A new lab stemming from the Centre for Autonomous Systems (CAS) at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) has been launched, marking the refocus of assistive robotics into the disability sector.
The CAS Assistive Robotics Laboratory, in partnership with Greystanes Disability (GD) — formerly known as Disability Enterprises — will look into developing intelligent machines that interact with humans.
The collaboration also aims to improve on existing demonstrators, such as the intelligent wheelchair, robotic exoskeletons and robotic walking assistant, by trialling the equipment on people with physical and cognitive disabilities and moving beyond the conceptual phase.
“The technologies are wide and ranging but while they are somewhat related to the healthcare sector and the assistive sector in general, they haven’t really been put into practice,” said Dr Jaime Valls Miro, who is from the CAS team.
“Now what we want is to bring that to the next level, take it out to the field, take it out to real users and see what they think about it, and see what sort of feedback we get from them so that we can adjust things over and potentially create new science too.
“This is not limited to purely a transfer of technology, but actually also addressing other concepts too that we have not envisioned as being important or relevant.”
Dr Nathan Kirchner, another member of the CAS team, added: "Research on assistive robotics is coming through at a massive pace, we are reaching an apex where it is possible to build a machine that has some sense of purpose.
"We are at a stage now where we are looking beyond what it could do and looking at how it can coexist with us."
Miro said that Greystanes Disability was “very forthcoming” about working with the lab, which actually began six months ago but only formally inaugurated this week.
As a result of the collaboration, Miro said an intelligent exoskeleton walking device has already been further developed but the lack of funding has been an obstacle for this project to materialise.
UTS will invest $4 million over five years to drive research and collaboration in the field.
The launch was attended by NSW minister for ageing and for disability services, Andrew Constance.
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