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Spotlight on robotics at London event

University supporters and Carlyle Circle members recently joined Edinburgh experts in London for an afternoon exploring robotics.

Professor Sethu Vijayakumar

Robots that can learn, adapt and make their own decisions have the potential to revolutionise the world’s society and economy over the next two decades.

In September 2014, the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics opened its doors for the first time to lead the UK effort in this revolution by training a new generation of experts in robotics. The Centre is a joint venture between the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University and is led by Professor of Robotics, Sethu Vijayakumar.

An afternoon with robots

Professor Vijayakumar gave a fascinating talk about the University’s research in the world of robotics at the annual London Donor Event in the Caledonian Club. With nearly 100 donors and Carlyle Circle members (who pledge to support the University with a legacy in their wills) attending, the afternoon was a great success.

The event was opened by Chris Cox, Vice-Principal Philanthropy and Advancement, who expressed his thanks to all those who have donated or left a legacy gift to the University, highlighting the significance of their generous support to the University’s research, teaching and student experience.

Professor Vijayakumar then gave the attendees a glimpse into the research and ideas that his team is currently exploring. With the help of two volunteers from the audience he showed an example of a prosthetic hand used by real amputees that demonstrates the use of robotics in real life.

Working with NASA

Professor Vijayakumar also talked about his latest partnership project with NASA Johnson Space Centre on the Valkyrie humanoid robot being prepared for unmanned robotic pre-deployment missions to Mars.

The Valkyrie is one of the most advanced humanoid robots in the world. It was constructed by NASA Johnson Space Centre in 2015 and delivered to the University of Edinburgh in Spring 2016. The robot is 1.8m tall when standing and it weighs 125 kg. Professor Vijayakumar brought along a 12-inch tall humanoid to explain the challenges of designing complex robots like the Valkyrie and making them collaborate and react to novel situations.  

PhD student Wolfgang Merkt, who is a member of the humanoid robotics team at the University working on the Edinburgh-NASA Valkyrie Project, then took to the stage to introduce his own research in humanoid robotics.  

Amazed by achievements

The attendees had an opportunity to ask questions during the event reception. The afternoon, and particularly the know-how skills of the experts, were positively received by everyone and many were amazed by the University’s achievements in the field.

Though an Arts graduate, I could understand what Professor Vijayakumar and Mr Merkt were talking about and was amazed at what has so far been achieved in this field and what will soon be accomplished.

Eric BrownAlumnus and regular donor​

Related links

Edinburgh Centre for Robotics

Carlyle Circle