Director of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, Keshini Navaratnam, is joined by two leading roboticists to discuss how autonomous systems can inspire future generations.
Alongside being an electrical engineer, Dr Ayanna Howard is an educator, researcher and innovator. Her work focuses on how humans and autonomous systems can work together and the ethics behind doing so. This research has allowed Ayanna to make significant contributions to artificial intelligence, computer vision and robotics.
Edging along fences and creeping up walls, climbing plants send out tendrils in search of the sunniest spots in the garden.
In the lab, researchers have replicated the movements of nature countless times. Robots can walk, run and jump. They have even learned how to swim. Now, a team of mechanical engineers from Stanford University have taken inspiration for their latest robot from climbing plants. Following the lead of creepers such as ivy, the soft robot shoots out a tendril to ‘grow’ itself forwards.
The concept behind the idea is very simple and uses a process called ‘eversion’. The robot itself is a tube of soft plastic, folded inside itself. (Think of those slippery ‘water snake’ toys from the 90s!). As pressurised air fills the tube, the folded material turns the right way out, propelling the tip forwards.
Who hasn’t played with building blocks when they were kids? There is no doubt that the castles, vehicles and miniature cities of our childhoods were the stuff of legend.
Yet games of this nature—those that enable you to design, construct and even problem-solve—are more than mere playthings. They stimulate motor skills and hand-eye coordination, they promote analytical thinking, and they encourage creativity through invention.
The team at UKGM, the hospital where Watson will be based
From drones that deliver essential medical supplies, to surgical robots so skilled they can remove cataracts from human eyes, machines in medicine are becoming the norm. As this year draws to a close, IBM’s Watson welcomes us into the ‘cognitive era of health’. Billed by its creators as a ‘new partnership between humanity and technology’, Watson is bringing artificial intelligence to the front line of healthcare.
As brightly painted fishing boats putter across the lake and fishermen stand thigh deep in the glittering water hauling their catch, it’s hard to believe a deadly secret lurks beneath the surface.
Schistosomiasis, also called Bilharzia, is a parasitic disease carried by water-dwelling snails. To reproduce, larvae must leave the snails and swim across open water to find their next host: humans. Once inside a person, the larvae develop into adults and lay their eggs. Most pass straight through the body, back into water, where the life-cycle starts again. For the unlucky few, remaining eggs will get trapped in the body, often causing a deadly infection.
The landscape of manufacturing is constantly changing. In developed countries, the reliance on heavy manufacturing is declining and factories use fewer dirty, dull and dangerous processes. These roles are instead becoming automated, with robots working alongside humans to maximise efficiency.
Computer vision is one technology that has gained popularity in factories around the world. Using machine vision standardises quality control and removes human error. As a camera scans over a production line, its picks up faults or flaws in the products and marks them for removal. A team of engineers from Imperial College is even working on a ‘bionic eye’ with an artificial retina. The ‘eye’ learns on the job, and recognises and removes faulty products on the assembly line.
Kicking off in the German city of Leipzig, tomorrow marks the start of the 2016 RoboCup challenge, the world’s most prominent and diverse competition for intelligent robots. The world cup of robotics brings together a host of inter-disciplinary problems, from robotics and artificial intelligence, right the way through to electrical and mechanical engineering, as teams battle it out to take home the most prestigious prize in robotic football.
The ultimate vision of the RoboCup Federation is to see autonomous, humanoid robots successfully competing against their human counterparts in football matches by 2050. In the last few years however, additional disciplines have been added alongside the football matches, driving research into the use of intelligent robots in rescue missions, around the house, and in industrial production.