Early career spotlight

Sami Haddadin
Leibniz University


Robots and Humans ..., Finally!


Enabling robots for direct physical interaction and cooperation with humans has been one of robotics primary research goals over decades. I will outline how our work on human-centered robot design, control, and planning may let the coexistence of robots and humans become a commodity in our near-future society. For this, we developed new generations of impedance controlled lightweight robots, which are sought to safely act as human assistants and collaborators over a variety of application domains. These may e.g. involve industrial assembly and manufacturing, medical assistance, or house-hold helpers in everyones home. The latest generation of lightweight robots was recently commercialized as the KUKA LBR iiwa, which is considered to be the first commercial representative of this new class of robots. However, there is so much more to be tackled than mechatronics design alone. Clearly, a robot has to be equipped with the skills to perceive its surrounding and deduct according actions for successfully carrying out its given task. At the same time the primary objective of a robot’s action around humans is to ensure that even in case of malfunction or user errors no human shall be harmed because of the robot's action or inaction, a challenging task that bridges the gap between robotics and injury biomechanics. For complying with this requirement, instantaneous, safe, and intelligent context based reactions paired with according subsequent actions to unforeseen events in partially unknown environments become crucial. I will outline how far we have come with the aforementioned research problems till today, which major hurdles are still ahead, and what can be expected from near-to-midterm future research.


Sami Haddadin is Full Professor and Di- rector of the Institute of Automatic Control (IRT) at Leibniz University Hanover (LUH), Germany. Until 2014 he was Scientific Coordinator "Terrestrial Assistance Systems" and "Human-Centered Robotics" at the DLR Robotics and Mechatronics Center. He was a visiting scholar at Stanford University in 2011 and a consulting scientist of Willow Garage, Inc., Palo Alto until 2013. He received degrees in Electrical Engineering (2006), Computer Science (2009), and Technology Management (2008) from TUM and LMU, respectively. He obtained his PhD with summa cum laude from RWTH Aachen in 2011. His research topics include physical Human-Robot Interac- tion, nonlinear robot control, real-time motion planning, realtime task and reflex planning, robot learn- ing, optimal control, human motor control, variable impedance actuation, and safety in robotics. He was in the program/organization committee of several international robotics conferences and a guest edit or of IJRR. He is an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics. He published more than 100 scientific articles in international journals, conferences, and books. He received five best paper and video awards at ICRA/IROS, the 2008 Literati Best Paper Award, the euRobotics Technology Transfer Award 2011, and the 2012 George Giralt Award. He won the IEEE Transactions on Robotics King-Sun Fu Memorial Best Paper Award in 2011 and 2013. He is a recipient of the 2015 IEEE/RAS Early Career Award.