Research Theme: Robotics

Intelligent Transport Systems doctoral programme
AVATAR - Towards emotional robot surrogates
Robot assistants for laparoscopic surgery
This project combines several areas of research including wheel torque control, computer vision and gesture recognition to develop an autonomous vehicle that can think and react to visual and audio commands as well as what's happening in its surroundings.

The use of remote vehicles working (e.g. quadcopters) in tandem with the autonomous vehicle is being developed as a method of mapping terrain to enable the autonomous vehicle to make quicker and better decisions about best path to take.
Electroencephalography (EEG) allows us to detect brain electrical activity patterns associated with specific categories of cognitive function (e.g. visual stimuli, limb movement, emotions, etc.). Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) aim to recognise specific brain patterns and use them to control computer artefacts. BCI-endowed humanoid robots may allow, for instance, a UK grandmother to interact in a personal way with her grandson in Australia. A paraplegic person may be enabled to interact with others through a robot surrogate able to express their emotions in ways otherwise beyond their reach.

We seek to work towards designing 'emotional' robotic avatars able to both enhance remote personal presence experience, and provide realistic body surrogates for people with disabilities (Fig.1). The emotional state of an individual is detected and recognised in real-time in their natural environment, and communicated by the robot through appropriate facial expressions and bodily gestures enacted by the robot’s head, face, limbs and torso.
The goal of the project is to develop a surgical robotic platform that allows us to decrease the number of surgeons necessary for a single operation, increasing the social and economic efficiency of a hospital, while guaranteeing the same level of safety for patients. We will focus on laparoscopic surgery, where the surgeon is teleoperating a surgical robot to execute a given procedure (e.g. nephrectomy, prostatectomy, cholecystectomy, hysterectomy).
In order to replace the physical presence of the assistant surgeon, a number of extra robotic arms (the which we call 'assistive arms'), designed to implement the tasks currently done by the assistant surgeon, and a cooperative supervisor system will be developed. In particular the assistive arms ought to be able to perform the following basic operations: suction, handling of the endobag, clipping, moving and holding of internal structures.