Pioneering robotics research is launched

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SHEFFIELD is set to be home to a cutting edge centre for robot research - combining expertise under development by both city universities.

Plans for the Sheffield Centre for Robotics - SCentRo - were revealed today as the city showcases some of the latest breakthroughs in the field at a national conference.

Boffins are already busy creating robots which will be helpers for children and adults with special needs.

Other technological advances on the way include the development of animal-like robots, self-driving cars, robotic farmhands and robots that can intelligently communicate with humans.

The new centre is being launched tonight by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University and a taste of what’s to come can be enjoyed by the public at an exhibition from tomorrow.

On show will be some of the latest work taking place in university labs and a host of new devices just created by the broader robotics industry.

Professor Tony Prescott, who will be the director at SCentRo, said: “We don’t want robots to replace humans, but to perform complimentary functions by undertaking dirty or dangerous jobs, such as going into burning buildings, decommissioning nuclear power sites or tending crops.

“We hope that by uniting the different disciplines and expertise, from engineering through to psychology, SCentRo will help drive robotic technology forward in a way that will be useful to people.”

Jacques Penders, head of Sheffield Hallam’s Centre for Automation and Robotic Research, said: “Robotics once was an exclusive engineering domain. However, present day robotics is an inclusive area of research and requires experts from very different fields to work together.

“SCentRo is founded by experts from the required disciplines and thus has the basics for developing robots for the future - new robots that will have to operate for and alongside human beings.”

Roger Moore, of Sheffield University’s Department of Computer Science, added: “Robots generate speech at present but there’s still a lot of work to be done for them to understand what humans are saying.

“We want to take this communication further than robots simply responding from a script and we will be looking to create friendly, useful robots as part of our work.”

The plan is that experts at SCentRo will unite the fields of engineering, psychology, computer science and robotics to make advances that will include robots with flexible, safe bodies and human-like sensory and learning capabilities.

The idea is for them to learn from experience as humans do and work more closely with people than current factory robots.

■ The robotic exhibition is at the Furnival Gallery in the city centre.