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Sheffield holds first Global Workshop for Robotics in Mining

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Sheffield Robotics, in association with STFC Boulby Underground Lab, held the first Global Workshop for Robotics and Autonomous Systems in Mining on Wednesday 2nd March.

The event, held at the Millenium Gallery in Sheffield, saw over 55 attendees from the mining, robotics and autonomous systems sector coming together for a collaborative workshop on how to solve some of the major challenges within mining.

After a review of mining around the world and an introduction to the future of Mining from the Camborne School of Mines, a series of talks and roundtable workshops were held throughout the day.

One of the workshops focused on the question: ‘What are the most important problems facing the mining sector over the next 50 years that requires new research to solve them?’

In another session, attendees, including representatives from Sandvik Mining, Joy Global Ltd and Cleveland Potash as well as 10 universities, ranked and prioritised key themes for the industry. The most critical themes were Safety; Accessing Small Ore Deposits; Energy Efficiency; Accessing Remote Ore Deposits; and Skills Shortages, in order of priority.

Professor Tony Dodd, Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, University of Sheffield, said: “The aim of the day was to formulate a robotics and autonomous systems research strategy involving all key stakeholders. We prioritised key areas crucial to optimising impact in this area and supporting the mining industry to reach its full potential economically, productively and increasing safety and sustainability in the sector.

“It was fantastic to see so many engaged attendees from the robotics and mining sectors and I look forward to developing networks and partnerships to develop research projects in this area.”

The results and feedback from the workshop will progress the groundwork established by recent initiatives both within Europe and globally, such as SPARC, to shape the implementation of key strategic plans and a roadmap for the industry.

Sheffield Robotics to Host International Field Robotics Challenge

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As part of the UK’s inaugural Robotics Week from 25th June to 1st July 2016, Sheffield Robotics will be hosting an international field robotics challenge for young researchers and developers working in robotics and agricultural technology.

Field robotics is an area of research focusing on the development of robots for use in unstructured environments such as outdoor or potentially dangerous settings. The field robotics challenge intends to bring together young researchers from different robotics disciplines, and have them develop practical solutions to real-world problems in a competitive environment.

The challenge will be held on the 26th and 27th June at High Bradfield in the Peak District National Park in the two days preceding the TAROS (Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems) Conference, also being held in Sheffield.

The event is designed to bring together young researchers and developers, including final year masters students, PhD students, early-career researchers, and those with relevant experience in areas including robotics, autonomous systems, control systems, computer vision, signal processing and remote sensing.

Successful applicants will be arranged into small teams for the 2 days and will compete against each other to complete a series of robotics challenges.

The competition will reflect an agricultural scenario, played out on real-world, challenging terrain. The teams will develop software to control, as well as collect and process data from, air and ground robots provided by the organisers. Tasks will include high and low-level surveying by unmanned aerial systems and ground-based sampling by wheeled rovers.

Participants will be encouraged to present their challenge solutions during a special session of the TAROS conference, with prizes awarded to the best teams.

James Law, Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering and Sheffield Robotics, who is organising the event, said: “Field robotics is a rapidly expanding area of research, and a key strength of the UK. As the technology progresses, we are seeing transformational applications appear in areas from mining to agriculture, through space exploration to maintaining our civil infrastructure.”

“This challenge will enable the technology leaders of tomorrow to work together to create innovative solutions to real-world problems. We are really looking forward to seeing the teams in action over the two days and the solutions they develop.”

The UK’s first ever Robotics Week, organised by the UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network (UK-RAS), will be a national series of events and activities in schools, colleges and universities to showcase UK robotics capabilities and inspire the next generation. It is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), The Royal Academy of Engineering, IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The number of places is limited and the organisers will be shortlisting candidates based on their applications. Full details (including how to register your interest, contacts, and deadlines) can be found HERE.

Automatic programming makes Swarm Robots safer and more reliable

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Researchers from Sheffield Robotics have applied a novel method of automatically programming and controlling a swarm of up to 600 robots to complete a specified set of tasks simultaneously.

This reduces human error and therefore many of the bugs that can occur in programming, making it more user-friendly and reliable than previous techniques. This could be particularly advantageous in areas where safety of using robotics is a concern, for example, in driverless cars.

The team of researchers from the University of Sheffield applied an automated programming method previously used in manufacturing to experiments using up to 600 of their 900-strong robot swarm, one of the largest in the world, in research published in the March issue of Swarm Intelligence journal.  Swarm robotics studies how large groups of robots can interact with each other in simple ways to solve relatively complex tasks cooperatively.  Previous research has used ‘trial and error’ methods to automatically program groups of robots, which can result in unpredictable, and undesirable, behaviour. Moreover, the resulting source code is time-consuming to maintain, which makes it difficult to use in the real-world. Read More

Sheffield drives forward robotics research as part of new UK network

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Experts at Sheffield Robotics are set to take a key role in driving forward the UK’s robotics research, thanks to the launch of the EPSRC UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network (UK-RAS Network).

The Network will bring together the UK’s core academic capabilities in robotics innovation under national coordination for the first time and encourage academic and industry collaborations that will accelerate the development and adoption of robotics and autonomous systems.

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Sheffield Robotics Launch

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This week saw the re-launch of Scentro, as Sheffield Robotics, they opened their labs to staff and postgraduate students on Wednesday 10th December from 3-5pm, along with other invited guests.

Sheffield Robotics has grown so much it is now the unifying group for all robotics related research in Sheffield; it brings together the Active Touch Laboratory in the Department of Psychology, Speech and Hearing Group in the Department of Computer Science, Autonomous Systems and Robotics Group in the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, and other research centres such as INSIGNEO, the AMRC, and the Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare (CATCH). It also incorporates Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Automation and Robotics Research, the Art and Design Research Centre, and Lab4Living.

Sheffield Robotics boasts the only lab in the world where you can find an iCub robot, next to a swarm of 900 Kilobots. Dr James Law states “The range of our equipment highlights the breadth and inter-disciplinary nature of research undertaken at Sheffield Robotics; including materials handling and manufacturing, cooperative robotics, swarm robotics, human-robot interaction, robot ethics, and design. I believe this makes us unique.”

We are opening our doors to exhibit our EPSRC Capital Award Funded equipment such as, the humanoid robot iCub, the Kilobot swarm, octocopters, a ground rover iiwa Kuka Lightweight Arm, along with two more humanoid robots, Nao and Zeno from the EU funded project EASEL (Expressive and Social Embodied Learning). Guests will also see robotics demonstrations, such as quadcopters that will track and follow humans, and teams of e-puck robots working together to move objects much larger than themselves. One of the developing areas for Sheffield Robotics is in tele-operation, where they are examining how ideas from neuroscience and control systems engineering can be implemented to take the cognitive load off of the operator.

Professor Tony Prescott, Director of Sheffield Robotics identifies, ‘The re-launch could not come at a better time, as the Chancellor, George Osbourne, recognised in his Autumn Statement, it is vital that the UK lead and shape the change due to the impact of advanced robotic and autonomous systems, to boost our economy and to support out values, rather than simply responding as the world is transformed around us. The UK is already leading the way in European robotics research, and building on our entrepreneurial and academic excellence we can be world leading.”

Professor Jacques Penders, from Sheffield Hallam University’s centre for automation and robotics research, said: “Sheffield Robotics unites the city as a centre for truly innovative automation and robotics, working with a number of commercial partners to develop solutions fit for the modern environment.”

About Sheffield Robotics

To address these challenges, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University have come together to create a new enterprise—Sheffield Robotics—that seeks to integrate robotics research within the City of Sheffield and across the wider region. Founded in 2011, Sheffield Robotics operates dedicated research facilities for robotics in both universities and has academic and research student members from many disciplines and departments. With partners such as the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and the Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare, Sheffield Robotics covers a broad spectrum of research in robotics and autonomous systems, including industrial, field, and service robotics. Sheffield Robotics has one of the largest portfolios of ongoing publicly-funded robotics research in the UK, supported by both the UK Research Councils and the European Union. We are also building research partnerships with leading industrial, commercial, and government organisations in order to ensure the real-world relevance and impact of our research.

Links and Contacts

Sheffield Robotics

Tony Prescott

Contact via Sheffield University Media Team
+44 (0)114 222 9852

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