A robot named Betty is due to start work in Milton Keynes as a trainee office manager this month.
Betty was built at our very own University of Birmingham as part of the £7.2 million EU-funded STRANDS project led by Dr Nick Hawes which is researching how robots are learning to act intelligently and independently in real world environments.
The Transport Systems Catapult based in Milton Keynes are the lucky firm to have secured Betty the robot’s services for a two month trial period.
In this time Betty’s role will include a variety of tasks including: patrolling the offices, assessing how many staff members are in the office outside working hours, monitoring the environment by collating data on clutter and greeting guests at reception.
Betty runs on a Artificial Intelligence-driven software developed at the University of Birmingham. Using cameras and scanners this software allows Betty to create a map of her surrounding area, identifying desks, chairs and other objects that she must negotiate when she is moving around the office environment, as well as detecting people’s movement through activity recognition.
Dr Hawes believes this aspect of her programming is crucial to her success:
“For robots to work alongside humans in normal work environments it is important that they are both robust enough to operate autonomously without expert help, and that they learn to adapt to their environments to improve their performance.”
She will also know when to report to her docking station to recharge her batteries. Along with monitoring office temperature, humidity and noise, as well as checking fire doors are closed and desks are clear.
TSC Chief Operating Officer Mark Ruddy commented, “At the TSC, innovation and new technologies are at the core of our business so we are excited to be hosting the STRANDS project.
“Betty should feel right at home in the TSC’s facilities. We hope that we can learn from her as much as she can learn from us during her stay.”
Image credit to John James/ University of Birmingham.