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Robots get a grip on Brisbane

The world’s biggest robotics conference comes to town .. plus metal mayhem as the bots do battle .. and human teams go head-to-head to begin solving one of the greatest gripes for households everywhere.

First published 15 May 2018

Some of the world’s biggest names in robotics will converge on Brisbane next week, for the world’s biggest robotics conference – with the public invited to meet the experts and get up close to the bots, prior to the main event.

  • The International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) runs from 21-25 May
  • The public are invited to attend ICRA-X on Sunday 20th May
  • Robowars, which is billed as the ultimate test of man and machine, will also be held on Sunday 20th May at South Bank Piazza


More than 2500 delegates from 50-plus countries have registered for ICRA 2018 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, which is being held in the southern hemisphere for the first time in the event’s 35 year history.

ICRA 2018 Program Chair, QUT Distinguished Professor of Robotic Vision, Peter Corke, said the conference would bring together delegates working at the frontier of robotic science and technology.

“There have been so many advances in the field of robotics and automation, but there are also some incredibly complex challenges and critical opportunities that lay ahead for us,” Professor Corke said.

“The presentations and workshops at this year’s conference will examine a broad range of topics, including how we can expand the capabilities of robots, to allow them to better understand the world in which we live, and also how we can solve some of the biggest issues impacting our society and our environment.

“There will be an opportunity for attendees to participate in forums focused on industry and government needs, robotics education, ethical issues and the rise of social robots.

“We are also particularly proud to present three plenary speakers – Professor Rodney Brooks, who will examine the research challenge of robots and people; Raia Hadsell, who will discuss the real-world challenges for deep reinforcement learning; and Professor Mandyam Srinivasan who will give us a new perspective on the birds and the bees, with biologically inspired aerial robotics,” he said.

In addition to the formal program, the conference includes a range of competitions, with the winners of the coveted Amazon Picking Challenge now turning their attention to a new quest – how robots can be used to keep a room clean and tidy.

Co-organiser of the ‘Tidy Up My Room Challenge’, QUT’s Dr Jurgen Leitner, said teams would be asked to demonstrate their robotic capabilities in a space similar to a living room at an IKEA showroom.

“This is the first time this challenge has been run and while teams will be in early stages of research, it will enable them to test their computer vision systems providing insights into the complexity of creating high-performing robots,” Dr Leitner said.   

“There will be a variety of tasks that the robot will need to perform. For example, the robot may need to identify which objects are out of place in a room, and where those objects should go.

“It may sound simple, but it’s actually very challenging to have a robot work in such an unstructured environment, as every home is different and there can be very different standards for a ‘clean’ room.

“We are a little way off having the perfect robotic domestic helper but what we are working towards are robots that have more common sense, so they begin to understand what might be expected from them,” he said.

Other competitions include a soft materials challenge, a face-off by micro robots that are the width of a human hair, and pitches by robot startups.

On the day prior to the conference, the public are invited to attend ICRA-X where they can learn more about the field, including robots for everyday life, and witness some metal mayhem as robots big and small take over the South Bank Piazza for a Robowars battle.

Robowars Australia event organiser, Steven Martin, who also works as a research engineer at the QUT-based Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, said he expected the competition to be as brutal as ever.

“There will be robots built from metal, power tools and remote-controlled toy parts – and there will no doubt be plenty of running repairs needed as the competition progresses,” Mr Martin said.

“It’s the ultimate test of man and machine. We will have bots from all over Australia fighting it out to be crowned the champion,” he said.

The full program of event can be accessed at

Key Program Dates

Sunday 20th May

  • ICRA-X

The public open day will feature lively presentations from distinguished experts on popular and cutting-edge topics in the field. ICRA-X is aimed at enlightening the greater community, especially the young generation. For more information:

  • Robowars

Robots big and small, built from metal, power tools and remote-controlled toy parts will fight against each other in the ultimate test of man and machine.  Note this is a ticketed event, held at South Bank Piazza from 10am. For more information: Tickets:

Monday 21st - Friday 25th May

  • International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2018)

The full program of speakers and events can be accessed at

  • Robotics Competitions

In addition to the technical program, ICRA 2018 will be running four robot competitions:

  • Tidy Up My Room Challenge
  • DJI RoboMaster AI Challenge
  • Mobile Microrobotics Challenge
  • Soft Material Robot Challenge
  • Robot Launch Startup Competition

For more information: Competition times will vary.

Media contact: 
Rebecca Nardi, QUT Media, 3138 9449 or
After hours, Rose Trapnell, QUT Media team leader, 0407 585 901,

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