University of Sydney launches AI research centre with robot-maker UBTECH

Researchers seek future "where humanoid robots walk out of our centre and into ordinary people’s households”

The University of Sydney has partnered with Chinese robotics company UBTECH to launch a research centre dedicated to artificial intelligence. 

The $7.5 million hub – the UBTECH Sydney Artificial Intelligence Centre – will sit within the university’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies and launches later this year.

A multidisciplinary research team will “specifically target the challenges of intelligent machines, such as robots, self-driving cars, and drones” under the leadership of Professor Dacheng Tao.

“As humans, our perceptions of our environments allow us to understand events, make logical deductions and learn how to behave in certain situations. We expect that one day in the not-too-distant future machines will be able to do these same things, just like us – or possibly even better,” Tao said.

“With this vision, the centre will drive progress in AI to endow machines with the capabilities to perceive, learn, reason and behave.”

Tao said the centre’s researchers would work on AI algorithms to bridge the gap between academic study and real-world applications.

“We’re working towards a future where humanoid robots walk out of our centre and into ordinary people’s households,” he added.

UBTECH is best known for its Alpha series of knee-high humanoid robots and Jimu robot kits. Earlier this year it launched Lynx a robot that utilises Amazon's Alexa AI voice service.

The company – which was founded in 2012 – also offers an ‘enterprise-grade’, human-sized service robot called Cruzr.

UBTECH Robotics Founder and CEO James Zhou said the collaboration had the potential to “revolutionise the research of intelligent humanoid robots”.

Bot for teacher

AI powered robotics has become a focus of research across a number of Australian universities in recent years.

University of Technology Sydney (UTS) opened a new research centre for artificial intelligence in April. One of the UTS centres’ five labs is the so-called ‘Magic Lab’, which is researching socially-aware robots.

UTS and the Australian Technology Network of Universities, has been partnering with Commonwealth Bank of Australia since August last year to explore human/robot social interactions. A current project is looking at privacy in machine learning systems, particularly in regards to face recognition algorithms.

The AI & Robotics Research group within UNSW’s School of Computer Science and Engineering formed a number of years ago, and, among other efforts, is a mainstay of the robot football league the RoboCup Championships.

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