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Sethu joins Robot Wars

Robotics expert Professor Sethu Vijayakumar debuts as a judge in the new TV series.

Sethu Vijayakumar with a house robot from Robot Wars. Credit: Mentorn Scotland
Professor Sethu Vijayakumar with a house robot from Robot Wars. Credit: Mentorn Scotland

The programme starts on BBC 2 at 8pm, Sunday 24 July 2016.

Sethu is well known for his work as our Professor of Robotics and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics. His research interests include statistical machine learning, motor control, planning and optimisation in autonomous systems and computational neuroscience. He has worked on pioneering projects such as the HONDA ASIMO humanoid robots and the iLIMB prosthetic hand.

His latest project involves a collaboration with NASA Johnson Space Centre on the Valkyrie humanoid robot being prepared for unmanned robotic pre-deployment missions to Mars.

About the show

Robot Wars features robots pitched against one another in physical battle. There will be six episodes - five qualifying heats and a final. The series is shot before a live audience at a location near Glasgow.

The series will be presented by Mock the Week host Dara Ó Briain, who visited Informatics with his family earlier this year. As well as Dara, Sethu will appear alongside veteran judge Professor Noel Sharkey, fellow new judge Lucy Rogers, presenter Angela Scanlon and commentator Jonathan Pearce.

Public engagement in science

Sethu Vijayakumar, Dara Ó Briain and Head of School Professor Johanna Moore
Professor Sethu Vijayakumar, Dara Ó Briain and Head of School Professor Johanna Moore, School of Informatics, 2016

Sethu is passionate about involving the next generation in robotics. He won the 2015 Tam Dalyell Award for excellence in engaging the public with science and was recently involved with the launch of the BBC micro:bit coding initiative.

He sees Robot Wars as an invaluable public engagement opportunity.

“This is about far more than machines bashing each other,” he enthuses. “Robot technology is going to affect everyone in the near future. Robot Wars is a way of taking the research out of the lab and putting it into people's lives.

“This series is different from the last one in that it has more analysis of the technology under the hood. Judges get a chance to talk about their pet projects.

“It isn't just for geeks, it has mass appeal. Some of the teams have three generations in them - grandparents, parents, children, husbands and wives. Everyone has a role. It's wholesome family fare. There's a lot of passion for robots out there.”

Useful links

BBC 2 Robot Wars

Robot Wars: rules and judges

Professor Vijayakumar’s research in Edinburgh Research Explorer

Edinburgh Centre for Robotics

2015 Tam Dalyell Award

BBC micro:bit story

Professor Sethu Vijayakumar in the Robot Wars arena, photo by Mentorn Scotland
Official launch photo: Professor Sethu Vijayakumar in the Robot Wars arena. Credit: Mentorn Scotland