Aarne Halme in Memoriam

Professor of Automation technology, Aarne Halme, had an extensive career in automation and systems technology as a Professor but also a mentor and co-founder of GIM Robotics.
MIDE-tutkimusohjelma (Multidisciplinary Institute of Digitalisation and Energy) on tuottanut merkittävän määrän sekä digitalisoitumista hyödyntäviä että energiatehokkuutta parantavia innovaatioita.
Aarne Halme year 2013. Photo: Aalto University / Lasse Lecklin

Professor Emeritus Aarne Halme started his robotics journey early 1980’s and many of us here in Aalto University have lived the over 30 years journey with him. Halme passed away suddenly at the age of 79 on 7th February 2023.

He got his Doctor of Technology in 1972 from Helsinki University of Technology, System theory laboratory and he was a professor in three different universities (Tampere, Oulu, Espoo). Helsinki University of Technology, later Aalto University, is the place where he truly left his mark on the history of automation technology and mobile robotics. He started the Automation Technology Lab in 1985. In Halme’s lab, wide range of methods of automation and system technology were developed and applied in different processes and machines. He was an international pioneer of automation and control of industrial bioprocesses. In energy technology, for example in control of fuel cells, he had several projects. He had almost always something research related to biology, for example bio-fuel-cells or health technology.

The idea of creating robots, which could help normal people in their everyday tasks, was one of Aarne’s key themes. He studied for example how home automation and mobile robots could help elderly and physically impaired people live full lives in their own homes or how outdoor mobile field & service robots could interact more naturally with their operators. He always considered building mobile robots as a value itself; only by building robots from bits and pieces, students and researchers could really understand the challenges and opportunities they possess.

One of his special projects is WorkPartner. This unique four-legged centauroid type robot was capable of walking, using wheels and rolling. Around ten Doctoral Dissertations and numerous Master Thesis were conducted with that robot. WorkPartner retired into the Museum of Technology, where it greets the visitors for years to come. Another important robot platform developed by Halme was the six-legged one-ton walking forestry machine MECANT. Halme led Generic Intelligent Machines (GIM) Center of Excellence of Finnish Academy years 2004-2013, in which robotic methods were developed for mobile work machines.

During his career Halme always emphasised the importance of having tight cooperation with Finnish companies. Since year 2014 he transferred the results of academic work to the industry, when he founded GIM Robotics together with Dr. Jussi Suomela, Dr. Jari Saarinen and Dr. Jose Luis Peralta. All of them were his former students with long experiences in autonomous mobile robotics. The company started to grow without any external investments and currently employs around 40 robotics engineers from all over the world. Later, in 2017, Sensible 4 was spun out to handle mainly road-based autonomous driving aiming to achieve Level 4 autonomy. Aarne Halme’s heritage was doing well and applied to several different industries.

We offer our sincere condolences to Aarne Halme’s loved ones for their loss.

Jorma Kyyrä, Arto Visala, Mika Vainio

Robotics and Work Partner Story
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WorkPartner robot retired to the Museum of Technology

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