Heriot-Watt University’s National Robotarium has announced a funding package for the development of telexistence technologies.
Robotics software company Cyberselves will lead the project alongside the National Robotarium, to develop tools allowing robots to replace humans in hazardous underwater environments.
An £800,000 funding pot will be shared with 11 other projects in a programme managed by the UK Government’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).
Telexistence tech finds ways to physically remove humans from dangerous situations such as nuclear decommissioning and bomb disposal by using a robot as a surrogate self.
The latest funding will allow for a human pilot to experience underwater depths through touch, motion, vibration and temperature feedback without risk.
Commenting on the funding news, Cyberselves’ co-founder and CTO, Daniel Camilleri said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Cyberselves to draw together many exciting new technologies and help realise the true potential of telepresence and robotics for working alongside humans and keeping us safe by helping us to do the jobs that place us at risk.
“That we can do this with partners that are neighbours here in Scotland and the North of England is a testament to the strength of innovative, cutting-edge talent that’s here, right on our doorstep.”
Professor Yvan Petillot, from the National Robotarium, said: “As a world-leading facility that promotes removing humans from hazardous work environments, this collaboration will draw upon the world-class talent of the staff at Heriot-Watt University in marine robotics and computer vision.
“We will accelerate research from laboratory to market, paving the way for the UK to take a leadership role in telexistence technologies.
“Our academic team will integrate new solutions for underwater telepresence and manipulation on small to medium remotely-operated underwater vehicles for remote intervention.”
Sheffield-based Cyberselves and the National Robotarium are collaborating with the Cumbria-headquartered Resolve Robotics in developing communication systems to improve human command over robots operating in extreme environments.
The organisation focuses on innovation and is part of the Ministry of Defence.
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Emily Tithecott, DASA associate delivery manager, said: “This competition gives us a real buzz, we are seeing more government departments teaming together to fund innovations and this ensures many different sectors benefit from the adapted technologies.
“The funded projects will develop ideas in the latest remote operating, including: kinematic mapping, virtual reality, haptics, robotics, and telepresence.”
Construction of the National Robotarium began in March this year, supported by £21 million from the UK Government and £1.4m from the Scottish Government as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.
The facility, which will be the largest and most advanced of its type in the UK, is set to open in spring 2022.
Through projects such as the underwater robotics, the Roboatrium will bring together academics and global companies and provide a “catalyst for entrepreneurship,” delivering sustainable economic benefit to Edinburgh, and the UK.