Written on October 30, 2011, 12:26 PM - Add a comment
On to the second half of my IROS 2011 report. What did we see, hear and do at the conference from Thursday to Saturday? And what are my overall thoughts about this trip?
So I gave a teaser talk on Wednesday afternoon. The next morning, we were expected in the exhibit section of the hotel's Golden Gate Rooms. This area definitely proved that IROS is a robotics conference: it boasted various demonstrations of robots. Not our main field of interest, admittedly, but very interesting nonetheless!
Of course, we were really there to give an interactive presentation, in a section of the room that had a large number of TV screens set up. Each screen was reserved for an article presented in the previous session. We had prepared a 3-minute movie to demonstrate our multi-layered navigation mesh framework. Halfway through the session, we set up a piece of software in which users can interactively change an environment, see the Explicit Corridor Map, and compute paths in real-time. This attracted the attention of quite a few visitors, leading to friendly conversations about our work.
After this interactive session, a lunch break and the IROS awards ceremony, the three of us took the shortest path (in 2D) to the San Francisco pier area. It was probably not the most efficient path in 3D, given the extremely steep surfaces-- but that's what you get when projecting the walkable space onto a plane.
At the end of this path was the pier where the ferries to Alcatraz departed. We had booked in advance, so we could (almost) walk straight onto the boat. On the island itself, we enjoyed a well-made audio tour (even the Dutch version was good!) through one of the most famous prisons in the world. A definite must-do when you happen to go to San Francisco... but you've probably heard that many times before.
Thursday evening's Farewell Reception marked the official end of the conference-- but we had one more noteworthy day ahead of us!
After all, on Friday, we attended a full-day workshop titled Progress and Open Problems in Motion Planning, in which various famous researchers from the motion planning field gave presentations and shared their thoughts with us on the issues that lie ahead. We had heard some of these speakers during the previous days, but whereas those sessions tended to feel somewhat massive and factorized, Friday's event really brought attendees with common interests together. The workshop ended with an interactive panel discussion on how to spark enthusiasm for future students. A satisfying conclusion!
Our plane back to Europe left on Saturday evening, so we had half a day left to explore the city. We decided to head for the Golden Gate Park area by bus. There, we stumbled upon an unexpected and massive bluegrass festival, saw "the Dutch windmill" and touched Pacific waters-- a first, for me. The bus ride back to the center was an experience on its own!
When we were working on our article in April, I never would have imagined that I'd actually be visiting IROS as a final icing on my MSc program's cake. The whole thought is still a bit surreal. All in all, I had one of my most interesting weeks yet, thanks to a skillfully organized conference, an amazing city, many talks and discussions, and good opportunities to share thoughts and results with researchers from all over the world.
I would like to direct my special thanks to the Level Up! initiative, which funded the trip to and from San Francisco and the IROS attendance fee. Of course, finally, I'm thanking co-authors and co-travellers Roland and Atlas for being a crucial part of this wonderful experience!
My experimentation project and Master's thesis have led to three articles. One appeared at IROS; the other two have been submitted to a conference and a journal. In the upcoming month, I intend to write more about the research itself. The research website of Roland Geraerts already describes two of them (and shows more related work that you might like), so don't hesitate to take a look!
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