All posts by Marie Daniels

Linda the robot stars on TV’s Gadget Man

A robot called Linda developed by computer scientists at the University of Lincoln, UK, has appeared on Channel 4’s Gadget Man.

In the fourth series of the technology show, presenter Richard Ayoade test-drives new technological devices designed to make life easier.

In an episode exploring the theme Health and Safety, aired at 8.30pm on Monday 22nd June, Ayoade tests security devices with actor Keith Allen and comedian Bill Bailey, including a post-apocalypse survival kit that also works at festivals.

Fearing that the world is a dangerous place for Gadget Man, Ayoade employs the services of Linda the robot to guard his home.

Linda, who is based in the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, is named after the city’s Roman roots as Lindum Colonia. The specialist mobile robot is currently being programmed to act intelligently in real-world environments, with the ultimate aim of being able to support security guards or staff in care homes.

She is one of six robots involved in the £7.2 million collaborative STRANDS project aimed at creating mobile robots that are able to operate independently, 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 research project involves six academic partners, a security company and an Austrian care home provider, where the technology will be tested.

The robots have just finished a month-long deployment at Haus der Barmherzigkeit care facility in Austria, as they continue to develop an understanding of how the world should appear and be able to identify deviations from their normal environment.

The trial tested how long the robots could autonomously complete simple tasks in a real-life hospital environment without human support. Beside frequent patrols through the corridors, the robots also guided visitors, residents and members of staff to offices or seminar rooms, and accompanied physio-therapeutic walking groups twice a week.

Linda’s TV debut is not her first high profile public appearance. The robot was also chosen to be part of Universities Week 2014 which aims to increase public awareness of the wide and varied role of the UK’s universities. She greeted and interacted with visitors to the Natural History Museum in London during the week-long event in June 2014.

Dr Marc Hanheide, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, who is working on the STRANDS project with colleague Professor Tom Duckett, said: “It’s fantastic that Linda is still getting out and about, as a key aim for this project is to show people how this sort of technology could help us in our everyday lives.”

To view the episode click here.

Linda on Gadget Man set



Robotic harvesting of broccoli could be coming to a field near you

A project involving 3D camera technology currently being developed at the University of Lincoln, UK, could result in a fully automatic robotic harvesting system for broccoli.

The University of Lincoln was one of more than 70 UK businesses and universities to share funding through the £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst, which aims to improve the development of agricultural technology in the UK.

The project, which is jointly funded by BBSRC and Innovate UK, will test whether 3D camera technology can be used to identify and select when broccoli is ready for harvesting. This will be a key step towards the development of a fully automatic robotic harvesting system for broccoli, which will significantly reduce production costs. It has been praised as ‘world leading’ by UK Farming Minister George Eustice.

The research team comprises academics Professor Tom Duckett and Dr Grzegorz Cielniak from Lincoln’s School of Computer Science and Dr Simon Pearson from the University’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM) at Holbeach.

The main industry partner is R. Fountain & Son Ltd, horticultural consultants based in Boston, Lincolnshire, who will be responsible for creating the broccoli-cutting device.

Project lead Professor Tom Duckett, group co-ordinator of the Agri-Food Technology Research Group at the University of Lincoln, said: “Broccoli is one of the world’s largest vegetable crops and is almost entirely manually harvested, which is costly. This technology is seen as being an important move towards developing fully automatic robot harvesting systems, which could then be used for a variety of different crops.

“In all our agri-related research work, our mission is to develop new technological solutions for the business of producing food through agriculture. The long-term impact of our research includes safer food, less waste, more efficient food production and better use of natural resources, as well as promoting human health and happiness.”

Listen to Professor Duckett speaking about the project on Siren FM:


Head of Agriculture and Food at Innovate UK Ian Meikle said: “The Agri-Tech Strategy aims to make the UK a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability. The funding decisions are expert-led and evidence-based.

They support great ideas that address challenges of the future in food and farming. With business, research and government working together, these investments can unlock potential and deliver major benefits for society and the economy.”

Another project benefiting from the University of Lincoln’s expertise in this area is the early detection and biocontrol of prevalent diseases of mushrooms and potatoes.

Also funded by Innovate UK, this project addresses challenges associated with the identification, prevention and management of disease by developing diagnostic tools for farm use and alternatives to chemical pesticides. This will enable the primary producers in these industries to rapidly diagnose the existence of disease and facilitate earlier decision making.

It is anticipated that this project will develop a long-needed alternative to the use of pesticides by the mushroom and potato industries, thereby ensuring their future sustainability.

Principal Investigator Dr Bukola Daramola, from the University’s NCFM, said: “Food loss from farm to fork, due to disease and spoilage, causes considerable environmental and economic effects. The outputs of this project have the potential to significantly address the challenges presented to the mushroom and potato sectors by pathogenic bacteria and fungi, their detection and resistance to treatment. At the heart of the project is a drive to develop robust solutions for bio-monitoring and bio-control, leading to scientific advancement and the marketing of products which will ultimately have significant economic and societal benefit for the UK and beyond.”

The project also involves Monaghan Mushrooms, Queen’s University Belfast, AHDB Potato Council, RoboScientific and Rationale Biopesticide Strategists.

Lincoln to host Europe’s leading robotics conference

Robotics experts from around the world will present ground-breaking research on how robots are moving out of the laboratory and into homes and workplaces at a major international conference hosted by the University of Lincoln, UK.

The European Conference on Mobile Robots (ECMR) 2015 takes place on 2-4 September 2015. It is the first time the conference has been hosted in the UK, following previous meetings in Spain, Sweden, Croatia, Germany, Italy and Poland.

This year’s event is being organised by the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems, a research centre within the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science which specialises in the integration of perception, learning, decision‐making and control capabilities in autonomous systems such as mobile robots and smart devices. The group applies its research in fields such as personal robotics, food and agriculture, security and surveillance, and intelligent transportation.

Conference organiser Professor Tom Duckett, who leads the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems, said: “Hosting ECMR in 2015 is a fabulous opportunity to showcase our research in mobile robotics and to help to put Lincoln firmly on the map in the international scientific community. As today’s robots leave the laboratory and start entering many different real-world applications, it is a very exciting time to be working in robotics research, and I feel privileged to be hosting this important international event together with my colleagues in the robotics research team here at Lincoln. Our colleague Professor Adriana Tapus from ENSTA ParisTech, France, is leading the technical programme of the conference, and we already had nearly 100 paper submissions, so it promises to be a fantastic event with contributions from all over Europe and beyond.”

ECMR is a biennial European forum, internationally open, that allows roboticists throughout Europe to become acquainted with the latest research accomplishments and innovations in mobile robotics and mobile human-robot systems. The keynote speakers this year are Maja Pantic, Professor of Affective and Behavioural Computing at Imperial College London; Roland Siegwart, Professor for Autonomous Systems at ETH Zurich; and Ingmar Posner, Associate Professor in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford.

Professor Pantic, who is leader of the i•BUG group, works on machine analysis of human non-verbal behaviour and has published more than 200 technical papers in the areas of machine analysis of facial expressions, machine analysis of human body gestures, audio-visual analysis of emotions and social signals, and human-centred machine interfaces. In 2011, she was awarded the BCS Roger Needham Award, presented annually to a UK-based researcher for a distinguished research contribution in computer science within ten years of their PhD.

Professor Siegwart’s research focusses on the design and control of systems operating in complex and highly dynamical environments. His major goal is to find new ways to deal with uncertainties and enable the design of highly interactive and adaptive systems. Prominent application examples are personal and service robots, planetary exploration robots, autonomous micro-aircrafts and driver assistant systems.

Professor Posner, who is co-lead of the Oxford Mobile Robotics Group (MRG), focuses on the application of machine learning techniques to emerging mobile robotics tasks such as semantic mapping, active exploration and life-long learning.

Finding fault: study of Maglev train suspensions paves way for simpler industrial fault detection through AI

A new approach of industrial fault detection based on Artificial Intelligence has been studied on the electro-magnetic suspension of floating Maglev trains and could be applied to other safety-critical control systems, scientists believe.

Researchers analysed control system reliability using Maglev trains – a transport method that uses magnetic levitation to move vehicles without touching the ground, reducing friction and allowing higher speeds.

The results show that fault detection in industrial systems based on Artificial Intelligence methods could be less complex and of significantly lower computational cost than current technologies. It has strong potential to replace multiple estimators used in fault detection and isolation schemes in various industrial applications.

The research by Dr Argyrios Zolotas, from the School of Engineering, University of Lincoln, UK, together with Dr Konstantinos Michail, Dr Kyriakos Deliparaschos and Prof Spyridon Tzafestas from Cyprus University of Technology and National Technical University Athens, has been published in the academic journal IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology.

Typically, Fault Detection and Isolation (FDI) units for multiple sensor faults require a bank of estimators, such as Kalman Filters, that use the information from the remaining healthy sensors to construct the lost signal.

The results of this latest study show that a single artificial neural network-based estimator scheme achieves the same performance as the bank-based fault detector but with substantially lower computational cost. Artificial neural networks are computer-based algorithms used in machine learning which mimic the way neurons are structured in the human brain.

Dr Zolotas, Deputy Director of Research in the School of Engineering at the University of Lincoln, said: “Reliability is important in control systems and in particular to safety-critical systems. In modern system applications such as in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, control methods that guarantee control reliability usually increase the computational cost of the already limited system resources.

“In this study, we analysed system design simplification for reliability in industrial applications, specifically in relation to sensor and actuator selection. The proposed fault detection scheme uses an Artificial Intelligence approach for developing a low computational fault detection unit that reduces the complexity and computational power of a bank-based equivalent.”

The proposed framework was tested on an electro-magnetic suspension system used on Maglev trains to support the mass of the vehicle and passengers as well as to ensure proper ride quality during journeys.

A few simple modifications in the proposed architecture allowed the replacement of the bank of estimators with a typical Neural Network. The results show that this new approach has strong potential to replace multiple estimators used in FDI schemes in industrial applications.

The research builds on Dr Zolotas’s previous research on sensor optimisation, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Maglev train