The first UK Robotics Week, organised by the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, was held between 25thJune – 1st July 2016. The week attracted international media coverage and participation from members of the public, industry and academia through a variety of events, which included competitions, exhibitions, festivals, demonstrations and public lectures. These events were held across the UK and provided a forum for discussion and debate on how robotics and artificial intelligence can have a significant impact on our lives. Among the key subjects covered throughout the week included autonomous vehicles, robotics and space, medical robots, and biorobotics.
The EPSRC UK-RAS Network has placed international collaboration as a priority among its strategic aims. Throughout the week leading international representatives (from academia, industry and government) discussed their RAS strategy, showcased their work and explored areas where organisations and countries have the potential for collaboration. Highlights of the week included the School Robotic Challenge, a nationwide competition, opened to all pupils across the UK to submit their own robotic bug design. The challenge was to design a robot bug and garden, print it out in 3D and teach it to move using the special software available on the competition website. Over 50 schools participated in the competition and more are expected next year.
Another highlight included Formula 1 star Kimi Raikkonen being among the passengers trying out the 'Autonomous Urban Concept Vehicle' which was equipped with cutting-edge software developed by Oxford University's Mobile Robotics Group. The group unveiled the Selenium mobile autonomy system it is developing as part of this year's Shell Eco-marathon Europe which included a special showcase of autonomous technology. The Eco-marathon took place as part of "Make the Future London" from 30 June to 03 July, a unique competition that challenged students around the world to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient car. Linked to this was the Autonomous Driving Challenge, a competition open to everyone. The task was to design a vehicle and teach it how to drive, designed to be a fun introduction to 3D design, coding and autonomous driving. These demonstrations and competitions were designed to spark discussion and debate and in this they were very successful.
Professor Alan Winfield, of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, joined a panel looking to address a range of ethical questions relating to robotics and autonomous systems following a public lecture: on ‘Robots: faithful servants or existential threat’. The panel seemed to agree that robotics and autonomous systems have the potential to provide real benefit to society, such as innovation in surgery and healthcare, but it was important to consider these benefits in the light of appropriate risk assessments, as hacking and other security issues were challenging the protection of personal data; but that also these issues not undermine the overall trust in robotics or hinder exploration of the future benefits they can provide.
The academic challenge of the week were in Field and Surgical Robotics. The challenges, aimed to showcase the latest medical and agricultural developments. Research teams from around the world participated to demonstrate their latest innovations in surgical and field robotics. The Surgical Robot Challenge, held in London, was supported by two of the largest names in Surgical Robotics: Intuitive Surgical and KUKA Robotics. Entries were based on a range of robotic platforms including the dVRK, KUKA and custom Raven systems. The Field Robotics Challenge, held in Sheffield, brought together leading researchers, in collaboration with industry partners, to showcase their latest robotic technologies for use in unstructured and dynamic environments.
Alongside UK Robotics Week the Hamlyn Symposium for Medical Robotics (25-28 June, London) was held. This annual international forum, now in its 9th year, involved a series of workshops and interactive tutorials for surgeons and engineers to discuss the latest advances in surgical and medical robotics. The theme New Challenges and Emerging Platforms, covered a number of topics, including, emerging, multi-specialty applications of robotic technology; flexible robotics; human robot interaction and ergonomics; smart Instruments and neurosurgery. The Symposium Programme featured an impressive line-up of leading scientists and engineers in collaborative robotics, navigation and image guidance.
The UK Robotics Week concluded with a celebratory Award ceremony for the four Robotics Challenges, plus the launch of two brand new Robotics and Autonomous Systems white papers; Surgical Robotics: The Next 25 Years Successes, Challenges, and the Road Ahead and Manufacturing Robotics The Next Robotic Industrial Revolution. This grand finale, held at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) brought together the latest international research to the UK offering talks and demonstrations from leading robotics nations including Japan, United States, South Korea, China, Italy, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates.
UK ROBOTICS 2017
The UK Robotics Week is an annual event and now plans are underway for the 2017 event. If you have an event you would like to include in the Robotics week programme, then please submit the details by completing this online form by no later than 16th October 2016. Ideally your event should take place during 24th - 30th June, but if this is not possible we are still able to include events up to 4 weeks before and after these dates in the UK Robotics Week programme.