Tag Archives: Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems

SoCS Research Seminar 22/1/16: Autonomous Learning for Interactive Agents

Dr. Heriberto Cuayáhuitl
Dr. Heriberto Cuayáhuitl

Dr. Heriberto Cuayáhuitl, who will be joining the Lincoln School of Computer Science soon as a Senior Lecturer in L-CAS, will be presenting in our research seminar series on Fri 22/1/16, at 1pm. His talk titled “Autonomous Learning for Interactive Agents” will be held in room MB1020. This is a great opportunity for staff and students alike, to meet their colleague and lecturer to-be.

 

Title: Autonomous Learning for Interactive Agents

Abstract:

Robots that interact with humans are still confined to controlled spaces, such as lab environments, where they conduct highly pre-specified tasks in interaction with recruited and cooperative users. Some of the obstacles that restrict real world applicability (amongst others) are their heavy reliance on domain-specific pre-programming and learning tasks that arise from the real world rather than being contrived for the purpose of robot training. In this talk, I will present a research direction on autonomous learning that aims to alleviate the above problems in order to push interactive robots over the edge of wider usability. The core of my research lies in multi-task reinforcement learning that helps agents to understand and optimise their behaviour by interacting with humans and learning from feedback and examples. I will briefly present three applications of this autonomous learning framework: (1) a situated agent that learns to guide people in indoor environments using a divide-and-conquer approach, (2) a conversational robot that learns to play educational games from interacting with children, and (3) a strategic agent that learns trading negotiations using deep reinforcement learning. I will conclude by discussing directions for future research that further increase the level of autonomy of interactive agents for their application in real world scenarios.

Bio:

Dr Heriberto Cuayáhuitl is a Research Fellow in the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Campus. He received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 2009, and has been a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bremen and the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). His research interest is in machine learning for interactive systems and robots, and he has published 60 research papers in this area. He is lead organiser of the international workshop series on Machine Learning for Interactive Systems (MLIS), and has been guest editor of the journals ACM Transactions on Interactive Interactive Systems and Elsevier Computer Speech and Language.

Computer vision and mobile technology could help blind people ‘see’

Computer scientists are developing new adaptive mobile technology which could enable blind and visually-impaired people to ‘see’ through their smartphone or tablet.

Funded by a Google Faculty Research Award, specialists in computer vision and machine learning based at the University of Lincoln, UK, are aiming to embed a smart vision system in mobile devices to help people with sight problems navigate unfamiliar indoor environments.

Based on preliminary work on assistive technologies done by the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems, the team plans to use colour and depth sensor technology inside new smartphones and tablets, like the recent Project Tango by Google, to enable 3D mapping and localisation, navigation and object recognition. The team will then develop the best interface to relay that to users – whether that is vibrations, sounds or the spoken word.

Project lead Dr Nicola Bellotto, an expert on machine perception and human-centred robotics from Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, said: “This project will build on our previous research to create an interface that can be used to help people with visual impairments.

“There are many visual aids already available, from guide dogs to cameras and wearable sensors. Typical problems with the latter are usability and acceptability. If people were able to use technology embedded in devices such as smartphones, it would not require them to wear extra equipment which could make them feel self-conscious. There are also existing smartphone apps that are able to, for example, recognise an object or speak text to describe places. But the sensors embedded in the device are still not fully exploited. We aim to create a system with ‘human-in-the-loop’ that provides good localisation relevant to visually impaired users and, most importantly, that understands how people observe and recognise particular features of their environment.”

The research team, which includes Dr Oscar Martinez Mozos, a specialist in machine learning and quality of life technologies, and Dr Grzegorz Cielniak, who works in mobile robotics and machine perception, aims to develop a system that will recognise visual clues in the environment. This data would be detected through the device camera and used to identify the type of room as the user moves around the space.

A key aspect of the system will be its capacity to adapt to individual users’ experiences, modifying the guidance it provides as the machine ‘learns’ from its landscape and from the human interaction. So, as the user becomes more accustomed to the technology, the quicker and easier it would be to identify the environment.

The research team will work with a Google sponsor and will be collaborating with specialists at Google throughout the ‘Active Vision with Human-in-the-Loop for the Visually Impaired’ project.

Below is an interview with Dr Bellotto on BBC Radio Lincolnshire:

A PhD position is now available to work on this project. Click here for further details.

Floor washing robots – revolutionising cleaning for big businesses

Floor washing robots could soon be used to clean large industrial and commercial premises, following a European research collaboration totalling 4.2 million Euros.

FLOor washing roBOT, or FLOBOT, will be a large-scale, autonomous floor washing machine, for washing the floors of supermarkets, airports and other big areas that have to be cleaned regularly.

Although it can be manually started, programmed and monitored by people, there will be no need to physically move it around making the process more efficient.

FLOBOT is being developed by a multi-disciplinary team, including the University of Lincoln, UK, which specialises in the software required to operate the robot.

Dr Nicola Bellotto, Principal Investigator from the University of Lincoln and member of the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems Research works in mobile robotics and computer vision and has detailed knowledge on people tracking with robots.

Dr Bellotto said: “Our key aim is to program FLOBOT to detect and track people moving around so as to avoid them, and also be able to estimate typical human trajectories in the premises where it operates. We can then predict where it is likely to be most dirty, by analysing those trajectories and the general use of the environment.

“We will be modifying existing scrubbing machines, making them autonomous by adding new electronics and sensors, including a laser range finder and a 3D camera for detecting people. We are advancing technologies already developed at Lincoln and a prototype will be tested and validated throughout this project.”

Floor washing tasks have many demanding aspects, including autonomy of operation, navigation and path optimization, safety with regards to humans and goods, interaction with human personnel, easy set-up and reprogramming.

FLOBOT addresses these problems by integrating existing and new solutions to produce a professional floor washing robot for wide areas.

The work that will be carried out on production prototypes will ensure the actual system is completed and ready for real-world use.

Professor Tom Duckett, also from the University of Lincoln, works in autonomous robotics and sensor systems, and is Director of the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems Research.

Professor Duckett said: “The general idea is to create professional service robots that will work in our everyday environments, providing assistance and helping to carry out tasks that are currently very time – and labour – intensive for human workers. Participating in this Innovation Action project is really exciting, because it means that many of the underpinning research concepts and technologies we have been developing at the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems now have the potential to leave the laboratory and become part of real products like cleaning robots, which could impact on the everyday lives of people everywhere.”

The project is funded by Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation for 2014-2020.
Project partners include CyRIC – Cyprus Research and Innovation Centre (coordinator), Fimap SpA (Italy) – an international leader in the production of professional scrubbing machines, Robosoft Service Robots (France), Vienna University of Technology, Carrefour Italia, Manutencoop Facility Management (Italy), Ridgeback S.A.S. (Italy) and GSF SAS (France).

FLOBOT
FLOBOT

The role robotics could play in future food production

A team of computer scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK, is co-organising an international workshop on recent advances in agricultural robotics.

Academics from the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems (L-CAS) will be attending the 13th International Conference on Intelligent Autonomous Systems (IAS-13) from 15th to 19th July, 2014.

Recent results confirm that robots, machines and systems are rapidly achieving intelligence and autonomy, mastering more and more capabilities such as mobility and manipulation, sensing and perception, reasoning and decision making.

The Series of International Conference on Intelligent Autonomous Systems (IAS) founded in 1986 is one of the major events summarising this trend.

As part of this year’s conference Lincoln scientists will be running a workshop with the aim of bringing together both academic and industrial communities to discuss recent advances in robotic applications for agriculture and horticulture.

The world’s rapidly growing population brings new challenges for global food security. To meet the future demand for more, cheaper and better quality food, new and innovative solutions and improvements to current agricultural practices are required. Agricultural robotics is one of the promising technological solutions for addressing these problems.

Dr Grzegorz Cielniak, senior lecturer in the School of Computer Science, said: “The workshop will provide a forum to present the state-of-the-art technical solutions in agricultural robotics and new exciting robotics platforms, but also to encourage future collaborations between the participants.

“Recent examples have shown agricultural robotics autonomously performing a number of different agricultural tasks, from monitoring soil and crop properties and harvesting fruit in orchards, to mechanical weeders eliminating the need for herbicides to produce affordable, safer food. Using teams of small specialised agricultural robots instead of the currently used heavy machinery can result in lower soil compaction leading to energy savings, but also in more robust systems in the case of technical failures. The number of potential new applications is enormous.”

Projects involving L-CAS include a 12-month feasibility study, funded by a £132,000 grant from the Technology Strategy Board, to create a system of laser sensors to accurately control agricultural sprayers.

Other tasks include the creation of new multi-purpose imaging technology to undertake quality inspection tasks in the food industry; automatic identification of potato blemishes and improvements in the seal integrity of heat-sealed packaging.

The workshop is supported by IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Technical Committee on Agricultural Robotics & Automation and is a continuation of previous agricultural robotics events held as part of IROS2012 and ICRA2008 conferences.

IAS-13, which is taking place in Padova, Italy, invites researchers, engineers and practitioners to disseminate their achievements and provides them with a forum to exchange their ideas.

Agricultural robotics helping to meet the demand for future food production
Agricultural robotics helping to meet the demand for future food production