A specialist interdisciplinary center focusing on intelligent robotics through the lens of artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous machines will be established by the University of Manchester.
The Manchester Center for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence will open on the state-of-the-art Engineering and Materials Campus and will provide a home for leading research and innovation in AI-powered robotics.
The university has built an outstanding reputation in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics, building in part on a legacy of pioneering thought leadership begun in the field in Manchester by legendary code-breaker Alan Turing.
Marking the opening of the new Robotics Centre, Engineering’s Manchester campus will host its first conference on Wednesday (23 November). How humans and superintelligent robots live and work together will be one of the topics discussed by leading experts.
The concept of “transhumanism” – a world of the future where humans will not be the only decision-makers with a high degree of intelligence – will be one of the themes that form part of the program for the inaugural conference.
Highlights of the conference will include a joint talk by robotics expert Dr. Andy Whitman and religious scholar Dr. Scott Madison that is expected to shed light on what the future of human-robot relationships could look like.
Other topics will include applications of robotics in extreme environments. Over the past decade, a pioneering team in Manchester led by Professor Barry Lennox has developed robots to operate safely at nuclear decommissioning sites in the UK.
A robot called Lyra developed by Professor Lennox’s team — and recently deployed at Dounreay in Scotland, “the world’s deepest nuclear cleanup site” — has been included in Time Magazine’s 200 Best Innovations of 2022.
Other pioneering applications in Manchester include foldable drones to characterize underground mines or to inspect offshore wind turbines. Manchester is leading the way in designing verification technologies to ensure that we can trust these robots when operating autonomously in hazardous conditions.
Angelo Cangelosi, Professor of Machine Learning and Robotics at Manchester, said the university offers a world-leading position in autonomous systems – technology that will be an integral part of our future world.
Professor Cangelosi, Co-Director of the Manchester Center for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, said: “Our inaugural conference will provide a special showcase of our diverse academic expertise designing robotics for a variety of real-world applications.
“Our research and innovation team is at the interface between robotics, autonomy and artificial intelligence – and their knowledge is drawn from all university disciplines, including the biological and medical sciences – as well as the humanities and even theology.
“This rich diversity provides Manchester with a distinctive approach to designing robotics and autonomous systems for real-world applications, especially when combined with our new use of AI-based knowledge.”
The University of Manchester’s Center for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence aims to: Design control systems with a focus on biology-inspired solutions for mechatronics, such as the use of biomimetic sensors, actuators and robot platforms. Develop new software engineering and AI validation methodologies in autonomous systems, with the goal of designing trustworthy autonomous systems; research in human-robot interaction, with a leading focus on using brain-inspired methods for robot control, learning, and interaction; and researching the ethics and issues of human-centered robotics, to understand the impact of the use of robots and autonomous systems on individuals and society.
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