ROSCon JP 2018 report
The first officially licensed local ROSCon event, ROSCon JP 2018, was held in Tokyo, Japan on the 14th of September. ROSCon JP 2018 was held in conjunction with the Open Source Robotics Foundation.
201 tickets were sold, and 189 people participated on the day (excluding sponsors’ invitations and staff). The livestream had a steady 60 to 70 people watching at any one time throughout the day. Thanks to all the participants, ROSCon JP was an exciting day for all. Presentation slides and videos will be published on the website in a few weeks.
The invited talks, submitted talks, lightning talks, exhibitors’ booths, and everything else about the conference was of high quality. As our first event, we consider ROSCon JP 2018 to have been a massive success and a credit to the Japanese ROS user community.
The first invited talk was given by Brian Gerkey of Open Robotics. Talking about the history and future of ROS, and its increasing use and development by commercial interests, Brian provided a perspective on ROS not yet widely known amongst Japanese roboticists.
The second invited talk was given by Nicholas Yeo of ROS Industrial Asia-Pacific. ROS Industrial does not yet have much participation from Japan, with those Japanese companies participating typically doing so via their American subsidiaries. Nicholas provided a background on the work ROS Industrial Asia-Pacific is doing, and the benefits of being a member of the consortium. His talk was encouraging for representatives of industrial-related robotics companies, and several expressed their interest in participating in the consortium.
Both invited talks were translated in real time from English to Japanese for the participants. Although we also intended to translate questions from Japanese to English, a miscommunication led to all questions being asked in English anyway.
In addition to their talks, both Brian and Nicholas were able to make new contacts amongst the Japanese robotics community and contribute to further improving participation by Japanese roboticists in global open source robotics activities. Despite the language barrier, Brian, Nicholas and all the participants of ROSCon JP 2018 benefited from their presence.
Submitted talks and lightning talks
ROSCon JP 2018, in keeping with the ROSCon method, established a programme committee and made a public call for submissions. Despite being the first event (making it an unknown situation for most potential presenters) and the well-established reluctance of Japanese engineers to talk about their own work publically, the programme committee received 26 submissions - not a huge amount compared with ROSCon but a good number for a first event drawing on only a single country.
After review by the programme committee, 14 presentations were selected and given presentation slots ranging from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. The presentations were selected covered a broad range of ROS-related topics, such as
- a presentation from Panasonic comparing navigation using the navstack with using commercial navigation system for hospital delivery robots;
- the use of ROS in space robotics by JAXA;
- the application of ROS and Gazebo to a marine robotics challenge (which finished with a surge in donations to the presenters’ crowdfunding page to help them attend the next challenge); and
- a discussion of how Sony applied ROS to the development of the newest aibo.
All of the talks were highly rated by the participants as being educational and full of valuable information.
Also in the ROSCon and developer conference tradition, an hour of the programme was made available for lightning talks. The hour was fun and interesting for both the presenters and the audience.
To help cover the cost of holding a conference in central Tokyo, where meeting space is at a premium, the organising committee invited sponsors. As with ROSCon, sponsors were provided with dedicated exhibition space in a separate room from the presentations. This allowed them to give lively demonstrations and hold discussions with participants throughout the day. The exhibition hall was well-attended, with participants talking to exhibitors even during the invited talks. As would be expected the main draw was Sony and their aibo robots, but all exhibitor booths were crowded throughout the day.
ROSCon JP 2018 was sponsored by the following companies and organisations:
Gold: Renesas, Seqsense, Tier IV, iSiD, Analog Devices, TIS, SICK
Silver: eSOL, GROOVE X, EAMS Lab
Bronze: Honda Research Institute Japan, RT Corporation, Mamezou, INTEC, Robotis, Z Robotix
Friendship: Tokyo Opensource Robotics Kyokai Association
To encourage networking between participants, ROSCon JP provided both a catered lunch and a catered reception. Attendees were able to enjoy a good meal without leaving the conference venue, giving them more time to mix with each other and attend the exhibitors’ booths.
The reception in particular was well-attended, even by those who had to travel several hours to get home that night. The noise in the reception hall didn’t abate until we were forced to drive everyone out!
A survey of participants at the conclusion of the conference received 105 replies. Here are some select results:
- 52% of respondents were engineers at companies. A further 24% were in commercial R&D.
- Only 14% of respondents were students and just 4% were university lecturers. This shows the strong commercial interest in ROS in Japan.
- 88% of respondents rated the quality of the sessions as high or very high. Just 2 people rated them as below average.
- 68% of respondents considered the sessions just right in length and number. The remaining survey respondents were mostly not far from that.
- 98% of respondents stated they intend to participate if ROSCon JP is held again. Out of this, 70% were unconditional (i.e. not based on schedule or content).
- 38% of respondents expressed a desire to present at the next ROSCon JP. A further 26% stated they would present a lightning talk.
ROSCon JP 2018 was a huge success and demonstrated both to us and to the Japanese ROS community that there is much more enthusiasm for and use of ROS in Japan than any of us thought. We believe that ROSCon JP 2018 provided a big boost to the community, encouraged many new connections, and demonstrated to commercial interests that ROS is worth paying attention to and using.
In closing, we are more than pleased with how well our first ROSCon JP went, and are already at work organising next year’s event!