards the Northshore Mountains and the Lions Gate Bridge, one Ph.D – Katsu Yamane, Senior Research Scientist at Disney Research – illustrated his team’s efforts at getting robots to understand intention and emotion. Through a ball-catching project, the Disney researchers were also able to discover what types of robot gestures – a shrug here, a head shake there – make humans feel more fond of said robot when it drops the ball.

Yamane’s research team is working towards small robots that could play smaller Disney characters in theme parks. These robotic little greeters would be more convincing than the oversized adults who play them now. But, first, the robotocists need to study human-character interaction at the park. How close do characters and little visitors stand to each other? How do they talk to each other? If they are going to hug, how long do those hugs last?

Out in the lobby of the Convention Centre, University of Manitoba students Kyle Morris and Vlad Samonin were showing us their award-winning magic tricks with Robot Clara. Audience members could pick a card, hide it from Clara and she could guess the card – number and suit – all while delivering a lot of purple-eyed sass to her human makers.

Throughout the week, visiting robotocists were sharing results and debating new hypotheses under the angles, light and wood of this beautiful waterfront setting. The LEED Platinum-certified Convention Centre West building was created by Vancouver’s DA Architects and Planners, MCM Partnership and Seattle’s LMN Architects.

Written by Elizabeth Newton


Daniel Nelson


Fall @ Granville Island

Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton