The project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is split into two categories. The first will explore ways that technology can improve care for the elderly, while the second will focus on using autonomous (AI) machines to deal with or operate in hazardous environments. Loughborough will receive a £500,000 share of the total funding, which has been allocated to 14 UK universities. The money will towards exploring ‘intelligent manufacturing environments’ – the idea that humans, robots and automated procedures work seamlessly, or ‘co-exist’, to execute challenging manufacturing activities. Through the University’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Embedded Intelligence, the project will be led by Professor Paul Conway, Dr Carmen Torres-Sanchez and Dr Niels Lohse. A new designed training facility has been created to allow scientists to carry out the research.
CDT-EI Director Prof Conway said: “The money from the EPSRC will allow us to build on the UK’s already impressive understanding of robotics, and Loughborough is privileged to be a part of this pioneering project. Here, our aim is to explore how humans can work in union with robots and artificial intelligence to explore off-limits environments and gather data about hazardous sites and situations in a way we cannot currently do. There are also possibilities within this field to use bespoke AI to boost work place and manufacturing productivity in challenging industries.”
In the area of extreme and challenging (hazardous) environments, robotics and artificial intelligence technologies will allow for the inspection, monitoring, and maintenance of sites that are dangerous for humans to enter. This includes hostile environments such as nuclear power plants, oil and gas sites and off-shore renewables. It also includes hazardous urban and suburban situations involving bridges, roads and railways. The aim will be to develop the science around image and vision computing, verification and validation, smart sensing technology and its associated connectivity with the Internet of Things, autonomous manufacturing, healthcare technology, and intelligent mobility.
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