Current Challenges in Internet Robotics

Full-Day Workshop
International Conference on Robotics and Automation
Saturday 15 May 1999
Detroit Michigan


Eric Paulos
Computer Science Department
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 97420-1776
510.642.5775 fax

Ken Goldberg
Associate Professor
Industrial Engineering Operations Research Department
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 97420


The internet has increased our tele-connectivity by allowing us to exchange text, images, sound, and video with anyone whose interests we share, professionally or socially, regardless of geographic location. But even with the rapid adoption of these new tools for human communication and interaction it is obvious that something is missing. Current internet applications fail to provide us with an adequate interface into the real world in which we live, work, and play.

As roboticists we have tremendous first hand experience designing technologies and systems that allow us to interface and interact with the real (and perhaps distant) physical word, its objects, and inhabitants. This workshop brings together a talented collection of scientific pioneers in the area of internet based robotics. Participants in this workshop have developed numerous novel robotics systems that employ the infrastructure of the internet to extend current human abilities. These include the creation of devices for remote viewing, touching, manipulating, working, exploring, navigating, communication, and interacting.

Just as computers have been adopted and used by people outside of the immediate scientific community, we are already beginning to observe the field of robotics embraced and employed by non-roboticists. Participants of this workshop will address the importance of fail-safe modes and interface design for systems with untrained operators.

The workshop will focus not only on the numerous new robotic applications for internet based robotics but also scientific approaches and solutions to the common problems associated with this new technology such as limited bandwidth and unreliable signaling.

The overall goal of the workshop is to demonstrate and discuss how we can incorporate the myriad of foundational robotics research over the past few decades with the new methodologies of the internet to create useful new tools for science and society.


This full-day workshop will consist of two sections: (1) individual presentations (30 minutes each) with breaks (15 minute short breaks and 45 minute lunch) and (2) open floor discussion. The first section will allow each participant to present material related to the workshop topic. Most likely this will consist of their own contributions and research as related to the subject. However, participants are also encouraged to address future trends and concerns on the topic. Each member will be allotted 30 minutes to present this material. The second section will be an open floor discussion in which all workshop participants will take questions from the audience. This is one of the most important sections of the workshop as it will provide the necessary interaction between the workshop participants and the audience. The hope is that this interaction with generate new applications, issues, questions, interest, and growth in this area.


Paul Backes
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
California Institute of Technology
Mail Stop 198-219

4800 Oak Grove Dr.
Pasadena, CA 91109
818.393.5007 fax

Big Signal
Field Robotics Center
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
412-268-5895 fax

John Canny
Computer Science Department
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 97420-1776
510.642.5775 fax

Blake Hannaford
Department of Electrical Engineering
University of Washington
Box 352500
Seattle, WA 98195-2500
206.543.3842 fax

Dinesh Pai
Department of Computer Science
University of British Columbia
2366 Main Mall
Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z4 CANADA
604.822.0848 fax

Roland Siegwart
Autonomous Systems Lab
CH-1015 Lausanne
+41 21.693.38.50
+41 21.693.38.66 fax

Jean-Jacques Slotine
Mechanical Engineering and Information Sciences
Brain & Cognitive Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3-338 77 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
617.258.5802 fax

Tzyh-Jong Tarn
Department of Systems Science and Mathematics
Washington University
Campus Box 1040
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
314.935.6121 fax


Paul Backes

Internet-based Ground Operations for Mars Lander and Rover Missions

Mars Pathfinder Mission Internet-Based Operations Using WITS, Paul G. Backes and Kam S. Tso and Gregory K. Tharp,

Paul Backes is a technical group leader in the Automomy and Control section at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, where he has been since 1987. He received the BSME degree from U.C. Berkeley in 1982, and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1987. He is currently responsible for distributed operations research for Mars rover missions at JPL. Dr. Backes received the 1993 NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal for his contributions to space telerobotics (one of thirteen throughout NASA), 1993 Space Station Award of Merit, Best Paper Award at the 1994 World Automation Congress, 1995 JPL Technology and Applications Program Exceptional Service Award, 1998 JPL Award for Excellence and 1998 Sole Runner-up NASA Software of the Year Award. He is the JPL SBIR Subtopic Manager for telerobotics and has served as an Associate Editor of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Magazine.

Big Signal

Information Interaction for Public Telerobotic Exploration, Peter Coppin, Alexi Morrissey, Mike Wagner, Dawn Lambeth, Matt Vincent.

Big Signal is an initiative based in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University that focuses on the creation of remote experinces for the general public through the use of publicly accessible information technology such as the world wide web. This is accomplished through a merger of telerobotics technology and internet standards.

John Canny

John Canny is a Professor in the Computer Science Division at the University of California, Berkeley, which he joined in August 1987 after receiving his Ph.D. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research interests include Ubiquitous tele-presence. That is, studing sensing and actuation priorities for tele-embodiment along with the study and facilitation of computer-mediated group interaction and motion and gesture transmission. His other reseach interests include Impulse-based dynamic simulation, Human-Computer interaction through 3d direct manipulation, rapid prototyping of behaviors for simulated objects, many-body manipulation through vibration and friction or fluid flow, universal planar part feeders, geometric and algebraic algorithms applicable in robotics and graphics, development of fast motion planning and collision detection software, an algebra toolkit, hardware and software for flexible manufacturing, and three-dimensional sensors and displays.

Ken Goldberg

Minimalist Telerobotics on the Internet

A Minimalist Telerobotic Installation on the Internet, Bobak Farzin, Ken Goldberg, and Adam Jacobs.

Ken Goldberg is Assoc Professor of Engineering. He received his PhD in 1990 from the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. Goldberg and his students study geometric algorithms for feeding, sorting, and fixturing industrial parts. In 1994, Goldberg led the team that developed the first telerobotic World Wide Web art installation; his projects have since won juried awards at the Interactive Media Festival, the Festival for Interactive Arts, New Voices/New Visions, and the National Information Infrastructure Awards. Goldberg serves on the Advisory Board of the IEEE Society of Robotics and Automation. and has given invited lectures on telerobotics at MIT Media Lab, CMU, NYU, NY School of Visual Arts, IBM, Interval, and Xerox. He was named a National Science Foundation Young Investigator in 1994 and NSF Presidential Faculty Fellow in 1995. He is currently editing a book on Internet Telepistemology for MIT Press.

Blake Hannaford

MicroManipulation for Space Telescience Via Internet Protocols

Telerobotic Macros for Remote Handling of Protein Crystals, Blake Hannaford, James Hewitt, Thavida Maneewarn, Steven Venema, Matthew Appleby, Robert Ehresman

Blake Hannaford received the B.S. degree in Engineering and Applied Science from Yale University in 1977, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1982 and 1985 respectively. Before graduate study, he held engineering positions in digital hardware and software design, office automation, and medical image processing. At Berkeley he pursued thesis research in multiple target tracking in medical images and the control of time-optimal voluntary human movement. From 1986 to 1989 he worked on the remote control of robot manipulators in the Man-Machine Systems Group in the Automated Systems Section of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech. He supervised that group from 1988 to 1989. Since September 1989, he has been at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he has been Professor of Electrical Engineering since September 1998. He was awarded the National Science Foundation's Presidential Young Investigator Award and the Early Career Achievement Award from the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. His currently active interests include haptic displays on the internet, surgical biomechanics, and biologically based design of robot manipulators. His lab URL is

Dinesh K. Pai

Reality-based Modeling on the Internet

ACME, A Telerobotic Measurement Facility for Reality-Based Modelling on the
, Dinesh Pai

Dinesh K. Pai is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia, and a fellow of the BC Advanced Systems Institute. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. His research interests span the areas of robotics, modeling, and simulation. A current research focus is ``Reality-based'' modeling, i.e., building accurate models of physical behavior (including shape, contact forces, and sound) from measurements of real objects, with minimal human effort. He is the principal architect of ACME (Active Measurement Facility), a 15DOF telerobotic facility designed to support reality-based modeling from the Internet. Interactive simulation for virtual environments is another focus; this includes fast algorithms for simulating contact sounds and forces during haptic interaction. Other examples of his work include: the Platonic Beast symmetric legged robot; Desktop robotics; the Least Constraint programming framework for high-degree-of-freedom systems; classification of generic kinematic singularities; and modeling of assembly tasks.

Eric Paulos

Towards Transparent Interfaces to the Real World

Designing Personal Tele-embodiment, Eric Paulos and John Canny

Eric Paulos is a PhD graduate student in the Computer Science Department at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests revolve around robotics and internet based personal telepresence, particularly the physical, aural, visual, and gestural interactions between humans and machines and various permutations of those interactions. He has developed several internet based tele-operated robots since 1995 when he implemented Mechanical Gaze. Since then he has designed several small human-sized Space Browsing helium filled tele-operated blimps, the first tele-operated laboratory, and ground based Personal Roving Presence (PRoP) devices. Currently he is extending PRoPs to provide remote tele-embodiment -- the ability of a remote user to explore and interact freely within a distant space.

Roland Y. Siegwart

Interacting Mobile Robots on the Web

Interacting Mobile Robots on the Web, Roland Siegwart and Patrick Saucy.

Roland Y. Siegwart received his master degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1983 and his Doctoral degree in 1989 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. After his PhD studies he spent one year as a postdoc at Stanford University. From 1991 to 1996 he works part time as R&D director at MECOS Traxler AG and as a lecturer and deputy head at the Institute of Robotics, ETH. Since 1997 he is Professor for Autonomous Systems at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL). Roland Siegwart is involved in various mobile robotics projects, namely in high precision navigation, network base robotics (Internet, space exploration), wheeled locomotion for rough terrain and micro-robots.

Jean-Jacques E. Slotine

Force-reflecting Telepresence on the Internet

Towards Force-Reflecting Teleoperation Over the Internet, GŁnter Niemeyer and Jean-Jacques E. Slotine.

Jean-Jacques E. Slotine received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983. He is currently Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Information Sciences, Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and Director of the Nonlinear Systems Laboratory at M.I.T. His research interests include applied nonlinear control, robotics, and learning systems. He is the co-author of the textbooks "Robot Analysis and Control" (Wiley, 1986) and "Applied Nonlinear Control" (Prentice-Hall, 1991), and an Associate Editor of several professional journals.

T.J. Tarn

Intelligent Remote Teleoperation

Internet-Based Remote Teleoperation, Kevin Brady and Tzyh-Jong Tarn.

Dr. Tarn received the D.Sc. degree in control system engineering from Washington University, St. Louis, MO. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Systems Science and Mathematics and the Director of the Center for Robotics and Automation at Washington University. An active member of the IEEE, Dr. Tarn served as the President of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, 1992-1993, the Director of the IEEE Division X (Systems and Control), 1995-1996, and a member of the IEEE Board of Directors, 1995-1996. At present, he serves as a member of the Nomination Committee of the IEEE Board of Directors. He also serves as both Chairman of the Management Committee and an Editor of the IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics and as a Board member of the IEEE Neural Network Council. He received the NASA Certificate of Recognition for the creative development of a technical innovation on Robot Arm Dynamic Control by Computer in 1987. The Japan Foundation for the Promotion of Advanced Automation Technology presented him with the Best Research Article Award in March, 1994. He also received the Best Paper Award at the 1995 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, and the Distinguished Member Award from the IEEE Control Systems Society in 1996. He is the first recipient of both the Nakamura Prize (in recognition and appreciation of his contribution to the advancement of the technology on intelligent robots and systems over a decade) at the 10th Anniversary of IROS in Grenoble, France, 1997 and the Ford Motor Company best paper award at the Japan/USA Symposium on Flexible Automation, Otsu, Japan, 1998. In addition, he was featured in the Special Report on Engineering of the 1998 Best Graduate School issue of US News and World Report. Dr. Tarn is a fellow of IEEE.