Visit to Edinburgh University

From 25th Feb. to 25th Mar. , I spent one month in Edinburgh as an exchange student in Robot Perception Group of Institute of Perception, Action and Behaviour (IPAB) , School of Informatics, The University of Edinburgh, under the hosting of Prof. Sethu Vijayakumar and Prof. Maurice Fallon. Who are both famous international robotics scientists.

The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582, is the sixth oldest university in the English Speaking world and one of Scotland's ancient universities. The university located in the old town of Edinburgh owns a lot of beautiful historic buildings.

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The University was ranked 17th in the world and 4th in the UK for the research power, with computer science and informatics ranking 1st.

The IPAB group which I went is formed by the members from several institutes. Working in the modern buildings of informatics forum, located in George Square Campus, a sense of the integration of modern and tradition spring up in my heart.

During my stay, the robot group received a humanoid robot, “Valkyrie”, from NASA, end up with busy working on setting her up the whole month. This so-called “Female god of fighters” is a space robot designed by NASA, which is targeted to working in their space site. Although, there is no obvious advantage of using a humanoid as space man (wheel robots are good enough to fulfill the space exploring works and more convenient to use), “ She ” is really beautiful and strong (powerful). The perception system of Valkyrie includes 3 Hokuyo laser scanner, 5 depth cameras, 1 stereo camera, 4 USB cameras, 2 IMU and multi-force sensors, who is “眼观六路 耳听八方”. (Chinese saying, same as “長目飛耳 in Japanese”).

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Its really a valuable experience for me to work with this robot group. Surrounded by dense Scottish culture, research life is not boring there. You can find bistros anywhere on the old street, and enjoy their home brewing beers, not like in Asia, where is a lack of diversity of drinks, you can find one dozen of different draft beers within a bistro. What impressed me a lot is that there is no restaurant opened on the campus. So that all the guys bring foods from home or the nearby restaurants, and have lunch together in the big comfortable rest house. It's lovely to have lunch with your professors and “senpais” everyday, bring us more communication about both research and daily life. Hence, you won't feel lonely in the lab, and easier to cooperate with others.

The project I was doing there is about robot state estimation. I learned to use their estimator soft, called “pronto”, designed by MIT DRC team, and I got a lot of knowledge of their soft system: OpenHumanoids, formed of a controller from HIMC, a planner of Edi-U, an estimator and a footstep planner from MIT, and one GUI. Its am amazing and great to construct your software from the best researchers in the world and all the members keep updating their part to make it better and better. This is the charm of open source, and it's a good way to keep in touch with the tide of modern technologies.

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