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Penny heads to Parliament to showcase robotic research

  • Date

    Fri 22 Mar 19

Penny Roberts

Computer science PhD student Penny Roberts was selected to present her research into robotic companions in care homes at the STEM for BRITAIN event at the House of Commons.

STEM for BRITAIN aims to encourage, support and promote Britain's early-stage and early-career research scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians who are an essential part of continuing progress in the development of UK research.

Penny is based in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering and her research covers robotic companions in care homes and hospitals which will assist patients, and alleviate the pressures on nurses and doctors within these environments.

For the STEM for BRITAIN event, Penny had to showcase her work in a research poster. She said: “It showed the initial research and experiments I have done so far on how to make it possible for a robot to act intelligently and autonomously to assist patients in care homes and hospitals, as well as the background for the research that comes from both robotics and neuroscience.”

STEM for BRITAIN currently attracts around 500 entrants with only approximately 35% of those selected to have their work presented at Parliament.

Penny added: “My main research is about creating robotics for use in care homes and hospitals. I'm working to create a cognitive framework that combines memory, navigation and social intelligence that will allow the robots to learn from experience, recall those memories and use them to form action plans for how to deal with new situations and environments. It uses multiple types of neural networks and combines them to form a larger system.”

Penny’s research supervisor Dr Vishuu Mohan said: “Penny’s PhD project focuses on the fundamental problem of making robots ‘learn and act’ intelligently in a complex world of ‘objects, actions, choices, cause-effect relations, social relations’ and importantly people!”

Dr Mohan added: “A care home or hospital is a typical example of such a challenging real world environment. The rapidly increasing percentage of ageing population and large number of individuals with long-term conditions like; stroke, heart disease and mild cognitive impairments (dementia) is presently putting severe pressure on the health care system, care givers and family of the affected individuals. Robotic companions will in the near future serve as force multipliers in health care delivery, provide both physical and social assistance and facilitate lifelong independence.”

This article was written by Conor O’Mahony, a Multimedia Journalism student at Essex.