IHMC hosts Dynamic Walking Conference in May 2024 drawing robotics experts from across the world

In late May, IHMC will host the 20th annual Dynamic Walking Conference, a premier gathering of engineers and roboticists working in the realm of robotics.

The conference, set for May 27-30 at Pensacola Beach, includes experts and researchers in biomechanics, human and animal locomotion, prosthetics and orthotics, robot design and control, wearable robotics, and exoskeletons. It is one of several gatherings of subject-matter experts IHMC is part of each year.

It has been six years since IHMC previously hosted the conference, which rotates between the United States and Europe. The 2023 conference was hosted in Munich by DLR, the German Space Agency.

Dr. Robert Griffin, the IHMC research scientist who leads the robotics team, looks forward to the opportunity to showcase his team and their work. The conference typically attracts some 200 researchers from around the world, Griffin said.

Testing Nadia's new arms

Advances the IHMC robotics team is making in Nadia’s new arms are likely to be discussed at upcoming Dynamic Walking conference 2024. Credit: IHMC staff.

Work that Griffin’s team has completed recently on the humanoid robot Nadia is likely to be a topic of discussion, as well as IHMC’s work on exoskeletons with Eva. Throughout late 2023 and early 2024, the team has been testing new designs for Nadia’s arms, as well as changes in the mixed-reality teleoperation assistance environment that controllers use to direct the robot.

In December, the team presented at the 2023 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Robotics and Automation Society’s 22nd International Conference on Humanoid Robots in Austin, Texas.

“The opportunity to present and exchange ideas at conferences like Dynamic Walking is a highlight of every year for our team and a unique opportunity for collaboration,” Griffin said. “We are excited to hear about the many other research areas that are essential to the performance of legged systems.”

During the conference, IHMC’s team will present highlights from its work on locomotion in humanoid robots, a burgeoning research area on reinforcement learning on quadrupeds, as well as work with both assistive and augmentative exoskeletons.

The conference will include plenaries, keynotes, small-group discussions, and social and after-hours networking opportunities. Its audience will include startup founders and workers, academic and research institute principal investigators, graduate and undergraduate researchers, and industry research and development teams.

Conference and program assistance is coming from the Georgia Tech PoWeR lab under Dr. Greg Sawicki, who is also an IHMC Senior Research Scientist, and the Florida State Optimal Robotics Lab, RTHM Lab, and CISCOR Lab, under Christian Hubicki, Taylor Higgins, and Jonathan Clark.

While the intellectual exchanges are clearly a highlight of the conference, there are other benefits. Griffin notes past conferences were enlivened by hiking and rock climbing in Madison, Wisc., and country tours in Munich that included visits to castles.

In 2018, the last time IHMC hosted, extracurriculars included sailing, playing kickball in Pensacola Blue Wahoos stadium, and Evening Lecture at the historic Saenger Theatre. This time around, the IHMC team once again looks forward to having the chance to share what Pensacola has to offer visitors.

“We are thrilled to host our colleagues, collaborators, contributors, and like-minded experts in their fields and look forward to showing them all that our community has to offer,” Griffin said. “We think a good time will be had by all.”

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.