Robot companions at the cutting edge of a number of international research projects will be mingling with members of the European Parliament in Brussels next week.
The European Research Leadership in Robotics workshop will bring together scientists, industry representatives, and EC funding commissioners to discuss how advances in technology can enable robots to interact with humans in dynamic and open environments.
And several robots at the vanguard of EC-funded projects – including the iCub baby robot, and the Nao robots being designed to work with children in hospitals – will take centre stage at the Altiero Spinelli Building of the European Parliament, during the mini-plenary session on March 28.
The event is being organised by Professor Angelo Cangelosi, of Plymouth University’s Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems, and Professor Ioannis Tsoukalas, Member of the European Parliament from Greece.
The two professors have been shadowing one another as part of the European Parliament´s STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment)-orchestrated pairing scheme, which has joined 12 MEPs with university academics to create better understanding of how funding decisions are made, and how the investments are being used.
Professor Cangelosi said: “The event will showcase the tremendous advancements we have made in the field of cognitive systems and neuroscience – which are key to the design of artificial intelligence systems that will provide the new generation of robotic companion with the ability to adapt to dynamic environments in a similar way to humans.”
Among the attendees of the workshop will be the Director General for Research in the European Commission, Mr Jan Smits, as well as prominent scientists from Europe and America, and funding representatives from Marie Curie Actions, who are investing in robot companion technology.
The event is being hosted by Professor Tsoukalas, who recently visited Plymouth for a demonstration of a number of its projects including the language acquisition aspect of the trans-European iCub project, and the Nao hospital companions work, named by one national newspaper as one of the ten most influential pieces of research taking place in the UK today.
He said: “I am hugely impressed by what Plymouth is doing in robotics. I am sure that the opportunity to put Members of the European Parliament in touch with such universities, as well as industry, will enhance the Horizon 2020 strategy, and help us to meet our targets of becoming the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world.”
In addition to discussing the importance of securing on-going funding for the robotics industry, the session will also offer photo opportunities for members of the public – as well as Parliament – with the robots.
Professor Cangelosi added: “We expect that more than a thousand people, including many Members of the Parliament, will pass by, so that is a fantastic platform and opportunity to highlight the importance of research in robotics, especially in its application to health and sustainable welfare.”