Contextual Robotics Forum 2015: the Future of Robotics


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Robotics leaders from industry, academia and the public sector met at the University of California, San Diego to discuss the future of robotics at the second annual Contextual Robotics Forum on Oct. 30, 2015 at the University of California, San Diego.

At the Forum, the deans of the Jacobs School of Engineering and Division of Social Sciences at UC San Diego announced the launch of the Contextual Robotics Institute. The Institute will conduct leading-edge research combining a variety of disciplines; partner with industry to translate discoveries into products for the global good; and work to establish San Diego as a key hub for the next generation of safe and useful robotics technologies that make decisions and take action based on their understanding of the world around them.

“We’re looking for this partnership between engineering and the social sciences to enhance quality of life, improve health care, increase safety and protect life,” said Albert P. Pisano, Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

“A better robot will not just do things better, but will be helpful to humanity,” said Carol Padden, Dean of the Division of Social Sciences at UC San Diego.

The “secret sauce” that sets this robotics institute apart is both that the researchers will be looking at robotics up close and personal with people and that collaboration is built into the institute from the start. “We are in deep partnership with the people who understand how humans learn. And that’s social scientists and in particular, cognitive scientists,” said Pisano who will give a keynote talk focused on UC San Diego’s role in building a robotics hub in San Diego at the RoboUniverse San Diego conference on December 16, 2015.

Through the Institute, explained Padden, social scientists, engineers and computer scientists will collaborate to develop contextual machines capable of interacting safely and naturally with humans and responding to the environment in ways similar to biological creatures. “We could have called this an institute of robotics. But we made a point of calling it contextual robotics,” said Padden.

The Jacobs School recently hired four faculty members in the robotics field and is planning to hire three more in the current recruitment cycle. The school is also working to hire a faculty director for the Contextual Robotics Institute. These new faculty will augment the more than 40 UC San Diego professors and research scientists from engineering, computer science, cognitive science and other social sciences who joined the Contextual Robotics Institute at its launch. The researchers and their teams will perform approximately $10 million in robotics-related research annually over the next 4-5 years.

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