From I, Robot to WeRobotics: Humanitarian Robotics in Action

Patrick Meier (author, Digital Humanitarians)

Opening Keynote Address

Digital Frontiers 2016

Webcast with the support of the Rice University Humanities Research Center


This talk draws on real-world examples to illustrate how aerial robotics (drones) and other autonomous robotics solutions are being used in a wide range of humanitarian efforts. Whether we like it or not, the robotics arms race will impact the humanitarian industry just like it is impacting other industries: through radical gains in efficiency and productivity. What makes this new industrial revolution different from those that preceded it is the fundamental shift from manually controlled technologies—a world we’re all very familiar with—to a world powered by increasingly intelligent and autonomous systems—an entirely different kind of world. One might describe this as a shift towards extreme automation. And whether extreme automation powers aerial robotics, terrestrial robotics or maritime robotics is besides the point. The disruption here is the one-way shift towards increasingly intelligent and autonomous systems. Why does this fundamental shift matter to those working in humanitarian aid? For at least two reasons: the collection of humanitarian information and the transportation of humanitarian cargo. The rise of increasingly autonomous systems will impact both the way we collect data and transport cargo by making these processes faster, safer and more cost-effective. This talk will give real world examples from Nepal to Vanuatu via Peru and Tanzania.

Patrick Meier is an internationally recognized expert and consultant on Humanitarian Technology and Innovation. His new book Digital Humanitarians has been endorsed by Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Oxford, UN, Red Cross, World Bank, USAID and others.



Friday, September 23, 2016 -
2:45pm to 4:00pm


Willis Library
The Forum