Project aims to make robots more trustworthy
Robots are increasingly being developed to serve as active ‘helpers’ in situations where humans require assistance, such as personal care robots which help patients during recovery, and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is funding the three-and-a-half-year project, which will explore how robots interact with humans in a safe and trustworthy manner. The project aims to understand not only whether the robot makes safe moves, but whether it knowingly or deliberately makes unsafe moves so that the humans involved can be fully confident in the robot’s behaviour.
Researchers from Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), a collaborative partnership between UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol, will work with industry partners and colleagues at the Universities of Liverpool and Hertfordshire on the “Trustworthy Robotic Assistants” (TRA) project.
“Safety assurance of robots is an urgent research challenge that must be addressed before many products that already exist in labs can be unlocked for mass production," said Dr Kerstin Eder, the principal investigator for the TRA project at the BRL and Leader of the Verification & Validation for Safety in Robots at he University of Bristol. "This requires collaboration of verification experts with roboticists and those who specialize in human-robot interaction, so that a human-centric, holistic approach to safety assurance can be developed.”
‘BERT’, one of the robotic platforms being used on the project, was developed as part of a research project on Cooperative Human Robot Interactive Systems, at BRL. BERT has been used to examine manufacturing scenarios in which BERT collaborated with human colleagues to complete manufacturing tasks, including dynamic component handovers and product manufacture. BERT is based at BRL’s custom robot test and evaluation facility at UWE in Bristol.
“Working on this new research project with colleagues across the UK will enable us to tackle the crucial issue of developing robotic systems which can work safely with humans. This is a vital step in developing robots for a whole range of functions for the future, where they will be useful to humans,” said Professor Tony Pipe, Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at UWE.
The project involves teams from the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology (led by Professor Michael Fisher and Dr Clare Dixon), the University of Hertfordshire’s Adaptive Systems Research Group (led by Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn), the BRL, as well as industrial partners, including the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA) and RU Robots Limited.
“The assessment of robotic trustworthiness has many facets, from the safety analysis of robot behaviors, through physical reliability of interactions, to human perceptions of such safe operation,” said Professor Michael Fisher, principal investigator at Liverpool and Director of the University’s Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology.