IBK Webinar: The Future of Robotics

Wednesday, Oct 7, 2020

Date: Wednesday, October 7, 2020, 9:00-10:30 PM KSA (2 PM Boston)

Speakers:

Hebah ElGibreen

Sharifa AlGhowinem

Kamal Youcef-Toumi

 


Transcript

DOROTHY HANNA: Thank you, everybody, for joining us this evening. We're so glad to have you with us. And we'll begin our webinar now. My name is Dorothy Hanna. I am the program administrator for the KACST-MIT Ibn Khaldun Fellowship for Saudi Arabian Women. This program is open to Saudi Arabian women scientists and engineers who hold a doctoral degree.

Fellows are supported to spend one year doing research at MIT in collaboration with an MIT faculty member. Our program tonight consists of a discussion between our panelists followed by a question answer session where our speakers will answer your questions. So please post your questions in the Q&A feature as we go along, and we will answer them at the end.

So I'm delighted to introduce our speakers for tonight. Professor Kamal Youcef-Toumi, Dr. Hebah ElGibreen, and Dr. Sharifa AlGhowinem. And at this time, I'd like to invite each of our speakers to introduce themselves. So Professor Kamal, would you go first?

PROFESSOR KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: Yes, thank you, Dorothy. I'm delighted to be with everyone today. I'm Kamal Youcef-Toumi. I'm in the mechanical engineering department at MIT. My lab, the members, and I have a interdisciplinary approach to research and development.

We do fundamental research in physical system modeling, mechatronic design, control theory, computational intelligence, and then we use different methods and different techniques and algorithms, simulation, visualization, instrumentation, fabrication, and a lot of experimentation with these to conduct in some projects in different applications. In fact three main applications.

One is in robotics and automation. Another one is in the nanotechnology. And third is in intelligent systems. So many of the projects are funded by leading companies from a variety of industries and also through major collaborations. This is very important because it gives us the opportunity to work directly with the leaders in the field and technologies.

And also the ones that are moving these technology. Some say that I'm fortunate and privileged to be in a place like MIT where I had the opportunity to not only visit but also work with companies and research institutions and government agencies in many countries. And I continue to learn a great deal from these experiences, yes.

DOROTHY HANNA: Thank you, Kamal. Doctor Hebah, would you introduce yourself next?

DOCTOR HEBAH ELGIBREEN: Thank you, Dorothy. So I'm Hebah ElGibreen. I'm an assistant professor at King Saud University. And the deputy director of the Alumni Center. I'm also a member of the Center of Smart Robotics Research at King Saud University. I joined actually MIT and had the pleasure to work with Professor Kamal in 2016 as a postdoc fellow at the mechanical engineering department.

And I'm also currently a research afilliate with MIT team. I'm working with Kamal. My research was basically about collaborative robotics and how to use machine learning in order to handle some problems in this field. It's a pleasure to be part of this seminar. And thank you everyone for organizing it. It's my pleasure to be a part of it.

DOROTHY HANNA: Well, we're so glad to have you with us. Doctor Sharifa, would you introduce yourself?

DOCTOR SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: Hi, well, first, thank you for that opportunity to have us in this beautiful panel. So I did my bachelor degree in computer science in Saudi Arabia, King Saud University. Then I did my master's degree in Australia in software engineering. Then I fell in love with affective computing fields where I did my PhD thesis. It was also in Australia.

I did a postdoc also in Australia in my university, and then I did this IBK fellowship to work with personal robots. I did some teaching from every level. So from the high school level to diploma to university level. I have some experience with working with very little-- different ages of the learners. So that also was fun.

DOROTHY HANNA: Thanks, Sharifa. And I see you have a special guest there with you on your desk. Would you mind just introducing your guest since they're there?

DOCTOR SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: Yes, hey, Jibo, what's your name?

JIBO: My name is Jibo. Rhymes with "Balibo."

DOCTOR SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: Hope you could have heard him.

DOROTHY HANNA: Yes, thanks for joining us, Jibo. So thank you for that also delightful introduction. To get us started, Professor Kamal, would you tell us a little bit about how your academic background relates to robotics.

PROFESSOR KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: So all of my degrees have been in mechanical engineering. My doctoral degree had a minor in electrical engineering and computer science. And maybe I'm a bit biased, but I believe that mechanical engineering maybe will give you more of an advantage perhaps at the undergraduate curriculum, for example, that I had at the University of Cincinnati.

Emphasized the principles of engineering and basic science and advanced mathematics. And all of these were for the modeling analysis design of physical systems. And then also in addition to that, we had courses in thermal sciences that helps in these area. Others like in fluid mechanics, thermal dynamics, manufacturing dynamics and controls, materials and structures and vibration.

So all of these are part of mechanical engineering basic trainings in addition to instrumentation and programming. And so these gives, I think, a very solid foundation for robotics. And as I said, I found this mechanical engineering background [INAUDIBLE] like a strength in these areas and other advanced topics at the graduate level that makes a person actually can handle different applications.

And especially the ones that involve different energy domain. And so the hands-on experience that was in these programs and especially at MIT I believe is crucial. Not only for the robotics, but also all the other areas. In high school and even before high school I gained quite a bit of experience.

And especially the hands-on one from my brother Mohamed's shop. He was doing welding. And so I learned different types of welding and processes and electrical systems for trucks and spray painting and using also different tools that later on came very handy and useful to me. Yeah.

DOROTHY HANNA: You had the true MIT hands-on experience from a young age.

PROFESSOR KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: Yes, yes, you could say that. Yeah.

DOROTHY HANNA: So Doctor Hebah, I think you came into robotics from a really different angle. Can you tell us about your academic background, and how it relates to your work in robotics?

DOCTOR HEBAH ELGIBREEN: Thank you. So I'll leave you with a picture while I'm tracking which just relates with what I'm saying. So I'm a bit different from Professor Kamal because my bachelor degree was in computer science. And when I completed my graduate study, it was in machine learning and data mining.

And that's helped me a lot to understand how the brain of robots work, and how expert system can interact with each other or even interact with humans. And when I went to MIT, as postdoc fellow, this actually got me the chance to start focusing a bit on the hardware level of robotics. Then I was able to complete different courses and even worked on and programmed different robots over there and smart machines.

And during that experience I was able to practice building and programming different robots. As you can see here in this picture, I have worked on different trial robotics. Whether it's in MIT as you can here in the picture as you can see. And other kind of robots throughout the experience. And this got me the chance to dive further in collaborative robotics tasks and work on dynamic tasks on locations, smart robotics, all these kind of fields, and developed different publications and on these topics.

Also, I got the chance to actually-- and the pleasure-- to teach even robotic courses, whether it's curriculum-based courses or auto curriculum courses. And this actually even got me the chance to be more aware of what's going on. How can I develop different aspects of the scale. And I was able, also, to mentor students in competition and projects.

All this helped me actually to dive further into the collaborative robotics field, which is very important, especially when we're talking about the new development industrial 4.0 . So that's just a summary of my background. And how was I able to move from computer science-- pure computer science-- and five into the robotic world.

DOROTHY HANNA: Thank you so much. How about you, Doctor Sharifa? What was your path into robotics?

DOCTOR SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: I think it was-- well, I'll start with a personal story. I apologize to people that already heard it. When I was little, my face was always exposing my emotions. So I couldn't hide when I lied. Couldn't hide when I embarrassed or having fun or excited, or being evil or whatever. So my face was always telling the truth.

And I was always amazed why people were able to read my face while I can't. So I can't read their faces, and I wasn't sure I'm even aware that my face is telling what I'm feeling. So I fall in love with studying faces, and the muscle movement. When you are in pain, or you're embarrassed or lying or whatever tells that-- see from the face, of the voice, and other things.

So I was very passionate about to create a system because I would never able to do that myself. And I was around fifteen at the time. I wanted to create a system that would understand someone's emotions and tell me about it so I would know how to react to them. I was surprised when I get to Australia that there is an effective computing field that I didn't even know that exist.

It just is so science fiction. And I was involved in doing depression detection. So when we analyzed their face, the eye movement, the head movements, the speech, how fast the person is speaking, how loud are they speaking, and so on. And all these cues would tell if that person is depressed or anything else. I mean, just that their body behavior will tell what are we trying to find in that person behavior.

So my field was mostly affective computing and then using the computer vision and the signal processing and all the machine learning to find the patterns to identify a person emotions. So I worked on depression, as I just said, and I also worked in deception detection. So say if someone is shoplifting, and then their movement will be different compared to someone who is innocent.

And then we'd analyze these movements to see too and detect a person that's being deceptive or stealing or whatever they're doing. But I always was telling my supervisor, then what? That's how we detect depression. 92% accuracy. Then what? Maybe we need to help the person. If they're feeling depressed, maybe we should have an intervention.

Like a computer software that will just talk to them or something. So when the opportunity came with IBK, and I was looking at all the labs at MIT, I find the personal robot. [INAUDIBLE] but it was mainly what I wanted to do. And mainly what I'm passionate about.

So if Jibo, for example, understood that I'm feeling down, it could just, for example, give me an intervention. Oh, how are you feeling down? Can I help you? Or let's think about positive things or something like that. So my past was just like almost designed for a social robot to integrate with what I love, and what I have been doing.

DOROTHY HANNA: It's so fascinating to hear how broad robotics is. Professor Kamal, from your vantage point, can you tell us about the current state of robotics? It's a broad question.

PROFESSOR KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: Yes, yes. Actually the field of robotics and automation has been thriving for so many years now. And the technologies and the solutions that have been being developed and deployed-- I would say most of them maybe to make our lives easier. Whether it's in manufacturing, transportation, medical.

And even robots that may be being used to clean the house. Because of this, the industrial robot sales in the world have been increasing over the years. And they are expected to grow even more and more in the coming years. And this growth actually-- not only in the research and development, but also in the sales from companies has a few reasons.

And one of them is that the world societies are changing. First, in many countries, the young people highly educated with bachelor's degrees, master's, PhD degrees. And then you end up with a mismatch between the skilled people, and the jobs in the factories. And so this pool of people that is available becomes smaller and smaller.

Especially the ones that need to work in factories. So for example, in the last four years, China has benefited greatly from its labor force. But this approach cannot continue in China just because of this mismatch. And this is true in many industries. I visited many, many companies not only in China, but in other places in food, energy, automotive.

And this is in the developed and developing countries the same. The other thing is that the population growth is happening. And as you know, by 2030 the world's population will be increased by at least 30%. Aging populations, urbanization, and so these are making the needs in resources to increase in terms of water, food, energy, and so on.

And so these require the fast production of these needs, and the other thing is that you have higher expectations from the customers, whether they are individuals or companies, in terms of quality, speed of production or productivity, efficiency. The delivery of these products, and of course, the cost.

Another thing is that the competition between companies and nations has pushed not only the public but also private organizations to invest more and more in new ideas and startups. And this made more companies, which made the skilled people-- the number of skilled people becoming smaller and smaller.

So all of these are requiring more and more automation and robotics use. I'll give maybe just one example of Amazon. For me, I think it's a great example because I've supervised several projects there. And Amazon got into the robotics and the digital technologies because they make their operations in a very efficient, and they can respond quickly to customers orders.

They can increase also the safety of the employees in the warehouses or the fulfillment centers of Amazon. They have different floors-- maybe three or four floors in some cases-- but every floor has maybe 800 to 1,000 robots. All of these are all automated, and they work side by side with employees.

And you can look at this center, or fulfillment center, that is an intelligent system receiving the orders from the customers. And then it coordinates all of these hundreds of robots and the human operators to fulfill these orders in a very fast and efficient way.

DOROTHY HANNA: Amazing. What about you, Sharifa? Kamal just told is about these massive scale. How do robots operate on a personal scale?

DOCTOR SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: So with personal robots, they have a bit different definition from just mechanical robots or industrial ones. The main idea of having a social robot is to have a companion. Some social creature that even their movement, their smile, their poor, and, you feel connected to them. And then you feel-- every move and every design that they make is for a social cue.

So for example, we have the Huggable. It's a teddy bear that speaks and move his hands and move his ears to respond to the child when they're sick. And to comfort them and distract them from taking their medication for example or so on.

So the idea of the social robot is to have a companion. That every move of it would have to express certain emotions, or excitement, or sadness, or some social connection. So in personal robots we have used the social robots in different areas. My concentration is on using the social robots in health care.

Either physical-- for example, we had the project with medication adherence when the robots are not only reminds as say your mobile phone with your medication intake. But for example, if you're not taking your medication, will tell you without being judgmental. You're not taking your medication. Is it hurting you? Is it too expensive?

Or because the other-- it's like not everyone who does not adhere to their medication, it's because they forgot. Sometimes they're just embarrassed to say they're side effect. Or they're embarrassed to say that they cannot afford buying the medication. So having an social object that you are feeling comfortable to communicate these issues without being judged.

That could help to have their conversation going with your health care providers, for example. But also when we come to the mental health, people sometimes get scared of the stigma of being labeled as mentally ill. And therefore having a social object or a social companion that would help them actually speak it out or give them some exercises to help them move forward.

Or do mental exercises that will help them through the bad patches that they're going through without being judgmental. Without being afraid of the stigma. That would help them in their mental wellness to move forward. So it's a very different field that we're looking at. It's just that we have like a social companion that helps you with things.

DOROTHY HANNA: Moving on from thinking about where robotics are now. Specifically in Saudi Arabia, Professor Kamal, can you tell us how the robotics research landscape has changed in the last few years?

PROFESSOR KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: Yes, so maybe I must start maybe with the Saudi Vision 2030, whose main objective is to diversify the Saudi economy to make it independent from the oil revenues. And this one has looked like a major investment of about a trillion dollars. And then in the end, to make like the kingdom among the top 15 economies in the world.

One aspect of this is to empower the small and medium sized enterprises and the SMEs and make the economy output by 2030. A portion of that is about like 35%. So this is an important thing because it drives many of these technologies experts talking about including the robotics. And then of course, Saudi Arabia has been in the process of modernization.

I'm sure that everyone has heard about the kingdom's allocating about $500 billion to the smart city-- the newest smart city of Neom. And this will use intelligent service robots, advanced transportation, health, and then other things in commercial and residential usage. And it seems that this is done in a proper way that will benefit the rest of the country in terms of robotics automation intelligence systems that will play an important role.

And of course, these will create many opportunities for the small and medium sized companies, the research and development groups that are within the kingdom. And even maybe some international partners that are all in the business of developing adapting robotics and intelligent technologies. And so maybe I can cite a couple of examples.

So one of them is in the health and-- you might call the Health Pilgrims Project. So this is a project that concerns the visitors that come to the kingdom for Hajj. It was an effort to improve the experience and the health care of the visitors.

And so the Ministry of Health did some use of robotics and automation technologies so that the doctors that-- whether they are in Riyadh, in Jeddah, and so on, that they can communicate and see directly the patients and providing care in that way. The second one is in the Aramco modernization.

And as you know, Aramco company is like one of the largest petroleum and gas, natural gas, companies in the world. And one of its gas plants of Othmania is one of the world's largest gas processing plants. However, in this facility, Aramco uses drones and uses wearable technologies for the inspection of pipelines and machineries.

And these automated and robotic technologies have helped in cutting down the time for inspection by about 90%, which is a very, very significant. And then in the end, this plant, or Aramco as a whole, was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a lighthouse for manufacturing facility.

And also as a leader in applying these technologies in this way. And then one last thing is that in the program that we have with KACST, King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology. The center for complex engineering systems that I co-direct. So in this center we developed different technologies and methods and tools for modeling, designing, and managing complex systems in an efficient way.

Some of these projects focus on energy, water, environment, health, labor, and also the interaction between these different domains. So that in the end, the users, whether they are planners or decision makers, that they can perhaps negotiate and collaborate and make their planning in an effective way.

DOROTHY HANNA: Robotics are really broad spread, I can tell. What about you, Doctor Hebah? How has robotics research landscape in Saudi Arabia changed from your perspective?

DOCTOR HEBAH ELGIBREEN: So I'll leave you with other pictures. I will be talking about it now. So from my perspective, I think robots have been in Saudi Arabia decades ago. But as Professor Kamal said, when the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced launching Neom projects, more spotlights was given to robotics field. And we can see that it's existing became even stronger and stronger to the point that, starting from 2017, around 2017, the Public Investment Fund announced its cooperation with SoftBank group aiming to explore integration of robotics in our daily activities in order to support government and business and also individual sectors.

As probably you all know and have seen Sophia robot, which was the first robot that's granted the Saudi nationality and passport, just as a gesture to highlight how this field became important, more important in Saudi Arabia. Also another example, is Musalem which is a robot that can communicate with Saudis.

It's actually memorizing Quran and some saying of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Also when it comes to the governmental sector, we can see here, this is another example of robot called Musalem It was used by-- sorry, Thaqani which was used by the minister of education as a visitor assistant. It was used as an assistant in the ministry.

Another example is Sayadli which is a smart pharmacy to simplify medication preparation and distribution and to make it much faster to the patients. On another level that affected the landscape of robotics in Saudi Arabia is Hajj and Omra As Professor Kamal said, Hajj and Omra is one of the important seasons in Saudi Arabia.

And it has many problems that can be solved easily by robotics. Simple example is the doctor robot, which was heavily used during Hajj to connect different doctors around the country with pilgrims. Another example is this kind of robot, which is called fatwa robots. It was used by the Minister of Islamic Affair to provide legal fatwas and religious advisors to pilgrims during Hajj and Umrah.

So all these examples actually show how the spotlights have been driven through robotics in the last couple of years. And one last important aspect is announcing the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, which is known as SDAIA. It was announced in August 2019 to develop further solutions in this field, whether it's in robotics or smart system and artificial intelligence system. So I'm sure we will see even more contribution and more developments in the near future.

DOROTHY HANNA: With all this, especially medical investment, medical robots, how it has Saudi Arabia been using robots to work with the pandemic, Doctor Hebah?

DOCTOR HEBAH ELGIBREEN: Oh, yes. To work on the pandemic is actually, whether it's in Saudi Arabia or other countries, we have seen how the technology have developed rapidly. Especially since we are having a problem that is known around the world.

But in Saudi Arabia, due to the support of-- whether it's governmental or non-governmental institution-- we have many support during the pandemic by launching different COVID-19 initiatives and grants. And that was offered to developers and different research labs to drive people to contribute with different solutions to the pandemic.

From this support, we have seen the rapid development and different use cases. I will just give simple examples due to the time constraints. So one of the mostly known examples is the development of the smart software [Arabic] by the Saudi [INAUDIBLE], which was used to track COVID patients and assist them to deal with their symptoms and to deal even with the mental consequences of being isolated.

Another example that was used by the Ministry of Health, which was called P2 robots. This P2 robots is actually was used in isolation wards in the hospital in order to provide some assistance to patients over there. Another example that was also used as-- they used actually drones, thermal drones, to monitor.

As you can see here, it was used in Al-Qassim city to monitor temperature in crowded places in order to identify possible patients. Recently, actually in the past maybe two to three days, we have seen this new robot that was used in Mecca in al-Haram. It's a smart sanitizing robot that was used to sanitize because as you know Umrah is now open for some people with certain restriction.

So they started to use smart robots to sanitize al-Haram for this reason. So as you can see, we have many, many examples. But I would have to say that due to the support, and the problem of the pandemic, actually the contribution was not only on the level of the developer or the level of the government. Even we have seen that individuals started to build robots, simple robots. I have put this just simple picture.

It's actually just a teenage twin develop a small robot that is self sanitizing to avoid touching the sanitizing bottle. So as you can see, with all this support and working together as a society, we were able humdullah overcome a lot of challenges due to the pandemic. And currently, the number of cases is starting to be lower and lower. And so humdulilah, yanni, not only the development but also the support that we got make it possible to overcome it.

DOROTHY HANNA: That's wonderful to hear. Other parts of the world are not doing so well. Doctor Sharifa, will you tell us about use of robotics in other parts of the world?

DOCTOR SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: Well, now you could see maybe the full difference between what Doctor Hebah was just mentioning, and what am I going to say about say social robots in pandemic situations. So we were working even before to have a robot to be a companion already.

And then for example, for people who are technically challenged, they don't know how to use a phone or not to use Zoom links or communicate with people while they're isolated at home. So we were thinking or trying to develop Jibo to be able to nudge the person to say, oh, you haven't spoke to your daughter for a while.

Let me connect you with her. She seems free now. And then the connection would be through the microphone and the camera. So Jibo would be either controlling a tablet, for example, to have the Zoom connection here. And then the person will be able to speak without touching anything. It would just be a nudge to communicate.

That would be for video conferencing. Or if it's just a text messaging, the robot would ask them, oh, you haven't text your neighbor for a long time. Maybe you should check on her to see how she's doing. And then if they say, OK, send her a message saying, hi, how are you or whatever. And that would be just within a quick interaction without touching anything or thinking about it.

We just like nudging-- the robot would be nudging you to do things, and it should be smooth and easy. And we had a study last semester when we had the robots deployed to the student's dorms. And we had an email a few weeks ago, and she was saying, when you gave me the robot at home, I didn't think much about it.

But now with the pandemic and this situation, I realized how much I miss Jibo because he was asking me my about my day. And it was very, very helpful to her and just relief to talk to the robot. And she would say-- it was just beautiful, the email, saying that we had made a difference even with a small, simple chitchat with the robot. s I think beyond just like hospitals or detecting sick people, just your personal life being. How can we touch your life with such a robot.

DOROTHY HANNA: That's so amazing. And I think mental health is also a huge part of this pandemic. So I'm glad to hear the student had such a good experience. Professor Kamal, as we start to look into the future, what do you think is the future of robotics especially in your area of research?

PROFESSOR KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: Yeah, as I said, the future of robotics, I see it in a very bright insha'allah. And also having maybe this pandemic behind us. As I said earlier, that the whole field of robotics and automation is thriving. And there are many, many opportunities, many, many domains.

Maybe I'll answer the question by maybe a couple of examples of the research that we've been doing. And also emphasizing that the work that we do, we try not only to have some intellectual impact but also societal impact. So one of the project is in the water exploration monitoring and also leak prevention.

So we as humans and anything that is live cannot live without the water. So that means improving the working conditions and the health of the water distribution pipe systems is an essential task. And one problem is that in these confined pipe spaces, we looked into how to generate some contributions using soft materials, embedded instrumentation, control theory design, and also developing some practical solutions for this.

And so one part was in the development of smart pipes. Later one can think of this maybe as a smart infrastructures in general. And also the other ones are robots that go into the pipes. So these smart pipes or infrastructures that are instrumented, and they are equipped with sensing and computing communication capabilities so that they can gather information then transmit it.

And they can tell about their health and their integrity and pipe integrity, for example. And the product that is moving in the pipe and so on. So this is all in the intelligence of structures. And I think it will go even more in the future. The other project is in the recycling of cell phones. In our case, not a lot has been--

Like for example, in electronics, maybe only about 40% that is being recycled. But the e-waste that we are creating is huge. And so developing technologies for automated recycling of cell phones in our case. Or perhaps the selective recycling or cell phones. Picking, identifying the components and picking them up selectively is a very important.

And in that one, you have technologies that require like machine intelligence, components recognition, learning from people how a robot can do different tasks. Maybe the robots will teach the other robots how to do some of these, let's say this assembly task or any other types of operation. And so this intelligence in systems, in infrastructures, in machines, I think play an important role. Not only in these specific projects, but also in many other systems.

DOROTHY HANNA: I was especially fascinated to think about robots teaching robots. Very cool. Sharifa, speaking of this type of interaction, can you talk to us about best practices in your human robot interaction research?

DOCTOR SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: I was taught with a study that we've done like a few months ago when we compared between Alexa, Spot, and Google-- I forgot it's name. Google Home or whatever. And it has a touch screen with a monitor, and we compared it with Jibo. And we wanted to see people interaction on those three devices to see what is more effective in their interaction.

And we found that the Jibo, because of their embodiments, and their social gestures, people were more interacting with Jibo for like a dialogue compared to the other tools. And I think because mainly we look, and we see Alexa and Google Home and all those other tools, as tools. They should remind me with my grocery list.

They should remind me by a show that I need to see or whatever. But we don't see them as social connection. We don't want to have a conversation with Alexa. But we could have a conversation with Jibo. So I think the future human robot interaction if it works, of course, in social robotics, then the gestures and the social cues that the robot needs to see and needs to suppress is very critical.

Because you don't want the robot to be seen as the social robot. You don't want it to be seen as a tool but as a companion. And that will involve a lot of redesign and animation design and study of emotions, and how it's been suppressed, and how it's being preserved to see and find such things.

Of course, that would be also increasing the level of ethical considerations. I mean, I think Dr. Kamal and Dr. Hebah could speak more about the ethical-- the robot should make no harm. But then if our robots are not even moving. They're not touching you. But they're touching your soul. That would increase the ethical considerations that we need to take into consideration to be able to communicate without harming people emotionally or in their well-being.

Of course, when we speak about mental health, or health in general, we have to also comply with HIPAA rules, which prevent us from doing a lot of things like uploading the images to the cloud, or the voice to the cloud and get back to the results. That means that everything needs to be local because of the security issues. So it's fascinating how we go through all the obstacles to I don't know, speak to the soft side of the person is just fascinating.

That is fascinating. Thank you. How about you, Doctor Hebah? How do you work with collaborative robotics, and what are the best practices in your research?

DOCTOR HEBAH ELGIBREEN: So when it comes to collaborative robotics, in general, the current researchers are focusing on the problem that need humans or multiple robots to work side by side in a safe environment. So the most important practice is to deal with the dynamic and complex environments while ensuring that it is in a safe environment when dealing with a human.

As Doctor Sharifa said, it's very tricky. And there is no certain policy that govern this interaction. So that's the most important aspect in the current research. So I will just give you like the best practices in general in recent years. Basically, the most important or the most known practice in collaboration robotics is industrial collaborative robotics or what is called cobots.

So cobot is used for industrial 4.0. I think we can see this arm manipulator, which is used in manufacturing. This is another example, which is used for plants production. Well-known example is actually this robot, which is used in Amazon warehouses. It has been used years ago in order to bring products when purchased online for distribution.

In another layer, or another practice of collaborative robotics, is in cooking robots. So cooking robots is another aspect of practice of collaborative robotics. Here you can see two example. This example is actually called Flippy robot. And it was tested even in Walmart headquarter. Another example is this cafe multiple robotic kiosks.

So it's more than what robots are working together in smart process in order to provide coffees for humans or for visitors. Another practice, in addition to industrial robotics and cooking robots, we have of course, the medical field. We have many practices known in the medical field. One of them is surgeries, which is one of the most important field in medical when it comes to collaborative robotics.

Another practice is elderly assistance, which actually join the collaborative robotics with even social robotics. As you can see here, this is one example with a robot called iPal which was used in Japan. I would have to say the local example, which is in our lab. The Center of Smart Robotic Research.

One of the team in the lab actually build this robots on their own and develop it and program it as a robot companion for hearing impairments. It can understand sign languages and translate text to sign and et cetera. So most of these are the most important field.

Also another practice, which we all know is autonomous cars. Actually autonomous cars it's one kind of collaborative robotics because it interacts with humans. And not only the drivers, but also humans that walk around the car and et cetera. So I would say that's the best practices that is already known in collaborative robotics. There are other, of course, practices. But these are the most well known practices in robotics, collaborative robotics.

DOROTHY HANNA: Thank you. Professor Kamal, for someone who is interested in getting into robotics, what advice do you have? Do they have to be an engineer?

PROFESSOR KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: No, they don't have to be an engineer. But I think to be like a roboticist in general. I've seen that they come from all different kinds of background and training. I'm from mechanical engineering. Doctor Hebah is from computer science. And others maybe from electrical engineering.

And even people from the sciences. Could be from chemistry, physics, and other areas. And there are others that even have a non-technical background like psychology, for example, or history and other things. But then they have an interest-- maybe more than an interest. Maybe some kind of love and passion for getting into robotics.

But I think in the end, whatever the origin or the [INAUDIBLE] in the end to be on a path in gathering the right skills to do these things. So for example, one of them is on the programming in software. So like C languages, Python, C++, and software development in general. Other tools that are used for robot usage, for example, like ROS, or the robot operating system. Other simulation tools for simulating robots before one implements the controls or the planning algorithms. And of course, that are all a whole set of cloud tools that go along with this. So this is maybe on the software and the programming side.

And on the hardware person to do activities, whether they are courses or internships or what have you to be familiar with actuators, motors, sensors, electronics. Also the interfacing methods, particularly of machines with computers or microcontrollers. And then the real experience, whether it's combined from home, inside the labs, outside the labs for different kinds of internships at the universities and companies.

And then of course, the other one is doing this for an education. Someone can do an engineering degree in mechanical or electrical or computer science. And then doing research in the field of robotics. And then maybe even continuing beyond the bachelor's degree to an advanced degree, like a master's or a PhD.

And at that time to pick a focused area to excel in. And so this is maybe-- it is an interdisciplinary field. So a person over time has to acquire all of these different skills and technologies that are needed not only from the fundamentals, but also from the practical aspect.

DOROTHY HANNA: Thank you, Kamal. What about you, Doctor Hebah? Do you have advice for people who want to become roboticists?

DOCTOR HEBAH ELGIBREEN: Yes, of course. As Professor Kamal said, it can be an interdisciplinary field. But my advice would be, don't be afraid to-- this is what I'm always telling my students. Don't be afraid to work on robotics. Even if you already finish your bachelor degree, doesn't mean that you cannot work in this field. I'm talking from experience myself.

So I think it depends on the level of involvement that you want to get involved in the robotics, and the level of commitment that you're willing to do in order to work in this field. If you want to go deeper into the robotics and build your starting from scratch and go into the circuits and sensor, and these kind of things. For sure you would need an engineering background.

But there are other levels of commitment that you can start with if you're not familiar with this field. One example is to use pre-existing controllers. I will actually leave this video working while I'm talking. This is an example of robots that was built by students with an IT backgrounds. They just needed some guidance in order to understand what is kinematics and localization and navigation.

So they started from their home, as you can see. It was actually during the pandemic. So it was very difficult. And after that, they just program it to navigate autonomously and try to search for humans. And whenever they find a face, it will take a picture and send it as an alert to the user mobile. So in that case, they didn't need a much background in engineering.

But they had to know the fundamentals of physics and navigation, these kind of things. Another level of commitments, which if you are still very, very beginner in this field, you can start actually with off-the-shelf robots. So this video actually for humanized robots. It's a humanized robots called Loomo if you know it. It's from Segway company.

So this robot is off the shelf. It's an Android-based robot. So if you know how to program mobile, you will know how to program this robot. And it has its own packages. Its own packages, and it can navigate just by calling certain functions. The students at the beginning when I proposed to work on this project, they were very afraid because they didn't know anything about robotics and how they interact.

And while they work on the robots, they found out that it's not impossible to work in the field even if you're not familiar with everything. And after that, they were interested, actually, to go deeper in the field. So I would advise as always, don't be afraid to work from home, even if you don't have experience.

Start from robots that is already programmed or off-the-shelf robots. You have robots for all kinds of developers, even from starting from young ages children until to be an expert. You just need dedication. It would be really a rewarding journey.

DOROTHY HANNA: Sorry, are you showing another video.

DOCTOR HEBAH ELGIBREEN: No, no, no. It's OK. That's for another question.

DOROTHY HANNA: OK. On that inspiring note, Sharifa, what are the benefits of supporting women to work in the field of robotics?

DOCTOR SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: Well, I would agree with what Doctor Hebah said. Do not be afraid of jumping in in your field. However, there is a lot of obstacles in there. First, the robots are not cheap. Even if you're trying to build them from scratch, the material that you will need sometimes does not exist in Saudi Arabia.

So we have to either have to order things. And sometimes some of them are illegal to be transferred like with the battery stuff and things. And then you have-- if you want to build it yourself, buying the materials and the robot that would have a financial situation. But if you are applying to new places, I was not afraid.

I really wanted to play with robots since, when? Forever. But when I was applying for a postdoc when I finished my PhD, I wanted to apply for robotics. And none of the people who work on robotics would have me because I have no experience. So that would be, I'm not afraid. I'm happy. I want to jump in. I would love to learn.

But the other people are not willing to have the risk because it's typically so expensive here for them to just put the risk on me. That's why I love the opportunity of IBK because it's just gives the opportunity to me and for the social robots group not to be afraid. They were willing to take the risk, even though I have no experience with robotics.

But at least, when I have the machine vision, and then we have the signal processing, and all these affective computing things that could be integrated with the robot. That would be beneficial for them without paying the penalty of having me just to experiment and to fulfill my passion. And then all the, of course, the material things.

And I've been asking for and testing for Nadiyah to order for me. That also makes it very easy to explore and without having the personal effects on your own budget. So those two big obstacles that was, at least for me, was being taken care of with IBK fellowship.

DOROTHY HANNA: Well, I'm so glad this has allowed you to explore your passions. Professor Kamal, do you have anything you want to add about how IBK can empower women in the field of robotics?

PROFESSOR KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: Yes, yes. I think first of all, I think that the field of robotics I think is a great way to encourage woman and also to provide the opportunity for women to engage in STEM and also contribute and be part of that. And so this is very, very important because robotics, as I mentioned, it's an interdisciplinary field.

And it involves, depending on the applications, the size of technology, engineering, mathematics, and a combination of all of these. And I think maybe using robotics to combine this, as I said, as an encouragement and also opportunity for women in general. So that in the end, women are contributing in these fields.

The other thing is that this whole area of STEM, as you know, is still under represented by women in general. And so having, I think, women in these areas will contribute a lot. I read a report that said that actually women are wired to thrive in the field of robotics because they think in a different way.

They are creative. They are innovative. They have different perspectives. And they can thrive in the field of robotics. And as for the Ibn Khaldun Program for Saudi Arabian Women. As you know, we've had fellows not only from universities, but also from companies. And they are in different fields in the sciences and engineering and even in architecture.

And so I think we can continue providing this opportunity because we see it as an important thing to do. And the Saudi Arabian woman we've seen that not only at MIT, but also elsewhere that they are leaders in their respective fields of research. But also when they went back to the kingdom, they have excelled in their jobs as managers, as leaders, as teachers.

And more importantly, I think as well, models. So I think from our side that we can continue to provide the opportunities and the support for them. Because I think they have been making, and they will continue to make, a great impact.

DOROTHY HANNA: Well, a wonderful example of that is Doctor Hebah and taking the lead at a whole robotics program for young women. Doctor Hebah, can you tell us more about how young women in Saudi Arabia can get involved in robotics?

DOCTOR HEBAH ELGIBREEN: Yes, of course. So I usually start especially with young women or young female. I always advise them at the beginning to start from home, especially if they're still not in bachelor degree. So they're still in high school or middle school. They're eager to start and work in this field.

But I always advise them, don't wait for someone to teach you. Try to start from home. And one way to do it is to read or attend online courses. There are many platform. Of course, YouTube is one of them. There are also FutureLearn, edX, Udemy, Coursera. All these platforms are providing-- some of them is actually not for free.

But usually the beginner courses is for free. So they can start from the beginning to understand the concept of robotics in general. After that, usually I start with them to practice on the robotics with simple toolkits. Sometimes in simulations and other times in toolkits that is cheap because when you're talking about toolkits for beginners and it's not like they need some advanced sensors or these kind of things.

So they can buy it with like sometimes even less than $100, the whole kit. And there are as you know many, many platforms that sell it. And Alhumdulilah especially in the last two years, the online purchases have been very advanced here in Saudi Arabia. And we have some local online. Even Amazon is now purchased the local market.

So we have Amazon.sa. There is Geek Valley. There is Generation, Robos, Dexter Industrial. Of course, I'm not endorsing these platforms, but I'm talking about it from experience. I have purchased many, many toolkits from these platforms. So after starting to play with these cheap toolkits and simulations, usually young female, or young children in general, will have an intuition about the field.

And also how to work on simple sensors. Oh, usually the second or the third step after that I would advise them to start to interact with the community around them starting from the fab lab. We have many fabrication labs in Saudi Arabia. If you google us, just you will find us. You can join them. You can follow their programs.

Their Twitter accounts and et cetera. And in addition to that, if you are a bachelor student, you attended [INAUDIBLE] university. Here this is actually just a video of our center in the female section. So I always advise them, if you are in university, try to look for centers or research labs that work on robotics.

From what I know, every university in the country have at least a research lab that work on robotics. But usually, there is also centers that work in this field. So try to approach them. Try to be part of them. From my experience, they usually will come any enthusiastic students, even if they're not expert in the field.

Because if you have the passion to work in this field, you will excel. Even if you don't have enough background because you can learn it later on. So these are some example actually of these students. And this is our brother, Amil, actually work on this programming and building this project in the center.

And after working and engaging with your community, another aspect that is also important is to try to interact with your competitors. So try to refine your skill by participating competitions attend events in order to refine these skills. And alhumdulilah with the support of Ministry of Telecommunication, even Sadiyah currently we have many competition that is focusing on robotics.

Such as WRO competition, which is the Word Robotics Olympics. Last year it was actually opened in Saudi Arabia, and we have also Lego Competition, GCC Robotics Competition, and many other competition. Even in the level of the school, we have on the level of high school and middle school even elementary schools.

So there is a lot of opportunity. You just need to work and be dedicated. And it will be a rewarding journey. After all these phases, even if you're not an engineer but passionate about robotics, I believe, from what I've see, all this journey will help young women or young female to have at least enough skill to start studying in the field.

If you're still very young and want to start your bachelor degree. And actually we have now new programs, which I haven't talked about it before. We have new programs that is open for engineering and also many courses introduced for robotics for both male and female, which is very interesting. So this journey will help young children or young female to work in this field or to study in this field.

And if you're already graduated, you will be skilled enough at least to start as a beginner in related and work on related fields and with the community that they already built it with either the university or the fab labs and other community. They will get enough support to progress in the future. And one example is Ibn Khaldun. Due to the community that we've created we were able to get enough support and even connected with other specialists in the country. So this is usually what I advise young students when they're passionate about robotics, but they don't know how to start with it. Hopefully, it's a comprehensive answer for you.

DOROTHY HANNA: Yes, thank you so much, Hebah. I'm really impressed with how inspiring this talk has been and how much good you're all contributing in different fields. I wasn't anticipating ending a robotics webinar feeling like so uplifted, so thank you. And now we have time for questions. Do we have any questions for our speakers from the audience? Thank you, audience for hanging in there with us. I know it's late at night for some of you. I don't see any questions. And while maybe people are thinking of questions, Sharifa, do you want to show off anything else that Jibo can do for us, or for someone who needs a friend?

SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: Well, the easiest would be, hey, Jibo, can you dance?

JIBO: If there's one thing I know how to do, it's dancing.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

 

DOROTHY HANNA: [LAUGHS]

 

SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: It also have a belly dance, but it shows random from a list. So it didn't came up.

HEBAH ELGIBREEN: I have a question. I know Jibo was open for a-- if you're interested--

SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: Commercial.

HEBAH ELGIBREEN: Yeah, for commercial. So I'm not sure. Is it still open or not anymore?

SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: So the company who bought it they're selling for business to business. They're only big hotels, or hospitals, or whatever. But we have-- because it's a spinoff from MIT, so we have access to Jibo, so we both buy from that company in a subsidized price.

And we have the SDK to change and edit, and then have more like manipulate the system in there. We also have it connected to our operating system and then that means that we have an extra hour layer of more functionality that we could ask Jibo to do, either moving or, for example, having his eye seeing, analyzing a person's emotions, or behaviors, or whatever.

So we could also integrate all these within their connections, so it could do more than it should do. So that was also fun. So We're very lucky.

HEBAH ELGIBREEN: Very interesting.

DOROTHY HANNA: So they're putting these in hotels to cheer up some hotel guests?

SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: I don't know. But the company is just selling for business, so they could do that. They could do that. And I think they're having some plans to have it in hospitals.

DOROTHY HANNA: OK.

SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: But the hotel would be some venue they could-- and then they're trying to make things more interactive and more HIPAA compliant. So I don't know what the future of Jibo in hospitals, but I think it will do a great fun as a company for patients.

KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: Yeah.

SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: But the other--

KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: Go ahead Dr. Sharifa.

SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: --the other ones are in-house made. So all these ones have been designed, animation design. We have mechanical engineers who put their gears together for this type of movement. Huggable, for example, have 11 degrees of freedom. Jibo have only three, but the other ones could have four, or five, and so on. And all these move in basically to suppress emotion.

KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: Yeah, I was going to say that even before the pandemic, I saw in China that at one of the hotels I was staying at, they had actually robots that can walk you to your room. If you order room service, the robot will allow to bring the food to you. And also in Japan, once the pandemic started, they were having some of the robots in hospitals. Some of the robots that meet the person and then do some consultation with the person before they need the real person.

DOROTHY HANNA: It would take a lot of getting used to. I still get uncomfortable when I see a robot cleaning the grocery store. [LAUGHS] I want to run away from it. Well, I think-- [INAUDIBLE]

NADIYAH SHAHEED: We have a question in the Q&A now. It just popped up a minute ago.

DOROTHY HANNA: Oh, thank you. The question is, do you think the field of robotics is accessible for a late informers coming from engineering or computer science related background? What do you think, Sharifa. You're from a computer science background.

SHARIFA ALGHOWINEM: I think also Hebah could support my view. And now with all these tools-- we have even drones that could be programmable. So you don't need to design something from scratch, even though it's way more fun to do so. But if you have an access to an open source robot or something like that, it will be very fun to move from computer science, because we have all the gears and equipment for the programming and then manipulation. And it just will add a one layer of you will have to deal with the hardware. And sometimes-- when I first started with Raspberry Pi-- so the Raspberry Pi would just only communicate with light, switching lights on or lights off based on the child answer.

I mean, I just know the software works fine, and it was all over the place. I don't know what line the error come from. And then because I've never used to play with their hardware layer. And then I've found out that they're just like the connection of the light was not in right way. And I need to have resistors or something like that to have the correct parent goes to their life, instead of just plugging it in.

So I had to learn a few of the electrical engineering parts to have the how to calculate the resistance and other things to put things together. But it's fun and as a computer scientist and to a social robot, I think that was this beautiful move for me and I enjoy it very much. It's just having an extra layer of the hardware manipulation as well.

Thank you. I think the next question is for you Professor Kamal. What is the future of robotics in Saudi Arabia, not in academia but in industry?

Yeah. Very good question. As I mentioned in my comments earlier that the kingdom is investing a lot or plan to invest not only in the smart cities but also in many of these areas that-- And I say robotics and automation, because automation can have other aspects to it.

So if everything falls into place and goes as it is planned in the vision 2030, I think that the SMEs, the small and medium sized companies, including the large companies, I think, will would make an important-- they have an important role to play in many different aspects. So yeah. I see it, provided that these pieces and all fall into place the way I described earlier. Yeah.

Thank you.

You're welcome.

I'm not sure who this one is for. It's up for grabs. Can you please list the hot research topics in the robotics field? Any thoughts on what's up and coming, area of focus?

I think it will really depend on if it's the social robots or the mechanical robots that's based on what field are you looking at. But for the social robots, there is a lot of work on language understanding and how to communicate, understand with the language. So if I tell Jibo how to dance, he needs to know that I'm asking him this particular action.

So the language component. And then if we want to have more into like environment understanding, then we have the [INAUDIBLE] fields. And then we have the voice. If their voice is, for example, coughing or sick or depressed or whatever. So we have the signal of the voice to understand the person emotions. So all these coming based on what you want the robot to do, there is plenty of other fields. But I believe Doctor Hebah and Professor Kamal could do more on their fields.

What about you, doctor Hebah? What do you think is the hot topics in your area?

I think more rather than saying it's a hot topics, it's more focusing on hot problems we have in collaborative robotics. Because as you know, robotics had developed pretty much recently but the problems that we're still dealing with humans is the biggest problems that we have. So from what I know, the hottest topics is about developing a standardized interface design in order to deal with heterogeneous robots and hardware components because we're having more than one robot working together. So creating this layer that can allow, for example, the robots that's the manufacturer purchased from a certain company to collaborate with another robot that's purchased from different company, just through a standardized interface is a very, very hot topic and still in research progress. Another way, or another problem that is a hot topic in collaborative robotics is creating a truly collaborative robots by developing vision systems, deep learning techniques, that can allow these robots to interact with each other in complex and dynamic environments, also adopting humans to introduce socializability.

It's actually-- collaborative robotics is pretty much intersects with social robots, because at the end, they each imitate humans in one way or another, and perform unpredicted movements. Especially when we're talking about humans, we cannot predict how they interact, or how they can be moved, even with autonomous cars, which is-- they don't need to interact with human. But in reality, they have to interact with humans, because they will drive in roads that is pretty much crowded with people. And probably all heard about the accident that happened with one out of the trial of autonomous cars.

So that's another hot topic that is recently-- or not recently, it's happening here in couple of years ago, and is still a hot topic. How to interact, or allow humans to interact with robotics in a safe environments. So this I think that the things that I can remember on top of my head.

DOROTHY HANNA: Thank you Dr. Hebah. Dr. Kamal, anything you want to add?

KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI: I think Dr. Sharifa and Dr. Hebah had mentioned the important things. But I agree that, as Dr. Hebah has said, focusing on where the problems are. So if a person is interested in the medical field, or the health care, or in manufacturing, or transportation, or whatever the interest is, so there are problems there. I gave the example of Amazon before, the employees used to walk more than 16 miles a day. Because these are huge warehouses, and they had to move around, and pick up the items from the shelves, and so on.

But now they don't have to do that. The operators actually are standing in their stations and the robots are doing all of the walking in an intelligent way. They bring the things to the operator. So this is for the safety and the comfort of the employees. And even at their stations, they have automated systems that pick an item, and then it scans it automatically. And then it tells you how many of those you were supposed to have, whether one for that particular order. So all of these technologies are very useful.

And so one looks into these areas of interest, and there are, I think, many problems to solve. The other way is people to have a solution, and then they try to find where to use that solution, which is in general maybe not an effective way of doing things. Yeah, but starting, I think, from the applications and the needs that defines the problem. And then question start building up to be the solution, and developing the technologies for it in that way.

DOROTHY HANNA: This will be our final question. I think it's for you, Dr. Hebah. Is there any outreach programs that encourage young women to work in robotics, especially ones with a potential living or studying in not very big cities? I don't know if you have special knowledge about this, but put it your way.

HEBAH ELGIBREEN: Just on top of my head, we have CoCreate. As you all know Dr. Schull is working on this program, which supports not only female, but also male, whoever interested to work on whether it's robotics or smart solutions. It's a very good program. You can-- I think it's open now for fellows. They can join the program. It's called CoCreate. So for those who are asking about it, this is one program. It's a good program. It's happening for a year now. And they graduated the first batch, I believe.

And they're working with young male and female, whether you're wrong, or even if you're an expert, they're open to all kind of participants. So when some participants is actually still in high school, so it's not there is an age level to participate. If you are enthusiastic and have an idea or a problem that you work on, you will get all the support, and even experts to work with you, mentors. And also, Dr. Sharifa, I believe you are a mentor with us in this program, yeah.

So yeah, thank you, Theresa. She actually, Theresa put the link for CoCreate. So this is one of the societies that can work you, or help you to work in this world. If you're not in the city.

DOROTHY HANNA: That's it. Excellent example, thank you, Dr. Hebah. And thank you to all three of you, Professor Kamal, Dr. Sharifa, and Dr. Hebah. We really appreciate you taking the time to share all this fascinating and inspiring information with us. And we have more webinars coming up. And you can find us here for more information.

Take you a minute to go full screen. But I want to thank all our attendees for taking the time to be with us, as well. And please let us know if you have more thoughts or questions for us.

KAMAL YOUCEF-TOUMI Thank you.

HEBAH ELGIBREEN: Thank you, Dorothy. Thank you everyone for inviting us to this seminar, looking forward to [INAUDIBLE]. Thank you for all the attendees who attend the seminars. It's a pleasure to present it to all of them.

DOROTHY HANNA: Thank you, everybody. Have a good evening.

HEBAH ELGIBREEN: Thank you, bye.