Studying these principles in robots is advantageous for two reasons. Firstly, while robots face all the complexities of real world interaction, they are easier to study than animals, including humans. Animals provide working examples but, for practical and ethical reasons, we cannot easily manipulate their control systems for experimental purposes. Robots allow us more freedom to explore different principles for autonomous control. Secondly, by reproducing intelligent behaviour in robots we can automate tasks that are undesirable or dangerous to humans.
The Cognitive Robotics Research Centre has dedicated bespoke facilities for its researchers and top-of-the-range research hardware including a fleet of commercial mobile robots and a high performance cluster rack. We have invested more than £80,000 Science Research Infrastructure Funding (SRIF) on supporting robotics research. The SRIF funding has been strategically focussed and used to develop the research capabilities in the Cognitive Robotics Research Centre. The focal point of the SRIF investment is a dedicated laboratory space with workspaces for up to four researchers, storage space for the robotic hardware and a dedicated area for experiments on groups of mobile robots.
The lab’s fleet of research robots has also been upgraded through the addition of a general purpose all-terrain mobile robot and a humanoid robot. In addition to these platforms, a series of relevant sensors and actuators have been acquired, including a laser range finder, a stereo vision system and a robotic arm.
The lab has also invested significant SRIF funding into supporting computing hardware including a dedicated high-performance server-rack and a large scale field programmable gate array.