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Robots Revealed – Meet the Robots

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On eight days over the Easter holidays engineers will be bringing their cutting-edge robots to the Museum to interact with visitors and learn from them as part of our Robots Revealed events. Senior Content Developer Pippa Hough introduces us to some of the robots that will be visiting the Museum.

Robot DE NIRO from Imperial College

Robot DE NIRO from Imperial College solving a buzzwire game

My favourite part of our fabulous, new Robots exhibition is seeing some of the world’s most cutting-edge robots working on gallery. Day in, day out these masterpieces of engineering chat to the public, learn to pick up and move novel objects, or demonstrate their immense dexterity and precision. And they will continue to perform these complex tasks, almost, perfectly as they tour all over the world in the next few years.

But perfection isn’t what engineers want from their robots in the lab. They push them until they fail, then learn from the failure and improve the robot, or its programming. That’s exactly what you’ll see roboticists do this Easter in Robots Revealed. Over a series of drop-in events you can meet some of the most advanced robots from UK robotics labs and watch as they are pushed to their limits on gallery.

The Bold Hearts robot football team from the University of Hertfordshire are being put through their paces for the international RoboCup. Every year the rules change, the ball switches colour, or the goal width changes to push the engineers to make their robot teams ever more complex so they can cope with an increasingly difficult playing environment. This year’s big change is thicker AstroTurf. It’s a tough challenge, but robots will never be able to be a part of our lives unless they can negotiate our incredibly complex world. And there’s nothing like competition to inspire creative problem solving in engineers.

One of the University of Hertfordshire's Bold Hearts robot football team

One of the University of Hertfordshire’s Bold Hearts robot football team

The team from the University of York is bringing down their swarm robots. You can test the robot’s limits by putting obstacles in front of them and seeing how they react. Individually the robots are very limited and quickly get stuck, but when they work together in swarms they can accomplish much more complex tasks.

Just being on gallery interacting with the public can be too much for some of the robots. A couple of weeks ago the University of Sheffield’s NAO robot spent the morning engaging visitors in conversation. Unfortunately all that activity caused it to overheat in the afternoon. The engineers tried all sorts of thing to cool it down, a brief spell in our office fridge being the most inventive.

University of Sheffield’s NAO robot

University of Sheffield’s NAO robot cooling off in the office fridge

Researchers are teaching robots to learn through trial and error too. Robot DE NIRO from Imperial College can solve a buzzwire game in just a couple of minutes. Each time it hits the wire it develops a better understanding of the shape of the wire and quickly wins the game.

By pushing robots to their limits researchers slowly and find out problems they need to solve to incrementally improve performance. Robots Revealed is your chance to meet engineers and their robots balancing on, and sometimes falling off, the cutting edge of robotics research.


The Robots Revealed events will be taking place on Level 1 next to the Robots Café between 11.00-13.00 and 14.00-16.00 on the following days:

Robots Revealed is supported by the Royal Academy of EngineeringTo find out more about these events you can visit our Robots Revealed events page.

If you would like to keep up to date with what’s happening at the Museum you can sign up to our email newsletter.

Written by Pippa Hough

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