The team behind ICRA 2022 used Ohmni’s telepresence robots to turn their conference into a hybrid virtual event.
The annual International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) took place in Philadelphia during the last week of May. Started in 1984 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, ICRA is “the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society’s flagship conference and the premier international forum for robotics researchers to present and discuss their work.” This year, OhmniLabs played an instrumental role in turning ICRA into a hybrid in-person and virtual event.
In addition to showcasing new products and interacting with the greater robotics community, we were proud to contribute three telepresence robots to be used for remote attendance during the conference. Priority was given to robotics researchers and students who were unable to travel to Philadelphia and attend in person but was open to anyone simply curious about robotics.
Throughout the conference, people from different corners of the world dialed into our telepresence bots for a variety of reasons. Some used the bots to help make presentations, others took the opportunity to meet with professors, and even more utilized the bots to explore the expo hall and get a taste of all the state-of-the-art technology on display.
Such an amazing surprise having @sabinehauert visit my poster remotely at @ieee_ras_icra! I presented MOSAIX, a swarm of expressive robot Tiles that we designed & built. Work done with Sabine, @DrEdmundHunt, @skadge & Paul O’Dowd. Check out photos from both perspectives #ICRA2022 pic.twitter.com/4dx3AkPDN2— Merihan Alhafnawi (@m_alhafnawi) May 26, 2022
Ohmni at ICRA 2022 — By the Numbers
Over the course of the five-day conference, our three Ohmni telepresence robots received over 200 calls, with a total call time of more than 1,000 minutes. The calls came from all over the globe, including the United Kingdom, Japan, and even down under in Australia. While OhmniLabs is no stranger to the international market — having sold over 3,000 bots in more than fifty countries — it’s always exciting to see how Ohmni robots can create a smaller, more connected planet.
The data clearly shows that telepresence robots were successful at turning the conference into a virtual event. But it looks like this is only the beginning, as ICRA’s Accessibility Chair, Johnathan Kelly, stated that he can see the use of telepresence becoming even more popular at future ICRA conferences, especially as they make additional areas of the conference venue more accessible.
Green Impact of Telepresence for Conferences and Virtual Events
While allowing people to experience ICRA 2022 who may otherwise have not been able to was the focal impact our telepresence robots provided, there are other major impacts that can be observed — namely, the environmental effects provided by offering virtual attendance to conferences. In fact, some used our Ohmni bots to attend virtually as a matter of corporate policy, “as sustainably minded companies seek to minimize their carbon impact.”
By people choosing to use telepresence as opposed to attending the conference in person, we potentially avoided over 160 metric tons of CO2 emissions being released into the environment.
For any conference, air travel is often a necessity for people to attend, and this can create quite a significant carbon footprint. According to this study, “The air travel of a single attendee emits as much CO2 as many people do in a year.”
For a more apt example, if the virtual attendee from Sydney had instead chosen to fly to Philadelphia for the conference, that would have resulted in 5.7 metric tons of CO2 for the round trip. That’s more than a standard home emits in an entire year. Overall, we can estimate that by people choosing to use telepresence as opposed to attending the conference in person, we potentially avoided over 160 metric tons of CO2 emissions being released into the environment.
With stats like that, it’s easy to see just how beneficial it can be to use telepresence to nudge conferences toward becoming virtual events, for even a small number of attendees choosing to attend remotely rather than in person can have a substantial effect on reducing carbon emissions.
Conclusion — Telepresence for Conferences and Virtual Events
Our team had a wonderful time at ICRA 2022. Getting to check out the many exciting innovations and revolutionary technologies being developed in robotics is always a treat, but having the privilege to facilitate virtual attendance pushed our experience over the top.
The potential is clearly there for telepresence robots to play an integral role in conferences of the future — not only in robotics and technology, but across all types of industries. And as we continue to look for ways to keep our environment cleaner by reducing carbon emissions, using telepresence robots for conferences and virtual events will be an important piece of that endeavor.