"Professor Sethu Vijayakumar is a world-renowned roboticist and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. He has held faculty positions at the most prestigious Universities across the globe and he has won numerous awards for his scientific work as well as for public outreach including the 2015 Tam Dalyell Prize for Excellence in Engaging the Public with Science. His research interest spans a broad interdisciplinary curriculum involving basic research in the fields of robotics, statistical machine learning, motor control, planning and optimisation in autonomous systems and computational neuroscience. Most of his projects include anthropomorphic (humanoid) robots and research into improving human robot interaction. His latest project involves a collaboration with the NASA Johnson Space Centre on the Valkyrie humanoid robot being prepared for unmanned robotic pre-deployment missions to Mars. Sethu is passionate about engaging the next generation of engineers and making them excited about the future of robotics. He was recently also involved with the launch of the BBC micro:bit coding initiative."
— The Robot Wars website on Professor Sethu Vijayakumar
Sethu Vijayakumar featured in all three reboot seasons of Robot Wars as a judge, alongside the experienced Noel Sharkey and fellow newcomer to the role, Lucy Rogers. Professor Vijayakumar first revealed his position as a judge over Twitter during the filming of Series 8. His first (non-televised) contribution to Robot Wars was in the Series 8 pilot episode, where he was able to award his first victory via Judges' decision to Turbulence over Merlin. His first televised decision was in favour of Behemoth, over Nuts. In the split decision between Storm 2 and Eruption, Vijayakumar stated afterwards that he felt the right robot had won, implying that he voted for Storm 2. Although the majority of judges' decisions in Series 9-10 were unanimous, two split decisions (won by Dee and Rabid M8) took place, although Vijayakumar's position on these outcomes is unclear.
Sethu Vijayakumar also conducted various interviews with Dara Ó Briain and Angela Scanlon throughout Series 8-10, only interviewing Dara Ó Briain in Series 8.
Series 8, Heat 2: Sethu discussed his collaboration with NASA on Valkyrie, a sophisticated humanoid designed to perform unmanned missions to Mars. Vijayakumar predicted that robots like Valkyrie would help reduce the cost of space missions to a fraction of those for manned missions, as a result of not requiring oxygen, food or water and being free of the health and safety constraints placed on human astronauts.
Series 8, Heat 5: Vijayakumar explained the concept of ‘shared autonomy’, which enables machines to possess limited control over their functions. He then demonstrated the concept with a prosthetic robot arm attached to Ó Briain’s own arm, which grabbed hold of a bottle of water without crushing it and allowed Ó Briain to drink from it without leaving any spillages.
Series 9, Heat 1: Sethu expanded upon shared autonomy by showing a robotic arm programmed to play Connect 4. While Vijayakumar talked to Dara Ó Briain, the robotic arm won the game against Angela Scanlon.
Series 10, Heat 1: Vijayakumar discussed with Scanlon the British robotics industry and a jet suit developed by Richard Browning, dubbed the "human Iron Man". After briefly introducing the Daedalus Mk 1 suit, the programme cut away to an interview with Browning and clips of the suit in action.
World Series, Episode 2: In one of two interviews broadcast as part of Robot Wars: World Series, Vijayakumar discussed with Ó Briain the concept and applications of 'wearable' robots, such as exoskeletons and prosthetic limbs. He also explained to Ó Briain the process of symbiosis between the human nervous system and the robots being discussed, as well as potential benefits and issues concerning the wider use of 'wearable' robots.
Sethu Vijayakumar is the Professor of Robotics in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, UK and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics. Since August 2007, he holds the prestigious Senior Research Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering, co-funded by Microsoft Research. He also holds additional appointments as an Adjunct Faculty of the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles and a Visiting Research Scientist at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan. Prof. Vijayakumar, who has a PhD (1998) from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, has pioneered the use of large scale machine learning techniques in the real time control of large degree of freedom anthropomorphic robotic systems including the SARCOS and the HONDA ASIMO humanoid robots, KUKA-DLR robot arm and iLIMB prosthetic hand. His latest project (2016) involves a collaboration with NASA Johnson Space Centre on the Valkyrie humanoid robot being prepared for unmanned robotic pre-deployment missions to Mars. He is the author of over 160 highly cited publications (as of 2015) in robotics and machine learning and the winner of the IEEE Vincent Bendix award, the Japanese Monbusho fellowship, 2013 IEEE Transaction on Robotics Best Paper Award and several other paper awards from leading conferences. He has led several UK, EU and international projects in the field of Robotics and has been appointed to grant review panels for the DFG-Germany, NSF-USA and the EU. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a keen science communicator with a significant annual outreach agenda. He is the recipient of the 2015 Tam Dalyell Award for excellence in engaging the public with science.