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Mar 27, 2021

Although robots have been in our lives for decades, they have often been kept quite separate from the humans they help, whether that's huge industrial manufacturing robots that operate behind fences on the factory floor or remote handling robots in nuclear and surgical settings. But increasingly, we want to design robots that work with us in close collaboration.

In this episode, I take a look at the rapidly-developing world of human-robot collaboration — from nimble robotic assistants in the smart factories of the future, to robotic toys and assistants in homes, classrooms, and hospital wards — with the help of Javier Chiyah (Heriot-Watt University), Dr Helena Webb (University of Oxford) and Dr Lola Cañamero (University of Hertfordshire).

Javier Chiyah is a PhD student at Heriot-Watt University working on human-robot collaboration using conversational agents. He is exploring new methods of interaction for robots in smart factories with Siemens. Previously, he worked on the development of a system for remote operation of autonomous underwater vehicles, funded by the Ministry of Defence. One of his goals is to make robots more intuitive to use through speech, and he is very excited about all the amazing things that human-robot teams can achieve together.

Dr Helena Webb is a Senior Researcher in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford. She specialises in detailed, qualitative research that explores the lived experience of technology and the different ways in which users interact with technological systems. She is currently part of a project called RoboTIPS, a collaboration between Oxford and Bristol Robotics Lab to develop an innovative safety mechanism for social robots – the Ethical Black Box.

Dr Lola Cañamero is Head of the Embodied Emotion, Cognition and (Inter-)Action Lab at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK. Following an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, she turned to Embodied AI and robotics as a postdoctoral fellow. Her research investigates the interactions between motivation, emotion and embodied cognition and action from the perspectives of adaptation, development and evolution, using autonomous and social robots and artificial life simulations.