University of Wisconsin–Madison

Simulation in Robotics 2018

NSF-DOD-NIST Workshop Towards Modeling & Simulation-Enabled Design of Intelligent Robots

April 17, 2018
Gaithersburg, MD

The last five years marked a manifest surge in interest for and use of “smart” robots that operate in dynamic and unstructured environments and might interact with humans. Yet the principles that govern the design and control of these intelligent agents are anything but clear. Against this backdrop, the premise of this workshop was that computer simulation can provide a fertile testbed instrumental in understanding faster, at lower costs, and more thoroughly how the robots of the future should be designed for safety and performance. The purpose of the one-day workshop was to bring together experts from robotics and the modeling and simulation communities in a brainstorming exercise that pointed out opportunities, identified challenges, and proposed “next steps” vis-à-vis the goal of increasing the role that computer simulation plays in smart robotics.

The workshop report is available here. The pre-workshop slides, workshop discussion notes, etc. are available at the links below.


07:30 – Registration
08:00 – Introduction: goal of the workshop, logistics
08:30 – Participant self-introduction
09:00 – Coffee/Snack Break
09:30 – Breakout, Topic 1: How M&S could help/helps Robotics. Suggested discussion points:

  • Machine learning aspects
  • Model based control, path planning, optimal design
  • Autonomous vehicles

10:15 – Joint session. Group speaker summarizes each group’s thinking on issues related to Topic 1. General discussion.
11:15 – Lunch (onsite, catered)
12:00 – Breakout, Topic 2: Issues that continue to hinder M&S in Robotics. Suggested discussion points:

  • Nonsmooth dynamics (friction/contact/impact)
  • Soft robotics (nonlinear geometry/nonlinear material/nonlinear boundary conditions)
  • Multi-physics (CFD, plasticity)
  • Terramechanics
  • Sensor/virtual world/communication simulation
  • Central repository of standardized, shared models, open source software issues

12:45 – Joint session. Group speaker summarizes each group’s thinking on issues related to Topic 2. General discussion.
13:45 – Coffee/Snack Break
14:15 – Breakout, Topic 3: M&S in Robotics: concrete next steps. Possible breakthroughs. Speculations about disruptive technologies vis-à-vis the issue of M&S in Robotics. Suggested discussion points:

  • Low hanging fruit
  • “The long view” issues
  • Imminent landscape changes
  • Prioritization aspects. Spectacular-return-on-investment opportunities.
  • The role of industry (video-games, VR, AR). What/How can we leverage? How to engage?

15:00 – Joint session. Group speaker summarizes each group’s thinking on issues related to Topic 3. General discussion.
16:00 – Short Coffee Break
16:15 – Joint session. Open-floor discussion. Minutia, workshop-related: blue ribbon report and journal paper.
17:00 – Wrap up