How will robots change the world?

Tin Robot


"Tin Robot" by Saul Rivas is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

1 June 2016


The final week of June will mark the UK’s first ever Robotics Week, and in anticipation, the QEPrize will this month be looking at all things autonomous.

First, we meet OceanOne, Stanford University’s very own robotic mermaid, which is a human-like avatar that allows divers to remotely pilot it through deep and dangerous waters. The maiden voyage, carried out earlier this year, took the submersible robot 20 miles off the coast of France, exploring the long-defeated warship, La Lune, before bringing its hidden treasures to the surface after more than three centuries beneath the sea.

Later in the month, we will be taking a visit to the V&A to explore their newest exhibition, the Elytra Filament Pavilion. Inspired by the inner wing cases of the Elytra beetle, this pavilion has been painstakingly constructed by robots, kicking off the V&A’s Engineering Season.

We will be featuring a guest article from Mathew Holloway, CEO of q-bot, who will be sharing his story of how a tiny, four-wheeled robot is helping to combat fuel poverty in the UK. Marta Paulau Franco of the Bristol Robotics Lab will also be talking to us about robotics competitions and designing disaster response robots.

On 25 June, the UK will host the very first Robotics Week, a chance for people of all ages and interests to learn about current state-of-the-art technologies, discuss the role of robots and artificial intelligence in our lives, and to inspire the next generation of designers and engineers.

Throughout the week, a total of four challenges will take place. A schools challenge, open to all UK schoolchildren aged 4 to 18, will involve designing and making a robotic bug. There will also be challenges in autonomous driving, field robotics and surgical robotics. In addition, there will be a host of conferences and public events and workshops taking place around the UK, with something to appeal to everyone.

Concluding Robotics Week, there will be a panel discussion at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London on 29 June. The event, chaired by Fiona Fox, Director of the Science Media Centre, seeks to address the ethical questions relating to robotics and autonomous systems.

Joining Fiona on the panel to discuss ‘Robots: faithful servant or existential threat?’ will be Professor Darwin Caldwell, Director, Department of Advanced Robotics, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Italy; Professor Tony Gillespie, visiting professor from UCL; Dr Natasha McCarthy, Head of Policy at the British Academy; and Dr Sandra Watcher, Postdoctoral Researcher on the legal and ethical aspects of technology enabled innovation at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna.

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