The Essential Interview: Gianmarco Veruggio, Telerobotics and ‘Roboethics’ Pioneer

In the News
February 01, 2017

Joanne Pransky, associate editor of Industrial Robot, recently sat down with Gianmarco Veruggio, head of the Genoa Operational Unit of the Italian National Research Council Institute of Electronics, Computer, and Technical Engineering (CNR-IEIIT).

Veruggio is a pioneer in telerobotics in extreme environments and is a founder of the growing field of “roboethics.”

In 1980, Veruggio obtained a master’s degree in electronic engineering, computer science, control, and automation from Genoa University. He has worked at the CNR since 1984, and he founded its Robotlab in 1989.

Veruggio also led the first Italian underwater robotics expeditions from 1993 through 2001 and in the Arctic and Antarctic in 2002. The Project E-Robot2 international effort in the Arctic led to Veruggio’s “live science” sessions and his “School of Robotics.”

From 2002 to 2006, Veruggio has promoted the idea of “Roboethics” for the relationship between robots and society and has worked with European organizations. In 2009, he was awarded the title of Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, one of that country’s highest civilian honors, for his efforts for science and society.

Pransky: Of all the robot projects you’ve worked on, what has been your favorite and why?

Veruggio: I think my most exciting robot project was designing, building, and exploiting an underwater robot in the real environment of the sea. One of my most exciting moments was wearing my scuba gear and going down to take underwater pictures of my robot swimming in front of me.

I was born in Sanremo, an Italian seaside city, and I have always loved and been connected to the sea. My first job was with the Naval Automation Institute, part of the Italian National Research Council, where I worked on pioneering research in virtual reality and applied it to a simulator for the training of marine pilots.

Computer graphics was not developed as it is now, and it was really groundbreaking work. After that, I worked with naval automation, controlling parts of ships by my software and leading an oceanographic campaign at sea.

At a certain point, I put together all of my knowledge about marine technology, information and communication technologies [ICT], the sea, and ships, and in the late ’80s, I had this crazy idea of giving up what I was doing to invest five years of my life to study marine robotics and to build an underwater robot, which was a totally brand-new field to me and my institution.

Exactly five years later, I was diving my robot in Antarctica to help marine biologists perform their research. This was amazing for me because it was the realization of my dream. That’s why I am really passionate about that part of my life.

I am an experimental robotic scientist. I am an engineer. I want to build something that is useful, that works, and that someone else other than me uses.

Pransky: How did you get from underwater robotics to coining roboethics?

Continue Reading