Shadow opens office at Future Space at UWE Bristol

The article below has been reblogged from Shadow Robot’s website with their permission.

One of the UK’s longest-running robotics companies, Shadow Robot Company, have just opened a new office in Bristol’s Future Space which is based at the University of West England (UWE Bristol), adjacent to the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL).

Shadow are a partner in the Innovate UK-funded CHIRON project, a two year programme to design care robotics for the future, partnering the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Designability, amongst others.

Managing Director of Shadow, Rich Walker, said “Having an office in Bristol is perfect for us. We have many links out here in the west of England, and it’s a great base for us to work closer with our partners on the CHIRON project.

“We’re also keen to build new relationships in this area, and Future Space seems like the best possible fit for us in terms of location and links to other innovators and businesses.”

The Centre Director of Future Space, Elaine McKechnie said “The Shadow Robot Company is a perfect fit for Future Space and we are very excited that they have decided to set up a base here. Shadow joins a growing group of engineering and technology companies that are seeking to work in a stimulating environment that will nurture collaborative opportunities.”

Associate Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly is leading the BRL element of the CHIRON project, and said, “Ensuring that our research into development assistive robots has the potential to reach people and make an impact in the real-world requires working from the start with commercial partners such as Shadow. The BRL distinguishes itself from other research organisations in this area by working in a participatory manner with not only commercial enterprises who have experience of delivering market-ready products, but also people who will be using technology in their homes and care organisations.

“It makes huge sense for the Shadow Robot Company to take up a base in Bristol. We are working together with commercial partners on other robotic solutions to help older people live for longer in their homes. We’re delighted to have such an established robotics team joining us next door to the BRL and hope this proximity will help us develop further research collaborations.’

The CHIRON project (Care at Home using Intelligent Robotic Omni-functional Nodes) looksto create a set of intelligent modular robotic systems, located in multiple positions around your home; CHIRON could help you with personal hygiene tasks in the morning, help you get ready for the day and even support you in preparing your favourite meal in the kitchen.

It is being managed by a consortium led by Designability. The key technology partners are the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Shadow Robot Company, who have considerable expertise in conducting pioneering research and development in robotics.

Award winning social enterprise care provider, Three Sisters Care will bring user-centered design to the very core of the our project. Smart Homes & Buildings Association will work to introduce the range of devices that will create CHIRON and make it an indispensable presence in our homes.

The iPal – a help or hindrance to child development?

The article below has been reblogged from Shadow Robot’s website with their permission.

Have you seen this article on The Guardian? The iPal robot launched at RoboBusiness in California last week and is causing quite a stir.

According to Avatarmind, the company that created the robot, the iPal is a 3ft tall companion robot for children aged 3-8 years old. It has a tablet on it’s chest which children can interact with; one of the best uses of the robot is as a teacher – the iPal will answer those tricky questions (for example ‘why do we hiccup?’), however if the robot doesn’t have an answer, it passes the question on to a human at Avatarmind who will respond with the answer, and therefore growing the iPal’s knowledge along the way.

FullSizeRender                                                                         ©Avatarmind

iPal also has the ability to monitor your child, allowing you to message or video chat with them. Speaking to the Guardian earlier in the year, Professor Noel Sharkey (Emeritus Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield) said “robots are a great educational tool for children. It inspires them to learn about science and engineering, but there are significant dangers in having robots mind our children. They do not have the sensitivity or understanding needed for childcare.” and when Julia Carrie Wong of the Guardian pressed him about the iPal, his message was clear: “This is awful.”

However, Professor Tony Prescott of Sheffield Robotics, speaking at the London Innovation Summit 2016, said that robot companionship would be better for you than interacting with a screen. Our MD, Rich Walker, said that socially anxious children could even go on adventures with their companion robots.

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Hello Kitty – A tool for projection?

The iPal has large eyes but an empty face – a look made popular by Hello Kitty (whose creators purposely didn’t add a mouth so that the viewer could project their emotions onto her, this way Hello Kitty is always reflecting our mood). The iPal seems to be a high-tech version of ‘My Size Barbie’ (a 3ft tall doll); it is perhaps an almost natural progression to pop a screen on a toy like that and bring it to life. But what do you think? Would you prefer your child to play with an iPal or an iPad?

Tweet us your thoughts at @shadowrobot or @chironproject or feel free to comment below.

UK Robotics Mission

The article below has been reblogged from Shadow Robot’s website with their permission.

Rich Walker from Shadow Robot recently spent a week out in Taiwan as part of the UK Robotics Mission organised by the British Office. It was a really valuable trip, with Rich meeting Taiwanese companies and roboticists, as well as getting the chance to address them at the TAIROS Industrial 4.0 International Forum. Here’s what Rich had to say about the trip:

“The Foreign Office likes to keep UK business abreast of what’s going on in the rest of the world, and as part of this they maintain a global Science and Innovation Network (SIN) operating out of embassies and consulates all over the world. The Taiwan local team realised that there were lots of activities taking place in robotics both in the UK and Taiwan, and decided to organise a trade mission focused on engagement between UK and Taiwanese robotics companies and researchers.

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“The mission was led by the indomitable Prof. Guang-Zhong Yang from Imperial College’s Hamlyn Centre, an absolute coup for SIN as Prof. Yang is known and respected world-wide. Three British company representatives, from Shadow Robot, Rolls Royce and Aylesbury Automation, accompanied him in a packed week of meetings, talks and workshops.

“For me, it was the first time I had been to Taiwan, and I didn’t know quite how much I was going to enjoy it! The local organisation on the ground was excellent – many compliments to the British Office staff out in Taipei, and the Resident, Damion Potter. We had the support of ITRI, the major Taiwanese research institute, who helped us gain access to a range of companies and organisations from Foxconn and Acer through to specialised technology companies working in our own fields.

“The people were fabulous, the food was excellent, the weather was good, and many fruitful meetings were held. Shadow are starting several collaborations as a result of the trip, and I look forward to being back in Taiwan very soon!”