The term 'robotics' refers to the study and use of robots. The term
was coined and first used by the Russian-born American scientist and writer
Isaac Asimov (1920, 1992).The first industrial modern robots were the Unimates
developed by George Devol and Joe Engleberger in the late 50's and early
60's. Modern industrial arms have increased in capability and performance
through controller and language development, improved mechanisms, sensing,
and drive systems.
Humans and most other animal species live in societies where the behaviour
of an individual influences and is influenced by other members of the society.
Within societies, an individual learns not only through classical conditioning
and reinforcement, but in large extent through observation and imitation.
We are concerned with how to add such learning mechanisms to artificial
agents, including simulated and mobile robots.
Tangible Media & Interfaces
People have developed sophisticated skills for perceiving and manipulating
their physical environments. However, most of these skills are not engaged
by the traditional Graphical User Interface (GUI) that has become the central
approach in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) design.
The GUI represents information mainly as abstract pixels on flat rectangle
screens, allowing people to manipulate them only indirectly with a remote
controller such as a mouse and keyboard. The Tangible User Interface
(TUI) is an attempt to give physical form to digital information, making
bits directly manipulable and perceptible by people. The goal of TUI research
and design is to build the next generation of interfaces that go beyond
the current and dominant GUI paradigm.
Micro/ Nano Art
Inscribing or painting on food grains is an ancient art form of Asia,
which has a history of more than 2000 years, this has been used to send
secret messages in those days of kings & tsars.
We are witnessing a global movement of miniaturization: smaller appliances
and faster communication: laptops, cell-phones, microwaves.... In the 'palm-era'
micro-art is responding to this evolution by imposing deceleration and
focus: short-sightedness as the best answer to globalisation.
Wearable Devices and Interfaces
To move beyond today's personal-computing frameworkóin which users rely
on keyboards and screens to access informationówill require computers that
are powerful, portable, and flexible, with user-friendly interfaces. A
few such devices are already available in the form of wearable computers,
and this study surveys both their current development and their future
potential. Some wearable computers are an integral part of clothing; others
are accessories that attach or strap to a person's body.
Because much of the hardware and software used in a wearable system
is newer technology it has not been around long enough to fully realize
its capabilities and compatibility. It is critical to study and evaluate
the systems and their effect on a wearable system. The constraints on user
interfaces and size of hardware make usability studies critical to evaluating
the system as a whole.
Bio-electronics/ Bio-sensors & Bio-semiconductors
Research is focused on the engineering of the interface between biological,
physical, and information paradigms. The prospect of human life being usurped
by computers moved a step closer with the revelation that microchips have
begun to fuse with microbes to create living semiconductors.
For example, when microchips are cleaned with ultra-pure water, the
water can dissolve some semi-conducting materials, such as germanium oxide,
which can then crystallise around bacteria. The bacteria survive extremely
well inside their crystal homes, impervious to the best human efforts to
eradicate them. But the problem has a silver lining. The microbes
have created a "living cell" out of semi-conducting material. Biological
processes such as respiration and photosynthesis which use electron transfer
could include crystallised bacteria. When exposed to light, or certain
chemicals, for example, the bacteria would switch on the current.
No systematic effort has been devoted to addressing user interaction
problems from a perspective that provides access for 'all' users, including
disabled and elderly people. Advances in technology will soon allow us
to design interfaces in much more flexible ways than we ever had in the
past. As a result, it will soon be possible to create interfaces that a
user can easily adapt to meet their abilities or constraints. In some cases,
this will allow individuals who have disabilities to be able to operate
devices that they previously could not operate. In other cases, it will
allow people who do not have disabilities to operate devices in places
where they ordinarily wouldn't be able to.
In addition to the trend toward flexibility, there is another force
at play to make technology simpler. As technology permeates further into
every aspect of society including education, employment, community services,
and even our homes, it becomes more and more a requirement that people
be able to access and use these technologies. While this creates a greater
need on the part of people with disabilities to be able to access technologies,
it also reflects a similar need by the half or more of the population who
do not have disabilities but simply find the current technologies difficult
or impossible to comprehend.
The fruits from basic materials research can be arguably viewed as precursors
to most breakthroughs in 20th century technologies. The underlying research
was usually conducted along well defined avenues of established disciplines:
structural/mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, solid state
physics, chemistry and chemical engineering, and so on, mirroring the departmental
structure in university science departments. As this century beckons, it
is becoming quite evident that increasingly multifunctional or 'smart'
materials will emerge as the new frontier of not only materials sciences
but within modern physical sciences as a whole. In this new era of materials
research, truly pioneering activity that opens new fields of scholarship
and technology will require the merging of many traditionally separate,
sometimes isolated disciplines of sub-disciplines
Advances in nanotechnology mean that the lost or stolen mobile phone
could become a thing of the past. Futurologists believe that the concept
of ëactive skiní ? whereby incredibly small electronic circuits are inkjet
printed onto the surface of the skin ? could become a reality by 2010.
This will open the way for the integration of electronic devices such as
the mobile phones or televisions literally ëintoí the human body. Circuits
could be factory assembled in thin polymer membranes that adhere to the
skin like childrenís temporary tattoos and large-scale circuitry could
be embedded in stick-on patches similar to plasters. Semiconductor circuits
can already be printed using inkjet printers, so it could also be feasible
in the future to have circuits painlessly printed onto hands or arms, in
somewhere like a local corner shop. Cell phones, MP3 players, electronic
diaries and other consumer electronics could be printed into wrists, arms
or legs. Having a TV printed onto the back of the hand might be quite appealing
for TV addicts.
Though we are at times reluctant to admit it, all humans are sexual
beings. It is time that we overcame the antiquated societal taboos
associated with the topic of human sexuality and began to explore it from
a critical academic viewpoint. By developing advanced sexual appliances
and techniques, we seek to broaden the range of human amative expression
and heighten our potential for sexual gratification.
The typical image that comes to mind regarding spirituality is of monuments
reflecting ideas about god and heaven. By viewing ourselves as separate
from all that is not us, and trying to understand the relationship between
those two components of reality, we're already trapped in a thought system
where spirituality remains a mystery out of reach, one requiring the mediation
of a professional class of priest/interpreters or technocrats. Although
computer technology may allow humans to create virtual communities, will
it ultimately fall short of providing a true vehicle for understanding
spirituality? Is becoming dependent and attached to the computer a source
Fluid Interfaces & Moist Technologies
Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms,
up to 90 percent of their body weight comes from water. Up to 65 percent
of the human body is water, the brain is composed of 70 percent water,
blood is 82 percent water, and the lungs are nearly 90 percent water. The
unique qualities and properties of water are what make it so important
and basic to life.
Even though more and more offices use Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDís),
many computer users suffer from ëDry Eyes Syndromeí. Drinking a minimum
of 4 litres of water per day is recommended to people suffering from RSI
to maintain a healthy water balance in the muscles and soft tissue of the
Despite the fact that all natural processes are related to, and make
use of water, all computer related processes are based on keeping water,
oil and other fluids as far as possible from the dry silicon-based machines.
Spatial/ Local-associated Interfaces
Since almost every interface is developed to be used at the desk, these
interfaces have been adapted to the desk space and desk scale. But not
all daily human activities take place at the desk, so lots of other interfaces
could be developed to meet the spatial needs and scale for actions which
donít take place at the desk; On the floor, in the air, under water, to
the wall, on your knee etc.
Speech recognition and speech synthesis technologies have been available
in crude form for nearly two decades. However, due to technical limitations,
their application has been limited to a few success stories. Meanwhile,
over the same two decades, a revolution in consumer electronics and computing
devices has dramatically increased the market need for spoken language
interfaces in order to simplify UI and free-up the hands and eyes. So while
speech recognition and synthesis technologies continue to make incremental
improvements, the potential for a revolution in spoken language interfaces
A computer is a machine able to receive, store, manipulate
and output a set of symbols according to a set of pre-defined instructions.
There are three types of computer. Analogue, digital and hybrid analogue-digital.
Digital computers receive, store, manipulate and output digital information
packages called bits. Analogue computers use, information input as continuously
varying signals. Analogue-digital hybrids use as a combination of both
Analogue computers were well known in the 1940s although they are now
virtually extinct. In such machines, numbers to be used in some calculation
were represented by physical quantities - such as electrical voltages.
Analogue systems work with continuous signals that are processed according
to the physical layout of a machine, rather than by ordering a series of
ones and zeros according to the dictates of a logic-based program (which
is the digital way). That generally gives analogue machines an advantage
in terms of size, efficiency and raw computing power. The reason that people
have come to prefer digital computers is that it is difficult to harness
that power-for the two things that analogue computers do not have are flexibility
and simplicity. If armed with the right software (and assuming its processor
is powerful enough) a digital computer can solve any problem that can be
expressed as a logical algorithm. But, because analogue computers have
their problem-solving abilities built directly into their electronics,
if you want to perform a different sort of calculation, you have to design
and build a new circuit to do it.
Integrating both analogue as well as digital computing power into one
hybrid system could increase calculation power enormously by merging both
continuous high-bandwidth analogue computing power and digital reconfigurability
into one system.