Zeno Robot, making an appearance at the University of Sheffield's Festival of the Mind

Cutting-edge robots at Festival of the Mind Sheffield

Real-life Terminators and robots with a soul will be given public demonstrations between September 19-25, as part of the University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind. A series of lectures around the city will also discuss their potential.

The New Age of Robotics lecture series will consist of five lectures focusing on the latest advancements in robotics and what the future has in store. The series forms part of the University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind.

Alongside the lectures, two live exhibitions (Friday September 26 and Saturday September 27) will demonstrate some of the technology currently being studied and developed by SCentRo (Sheffield Centre for Robotics). Autonomous quadcopters with the ability to follow volunteers; swarming robots that work together like ants; a therapeutic robotic seal which responds to touch, and an expressive humanoid robot called Zeno who plays Simon Says will be among those on display. The live events will introduce some of this technology to the public for the first time.

Over the course of the lectures, experts in different areas will address subjects including the psychology of building human-like robots; the risks of killer robots; the potential of assistive robots; our fear of robots and the challenges of creating robots with whom humans want to talk.

The five lectures will be given by Professor Tony Prescott, Dr Lyuba Alboul, Professor Roger Moore, Professor Noel Sharkey (Robot Wars) and Dr Michael Szollosy. All five are from the University of Sheffield.

Several nations are developing robot weapons that could be delegated with the decision to kill without human involvement. On Friday September 19, Professor Noel Sharkey from Robot Wars will show videos of the new weapons and explain what he and others are doing to stop them.

In the second lecture on Monday September 22, Professor Tony Prescott from the University of Sheffield will look at the psychology behind creating life-like robots and what we can learn from robotics about what it means to be a person.  Combining perspectives from psychology, philosophy and artificial intelligence, and using insights from research on robotics and virtual reality, Professor Prescott will address such questions as: what is the human self? Could a robot have a self? Do I need a body in order to have a self?

In the talk by Dr Lyuba Alboul (Tuesday September 23), several applications in robotics involving mixed human-robot teams will be presented, debating the major challenges involved.  These include search and rescue, object/human/robot following and assistive robotics (robots as guide dogs).

On Wednesday September 24, Professor Roger Moore will examine the burgeoning technology that enables humans to talk to machines. Recent years have seen a surge of interest in robotics, particularly those with humanoid characteristics.  When will we be chatting to robots in the same way as we chat to our friends and colleagues? Professor Moore will engage in conversation about this topic, highlighting the challenges that need to be overcome.

In the final lecture on Thursday September 25, Dr Szollosy will explore how and why robots have so often been portrayed as monsters, with the likes of Terminators, killer androids and genocidal cyborgs. This lecture will look back at the historical origins of robots and the anxieties that they come to represent in our mythologies. Robots form part of a long tradition of monsters, revealing a great deal about our fears of our own technological prowess and what is happening to the very idea of the 'human' in a rationalist, scientific, mechanical age.

The 11-day long Festival of the Mind (September 18-28 2014) will see the University of Sheffield partner its leading academics with the UK’s most famous artists and musicians to bring academia to the streets.

The New Age of Robotics lectures will all take place at the Festival of the Mind’s Spiegeltent in Barker’s Pool, Sheffield (4-5pm).  

The live exhibition of robots will be open to the public on the following days:

Friday 27 September during Researchers’ Night (5-8pm), Alfred Denny Building, Western Bank, University campus

Saturday 28 September (2-4pm), Spiegeltent, Barker's Pool, Sheffield city centre

Further information



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