Bristol Robotics Lab seeks new Professor of Robotics at UWE Bristol

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The Bristol Robotics Laboratory is currently advertising the post of Professor of Robotics: : Provably Safe Human-Robot Interaction, to be based at the UWE Bristol Frenchay campus:

“The Bristol Robotics Laboratory at the Faculty of Environment & Technology have an exciting permanent and full time position for a Professor of Autonomous Robot Vehicles to join BRL within the Engineering, Design & Mathematics Department… 

… Although the application foci for this post are not restricted, and certainly encompass all of the ‘dirty, dull and dangerous’ domains, two exemplar areas of particular interest currently to the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, where such issues are rapidly becoming ‘centre-stage’, are Connected Autonomous Vehicles, where the vehicle can be viewed as a kind of robot that users get into, and robot care for older adults or the infirm, often termed ‘Assisted Living’.”

For more information and to apply, please see the job listing on the UWE Bristol jobs site.

Engineers from UWE’s Women in Science and Engineering Society excited to be building Leaders Award winning design

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A team of UWE Bristol engineering students:

have now picked one of the winning designs from this year’s Leaders Award to turn into reality. The team are part of UWE’s Women in Science and Engineering student society and Katy is also a participant in our Women Like Me mentoring and outreach project supporting women and girls in engineering.

The team picked the design of Philippa Griffiths, a Year 7 student at Hugh Sexey CE Middle School in Somerset. Philippa designed the RLBS (Red Line Braking System) to display red lights to alert other drivers of the severity of the braking and levels of attention needed, with the aim of reducing fatalities on our roads. The team will be visiting Philippa’s school in February to discuss the design with her and deliver engineering outreach for her class.
Georgina and Olesya tell us how they’re looking forward to getting started, in this video made by Miriam:

Bristol Robotics Laboratory professor in Westminster to advise on AI and automated vehicles

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Professor Alan Winfield of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory has provided his expertise to two all-party parliamentary groups in Westminster.

Alan Winfield, Professor of Robot Ethics, addressed all-party parliamentary groups on artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics last week.

He spoke to the All Party Parliamentary Group on AI at the Houses of Parliament on Monday 3rd December at an AI Christmas Reception, where the group’s achievements of 2018 were discussed and an agenda for 2019 launched. The group was established in January 2017 with the aim of exploring the impact and implications of AI.

The following day, Professor Winfield gave evidence at an Automated Vehicles roundtable discussion organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Data Analytics. The event explored the themes of transparency, liability and accountability in a future of automated vehicles. The group connects Parliament with business, academia and civil society to promote better policy making on big data and data analytics.

Professor Winfield said:

“AI and driverless cars are exciting technologies, but they are also disruptive, so we need to ensure they are used ethically and to the benefit of all in society. I am very pleased to support these parliamentary groups as they consider policy and regulation.”

This post was originally published as a UWE Bristol news article on 10th December 2018.


Miriam Cristofoletti reaches 1600 pupils in Leaders Award presentation

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Miriam Cristofoletti from the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol took up the challenge of presenting to over 1000 school pupils for the Leaders Award this week.

“It’s OK not to have things working right the first time”

Miriam, a student engineer in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, took part “mainly to inspire them, tell them never give up and that it’s OK not to have things working right the first time”.



“It was inspiring and thought-provoking”

Feedback from schools was outstanding, with schools reporting that Miriam’s presentation had particularly positive impacts for students from minority ethnic backgrounds, girls who struggle to engage with stereotypically ‘masculine’ topics and low attaining pupils now expressing that they would like be robotics engineers in the future.

Professor Paul Olomolaiye, Pro Vice Chancellor & Executive Dean of the Faculty of Environment and Technology, was delighted to celebrate Miriam’s achievement, saying that “she has made us all so proud”.

Miriam is also part of a team of UWE Bristol students who are building a prototype of one of last year’s winning designs.

The Leaders Award is supported by UWE Bristol and asks children “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”. This free competition asks students to find a problem, invent a solution, draw it, explain and send it in. Pupils are encouraged to both interview engineers and watch the online interviews. If you’d like to take part in the Leaders Award as an engineer or school, please get in touch with the team.

You are your password: Professor Lyndon Smith featured in CNN article

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Professor Lyndon Smith of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory features in this CNN video “You are your password: The world of biometrics”.

“Our digital world is being shaped by our physical bodies. Biometrics are fast becoming the new way to identify ourselves and the industry is booming.”

Lyndon is featured at 05:35 speaking about his transformative research, including experimenting with replacing turnstiles on the London Underground with facial recognition. This could lead to other applications, such as making purchases in shops.

Professor Paul Olomolaiye, Pro Vice Chancellor & Executive Dean for the Faculty of Environment and Technology at UWE Bristol, said:

“Our research transform futures and am in awe and proud of the advances in knowledge taking place right on our corridors and the impact we are collectively achieving across our world”.

UWE Bristol team to build winning Leaders Award design

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In 2018, Year of Engineering, UWE Bristol was a partner organisation of the Primary Engineer & Secondary Engineer Leaders Awards in the South West of England, along with DE&S  (the MOD’s Defence, Equipment and Support organisation).

As part of the competition, school pupils met and learnt from engineering students and professionals, before answering the question:

by identifying a problem in society that engineering could solve and devising a solution.

Shortlisted and winning entries were displayed at an exhibition at UWE Bristol in June. A team of UWE Bristol engineering students:

have now picked one of the winning designs to turn into reality. The team are part of UWE’s Women in Science and Engineering student society and Katy is also a participant in our Women Like Me mentoring and outreach project supporting women and girls in engineering.

The team picked the design of Philippa Griffiths, a Year 7 student at Hugh Sexey CE Middle School in Somerset. Philippa designed the RLBS (Red Line Braking System) to display red lights to alert other drivers of the severity of the braking and levels of attention needed, with the aim of reducing fatalities on our roads.
Olesya explained why they chose Philippa’s design to make:

“We all agreed as a team on the design choice, because its practicality and feasibility suit our view and needs in the project. It will provide a great marketing look as well as provoking interest for children, as we are planning for them to physically test the final prototype! It’s a fantastic opportunity for us and we are all looking forward to see this project coming true!”

Mechanical engineer Brad Squires (President of Engineers Without Borders at UWE) will support and advise the project team as they begin to build Philippa’s design. They are hoping to visit Philippa and her classmates at their school as the project progresses. Watch this space!

Coming soon: exciting workshops aiming to connect qualitative and quantitative researchers interested in the future of technology!

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Image credit:

Aleksandra (Ola) Mihalec of the Department of Geography and Environmental Management and Mehdi Sobhani from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory recently secured interdisciplinary research funding from UWE Bristol’s Faculty of Environment and Technology for their project ‘Meeting machines: building capacity for interdisciplinary collaborations in emerging technologies research’. Ola tells us more about it in this guest post.

An innovative collaboration between social and physical scientists has received funding for capacity building activities across disciplines at UWE.

Aleksandra Michalec (human geographer) and Mehdi Sobhani (roboticist) have been recently awarded with seedcorn funding to organise and facilitate workshops which aim to bridge the gap between the scholars interested in emerging technologies.

The unprecedented development of artificial intelligence, robotics, social media, smart cities and augmented reality promise solutions to the issues like climate change, ageing society, future of work. Yet, without critical thinking, technology poses further risks to peace and democracy. In order to deliver ethical interventions addressing the global challenges, current research funding calls for further integration of physical and social scientists.

Nevertheless, an imperative of collaboration doesn’t really fit naturally with the traditional academic training. As researchers, we are often trained to be experts in our very narrow field – this leaves us wonderfully ignorant of the developments and inner workings of the other disciplines. For example, physical scientists typically build prototypes, design algorithms and conduct experiments, whereas social sciences problematise the “common knowledge”, critique the status quo, point at injustices, complexities and interdependencies.

Adding to that, universities are huge institutions. UWE alone spans four campuses, each with numerous buildings and endless hidden corridors. This doesn’t really help with fruitful networking. We have therefore realised that there is a demand for space to meet like-minded researchers and build ground for future research projects.

While the great discoveries usually start with a serendipitous meeting of brilliant minds, expert knowledge is not enough to work together effectively across the academic disciplines. We recognise that the researchers at UWE not only need a networking event, but would also benefit from learning about each other’s disciplines, methods and epistemologies – especially if we want to create collaborations between quantitative and qualitative folks.

In Spring 2019, look out for a series of workshops organised for those interested in emerging technologies. It doesn’t matter whether you are a political scientist, geographer, a mathematician or an engineer; it doesn’t matter how (un)experienced you are – if concepts like “machine learning”, “smart cities”, “social robots”, “automation” keep you awake at night, then look no further and meet your fellows!

During the workshops, we will be learning about each other’s approaches, priorities and biases.

We aim to bust myths about our own prejudices and, as a result, create a long-term community of technology researchers.

Attending the events will contribute to your professional development, broaden your horizons and open new doors to future interdisciplinary funding calls. Keep an eye on more information in early 2019! If you have any questions, please contact Aleksandra or Mehdi.

The forefront of enabling independent living – the BRL Assisted Living Studio

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This is a guest post by Prof. Praminda Caleb-Solly, Professor of Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Health Technologies at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, UWE Bristol and Head of Electronics and Computer Systems at Designability.

Intelligent robots, integrated with smart home sensors and healthcare databases, can provide the ability to realise a range of assistive care solutions to support independent living for an ageing population.

Connected and Secure Assistive Robotics Ecosystems

Robotics-based technologies are increasingly being recognised as important tools in helping older people with ageing-related disabilities and long-term conditions improve their quality of life and live independently for longer.

Socially assistive robots, particularly those that can navigate around a person’s home, working in conjunction with a smart home sensing system, can deliver reminders, prompts and guidance for a range of activities. The ability for a robot to take pro-active initiative in response to specific situations anywhere in the home, offers several advantages over a static tele-care system in terms of increased availability, awareness and access.

Increased consumer expectations for an Internet of Things (IoT) enabled home are being driven by smart home automation systems and digital assistants becoming mainstream consumer products. Integrating assistive robots, which add value by providing a physical embodied form for these emerging platforms, is a natural next step in developing a connected assistive ecosystem.

Assistive Robotics Projects in the BRL

Researchers at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) at the University of the West of England are leading the way in the design of assistive robots.

Flagship projects in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory include, MOBISERV, an integrated intelligent home environment for the provision of health, nutrition and well-being services to older adults, INTRO, a research training network to build intelligent robots that can function in real-world environments.

Recent projects include I-DRESS and CHIRON, both developing robotic devices to offer physical assistance. The work in the BRL involves understanding how people and robots can interact intuitively, safely and effectively; designing and testing robots that will be acceptable and enjoyable to use, and ensuring that the technology is developed being mindful of ethical and cultural issues.

Current projects that are spearheading research in these areas include SOCRATES (SOcial Cognitive Robotics in The European Society) exploring the ethical aspects of Human-Robot Interaction in assistive contexts with vulnerable users, and the Assuring Autonomy Programme where the BRL’s role as an Assistive Robotics in Healthcare Demonstrator is to develop safety and regulatory standards of close-proximate human-robot interaction in an unstructured environment with people with a range of sensory, cognitive and physical impairments. The BRL is also working with Extracare Charitable Trust in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership which involves trialling and co-designing assistive technology with older adults and carers. This project will provide evidence of the impact of assistive technologies on supporting people as they age.

A robot as the interface to personalised health and well-being information and guidance has the potential to offer a more social and persuasive interaction experience.

The use of voice recognition and speech synthesis, gesture recognition and sensor information from ambient intelligent environments and smart garments, enable a robotic assistive system to offer more natural and accessible interactions.

Taking a Person-Centred Approach to Design

We strive to seek user input using a range of participatory design methods. Iterative prototyping and evaluation is central to our person-centred approach, ensuring that systems are useful, usable and accepted. Our person-centred approach involves:

  • Understanding people’s context of use and perspectives of assistive technologies
  • Investigating potential barriers and constraints and criteria for acceptability

User acceptance and ensuring effectiveness and efficiency of these technologies requires employing participatory design approaches that are inclusive, involving older people, their formal and informal carers, healthcare and social care and service providers, and clinicians. This can only be achieved by adopting a multidisciplinary approach in the conceptualisation, design and deployment of these technologies.

In addition to achieving technological feasibility and user acceptance, it is vital to ensure that these technologies are economical to manufacture and maintain. Legal and ethical aspects of the use of autonomous systems are also areas that need more deliberation.

Assistive Robots and the Internet of Things

A key aspect of the research into Assistive Robotics is developing contextual and social intelligence for the robot to interact appropriately in real-time, while building up a knowledge base of past interactions. The aim is to develop robust and intelligent assistive robots by incorporating both environmental and user characteristics, and behaviour as part of the overall control system architecture.

Connected assistive robots need access to information that is current and gives a dynamic world view of the user and their environment in order to provide information and support that is ‘intelligent’ and incorporates learning, otherwise the robot is functioning as a pre-programmed state machine.

Drawing on contextual information from environmental and activity sensors instrumented into a smart home, and information about the user’s current physical and emotional state, assistive robots can create value through provision of interventions that are more socially intelligent in regards to how, and what advice and support is provided.

To create a more holistic service that can prioritise events based on aspects of health and social circumstance, requires an adaptable intelligent learning system. Research is being conducted to develop intelligent control system architectures,  that can be extended over time, as new functionalities are defined, and people’s conditions, and hence needs, change. Our research strategy is to ensure that robotic devices can be appropriated as vital elements of a broader ecology of connected assisted living technologies.

For further information please contact:

Prof. Praminda Caleb-SollyBristol Robotics Laboratory, UWE

Twitter: @praminda | Telephone: 0117 3283178

Habitats for Robotic Pets project receives interdisciplinary research funding

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An exciting collaboration between the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Department of Architecture and the Built Environment at UWE Bristol has received interdisciplinary research funding.

Dr Séverin Lemaignan and Dr Louis Rice have secured the funding within the Faculty of Environment and Technology for their project “A Habitat for Robotic Pets”.

They plan to explore, in a rather playful way, how humans and robots might share space in our daily environment. Around five small robots, like these from Anki, will spend a week in one of UWE Bristol’s café spaces (watch this space to find out when and where!), living their own life, with their own unique personalities, …and their own special ‘habitat’!

The robots’ behaviours and their small ‘houses’ will be entirely designed and built by students from both Architecture and Robotics. The project will look at how people accept, interact, and share their space with the mini-beasts. A lot of fun is expected!

Many thanks to Anki for supplying and giving permission to use the images in this post.

Old and new generations of roboticists come together at Bristol Women in Robotics meet-up

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This is a guest post by Dr Antonia Tzemanaki from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, who coordinates the Bristol Women in Robotics group. Women in Robotics Bristol/South West is part of a global professional network for women in robotics, such as our very own Women Like Me engineer Pavlina Theodosiouand women who want to be. They promote the visibility of women in robotics.

The most recent meet-up of the Bristol Women in Robotics group took place on Thursday 8th November 2018. 14 women attended, including staff from UWE Bristol, the University of Bristol and OpenBionics as well as new MSc and PhD students. It was a great mix between older and newer generations of roboticists and topics included internships, exchanging help on application writing and discussing future collaborations among others.

The next meetup will take place in the next couple of months, make sure to subscribe to our emailing list if you are interested and join our Slack channel. Ideas for events are always welcome!

You can also follow Bristol Women in Robotics on Twitter.