An Interview with Aldebaran Chief Scientific Officer Rodolphe Gelin

An Interview with Aldebaran Chief Scientific Officer Rodolphe Gelin

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Mr. Rodolphe Gelin is the Chief Scientific Officer and the director of research at Aldebaran Robotics. Earlier he worked for 20 years at CEA (French Atomic Energy Commission) as the head of robotics, virtual reality and cognitics program. He has extensive experience of coordinating EU-funded and other collaborative R&D projects on a day-to-day basis. He has led several projects at Aldebaran, he was notably in charge of the National Romeo collaborative project (2009-2012) aiming at developing a tall humanoid robot to assist elderly people. Romeo gathered 12 academic and industrial partners with a budget of 10M€. He then obtained the funding of a 4-year Romeo 2 follow-up project with 14 academic and industrial partners and a budget of 20M€, started in 2013. Rodolphe Gelin has been leader and principal investigator of many other national projects (GVLEX, YOJI) and European projects such as the FEDER project Juliette and two ECHORD Experiments (GRASPY and BABIR). He has been invited for talks and presentations at numerous scientific and industrial events. He has been in the Juries of various PhD thesis defenses’ and also supervised and managed, from industrial side, hosting of various PhDs. At the end of 2015, he joined the board of Aldebaran as Chief Scientist Officer in charge of Innovation.


Q: What is your most recent project / news?

A: We are about to test our robots with elderly persons. The robot will spend several days with a person. They will learn to live together. The robot will learn things about the person and the person will have time to have a better understanding of what a robot can do and not do. It will be another perspective after the experiences we had with our Pepper robot used in Carrefour supermarkets and in SNCF stations.

Q: Could you tell us about a compelling use case using one of your human-centered technology?

A: The use case of education for children with autism was a great experience. We never imagined that our Nao robot could be used for this application but researchers, experts in this special education, had this idea and tested it successfully. Firstly, it is nice to discover that our robots could help these children. But secondly, it was a good demonstration that the robot manufacturer can’t imagine all the use cases of its product. Users, developers will invent the role they want the robot to play in their life.

Q: What lessons have you learned from your customers so far?

A: Even in European countries, people are happy to interact with robots. They worried a little bit at the beginning of the interaction because they consider the robot as a threat (unemployment, physical contact…) but after a while they are reassured considering the current state of the art in robotics. They ask for more intelligence when, before interacting with the robot, they were afraid of meeting a too intelligent robot.

Q: What surprised you on the 2015 robotics market?

A: In the domain of companion robot or humanoid robot, the market is not really established but it was nice to see in 2015, new prototypes or pre-products of companion robots very inspired, for the shape or for the long term vision, by Aldebaran’s robots. It is important that competitors come up on the market: it means that the market exists and that our idea were not totally wrong.

Get a glimpse of the future of robotics

If you’d like to learn more about the future of robotics, I invite you to attend the Innorobo Keynote on May 25 in Paris: “Impact and challenges of the robotics revolution – Horizon 2030”. In the Foresight session, Catherine Mohr (Intuitive Surgical), Corinna Lathan (AnthroTronix) and Prathima Manohar (The Urban Vision) will discuss:

  • Do robots have to care for us? Be part of our lives?
  • How will they affect the way we live (cities, hospitals, homes, etc.)?

Register now to attend this enlightening session.


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