Skip to content

Engineering project could lead to robotic 'guide dogs'

A new project which brings humans and robots together could help firefighters tackle low visibility and, eventually, provide a robotic alternative to guide dogs for visually-impaired people.

Robotics experts at Sheffield Hallam University are developing robotic reins, based on the relationship between horse and rider, to enable humans to feel the robot's movements and signals.

A new project which brings humans and robots together could help firefighters tackle low visibility and, eventually, provide a robotic alternative to guide dogs for visually-impaired people.

Robotics experts at Sheffield Hallam University are developing robotic reins, based on the relationship between horse and rider, to enable humans to feel the robot's movements and signals.

The REINS project, funded by a £430,000 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant, will aim to develop a semi-autonomous mobile robot with sensory capabilities that can be SHARED with humans.

Dr Jacques Penders, head of the Centre for Automation and Robotics Research (CARR) at Sheffield Hallam, said: "Humans naturally interact with animals using tactile feedback in scenarios such as working with guide dogs and horse riding.

"The REINS project aims to extend this practice to human and robot interaction. This is exciting because if we succeed we will be making the next step towards applying robots to everyday human purposes.

"Our project team will feature experts in design, engineering, robotics and communication to design a communicational interface that will allow for the on-the-spot-exercise of human judgement and creativity."

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFR) and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association will assist in the project as it is tested in low visibility conditions.

He said: "Direct human robot interaction is still in its infancy. However, it is essential that robots are introduced into daily human life. Currently, robots do not sufficiently enhance human confidence but we believe that this project has the scope to test this belief and enable the human to feel the robot's movements and behaviour."

A spokesperson for SYFR said: "Being involved in these projects has made our officers better aware of available and up-coming technologies and directly helps us when evaluating new technology."

CARR has joined forces with the Centre for Cultural, Communications and Computing (C3RI) at Sheffield Hallam University, King's College London and electronic equipment manufacturers Thales NL/UK on the project.

REINS follows two robotic projects carried out by the centre, Guardians and Viewfinders, which could revolutionise the way fire-fighters work.

Funded by the European Union, the Guardians are a 'swarm' of autonomous robots that can navigate and search urban areas like 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 Guardian robots navigate autonomously and accompany a traditional human firefighter while Viewfinders autonomously navigate through and inspect an area but human operators can monitor their operations as well as control their movements if needed.

Sheffield Hallam's Centre for Automation and Robotics Research opened on 22 January 2010. The Guardians and Viewfinders formed part of the opening ceremony.

For press information contact: Laurie Harvey on 0114 225 2621 or email pressoffice@shu.ac.uk

Share this page

Cancel event

Are you sure you want to cancel your place on Saturday 12 November?

Close