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Region's first robotics centre launches

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Robotics in South Yorkshire has sparked into life in 2008 with the launch of the region's only Centre for Automation and Robotics Research (CARR), based at Sheffield Hallam University.

The centre will be a hotbed of robotics and automation research, teaching and consultancy.

The Guardian and Viewfinder robots were developed with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, and funded by the European Union. They operate as a swarm, navigating and searching urban areas such as warehouses and factories. The robots carry laser-range, radio-signal and ultrasound sensors. They can be used to assist search and rescue during large scale incidents, for example warehouse fires and chemical spills.

The robotics centre was officially opened by Professor Noel Sharkey, a robotics expert from the University of Sheffield.

Opening the centre, Professor Sharkey said: 'It's amazing to see so many good robots around the place in Sheffield and it's a wonderful time to be moving into robotics. There are approximately 1.5m robots working in industries across the planet at the moment but Britain is the lowest user of robots industrialised Europe.

'Since the year 2000 we've seen the emergence of 'service robots', which include robot vacuum cleaners, robots for milking cows and even military robots for killing people. We've got to the point in the technology now where it's just a matter of creativity, and robotics is really becoming multi-disciplinary. There are currently about five million of these on the planet already.

'The world robotics report of 2009 has predicted that there will be more than one million service robots worldwide by 2012. What we've seen here today are very useful service robots, designed to help firefighters do their job. This is an excellent and very useful application of robotics and I am sure that the centre will grow rapidly. I wish it every success for the future.'

Building on the success of the Guardian and Viewfinder projects, which were funded by the European Union, the centre will provide consultation services for the region's businesses. It will also run research programmes alongside teaching, with closer interaction between students and researchers.

Dr Jacques Penders said: 'The robotics centre has strong links with engineering and mathematics, but we are co-operating with other departments as well. Human-robot interaction is essential and requires a multi-disciplinary approach, but health and well being along with fine arts are also key areas for us.'

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