What is a robot and what can they do?

2024 has only just begun, but our TAS researchers are looking forward to getting out and about and meeting people…….so we are happy to announce that next week we are collaborating with the Festival of Tomorrow in Swindon. Come have a chat at the MacArthur Glen Designer outlet on Wednesday 14 or ask us questions as you try out a demo at the finale event at the Deanery secondary school on Friday 16 and Saturday 17.

We’ll be challenging your idea of what a robot is and what it can do, by showing you how a robot swarm navigates its environment, comparing your drone flying skills to machine learning, and exploring how soft grippers can be used to pick up fragile objects. At the finale, our researchers will also be featured in the panel ‘Here come the robots’ and you’ll be able to see entries in our ‘Design a robot’ competition, which we ran with Swindon school students.

AI has been all over the news this last year, and it’s no longer unusual to interact with an autonomous system in your everyday life- from Siri and Alexa, to driverless bus trials in Scotland, to shopping and movie recommendations. Our project brings together roboticists, engineers, computer scientists working alongside social scientists and philosophers to explore the implications for society of these systems, so that they’re designed and used responsibly. We would love to share our knowledge and enthusiasm about our work and get your feedback on it- and answer any burning question you have, including on careers.

We’ll be at the finale across both days, for more information and to book your tickets (most of which are free), please visit their website.   

Are we creating a robot uprising? Shoppers tell us what they think of TAS

Our TAS team were so excited to be one of only four research projects selected to participate in Futures Festival at Cabot Circus shopping centre in Bristol on 16th September. Despite the rain, seven of our team, representing most of the aspects of project, spent a Saturday afternoon talking to many Bristolians and Bristol visitors about what TAS is trying to do, and their response to it. Visitors got to participate in some word clouds, have a go at robot-based activities and get involved in the conversation around the increased use of autonomous systems, AI and robots in our everyday lives. We were very pleased that so many people paused their shopping and other activities to come and chat with us, and we spoke to over 50 adults and children across the 4 hours.

We showed them our new project illustration:

 

We asked three questions that were displayed on a TV screen to engage visitors and to inspire interesting conversation: What word comes to mind when you hear “trust”?, What excites you the most about living in a world of autonomous systems? and What’s your biggest fear about living in a world of autonomous systems? After they had finished talking to us and having a go at the activities we also asked some of the visitors if they would trust a drone to deliver a secret letter and if they had learned anything from talking to us:

 

The children and teenage visitors especially liked the robotic activities: they could test the image identification software on a drone, try and paint a picture using a robot swarm, and move objects using a soft robot.

We had a great day and we’re really grateful to everyone who stopped on the day to talk to us. Thanks to the Futures team for arranging it. We’ll be at the Festival of Tomorrow in Swindon in February 2024 to show even more of the project- follow our page or on X (Twitter) to hear more.

Robots coming to a shopping centre near you….

Join us tomorrow (Saturday) for the Futures family fair at Cabot Circus shopping centre in Bristol. We’ll be there talking about TAS, and showcasing our work on soft, swarm and aerial robotics, as well as the social and ethical implications of autonomous systems. You can have a go at using a soft gripper to spell your name; find the picture in the swarm with our robot tiles, and see how our drone image identification system deals with bananas and corn on the cob. We want to hear what you think too- we’re better researchers when we talk about it with a wide variety of people. What does trust mean to you? What’s exciting about imagining a future of autonomous systems? What makes you nervous or afraid of it? We want to have that dialogue, and get feedback on this topical and novel area.

Find us in the main vestibule area on the ground floor near House of Fraser. We’re there from midday until 4pm, so don’t miss the team- there will be 5-7 of us throughout the afternoon, as well as other researchers from across the university, presenting their areas of expertise.

TAS community gathers for our first International Symposium

Over three days in July, just outside Edinburgh, researchers working on autonomous systems gathered for the first International Symposium on Trustworthy Autonomous Systems at Heriot-Watt University. Although the TAS project has been running for a few years, the pandemic prevented the TAS Hub and nodes from gathering the community to share their research into trustworthiness and autonomous systems. The talks and panels consisted of a diverse range of engineers, computer scientists and social scientists, including plenaries by Professors Sharon Strover and Gina Neff.

 

Our functionality node presented four posters and two papers, over the course of the conference. Dr Sabine Hauert didn’t let unreliable public transport prevent her from giving a talk on “Trustworthy Swarms”, a collaboration of researchers across our node. We also presented a scoping review, with work from Dr Helen Smith, Dr Jonathan Ives, and our previous colleague Dr Ariana Manzini, on “Ethics of trust/worthiness in Autonomous Systems”.

 

The first day of the conference focussed on early career researchers, and a number of Early Career Researcher awards were presented to them at the nearby National Robotarium, in categories including Policy and Knowledge Transfer. We were delighted that Dr Helen Smith won one of the awards for Responsible Research and Innovation, which included a £4,000 grant towards her research. We look forward to sharing where this leads.

 

After we’d been joined by our international colleagues, the nodes then had a further day at the All Hands Meeting, to share what we’d done over the previous 12 months. We heard from every node, plans for UKRI’s new Responsible AI initiative, and one of the panels involved Professor Dame Wendy Hall.

Thank you to the organisers and everyone who came along to make it such a useful, interesting and friendly event.

All images credited to photographer Ryan Warburton.

TAS researchers head to a school in Somerset for an IET Faraday Challenge day

TAS Functionality node researchers are heading to a school in Somerset to help students with the Faraday Challenge. The Faraday Challenge is an initiative from the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and TAS Hub has organised for researchers from every one of the seven nodes to visit schools across the country. The Faraday Challenge Days gives students, aged 12-13 years old, the opportunity to research, design and make solutions to genuinely tough engineering problems. They have to plan, develop and present their solution, and complete an apprenticeship task related to the main challenge. The winners of the main event will be awarded a prize for each team member and a trophy for their school. The top teams from across the UK will be invited to showcase their ideas at an event in June.

Dr Razanne Abu-Aisheh and Dr Peter Winter will visit Norton Hill School, in Midsomer Norton, on Tuesday 25th April, and support two of the competing groups. At the end of the day the students will be given an interactive engineering demo for the school to keep. Check our twitter on the day for more updates!

Swarm Robotics heads to a field in Somerset for Somerscience

 We’re really excited to bring the team to Bruton for the 2023 edition of its Somerscience festival. Taking place on Monday 1st May, it’s a free event across the town with an exciting line-up of talks, workshops, shows and hands-on sessions. Running from 10am to 6pm it’s family-friendly and well connected to the region by transport. Our swarm team are looking forward to bringing swarm robotics to a muddy field in Somerset: do join us!

Our team, a mixture of researchers and PhD students, all have one thing in common: their love for swarm robotics. Join them as they introduce you to a game where you get to be the robot swarm. Explore how we’re using swarm behaviour to introduce a new way of using robots, as you get to have a go yourself. Talk to the team themselves to hear about their research and how its involved in health and other applications. There’s a lot to see and do throughout the day. No need to book but for more information, including a programme, please visit their website. Follow us on twitter for updates.

Masterclasses in Swarm, Soft and Aerial Robotics

Please note the event dates have passed.

Organised by the UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems (TAS) Node in Functionality on behalf of the UKRI TAS Programme, the Masterclasses in Swarm, Soft and Aerial Robotics provide developers, operators, end users and researchers with an opportunity for hands-on experience with a range of autonomous and robotic technologies that can be deployed in the logistics, manufacturing and infrastructure industries.

Participants work with university researchers to try out and explore the capabilities of the latest technologies in swarm robotics, soft robotics and aerial robotics (drones) via an interactive ‘teaching and doing’ format.

There are opportunities to explore future avenues for the use of these technologies in the context of your own work, with the TAS Node sponsoring a number of follow-on short student research projects in summer 2023.

Location

The masterclasses were held in-person in April and May 2023 at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, an internationally recognised Centre of Excellence in Robotics run in partnership between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England (UWE).

Participation

Note: The Masterclasses scheduled for 2023 have been held and we are no longer accepting new applications to attend.

Programmes

Masterclass in Swarm, Soft and Aerial Robotics: Future technologies for logistics, manufacturing and smart infrastructure (pdf)

Wednesday 19 April 2023
10:00 Arrival & registration
10:15 Introductory talks
11:00 Lab tours and technology demos
12:00 Lunch break
13:00 Parallel Workshops: 1.Soft Robotics 2.Swarm Robotics 3.Aerial Robotics
15:00 Discussion: Ways forward – Future work & collaboration
15:30 Networking
16:00 End

Masterclass in Swarm Robotics: Future technologies for logistics, manufacturing and smart infrastructure (pdf)

Thursday 4 May 2023
10:00 Arrival & registration
10:15 Introductory talks
11:00 Swarm Robotics Workshop
13:00 Lunch & Networking
14:00 End

Organising Committee

From the University of Bristol’s TAS Functionality Node:

  • Shane Windsor
  • Sabine Hauert
  • Jonathan Rossiter
  • Katie Drury
  • Miranda Addey

Related links

Trust Me, I’m a Robot!

Event postponement:

This event has been postponed due to a recent fire at the venue. We are working with We The Curious to identify a new date and will update this page when the new date is secured.


Would you trust a parcel-delivering drone? How do swarms of robots collaborate to complete a task? What scares you and excites you the most about living in a world of autonomous systems?

TAS-event-image

Join us for a fun event about robots and trust!

Where: The space above We The Curious museum, 1 Millennium Square, Anchor Road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5DB

When: Postponed date TBC – watch this space!

Who: This event is open to anyone, but is most suitable for adults and children over 12. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied and supervised by a responsible adult.

What: You will take part in activities like flying drones, building your own robotic gripper, playing games about robot swarms and driverless cars, and more. You will have the opportunity to talk to Bristol University researchers who are developing these technologies and discuss the ethical and societal implications of robotics.

Organisers: This event is organised by the Trustworthy Autonomous System Node in Functionality project at the University of Bristol. This project is funded by UK Research and Innovation. The TAS project investigates how autonomous systems with ‘evolving functionality’, which can rapidly adapt to changes in the environment or in the systems themselves without a human controller, should be developed and deployed to be trustworthy.

COVID-19 measures: Please do not come to the event if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Please also do a lateral flow test before attending if you can, and wear a face covering at the event unless you are exempted.

Accessibility: Please let us know in advance if you have any access requirement. The event is wheelchair friendly. Some activities may not be suitable for deaf or hard-to-hear visitors and blind or partially sighted visitors. For more information about accessibility at We The Curious, please check the ‘Access for all’ webpage.

Contact: If you have any questions, please contact Dr Arianna Manzini by email.

Complete Agent-driven Model-based System Testing for Autonomous Systems

If you are interested in novel approaches to testing complex autonomous transportation systems (ATS) in the automotive, avionic, and railway domains, then join Prof Kerstin Eder at 17:00 on 21 October at the Third Workshop on Formal Methods for Autonomous Systems (FMAS 2021).

Kerstin will be joined by Jan Peleska and Wen-Ling Huang. Jan will present their paper ‘Complete Agent-driven Model-based System Testing for Autonomous Systems’ before opening the discussion. The intention is to use the methods described in the paper for system-level testing of some of our TAS Functionality Node use cases.

The workshop will take place from 17:00 – 17:30 on 21st October.

FMAS 2021 will be held online on 21st and 22nd October 2021. For programme information and how to register visit FMAS 2021.