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Bringing Robotics to Life at CoInnovate 2018

Robotics is an industry that’s grown exponentially in the past decade. The Victorian authors of science fiction may not recognise our modern living, as they expected a futuristic vision of the new millennium to feature spaceships and robot servants for everyone… But we’ve come a long way none the less.

In fact, it’s been projected that we will progress more in the next 10 years than we have in the previous 200 when it comes to technological progress. It can be overwhelming to think of the human jobs, tasks, and skills thrown into redundancy by robots. From online banking, to self-driving cars, to the slightly unnerving robot citizen of Saudi Arabia, Sophia, the modern tech industry seemingly knows no bounds when it comes to finding new ways to make life easier for us humans and reduce our workload – but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

CoInnovate 2018 will play host to several experts in the field of robotics, all with different approaches and backgrounds: from robotics entrepreneur William Sachiti of the Academy of Robotics, the Managing Director of the Shadow Robot Company Rich Walker, and Industrial CTO of Siemens Alan Norbury. Each will share their insights from the amazing world of robotics and autonomous machines, and the unimaginable benefits it could reap for society, and the world as we know it.

Alan Norbury has written before on the Fourth Industrial Revolution in which robotics and automation play a core role, and his industry insight is being practically explored through the work at the Shadow Robot Company. As the focus on productivity and efficiency grows in many manufacturing areas, automated machines are being increasingly relied upon to deliver those efficiencies – and the Shadow Robot Company is driving this practical application by creating hands for robots.

In Rich Walker’s own words: “The human hand is an amazing thing. We still don’t completely understand how some of it works. So when we try and build copies of hand in a robot, we have to use different methods. That’s what we’ve been doing – building human-like hands.”

And yet robotics is not confined to the manufacturing plants. William Sachiti’s Kar-Go project aims to solve the ‘last mile delivery’ problem: namely, that the last mile of delivery can consume 28% of the overall delivery cost. The Kar-Go solution melds the innovations in driverless cars with robotics, optimised for residential roads, and the prototype is being developed through collaboration with a university.

Solving today’s problems using advanced technologies is even engaging with problems that are not, on the surface, technology related. Dr Ze Ji, at Cardiff University, is involved with a project called SRS (semi-autonomous robotics solutions) which is being developed to support elderly people’s care needs in their own homes – by acting as a ‘shadow’ of another person, imitating their actions whilst potentially moving thousands of miles away. In a world of aging populations, this is a social problem with a robotics solution, with university researchers collaborating with governments and communities to help those most vulnerable.

Whether we humans are ready for robots to become part of our day-to-day life is up for debate. A lot of research is being conducted to understand the human-robot interaction and Prof Manuel Giuliani, who also joins the Robotics line-up of speakers, is deeply engaged around this topic together with the team at the University of West of England.

It is clear from our CoInnovate 2018 speakers that theoretical robotics and practical automation are proving to be the catalysts for each other: as one advances, the other jumps forward to match. But the journey from laboratory to factory floor – or your home – isn’t always smooth. That’s what makes the real deal so impressive. The Consumer Electronics Shows saw the unveiling of some ground-breaking new advances in user-friendly technology this month, including an interactive fridge-freezer, a wall TV, and an AI chipset for autonomous cars, boasting more than 9 billion transistors.

But there is still so much ground to cover, and the integration of robotics into industry and domestic life will surely be the next logical step for those developing the tools for tomorrow.

Want to know more about the world of electronics, robotics, and automation? On 24th January, CoInnovate 2018 will bring together the best and brightest in the tech industry to explore and develop the early stages of break-through technologies, before they’re released to the consumer. Be an early adopter and join the conversation – book your tickets now.