Artificial intelligence and robotics: exchange of ideas between trailblazing actors from industry and research

Politikerrundgang auf der munich_i Image: Bayerische Staatskanzlei/Jörg Koch
Politikerrundgang auf der munich_i Image: Bayerische Staatskanzlei/Jörg Koch

From next-gen intelligent systems and smart networks to robot-human interactions: at the second Hightech Summit under the auspices of the munich_i trade fair, scientists and industry experts offered a glimpse at how a future based on robotics and AI could look. Along with researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and such renowned institutions as Imperial College London and Delft University, participants included robotics trailblazers from Boston Dynamics and Berkshire Grey as well as representatives of SAP, Google and Roche.

Bavarian Minister President Dr. Markus Söder was impressed by what he saw on his tour of munich_i at automatica: "Technology is changing the world for the better," said Dr. Söder in his opening address at the Hightech Summit. Prof. Sami Haddadin, the director of the Munich Institute of Robotics and Machine Intelligence (MIRMI), who also serves on the Board of Directors of munich_i alongside Alena Buyx, a professor of ethics at the TUM School of Medicine, explained how this technology can look: "We want to develop technologies that bring about social progress and serve the needs of users. To achieve this, we must also take the ethical and social contexts of artificial intelligence into consideration."

For Haddadin, location is also a key factor. Minister President Söder noted that the state of Bavaria provides substantial funding for research in this area: "We believe in the opportunities: under the Hightech Agenda of the Bavarian state government, we are therefore investing 3.5 billion euros in science and research, including approximately half a billion euros for around 100 new research chairs. That means that our state is investing more than Finland, Denmark or even Canada. Bavaria is the home of the technology of tomorrow," said Söder. "With this platform for AI and robotics, Bavaria is defining the benchmark for the future."

For Haddadin, the Hightech Summit, staged this year for the first time as an in-person event - under the motto "Meet the Future" - is well on the way to becoming established "as a thought leadership summit for the AI and robotics ecosystem." It features an extensive slate of speakers from the world of industry and research addressing a broad range of topics. Dr. Alfred Rizzi, chief scientist with robotics specialist Boston Dynamics, presented robots that can open doors and drawers and play jump rope - the result of intelligent applications of sensors and the study of the movement characteristics of robots.

Internet-of-things expert Dominik Metzger from the software company SAP explained how supply chains can be made more robust with the aid of a digital twin - for example to model delayed deliveries, the shutdown of production sites or skills shortages. And Anna Bauer-Mehren of the pharmaceuticals company Roche showed how her digital twin of patients can facilitate more targeted treatments and the development of personalized drugs.

Among the topics discussed on the scientific side was the question of which model for collaboration with robots will become the standard in the future. Prof. Cecilia Laschi of the National University of Singapore believes that it is vital to learn from nature. Her research focuses on the octopus - probably one of the most complex organisms - and emulates the jet-propelled locomotion of these creatures and the way they use suction to grasp things.

Prof. Ferdinando Rodriguez y Baena, Co-Director of the Hamlyn Center at Imperial College in London, studies how such fields as machine learning and visual technologies have developed in robot-based surgery in recent years.

The special research field of Prof. Lucia Pallottino of the University of Pisa: collaboration between robots. In a video she shows throngs of people crossing a complex intersection is Asia without bumping into one another - despite a lack of traffic lights. The researcher’s ambitious objective: to transfer this skill from humans to robots.

The Hightech Summit is a thought leadership congress within the overall munich_i concept. Alongside the congress, munich_i comprises AI-Society, an exhibition space with the separate i_space stage, and the Robothon developer competition. The 500 square meter AI-Society space presents around 30 demonstrations of current AI and robotics projects. On the i_space stage, scientists, industry representatives and politicians discuss current developments. Among the problems tackled by participants in this year’s Robothon was the automated removal of batteries from remote controls - an important contribution to sustainability and recycling.