Their excitement (and nervousness) was palpable at our Innovation Lab in Sydney late October. The 21 students were about to discover, in front of their peers and the project’s partners, if they had turned their ideas into reality.
It was their opportunity to work with one of only three social robots of its kind in the world. It is one of the advanced humanoid robots produced by Spanish company PAL Robotics. Chip can recognise faces, converse with people, answer questions, grasp and move objects and move around independently in the same way we can.
Five teams of four undergraduate or masters’ students used the project to identify areas of social robotics with commercial applications and make them a reality through Chip. Stockland is interested in robotics’ use in its business parks and logistics centres, shopping centres and its residential and retirement living communities.
We collaborated with Stockland and the Australian Technology Network (ATN) that consists of Curtin University, University of South Australia, RMIT University, University of Technology Sydney and Queensland University of Technology to make the project possible.
Working quite independently in simulation rooms, with contact only maintained through their PhD student mentors, the five teams furiously coded and added systems to enhance Chip’s navigational, movement and speech capabilities and its recognition of faces and speech.
ATN Executive Director Renee Hindmarsh says the partnership is a fantastic opportunity for students to be at the forefront of technological advancement and innovation, as well as focussing on the real and emerging needs of industry.
Many possible applications
We saw Chip could potentially conduct city tours or entertain children while their parents shop or do banking. Robots could promote goods and services in shopping centres while collecting customer feedback and data.
One team developed an interactive robotic experience to assist people with limited mobility in shopping centres and aged care facilities. They can control the robot remotely, so the project is also a starting point for work on telepresence.
On command, Chip took a bottle of water to one of Curtin University’s students, demonstrating how robots could deliver meals and medication to patients in aged-care facilities and hospitals. Robots could efficiently navigate their way around patients’ rooms, determine who were staff, patients and visitors and greet them by name for more human-like, friendly experiences. Potential applications include patient observations and monitoring medical equipment.
As Australia’s largest company we are proud to be forming partnerships with our clients in the public and private sectors to explore the potential for Artificial Intelligence and the application of robotics in the future of service delivery.