Robots at Lincoln

Robots at Lincoln

From the Wizard of Oz, through the pulp fiction comics of the 1950s, to the latest Hollywood blockbusters — such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, visions of a future in which humans and robots live side-by-side have fired the popular imagination for decades.

The Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems Research (L-CAS) is advancing the state-of-the-art in a diverse range of robotics-related fields, including bio-inspired systems, swarm robotics, artificial intelligence and agri-food technology.

This dedicated team of researchers specialises in the integration of perception, learning, decision-making, and control capabilities in autonomous systems. Their goal is to create intelligent systems, including mobile robots, capable of interacting with the complexities of the real world.

Find out more about the robots below.


Baxter - Robot

BAXTER

The University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science has welcomed a new robot capable of sensing and manipulation in workspaces shared with humans – the first of its kind at the University.

The arrival of the new BAXTER robot at Lincoln’s Centre for Autonomous Systems heralds the start of a major research project, supported by the Research Investment Fund (RIF), exploring the potential for human-robot collaboration within the manufacturing industries.

Led by Dr Marc Hanheide, the collaborative Manipulation for Adaptive Human-Robot Collaboration in Manufacturing (McMan) project will involve researchers from across the Schools of Computer Science and Engineering. Together they will use the new BAXTER robot as a test-bed and demonstrator for industry-relevant research into how humans and robots can work together to improve productivity, safety and efficiency in manufacturing workplaces, as well as safety-critical robot control.

The BAXTER robot is produced by Rethink Robotics as a cost-effective solution for businesses handling low-volume, high-mix production jobs. BAXTER has already been integrated into some factory workforces across North America to support employees with tasks involving the handling of light-weight products, such as line-loading and packaging.


ERWIN

ERWIN

ERWIN (Emotional Robot with Intelligent Network) is a ‘friendly robot’ being developed to help scientists understand how more realistic long-term relationships might be developed between humans and androids.

The brainchild of Dr John Murray from Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, ERWIN is the star of a study exploring how human-like biases in robot characteristics might affect the human-robot relationship. ERWIN has the ability to express five basic emotions while interacting with a human:  sad, happy, surprised, angry and neutral.

It is hoped the research will not only help scientists to develop better, more realistic relationships between humans and ‘companion’ robots, but also to inform how relationships are formed  by children with autism, Asperger syndrome or attachment disorder. 

When two people interact for the first time, if the two different personalities attract each other, a relationship forms. But, in the case of conventional human-robot interaction, the robot's lack of identifiable characteristics and personality prevents a relationship bond developing.

PhD student Mriganka Biswas, who is working on the project with Dr Murray, said: “Based on human interactions and relationships, we will introduce 'characteristics' and 'personalities' to the robot. A companion robot needs to be friendly and have the ability to recognise users’ emotions and needs, and to act accordingly. So, for each category the robot needs to form a ‘long-term’ relationship with its users, which is possible by continuous interactions and the robot having its own personality and characteristics.”

ERWIN was one of the star attractions in the University’s public events for National Science and Engineering Week 2014, and featured in an episode of TFI Friday in late 2015.


Linda - Robot

LINDA

Linda is a specialist mobile robot programmed to act intelligently in real-world environments, which one day will support security guards or staff in care homes.

Named after the Lincoln’s Roman roots as Lindum Colonia, Linda was hand-picked to welcome members of the public at a week-long national celebration of university research at the Natural History Museum in the summer of 2014.

Linda is one of six robots under development in the £7.2 million collaborative STRANDS project. 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 changes should appear, and so be able to identify deviations from their normal environment.

Professor Tom Duckett, Director of L-CAS, leads the research on creating 4D maps (3D mapping over extended time periods) of the environment and investigating methods for detecting changes and unusual situations. He said: “The idea is to create service robots that will work with people and learn from long-term experiences. What’s unusual about any environment depends on the context. In a security scenario a robot will be required to perform regular patrols and continually inspect its surroundings for variations from its normal experiences. Certain changes such as finding a person in a restricted area may indicate a security violation or a burglary. In a care home a robot will be required to act as an assistant for elderly patients, fetching and carrying things while also being alert to incidents such as people falling over.”

Linda was also one of the star attractions at the Longitude Prize 2014 launch at the new BBC Broadcasting House in London, making an appearance on the BBC’s prime time TV programme The One Show.


Marc - Robot

MARC & TAMMIE

MARC (Multi-Actuated Robotic Companion) and TAMMIE (Technologically Advanced Multi-Modal Interactive Entity) are 3D-printed humanoid robots.

Created by Dr John Murray, they are being used alongside ERWIN to study how robots could serve as companions for people.

Dr Murray said: “Existing robots lack identifiable human characteristics that prevent humans developing a bond with them. These 3D-printed robots look extremely humanistic and may be easier for humans to identify with. However, studies have shown that robots that are too human-like can give people the creeps. Although we tend to like animated objects or images that look like real people, once they reach a certain level of realism, they can become spooky. This threshold is known as the ‘uncanny valley’. Our research will look at which type of robot people prefer to interact with and why.”

MARC appeared at the Get Up To Speed with Engineering and Manufacturing event in Sheffield and the RAF Waddington International Air Show in summer 2014. It also made a fleeting appearance on Channel 4’s technology show Gadget Man.

More recently Dr Murray has begun work on TAMMIE, with the aim of seeing both robots independently walking round campus in the not so distant future.

The design for MARC and TAMMIE was supplied by the open source project InMoov (www.inmoov.fr).


EnrichMe - Robot (2)

KOMPAÏ

Mobile service robots developed by computer scientists at the University of Lincoln, UK, could soon be helping elderly people stay independent and active for longer.

A new international project will test the ability of the KOMPAÏ robot to support our ageing populations by assisting residents of care homes in three European countries.

ENRICHME (ENabling Robot and assisted living environment for Independent Care and Health Monitoring of the Elderly) will see service robots integrated with smarthomes – residences which incorporate advanced automation systems to provide inhabitants with sophisticated monitoring and control functions - in order to provide round-the-clock feedback to carers and health professionals. This will enable people with mild cognitive impairments to live more independently, and the robots will also help with activities that can improve quality of life, such as exercise and social visits.

Principal Investigator Dr Nicola Bellotto from the University of Lincoln said: "The system will build on recent advances in mobile service robotics and ambient assisted living to help people improve health and wellbeing. From a technological point of view there will be an intelligent interactive robot that is integrated with a smarthome, communicating with a network of care givers and relatives. This will be of particular benefit to those people who have mild cognitive impairments, for example older people who are still physically healthy but may have early symptoms of dementia."

Lincoln School of Computer Science, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Lincoln. LN6 7TS
email: enquiries@lincoln.ac.uk
tel: + 44 (0)1522 886644