Edinburgh Centre for Robotics

Robotics-CDT-PosterThe Edinburgh Robotics Centre is a joint activity between the University of Edinburgh Schools of Informatics and Engineering and Heriot-Watt University’s Engineering and Physical Sciences, Mathematical and Computer Sciences Department.

My research interest is in Human and Robotic Agent Collaboration in a Helpful Environment for Medical Care, Assistive Living and Flexible Product Assembly. This brings together a number of threads in our own work on task achieving agents, artificial intelligence planning, collaborative systems, the “Helpful Environment” and intelligent interaction spaces (“I-Rooms”).

A number of application scenarios require a combination of human and robot agents and environmental sensors to properly provide support in a number of important economic and social areas, such as medical care, assistive living and flexible product assembly.

Background Strengths in AI Planning

The Planning and Activity Management Group within the Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute (AIAI) in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh is exploring representations and reasoning mechanisms for inter-agent activity support. The agents may be people or computer systems working in a coordinated fashion. The group explores and develops generic approaches by engaging in specific applied studies. Applications include crisis action planning, command and control, space systems, manufacturing, logistics, construction, procedural assistance, help desks, emergency response, etc.

Our long term aim is the creation and use of task-centric virtual organisations involving people, government and non-governmental organisations, automated systems, grid and web services working alongside intelligent robotic, vehicle, building and environmental systems to respond to very dynamic events on scales from local to global.

More details of the research that is contributing to this aim is at: http://www.aiai.ed.ac.uk/project/plan/

While our work on O-Plan and I-Plan and the release of these planners for open access has led to them being very widely applied in a broad range of areas, they are complex systems that are difficult to reuse where the planner is intended only as a component of a much more extensive multi-agent framework. However, their core concepts and the underlying plan representation provide a robust basis for reasoning about and generating plans.

Of specific relevance to the proposed project is our work on a powerful and flexible representation of plans called <I-N-C-A> (Issues, Nodes, Constraints and Annotations) which represents plans as a set of constraints on a space of options for activity. <I-N-C-A> is a target for knowledge representation, reasoning and analysis of plans, objectives, activities, descriptions of past activity, agent capabilities, etc. It is a representation that has also been utilised in standards work such as in the NIST/ISO Process Specification Language.

Tate, A. (2000) Intelligible AI Planning, in Research and Development in Intelligent Systems XVII, Proceedings of ES2000, The Twentieth British Computer Society Special Group on Expert Systems International Conference on Knowledge Based Systems and Applied Artificial Intelligence, pp. 3-16, Cambridge, UK, December 2000, Springer. [PDF Paper]

Tate, A. (2003) <I-N-C-A>: a Shared Model for Mixed-initiative Synthesis Tasks, Proceedings of the Workshop on Mixed-Initiative Intelligent Systems (MIIS) at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI-03), pp. 125-130, Acapulco, Mexico, August 2003. [PDF Paper]

Tate, A. and Dalton, J. (2003) O-Plan: a Common Lisp Planning Web Service, invited paper, in Proceedings of the International Lisp Conference 2003, October 12-25, 2003, New York, NY, USA, October 12-15, 2003. [PDF Paper]

I-Room – A Virtual Space for Intelligent Interaction

An I-Room is a meeting space for collaboration and can be provided in virtual worlds such as Second Life and OpenSim. It is designed for brain storming style meetings and as an operations centre. I-Rooms are used in the I-X/I-Room research on intelligent collaborative and task support environments. Applications explored or implemented include:

  • Virtual collaboration Centre
  • Business teleconferencing
  • Team Meetings for projects, products or reviews
  • Product Help Desks
  • Design to Product – product lifecycle workflow support
  • Environmental, building and plant monitoring centre
  • Health and safety at work, disability awareness
  • Intelligent tutors, guides and greeters
  • Active demonstration pavilions

Tate, A., Chen-Burger, Y-H., Dalton, J., Potter, S., Richardson, D., Stader, J., Wickler, G., Bankier, I., Walton, C. and Williams, P.G. (2010) I-Room: A Virtual Space for Intelligent Interaction, IEEE Intelligent Systems, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp 62-71, July-August 2010, IEEE Computer Society [PDF Format]

The I-Room won a prize as an entry in the US Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge 2009-2010. See http://openvce.net/fvwc-2009-iroom

Helpful Environment

The Helpful Environment” vision is of a future in which ubiquitous computing, sensor grids and networked systems combine to help the individuals, families, businesses, organizations, the public at large, regions and countries to be self supportive and mutually helpful with specialised resources for their daily lives, for help and assistance in emergencies. The vision, some international programmes which contribute to it, some of the organisations that are pursuing this vision and some of the Edinburgh projects and research that will we hope will help make it a reality are described in this paper:

Tate, A. (2006) The Helpful Environment: Geographically Dispersed Intelligent Agents That Collaborate, Special Issue on “The Future of AI”, IEEE Intelligent Systems, May-June 2006, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp 57-61. IEEE Computer Society. [PDF Paper]

comms-arch-400x400Project AIBO – Previous Work on Human Robot Teamwork

Project AIBO explored Artificial Intelligence technology to support team work between human and robotic systems working in a cooperative and safety conscious way in the home or the workplace. The project aimed to be an source of interesting and relevant student projects in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. It also was used to give interesting exhibits for open days, school visits and to entertain visitors.

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