Tim Barfoot elected IEEE Fellow

By Tyler Irving

Professor Tim Barfoot (UTIAS) has been elected a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Robotics and Automation Society, for contributions to mobile robot navigation.

“I am very grateful to the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society for this honour,” said Barfoot.

“As a kid building my first robots of out Lego, I could never have imagined where this field and career would take me. It’s been a lot of fun so far and I’m excited to see where robotics goes next.  I would like to thank all those that helped me along the way through Engineering Science, MDA, and UTIAS, and I would like to dedicate this honour to another IEEE Fellow, Professor Bruce Francis (1947-2018), who served as an influential mentor to me,” he said.

The IEEE Grade of Fellow is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors upon a person with an outstanding record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields of interest. The total number selected in any one year cannot exceed one-tenth of one- percent of the total voting membership. IEEE Fellow is the highest grade of membership and is recognized by the technical community as a prestigious honor and an important career achievement.

Professor Barfoot’s research is focused on advancing the visual navigation of mobile robots. Such robots are used in many different sectors, including transportation, planetary exploration, mining, warehouses, offices, and military applications.

One of his team’s innovations is a technique known as “visual teach and repeat.” This method enables a robot equipped with a visual device to record information about its surroundings while being driven by a human operator along a known safe route. Afterward, specialized algorithms enable the robot to compare its own location to that of the previously taught route and adjust its actions to stay on the right path.

Barfoot has more than 160 publications in scientific journals and conferences, and has published a monograph, State Estimation for Robotics (2017, Cambridge University Press). He is an Associate Director of the University of Toronto Robotics Institute and Chair of the Robotics Option offered by the Division of Engineering Science. He is also, along with Professor Angela Schoellig (UTIAS) one of the two co-Faculty Leads of aUToronto, a self-driving car design team that has placed first in the international SAE/GM AutoDrive Challenge for the last three years in a row.

Barfoot is a double alumnus of U of T Engineering (EngSci 9T6+PEY, UTIAS PhD 0T2) and first joined the Faculty as a professor in 2007 at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. He has also spent time working on advanced autonomous systems at Apple and MDA, and as a visiting professor at the University of Oxford.

“Training robots to navigate safely and autonomously is among the most complex engineering challenges of our time, and Professor Barfoot’s embodies the world-leading advances we are making in this area,” said Chris Damaren, Director of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies.

“On behalf of the entire Institute, I warmly congratulate him on this well-deserved honour.”

The IEEE is the world’s leading professional association for advancing technology for humanity. Through its 400,000 plus members in 160 countries, the association is a leading authority on a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics.


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