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Sethu Vijayakumar

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Professor Sethu Vijayakumar is a world-renowned professor in the field of robotics, who appeared as a judge in Series 8 and Series 9 of Robot Wars, alongside veteran Professor Noel Sharkey and fellow judging newcomer, Lucy Rogers. Professor Vijayakumar, currently a faculty of the University of Edinburgh, revealed this position over Twitter[1] during the filming of Series 8.

Robot WarsEdit

Vijayakumar is the most recently appointed judge in the history of Robot Wars, alongside Lucy Rogers, with his first (non-televised) appearance coming in the Series 8 pilot episode, where he was able to award his first victory via Judges' decision to Turbulence over Merlin. His first televised decision was in favour of Behemoth, over Nuts. In the split decision between Storm 2 and Eruption, Vijayakumar stated afterwards that he felt the right robot had won, implying that he voted for Storm 2.

Sethu Vijayakumar also conducted various interviews with Dara Ó Briain throughout Series 8 and 9.

  • Series 8, Episode 2: Sethu discussed his collaboration with NASA on Valkyrie, a sophisticated humanoid designed to perform unmanned missions to Mars. Vijayakumar predicted that robots like Valkyrie would help reduce the cost of space missions to a fraction of those for manned missions, as a result of not requiring oxygen, food or water and being free of the health and safety constraints placed on human astronauts.
  • Series 8, Episode 5: Vijayakumar explained the concept of ‘shared autonomy’, which enables machines to possess limited control over their functions. He then demonstrated the concept with a prosthetic robot arm attached to Ó Briain’s own arm, which grabbed hold of a bottle of water without crushing it and allowed Ó Briain to drink from it without leaving any spillages.
  • Series 9, Episode 1: Sethu expanded upon shared autonomy by showing a robotic arm programmed to play Connect 4. While Vijayakumar talked to Dara Ó Briain, the robotic arm won the game against Angela Scanlon.

Outside Robot WarsEdit

Sethu Vijayakumar is the Professor of Robotics in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, UK and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics. Since August 2007, he holds the prestigious Senior Research Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering, co-funded by Microsoft Research. He also holds additional appointments as an Adjunct Faculty of the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles and a Visiting Research Scientist at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan. Prof. Vijayakumar, who has a PhD (1998) from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, has pioneered the use of large scale machine learning techniques in the real time control of large degree of freedom anthropomorphic robotic systems including the SARCOS and the HONDA ASIMO humanoid robots, KUKA-DLR robot arm and iLIMB prosthetic hand. His latest project (2016) involves a collaboration with NASA Johnson Space Centre on the Valkyrie humanoid robot being prepared for unmanned robotic pre-deployment missions to Mars. He is the author of over 160 highly cited publications[2] (as of 2015) in robotics and machine learning and the winner of the IEEE Vincent Bendix award, the Japanese Monbusho fellowship, 2013 IEEE Transaction on Robotics Best Paper Award and several other paper awards from leading conferences. He has led several UK, EU and international projects in the field of Robotics and has been appointed to grant review panels for the DFG-Germany, NSF-USA and the EU. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a keen science communicator with a significant annual outreach agenda. He is the recipient of the 2015 Tam Dalyell Award for excellence in engaging the public with science.



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