By Jennifer O'Brien
June 8, 2017
Ubtech's Alpha 2 robot. Credit: Ubtech
The University of Sydney has hatched a $7.5 million research centre and assembled a multidisciplinary team of researchers dedicated to undertaking innovative research to solve major problems in artificial intelligence (AI).
In partnership with robotics company UBTECH, the research centre - to be known as the UBTECH Sydney Artificial Intelligence Centre, and established by the university's Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies - aims to explore untapped opportunities in AI.
Led by director professor Dacheng Tao (a computer scientist and Eureka prize winner and internationally known AI expert), the centre will target the challenges of intelligent machines, including robots, self-driving cars, and drones.
"As humans, our perceptions of our environments allow us to understand events, make logical deductions and learn how to behave in certain situations. We expect that one day in the not-too-distant future machines will be able to do these same things, just like us - or possibly even better," Professor Tao said.
At its core, the new centre will drive progress in AI to endow machines with the capabilities to "perceive, learn, reason and behave," Tao said, explaining that access to UBTECH's technology would put his team at the forefront of training, research and innovation in robotics and AI.
Tao said there are a number of research groups in Australia focusing on either AI or humanoid robotics, but the university now has the unique advantage of marrying the two fields.
"UBTECH is the first company in China dedicated to commercialising intelligent humanoid robots that interact with and help ordinary people. By utilising UBTECH's state-of-the-art technology and outstanding creativity, we will be able to thoroughly develop, analyse and evaluate AI algorithms and theories for humanoid robots, which will bridge the gap between AI studies in universities and real-world AI utilisation.
"We're working towards a future where humanoid robots walk out of our research centre and into ordinary people's households."
Professor Archie Johnston, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, said the new centre will build Australia's capacity to become a world leader in the AI field.
"We are pleased to be partnering with UBTECH, the global leader in humanoid robotics. This relationship will add value to the university's existing Artificial Intelligence research, while also enhancing the impact of our research for society's benefit."
Johnston said the new centre will not only offer Australian researchers opportunities to work on large-scale national and international problems in AI, but will serve the wider community by establishing collaborations with government and technology companies to solve real-world problems that are needed to improve people's lives.
"It will also cultivate the next generation of AI researchers through PhD programs that involve both academic and industry training and collaboration."