Meet Australia’s Newest RoboCup Team

A new Australian team will take on the world’s best at the biggest robot competition in Japan later this month.

“UTS Unleashed!” is the only Australian team to qualify for the 2017 RoboCup @ Home Social Robot League – a competition that requires teams to design robot behaviours that allow for interaction and collaboration with people in realistic home situations.

The team will represent Australian research and innovation in social robotics at RoboCup with support from the NSW government’s Research Attraction and Acceleration Program. Team members are PhD students at the University of Technology Sydney led by Australia’s leading social roboticist, Professor Mary-Anne Williams, Director of the UTS “Magic Lab”.

“As Australia’s leader in social robotics we focus on the disruptive nature of intelligent socially aware technologies. Social robots are not just automated problem solvers, they have emotional and social intelligence that allows them to collaborate with people in safe, fluent and enjoyable ways to enhance the human experience,” said Professor Williams.

“By participating in RoboCup we can benchmark new algorithms and intelligent software against some of the world’s top universities including Carnegie Mellon University, University of Rome, and the University of Amsterdam.”

“Team Unleashed!” brings together a range of expertise that will contribute to the design and development of an innovative transdisciplinary social robot software system. Sam Pfeiffer specialises in robot animation, Meg Tonkin in human-robot interaction, Jonathan Vitale in cognitive robotics, Ali Raza in machine learning, Suman Ojha in robot emotions and ethics, Sidra Alam in robot cooperation, Chand Gudi in robot communication, Le Kang in robot knowledge bases, Benjamin Johnston in robot common sense reasoning, Xun Wang in robot risk management, Richard Billingsley in natural language understanding, Jesse Clark in robot knowledge management systems, and Thomas MacKenzie and Sophie Phillips both focus on disruptive innovation.

The humanoid on the team is Pepper, a human-shaped robot from industry partner Softbank Robotics, which can be programmed to analyse and respond to human expression and voice.

The team will design and develop complex AI software that will enable a robot to communicate with humans, navigate and map new environments, sense and recognise objects and faces, and perform adaptive behaviours in different human-centric situations.

“Teams from around the world face significant design challenges in preparing Pepper robots to respond to interact and collaborate with people in real world situations that will arise in smart homes of the future. For UTS, engagement in RoboCup provides transformational leadership opportunities and transdisciplinary practice-based learning experiences for our students,” said Professor Williams.

“UTS Unleashed!” will help to enhance critical national capability in social robotics, an emerging technology that, according to the McKinsey Research Institute, will impact every Australian industry in the next few years. Team members will engage in discovery and transdisciplinary innovation, and will be able to test, evaluate and reflect on their transdisciplinary solutions using benchmark challenges at this major international competition.

They will also contribute to a global strategic scientific effort that seeks to make safe and intelligent social robots a reality.

RoboCup 2017 takes place in Nagoya, Japan 27 to 30 July.

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