Interview: Sabine Hauert on robotics, swarming nanomedicine and communicating about technology

Wed, 2015-09-09 11:38

Sabine Hauert

Sabine Hauert is lecturer at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and the University of Bristol where she designs swarms of nanobots for biomedical applications.  On Thursday, November 5th join us for her Keynote.

Welcome Sabine! Tell us, what can people look forward to at your keynote, Swarming Nanomedicine?

Nano I'll be talking about how trillions of nanoparticles can work together to improve the treatment and imaging of cancer. To discover new swarm strategies, we use a systems approach that builds on simulations, the game to crowdsource nanoparticle design, and experiments with nanoparticles to test some of our ideas under the microscope. I'll also show you the swarm of 1000 coin-sized robots we've been building to model nanoparticle dynamics, and to design algorithms with potential impact for outdoor swarm robotic applications.

In addition to lecturing at the University of Bristol, you've been involved in many initiatives around the themes of robotics and communication of technologies.
What are some of the challenges of communicating new technologies, such as those developed in Robotics, to the public?

There is a lot of hype and misconceptions in robotics. This is in part due to popular culture and sometimes sensationalized media coverage. As experts in robotics, we need to make sure we're countering this with clear information that is easy to understand and appealing. We've learned that the public does highly value hearing about the latest technologies directly from the experts. The challenge is that most experts are unable to do this because they don't have the necessary science communication skills, media following, or time. Most of our work goes into solving these three challenges.

When you think about growing a community of users and developers around a technology, what would you advise the technology team to do in the area of communications?

For larger and existing organizations, it makes sense to think strategically about how you can empower your experts to become communicators and build a platform to support these efforts.

If you are a smaller organization that is just starting out, I would recommend building a basic blog using off-the-shelf tools and finding a niche area you would like to focus on. Committing to a regular time to post content, every two weeks for example, helps grow a following and pushes you to meet the deadline. If there are larger blogs in your field, ask if they would be willing to cross-post your content, so that you can grow your reach. You can also set up social media channels and cross post to them all at once using tools such as hootsuite. Through your channels, reach out to other enthusiasts and invite them to contribute to your blog, or simply to follow you. A good Twitter feed is an excellent news source, and you may even find it saves time!


One of the initiatives that you've been involved in is Robohub. What is the main goal of Robohub? is a non-profit dedicated to connecting the robotics community to the public. Our goal is to make sure everyone can learn about the latest in robotics directly from the experts driving the technology. We do this by making it easy for roboticists to become communicators by providing crash-courses in science communication, editorial assistance, interview opportunities, and a large following so their message reaches the right audience.

And, now our final question. The Robohub portal links to a wide range of resources from crowdfunding to tutorials. What are your favourites ;)?

It's difficult to choose because we cover so many different areas of robotics. The robots podcast, which features interviews with robotics experts, will be reaching its 200th episode soon!  We regularly develop focus series around important topics in robotics such as jobs, and education. I also appreciate the insight from our volunteers who the take time to tell us about their latest research, and startup, or to discuss the business and ethics of robotics. One of my favorite contributions every year is a list of 25 women in robotics everyone should know about. The monthly digest is also a great way to stay on top of the news in robotics along with the events calendar and jobs board.

Thank you, Sabine!

Photos: Sabine Hauert