UWE experts showcase eco-robots and robot behaviour at Bristol Festival of Ideas

Issue date: 17 May 2011

Two robotics experts from the University of the West of England will be giving free talks on their latest robot research, during the Bristol Festival of Ideas.

Both events take place on Sunday 22 May 2011 at the Arnolfini, as part of Bristol Genius, a new theme in the festival. One features Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos and his work developing Ecobot, a robot that will be able to generate its own energy using Microbial Fuel Cells.

Ioannis says, “To be truly autonomous, robots will need to incorporate in their behavioural repertoire actions that involve searching, collecting and digesting food. The robot will be designed to remain inactive until sufficient energy has been generated to complete its next task. Three robots, Ecobot I, Ecobot II and Ecobot III, have been developed, which – to some extent – exhibit this type of behaviour. These were the world’s first example of artificially symbiotic systems. I will be talking about the project and a wide range of possible applications.”

In the second talk, Professor Alan Winfield will describe the first results from a project called “The emergence of artificial culture in robot societies.”

He says, “In this project we are attempting to build a working model, using robots, of the way behaviours change – literally evolve – as they spread through a group of social agents, in an effort to answer the question, ‘How does culture emerge?’

“I’m deeply interested in mobile robots for two reasons: firstly, they are complex and potentially useful machines that embody just about every design challenge and discipline there is and, secondly, robots allow us to address some deep questions about life, culture and intelligence in a radical new way - that is, by building working models. Thus, robotics is both engineering and experimental philosophy.”

Both talks last for an hour, and begin at 15.30 and 17.00 on Sunday 22 May. They are free but booking is essential on ideas@gwebusinesswest.co.uk

Bristol is a world centre in robotics, and both experts conduct research in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory - which is a research partnership between UWE and the University of Bristol. Ioannis is a Senior Research Fellow and Alan is Hewlett-Packard Professor of Electronic Engineering, and Director of the UWE Science Communication Unit.

Bristol Genius is a new theme in the Bristol Festival of Ideas, that looks at the people and organisations working on breakthrough ideas in the city - ideas that have the potential to change how we think, live, work, eat, play; that provide new business opportunities; and that can transform the environment, justice and society.

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