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Meet Linda the robot at The Collection

Strands%204Visitors to The Collection in Lincoln can meet a very special robot during EU Robotics Week later this month.

Linda the robot, from the University of Lincoln, UK, will be guiding visitors to exhibitions in the museum as part of European Robotics Week from 24th to 30th November 2014.

Linda is one of six robots under development in the £7.2 million collaborative STRANDS project and is named after Lincoln’s Roman name, Lindum Colonia.

Researchers are creating mobile robots able to operate independently over prolonged periods, based on an understanding of 3D space and how this space changes over time.

Funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework programme (FP7), the project team consists of six academic partners, a security company and an Austrian care home provider, where the technology will be tested for real.

The robots will eventually be deployed to run for an extended period of time so they have the chance to develop an understanding of how the world appears and how to identify deviations from their normal environment. The ultimate aim is for the robots to support security guards or staff in care homes.

As part of EU Robotics Week 2013, the six robots took part in a similar ‘robot marathon’ to see which could run for the longest time and cover the most distance.

Dr Marc Hanheide, from Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, leads the research on how the robots gather information about their surroundings, and use this learned knowledge to interact appropriately with human users.

He said: “When complete, these robots will perform intelligent tasks in care and security applications. Before that, we must ensure they can simply just survive without expert help in the real world. To challenge ourselves and our robots, we decided to run a robot marathon during European Robotics Week 2013. This was an endurance competition in which the universities who are participating in the project ran their robots for as long as possible, with the aim of them covering as much ground as possible. Linda won the marathon, and this year is taking on an even bigger challenge; running 24/7 in a public space.”

During her challenge Linda will also be gathering data to help her to learn how to become more robust in the future, which will include assessing how people move around her, and which routes are particularly safe and fast to take.

The technology used in the STRANDS project was showcased at a week-long national celebration of university research at the Natural History Museum in the summer of 2014. Linda was chosen to mingle with visitors as part of Universities Week 2014, a campaign which aims to increase public awareness of the wide and varied role of the UK’s universities.

See Linda at The Collection, Danes Terrace, Lincoln, 10am to 4pm from 24th to 30th November 2014.

Follow Linda’s activities during the week through live broadcasts at http://lcas.lincoln.ac.uk/linda and on Twitter @LindaStrands

Posted in Human-Robot interaction, Research.

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Robots attend Europe’s largest tech conference

3D-printed robots from the University of Lincoln, UK, have taken their first overseas trip to attend Europe’s largest annual technology event in Dublin.

Web Summit, which runs from 4th to 6th November 2014, has been called ‘the best technology conference on the planet’.

MARC (Multi-Actuated Robotic Companion) and TAMMIE (Technologically Advanced Multi-Modal Interactive Entity), two androids created by Dr John Murray from Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, made guest appearances at the event.

Dr Murray was invited to the event to team up with Wevolver, a start-up company that aims to bring together open source projects and communities to develop new and exciting creative ideas.

MARC and TAMMIE, together with their fellow robot ERWIN, are being used to help scientists understand how more realistic long-term relationships might be developed between humans and androids. Existing robots lack identifiable human characteristics that prevent humans developing a bond with them.

The project team believe their studies into human-computer interaction could one day see robots act as companions and may also help researchers to understand how relationships are built by children with conditions such as autism, Asperger syndrome or attachment disorder. MARC and TAMMIE are 3D-printed robots whose design was supplied by the open source project InMoov (www.inmoov.fr).

Web Summit will attract around 22,000 people – including 700 investors and 1,300 journalists – and speakers include the CEO of Dropbox, Drew Houston; the founder of Paypal and the first investor in Facebook, Peter Thiel; and actress and entrepreneur Eva Longoria.

3D robots Dublin 2 Dublin event

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New smart key software enhances security for homes and businesses

Computer scientists and security specialists have created an innovative electronic smart key system that aims to provide a safer and more flexible security system for homes and businesses.

Funded by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, eLOQ is a new software system for the creation and management of electronic keys and locks which cannot be copied or picked.

Other benefits over a traditional, mechanical lock and key system include; restricting access to specific locks/areas based on date and time; the ability to view an audit trail held in the keys and locks; and the ‘blacklisting’ of lost or stolen keys without the time and expense of physically replacing locks.

eLOQ was created by Dr John Murray, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science; Nandagopal Raja Lakshminarayanan, the Knowledge Transfer Partnership associate; and Peter Corlett from the company Lincoln Security.

Dr Murray said: “In many companies, key control is an issue and often a compromise with security. If a key is lost, the security level either plummets or a costly replacement exercise is required. eLOQ aims to eliminate the issues of keys being copied or lost, as our keys are electronic, they can be easily administered using the latest computer technology. The main aim of this software was to ensure the system could be audit trailed, which we have achieved.”

eLOQ keys can be programmed with bespoke access privileges for each user, detailing what locks they can open and when. A single key can open over 3,000 locks or groups of locks.

An audit record of all events is stored in both the locks and the keys. Each time a key is used at a lock, a record of the lock ID, date, and time is stored in the key, and a record of the key ID, date, and time is stored in the lock.

The software offers a simple but secure log-in procedure and once logged in the administrator can manage the system easily from one computer.

Peter Corlett, from Lincoln Security, said: “We aim to support traditional locksmiths who wish to embrace the benefits of 21st Century technology solutions. The system is designed to offer not only secure access to your home or business, but a greater degree of flexibility and intelligence not otherwise possible with traditional mechanical locks and keys.”

eLOQ offers several software packages ranging from the home to large business sites.

The project was funded through the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme, a part government-funded scheme to encourage collaboration between businesses and universities in the United Kingdom.

For more information on eLOQ go to www.eloqsecurity.com

eLOQ electromechanical key

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Eye Resonator Project to be shown at the International Kinetica Art Fair

Eye Resonator

An interactive piece of art created by Dr John Shearer from the School of Computer Science and Dr Brigitta Zics Deputy Head of Postgraduate Studies in Ravensbourne, will be displayed at the International Kinetica Art Fair, a platform for new media art works and kinetic installations.

Eye Resonator is an interactive art ecosystem that reacts to a viewer’s eye movements detecting behavioural changes using eye-tracking technology.

To begin with, a large copper dome lowers itself over a person’s head, which calibrates the system for an individual’s eyes. They are then presented with an animated swarm of “boids” on the screen in front of them, which they control simply by their eye movement.

By detecting subtle behavioural changes, Eye Resonator stimulates a process of self-observation by guiding the visitor through a sequence of experiences and feedback loops. As well as altering the swarm behaviours the Eye Resonator  can activate fans and heat lamps to heat or cool the visitor and alter the soundscape, to further modulation their affective state.

During the experience, which lasts from about two to ten minutes, pupil dilation and behavioural shifts are tracked as people try to control increasingly complex swarms on the screen in front of them – from a flock of birds through to insects or fish and onto plankton.

The International Kinetica Art Fair, hosted at The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London, will display the Eye Resonator technology from 16–19 October, with public viewings available from 17th October. Ticket information can be found here http://www.kinetica-artfair.com/

Posted in Human-Robot interaction, Research, School news, Staff.

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Cancer treatment researchers shortlisted for global engineering award

PRaVDA exhibition, an international research team developing world-first technology for use in cancer treatment, has been named as a finalist in a global competition to recognise the best innovations in engineering, science and technology.

The PRaVDA project, headed by Professor Nigel Allinson MBE of the University of Lincoln, UK, is a finalist in the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Innovation Awards. It is shortlisted in the Model-Based Engineering category.

PRaVDA is a unique medical imaging and dosimetry instrument for use in treatment of cancer with proton therapy. It is funded by a £1.6m Translation Grant from the Wellcome Trust.

Currently at the prototype stage, the system will be one of the most complex medical imaging devices ever built. It will provide the Holy Grail for radiotherapists – namely, accurate proton CT (computerised tomography) images, eliminating the potential targeting errors of this new radiotherapy method.

Professor Allinson, Distinguished Professor of Image Engineering in Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, said: “It is a tremendous honour for the PRaVDA team to be shortlisted for an IET Innovation Award. We are mid-way through our three-year project to create world-first technology which will make proton therapy a viable treatment option for many more cancer patients. With two new government-funded proton therapy centres due to open in the UK by 2018, and the number of centres worldwide expected to double in the next decade, PRaVDA has the potential to make a profound contribution to the global fight against cancer.”

Over half of cancer patients receive radiotherapy as part of their curative treatment. Most radiotherapy is delivered using high-energy beams of x-rays. Proton therapy provides a precision alternative, using a high-energy beam of protons to penetrate tissue and reach deep tumours.

The behavior of protons is very different x-rays and offers a number of advantages in radiotherapy. The proton beam does far less damage to healthy tissue when it passes through the body. This reduces the side effects of treatment, meaning higher doses of radiation can be delivered to the tumour site in a single treatment.

This offers particular benefits for treatment to cancers of the brain, eye and spinal cord, and cancers in children, where it reduces the risks of secondary cancers occurring later in life. However, proton therapy’s added potency vastly increases the importance of dosage accuracy.

PRaVDA is a unique instrument (patent-pending) that not only will provide accurate dosimetry and individual pre-treatment set-up, real-time monitoring of dose, dose profile and position during treatment but also provides, for the first time, quality proton CT images.

The team developing the system is an international consortium consisting of six universities, four NHS health trusts, two companies and the National Research Foundation of South Africa.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Innovation Awards recognise excellence across 16 categories from sustainability and transport to communications and healthcare technologies. The free-to-enter, international, annual awards scheme provides a unique opportunity for engineering inventors to showcase their brightest ideas.

Winners of the IET Innovation Awards will be announced at a ceremony in London on 19th November 2014, hosted by technology writer and TV presenter Kate Russell.

Find out more about the IET Innovation Awards here: http://conferences.theiet.org/innovation/ceremony/index.cfm

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