Today saw the official opening of the Bristol Robotics Lab, the largest of its kind in the UK. Home to a huge variety of projects, from swarm robotics to biologically power robots, haptic sensors to robots with whiskers and pretty much everything in between is situated at the University of the West of England.
The project is a joint partnership between the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol, it is home to 70 academics and business with a variety of specialities, making for a diverse and creative environment where the forefront of robotics is being made.
“As well as electrical engineers and mechanical engineers, which you’d expect, we’ve got microbiologists, neuroscientists, surgeons, even psychologists,”
— Prof Chris Melhuish
Projects such as the biologically inspired rat robot, Scratchbot, was developed by researchers from the BRL. Designed to utilise its whiskers to detect its environment in search and rescue missions where other sensors may fail such as in the dark or smoky rooms.
Another innovative project is one designed to simulate the biological sensory input of the human finger, known as TACTIP. While much research has been done in to simulating the way humans move in the form of robotic arms, torsos and legs, they often still have trouble grasping delicate objects due to little or no feedback. This project hopes to enable these actuators to be used to a greater extent and opening up new directions.
Other research projects can be read about in more detail on the BRL website’s Research Projects page.
While the laboratory is the largest in the country, those behind it say more investment is needed to allow Britain to compete in the robotics market globally, which is dominated by Japan.
More information can be found at the Bristol Robotics Lab website and be sure to check out the video on the BBC link below.