School of Informatics

The robots are ready, are you?

Professor Sethu Vijayakumar has delivered the first lecture in the University’s Our Changing World series for 2015.

His talk ‘Sharing autonomy (and responsibility): The robots are ready, are you?’ was videoed and has already attracted over 1,000 views on YouTube.

Professor Vijayakumar, who holds a RAEng-Microsoft Research Chair in Robotics,  is the Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and the Institute of Perception, Actions and Behaviour  in the School of Informatics. 

Summary of talk

During his lecture, Professor Vijayakumar outlined the practical advances that robots are bringing to society, the challenges they raise and how researchers are working to make robots more autonomous, so they can plan and make decisions safely for themselves.

“Robots are becoming ubiquitous”

Speaking to a packed audience, Professor Vijayakumar said:

“Robots are becoming ubiquitous. We have self-driving cars, medical robots, smart active prosthetics and exoskeletons. Robots are used in manufacturing, oil and gas exploration and nuclear decommissioning. Yet there are lots of challenges.”

Technological challenges and solutions

“The challenges come from the fact that robots of today are not independent entities and they interact with you and me, with external objects, with other robots and with the environment. That creates lots of problems stemming from multiple contacts, non-linear dynamics, highly constrained environments and noisy sensing. 

“You have to make sure a robot operates under significant autonomy while being safe. That’s the key phrase: while being safe, otherwise we’re not going to trust robots to do things we care about.”

“These advances have thrown up interesting debates about trust, responsibility and accountability. So, now is a good time to have an open a discussion on the trade-off between autonomy and control that we are willing to admit to reap maximal benefits”.

Towards the end of his lecture, Professor Vijayakumar touched upon “some of the open issues relating to algorithmic morality, collective decision-making and ethics that these autonomous platforms and their creators have to wrestle with while operating within the fabric of our society.”

Watch the video

To find out more about the latest technologies, what researchers are doing to help alleviate some of the challenges, and the ethics underlying the use of robots, please watch the video!

Professor Vijayakumar’s lecture on You Tube

Useful links

Professor Vijayakumar’s web page

University of Edinburgh’s Our Changing World lecture series 2015 

Edinburgh Centre for Robotics

Institute of Perception, Action and Behaviour