Tag Archives: Robotics

Can robots guess our next move?

Researchers have programmed a robot that is able to understand and react to human movement.

The team, based at the University of Lincoln, UK, have developed a computational model which focusses on the essence of movement, representing the relative movement of human and robot in relation to one another.

This enables the robot to reason about not only its movements but how the human will be influenced by it; and how the robot should then react to the human’s behaviour.

The research was carried out as part of the 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.

Linda, who is based at the University of Lincoln, is one of six specialist mobile robots 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.
Named after the city’s Roman roots as Lindum Colonia, Linda was used to test out the model.

Lead author Christian Dondrup, from Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, said: “For mobile robots to be used in populated environments, they have to understand how humans behave and be able to move when encountering each other in a corridor for example. In such situations, the robot’s movement not only has to be safe but the robot has to be able to convey its intention on where and how to move, how to react to the human’s movements, and how the human will react to it. Current research mainly focuses on how the robot has to avoid a human, but not on how their movement might influence each other.”

The research paper has been published in the international journal Robotics.

STRANDS robots. Credit: John Robertson
STRANDS robots. Credit: John Robertson

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

‘Honeybee’ robots replicate swarm behaviour

Computer scientists have created a low-cost, autonomous micro-robot which in large numbers can replicate the behaviour of swarming honeybees.

Colias – named after a genus of butterfly – is an open-platform system that can be used to investigate collective behaviours and be applied to swarm applications.

Robotic swarms that take inspiration from nature have become a topic of fascination for robotics researchers, whose aim is to study the autonomous behaviour of large numbers of simple robots in order to find technological solutions to common complex tasks.

Due to the hardware complexities and cost of creating robot hardware platforms, current research in swarm robotics is mostly performed by simulation software. However, the simulation of large numbers of these robots in robotic swarm software applications is often inaccurate due to the poor modelling of external conditions.

Colias was created by a team of scientists led by the University of Lincoln, UK, with Tsinghua University in China. It has been proven to be feasible as an autonomous platform – effectively replicating a honeybee swarm. Its small size (4cm diameter) and fast motion (35cm/s) means it can be used in fast-paced swarm scenarios over large areas.

In comparison to other mobile robots which are utilized in swarm robotic research, Colias is a low-cost platform, costing around £25, making the replication of swarm behaviour in large numbers of robots more feasible and economical for researchers.

Farshad Arvin, from the School of Computer Science, University of Lincoln, was part of the research team which developed Colias.

He said: “The platform must be able to imitate swarm behaviours found in nature, such as insects, birds and fish. Colias has been designed as a complete platform with supporting software development tools for robotics education and research. This concept allows for the coordination of simple physical robots in order to cooperatively perform tasks. The decentralised control of robotic swarms can be achieved by providing well-defined interaction rules for each individual robot. Colias has been used in a bio-inspired scenario, showing that it is extremely responsive to being used to investigate collective behaviours. Our aim was to imitate the bio-inspired mechanisms of swarm robots and to enable all research groups, even with limited funding, to perform such research with real robots.”

Long-range infrared proximity sensors allow the robot to communicate with its direct neighbours at a range of 0.5cm to 2m. A combination of three short-range sensors and an independent processor enables the individual robots to detect obstacles.

A similar but more complex mechanism has been found in locust vision, where a specific neuron called the ‘lobula giant movement detector’ reacts to objects approaching the insects’ eyes.

Co-author Professor Shigang Yue, also from Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, previously created a computerised system which supports the autonomous navigation of mobile robots based on the locust’s unique visual system.

This earlier research, published in the International Journal of Advanced Mechatronic Systems (2013), could provide the blueprint for the development of highly accurate vehicle collision sensors, surveillance technology and even aid video game programming.

The next step for the Colias research team is to work on an extension of the vision module using a faster computer processor to implement bio-inspired vision mechanisms.

Full details of their research have been published in the International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems.

The work is supported by the European Union’s FP7 project EYE2E, which aims to build international capacity and cooperation in the field of biologically inspired visual neural systems.

A video showing the swarming behaviour of Colias robots can be found at: http://youtu.be/xEvWU9FexGU

Farshad Arvin, John Murray, Chun Zang, Shigang Yue ‘Colias: An autonomous micro robot for swarm robotic applications’ International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems
DOI: 10.5772/58730http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs-wm/47293.pdf

Shigang Yue, F. Claire Rind ‘Visually Stimulated Motor Control for a Robot with a Pair of LGMD Visual Neural Networks’International Journal of Advanced Mechatronic Systems
DOI: 10.1504/IJAMECHS.2012.052219 http://www.inderscience.com/offer.php?id=52219

colias1 colias2 colias3

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