The conference Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) was held at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich Switzerland, from June 25 to June 28, 2008. Robotics: Science and Systems is a single-track conference that aims to showcase the best research and the most exciting systems from all areas of robotics at a single conference to a broad audience. Special provisions are made to enable students to participate in this conference. This year, there were two different kinds of travel awards available to students.
Robotics: Science and Systems was technically cosponsored by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, the International Foundation of Robotics Research, and AAAI. Funding for the conference was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Naval Research Laboratory, ABB, Microsoft Research, Microsoft Robotics, Evolution Robotics, Willow Garage, and Intel. Springer sponsored the best student paper award. The meeting brought together more than 280 researchers from Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia. The papers presented at the meeting and compiled here cover a wide range of topics in robotics spanning computer vision, mapping, terrain identification, distributed systems, localization, manipulation, collision avoidance, multibody dynamics, obstacle detection, microrobotic systems, pursuit evasion, grasping and manipulation, tracking, spatial kinematics, machine learning, sensor networks, and applications such as autonomous driving and design of manipulators for use in functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The program committee convened for an in-person meeting to select 40 of the 163 submissions for the technical program. Twenty of the accepted papers were presented orally; the remaining 20 were presented as posters. One of the important features of Robotics: Science and Systems is that the mode of presentation (oral or poster) is not determined by the quality of the paper but by the most suitable way to communicate its content to other researchers. Each poster was introduced to the plenary audience in a two-minute spotlight presentation.
Following the RSS tradition, there were a number of invited talks: two Early Career Spotlight talks by rising stars in the robotics community, one banquet speaker, and six invited talks on topics with relevance to or overlap with the robotics community. These talks were intended to give the audience new motivating perspectives on what is possible and on new ways to approach robotics problems. Armin Gruen of ETH delivered "Positioning Modeling and Navigation with Photogrammetric Techniques," in which he argued convincingly for the use of photogrammetric techniques in robotics and showed impressive results in which accuracy on the order of one part per million was obtained. Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University spoke about "Computing with Neural Ensembles." In this excellent talk, he discussed the functioning of neural ensembles in animals providing evidence that the ensemble of neurons that controls a given task is not fixed, thus raising questions about the design of bioinspired robot controllers. Jean Louis Deneubourg of the Universite Libre de Bruxelles shared his thoughts on "Shared Decision Making in Mixed Societies of Animals and Robots. …