Gibbons Lectures 2018

Robots everywhere. Robotics in industry and at home

A robot is a machine capable of sensing and carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially when controlled by computer programs. It seems that every day we hear news items concerning robots, the tasks that they are now able to perform and how they are expected to interact with humans.

Particularly newsworthy are autonomous robots that operate without immediate human control and androids that are made to resemble humans, but most robots are machines designed to perform a task with the most practical shape for the task itself.

The branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, is called robotics. Robotics is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering and science that involves mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science and other disciplines from the social sciences. In New Zealand, robotics is an active area of research.

The first speaker this year, Bruce MacDonald from our Faculty of Engineering, will overview the state of robotics research, especially local research directions. Mike Shatford, Managing Director of Design Energy, will follow with a summary of how robotics and supporting technologies are solving problems for industry, world-wide and in New Zealand, particularly in small and medium enterprises. From our Department of Computer Science, Patrice Delmas will discuss the problems of providing robots with vision. To end the lecture series, Elizabeth Broadbent from our Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences will present some of the social issues of interacting with robots and her research into this area.


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Professor Bruce MacDonald

Robotics research in New Zealand

Professor Bruce MacDonald
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Auckland

We are constantly being told that robotic technology is soon going to dramatically change our lives. Indeed, it is true that robots, AI, machine-learning and automation have become much more affordable and capable in recent years. With less fanfare, at the same time, farms, factories, homes and offices have felt a strong need to automate some tasks that are currently done manually. As well as machinery, this may involve measurement and monitoring, helping humans make decisions or taking over some parts of decision-making.'

This presentation will describe international trends and some of the ongoing work and future directions for robotics research in New Zealand.


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Mike Shatford

Robotics in industry

Mike Shatford
Managing Director, Design Energy

In New Zealand, small and medium enterprises and producers with smaller or mixed volumes of product are the prevalent industries. Traditionally, this group has not been the focus for industrial automation so, as a business offering robotic production solutions in New Zealand, Design Energy has a keen interest in technologies that are able to meet the demands of these users.

Mike's talk aims to close the loop between academia and industry; reporting on successes – where, and how, robotics is serving our target market, and where there are gaps and opportunities for both the originators of new technology and the end-users it will serve.


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Associate Professor Patrice Delmas

Will robotic vision ever fully replace human vision?

Associate Professor Patrice Delmas
Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Science, University of Auckland

Robotic, or computer, vision, is the field which studies the extraction of useful information from images. It is considered one of the most promising investment sectors in the near future, having enjoyed a three-fold increase in venture capital funding in 2017. Yet the latest issues arising with automated driving show that the field is not yet mature for everyday use when human lives are at risk.

In this talk, Patrice will introduce the topic of computer vision, its current status and the many challenges that have been faced. He will then discuss some parallels between human vision and computer vision, and the major differences in capability.


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Professor Elizabeth Broadbent

Can we be friends with robots?

Associate Professor Elizabeth Broadbent
Department of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland

Social robots are now being made to assist us in our daily lives in our homes and workplaces. These robots typically look humanoid, and are designed to display signs of attention, cognition and emotion. This lecture will discuss research on how people feel about living with such robots, and the benefits and harm robots may bring.

The talk will draw on a series of New Zealand studies examining how people respond to robots in their own homes and in healthcare settings for long periods. People’s attribution of mind to robots and their feelings of companionship with robots will be a particular focus.


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Professor Peter Gibbons

Gibbons Memorial Lecture Series

In 2008 the Department of Computer Science initiated an annual series of lectures intended to describe ongoing research in Computer Science to a wider public. The lectures are named the "Gibbons Lectures" in memory of Associate Professor Peter Gibbons.