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Alan FT Winfield
Associate Dean, UWE, Bristol

Abstract - "Walking with Robots: a new kind of engagement between humans and robots"

For many intelligent robots are compelling and engaging, especially young people. Perhaps for some, robots are threatening. In this talk I will introduce and illustrate the ESPRC Walking with Robots* programme, the aim of which is to create a new kind of engagement between humans and robots. Drawing upon the extraordinary range of intelligent robotics research in the UK, from space exploration to artificial consciousness, Walking with Robots will explore robot ethics as well as robot technology; robot philosophy and robots in the arts. As robots become increasingly intelligent we will interact with them in new and quite probably surprising ways. I will explore some of those possible interactions, and their implications for human and robotkind.


In 1984, shortly after completing a PhD in Digital Communications, Winfield resigned his lectureship at the University of Hull to found a company on the then newly established Hull University Science Park. Created to commercialise patented research in high performance computer architectures, the company also found itself delivering contract research and development in software for safety-critical communication systems, primarily for the public safety sector. Winfield went on to establish the company APD Communications Limited, as one of the key UK providers of software for mobile radio data system, notably leading contracts to design a fault-tolerant radio communications infrastructure for the Channel Tunnel.

He left the company in 1992 to take up appointment as Associate Dean (Research) and Hewlett-Packard Professor of Electronic Engineering at the University of the West of England, Bristol, but remains a non-executive director of APD. Winfield is a Chartered Engineer and Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the IEEE and the Institute of Directors.

Moving into the field of mobile robotics he co-founded, with Chris Melhuish and Owen Holland, the Intelligent Autonomous Systems (IAS) Laboratory* at the University of the West of England in 1993. Within the IAS laboratory, Winfield’s projects have included intelligent control, in particular stable adaptive neural control and more recently,
provably-stable behaviour based control. With Owen Holland and Ian Horsfield, Winfield designed the IAS lab LinuxBots, contributing the embedded Linux based control and wireless communications architecture. Winfield’s current work is focused on the engineering and scientific applications of Swarm Intelligence. His work on Swarm Robotics is concerned with algorithms, analysis, modeling and specification for potential high integrity applications. At the same time, Winfield is interested in Swarm Robotics as a constructionist metaphor for the study of emergence, self-organisation and intelligence.
*Now relaunched as the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (www.brl.ac.uk)



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