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ICRA 2020 made a seamless transition to the virtual world, and Quanyan Zhu was an important presence


When organizers at the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society planned the 2020 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), they envisioned researchers from all over the world convening in Paris to present their research, collaborate with their peers, hear plenary talks, and attend workshops.

While the COVID-19 pandemic derailed any idea of breakfasting on fresh croissants in the morning and strolling the Champs-Elysée in the evening, the virtual conference held instead still showcased the newest and most innovative work going on in the field.

Quanyan Zhu, from Tandon’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was on hand (virtually) to conduct a workshop addressing recent security and privacy challenges in robotic systems. “The trend of integrating robots with information and communication technologies such as cloud services and IoTs has imposed new cybersecurity risks,” he explained.  “We need to explore interdisciplinary approaches that bridge cryptography, communication networks, data sciences, control systems, and robotic operating systems if we’re going to stay ahead of the emerging challenges.” 

Zhu organized the workshop in collaboration with Stefan Rass of the Universitaet Klagenfurt in Austria and Bernhard Dieber of Joanneum Research, and in a second collaborative effort, he and doctoral candidate Linan Huang presented their research on deception in robots. “Recent advances in automation and adaptive control strategies in multi-agent systems enable robots to use deception to accomplish their objectives,” Zhu asserted. “But by studying rational and persistent deception among intelligent robots, we can enhance security and operational efficiency.” Zhu and Huang focused on autonomous vehicles, but say that the dynamic game framework they propose has wide applications, including cooperative robots, pursuit and evasion, and human-robot teaming. 

 While forgoing Paris may have been disappointing, Zhu is unperturbed. There will be other conferences in the future, especially since he recently helped spearhead a new IEEE Control Systems Society technical committee, which will focus on issues of security, privacy, and resilience.