Recycling materials in soft robotics

It’s important for all fields to consider their environmental impact, and robotics doesn’t currently have a rich history of research into sustainability. In this recent paper Professor Rossiter, Dr Partridge and Dr Manzini, from our TAS Functionality Node, demonstrate their research into reducing the waste for soft robotics.

The need for soft bodies and actuators in this field leads to the use of large amounts of silicon, rubber and other elastomers, which isn’t normally recycled. In the paper the authors present a non-chemical process to recycle and reuse these elastomeric materials, which, as well as decreasing the amount the harmful waste, has the extra benefits of minimising the amount of new material needed and lowering costs. The material from old and broken soft actuators was ground into granules ranging from 1mm in diameter to 3mm in diameter and used to create new soft actuators without loss of function. Characterisation tests showed that although some functionality reduced with the percentage of recycled material, the silicone composites exhibited very comparable elastic properties to the pristine silicone.

The authors propose that these materials could then form a pipeline where every time they’re recycled they’re used in lower and lower risk applications. This technique could also help other fields reduce their waste.

Watch this short video to see the research in action:

Access the full paper: ReRobot: Recycled Materials for Trustworthy Soft Robots

And please do leave a comment – we’d love to hear from you!

Job opportunity: Researcher in Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Verification

Do you work in verification? Our TAS functionality node is looking for a researcher to join our team in sunny Bristol. 

This role involves working with us to identify and formalise requirements for the verification and validation of autonomous systems with evolving functionality, as well as identifying design principles that facilitate this. You will also undertake fundamental and applied research into verification and validation techniques and apply these techniques to case studies in swarm robotics, soft robotics and machine learning uncrewed air vehicles.  

We would love to hear from you if you have a strong background in verification, including knowledge and hands-on skills in, e.g., formal methods, simulation, test-based techniques and runtime verification and have excellent programming, modelling and analysis skills- but we don’t mind where you learnt those skills. 

This position is part of the multidisciplinary UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Node in Functionality which is composed of a team of researchers from ethics, sociology, computer science and engineering working together to develop design-for-trustworthiness techniques for autonomous systems. 

The position will be based both at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, the largest centre for multidisciplinary research in the UK, and at the University of Bristol campus within the Trustworthy Systems Laboratory, where we research, develop and evaluate techniques that enable designers and engineers to gain confidence in the trustworthiness of the systems they design and build. This position will also involve close interaction with the Bioinspired Flight Lab, Soft Lab, and Hauert Lab. 

Visit the University jobs site for full details of the position including how to apply online.  

Vacancy summary 

Research Associate or Senior Research Associate or Research Fellow in Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Verification (Job ref ACAD106198) 

Department of Computer Science, University of Bristol  

 Salary: £34,304 to £50,296  

 Closing date: 9 August 2022 

  

For informal enquiries contact: Prof Kerstin Eder (Kerstin.Eder@bristol.ac.uk) or Dr Shane Windsor (shane.windsor@bristol.ac.uk) 

Robot Hackathon

In June this year the universities of York, Manchester and Sheffield hosted a hackathon – a competition designed to collaboratively solve a problem in a particular field. The competing teams were a mix of undergraduates, postgraduates and post-doctoral researchers. The goal of the competition was to produce some code that would allow a single operator to control a group of 5 robots. The TAS functionality node was represented at the event by Dr Sabine Hauert and Dr James Wilson.

Over the three days attendees heard from an expert panel discussing key challenges around swarm robotics, which included Dr Hauert, and helped develop solutions for remotely operating robot swarms, using Pi-puck and MONA robots.  On the final day teams made presentations, with prizes for the best solutions.

The competition involved the robots moving around a small arena and gathering in locations (generated virtually) to score points. The locations themselves were labelled from 1-5, which was the amount of robots you needed gathered there in order to gain points. Most of the devised solutions involved control over a single agent with others following along autonomously, though some groups put together fully autonomous solutions. Some groups were even able to run code on swarms remotely at other universities which was fun!

Thanks to the universities, organisers, hosts and speakers for a brilliant time.

 

 

Autonomous vehicle testing using game engines

We’re excited to announce the recent publication by some members of our team, Professor Kerstin Eder and Dr Greg Chance of the Trustworthy Systems Laboratory (https://www.bristol.ac.uk/tsl), of research into the determinism of game engines used for simulation-based autonomous vehicle verification. These simulations are useful in developing control systems and test environments for the vehicles; but only if they behave deterministically, and therefore yield reliable and repeatable results. Unfortunately, this isn’t a characteristic of game engines and they often produce different outcomes for the same initial conditions. The paper, published in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, presents the causes and effects of this non-deterministic behaviour, and sets forth a case study showing the shortcomings of a particular simulator, and a methodology to assess and minimize simulation precision. To read the paper please go here: On Determinism of Game Engines Used for Simulation-Based Autonomous Vehicle Verification 

Participants wanted for SWARM study

Would you like to help with research on the regulation of what future AI-driven nanomedicines should look like? If so, we are looking for volunteers to discuss ethical and regulatory issues of using AI driven cancer therapies with swarm behaviour through a series of interviews.

The research is part of the SWARM study – Small robots With collective behaviour as AI-driven cancer therapies; building Regulations for future nanoMedicines.

We are looking for:

  • Oncology healthcare professionals
  • Cancer patients
  • Regulatory or policymakers in drug delivery/oncology
  • Nanomedicine researcher or developers

Volunteers must be over the age of 18 years old to take part. We would love to hear from you. You can find out more about the study on our SWARM study webpage or by contacting Matimba Swana at matimba.swana@bristol.ac.uk.

If you would like to take part please complete this Expression of Interest Form.

Job opportunity: Research Associate in Trustworthy Uncrewed Air Vehicles (UAVs)

This exciting research position sets out to develop flight control systems for Uncrewed Air Vehicles (UAVs) based on machine learning. You will be developing reinforcement learning based flight control systems for micro quadcopters and hybrid flight control systems for morphing wing UAVs. You will then experimentally test and validate these using advanced free flight and wind tunnel testing facilities.

This position is part of the multidisciplinary UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Node in Functionality which explores how to develop trustworthy adaptive autonomous systems. You will be part of a large multidisciplinary team of researchers from ethics, sociology, computer science and engineering working together to develop design-for-trustworthiness techniques for a wide range of autonomous systems, including swarm robotics, soft robots, and unmanned air vehicles.

The position will be based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory the largest centre for multidisciplinary research in the UK. This position will also involve close interaction with the Bio-inspired Flight Lab and the Bristol Flight Lab at the University of Bristol.

Visit the University jobs site for full details of the position including how to apply online.

Vacancy summary

Research Associate/Senior Research Associate in Trustworthy Uncrewed Air Vehicles (UAVs) (Job ref. ACAD105941)
Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol
Salary: £34,304 to £43,434
Closing date: 10 April 2022

For informal enquiries contact: Dr Shane Windsor or Katie Drury

Participants wanted for ethics study

Would you like to help in some research on the ethics of robots? If so, we are looking for volunteers to discuss ethical issues around robots and autonomous systems that are capable of learning from their surroundings and changing what they do.

The research is part of the ARET: Adaptable Robots, Ethics, and Trust study. In old English ‘aret’ means ‘to ‘entrust’, and ‘arête’ is a term used by Ancient Greek philosophers to indicate moral virtue or excellence.

If you are aged 18 or over, we would love to hear from you. You do not need to have any previous knowledge of autonomous systems to participate as we will show you images and videos to introduce you to the technologies.

You can find out more about the study on our ARET: Adaptable Robots, Ethics, and Trust study webpage or by contacting Arianna Manzini at arianna.manzini@bristol.ac.uk.

If you would like to take part please complete this volunteer form.

Powering emergency food distribution using swarms: Results from the DOTS competition are in

Find out how robots called DOTS (Distributed Organisation and Transport Systems) were used to help simulate the distribution of emergency food parcels in a competition run jointly by the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Toshiba Bristol Research and Innovation Laboratory and the South Gloucestershire Council’s UMBRELLA project.

Increases in the number of emergency food parcels distributed by food banks have accelerated over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in those going to children. Robot swarms could help streamline the distribution of these emergency food parcels, while freeing up time for volunteers and workers to interface with the users and provide human contact.

Read about how participants in the competition brainstormed and engineered solutions to tackle the challenge and watch their simulations on the RoboHub website.