Brisbane researcher sets sight on robotic future
“A robot is just a common artificial intelligence system with a body,” says one of the world’s leading robotics researchers, Brisbane-based Professor Peter Corke.
“We already interact with artificial intelligence systems like Siri or Amazon Spot on a regular basis in our homes, so robots would be a natural progression.”
“In five to ten years’ time, we will probably be interacting with robots a lot in our daily lives,” says the Head of Robotics at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Director of the Australian Research Centre of Excellence for Robotic Vision.
QUT and the Centre of Excellence are leading the world in some of these key developments by applying computer vision to robotics, which essentially replicates human vision by programming robots to analyse and understand the world through images.
“I am interested in how robots can use their sense of vision to accomplish a broad range of tasks,” Professor Corke says. “These might range from recognising places or text to dynamic tasks such as flying, driving or manipulating objects.”
He sees the greatest short-term outcomes within robotics involving a combination of people and machines because of their complementary skills.
“Machines are relentless. They don’t get tired and they generally make fewer mistakes than humans, but humans are really good at the strategy,” he says. “This would lend itself to a situation where the human is the manager and the machine is the workhorse. That’s a pretty good combination.”
This is highlighted through Professor Corke’s previous work developing a remotely operated vehicle to transport mined ore from underground, practically eliminating the safety risk to humans.
“The real development was autotomising the vehicle – ultimately taking the humans out of the vehicle and into the control room, which was a huge win for safety,” he says.
It’s practical examples of humans and machines working together that he sees as essential to combatting perceptions of robots simply replacing human labour.
Professor Corke’s long list of achievements include being named Australian University Teacher of the Year in 2017 and winning the Amazon Robotics Challenge – a competition that recognises the potential of what robots can do.
Focused on building Brisbane’s reputation further within the robotics space, he also worked with local industry on a successful bid for the city to host the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in May, 2018. It will be the first time the prestigious conference will be held in the Southern Hemisphere, attracting over 2000 thought leaders from around the world for five days.
“We saw hosting ICRA as an opportunity to demonstrate that we are nation-leaders in the field,” he proudly adds.
Following the successful bid for the conference, Professor Corke is even more optimistic about the future of the industry and the role Brisbane can play.
“We are encouraging an enterprising optimism in Brisbane, where graduates take the next step with an idea,” he says. “Brisbane has some of the smartest people in the world. We’ve got top-rate research institutions, and Queensland has a lot of industries which are very amenable to robotics. It’s not just about research and building prototypes, it’s about getting them over the line and creating new commercial opportunities, new employment opportunities, and tangible outcomes for people.”
Find out more about ICRA, which will be held from 21-25 May in Brisbane.