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Oxford’s leading AI and robotics scientists are entering a new, exciting phase of collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

A graphic showing different aspects of cloud computing © Shutterstock

At the re:Invent conference, hosted by AWS in Las Vegas and virtually, 29 Nov – 3 Dec, projects conceived in Oxford and supported by AWS - pushing forward the capabilities of AI, robotics and machine learning - will be showcased to the world’s leading developers, engineers and decision-makers.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, is delivering a keynote address to the conference, reflecting on the pivotal role that Oxford plays in AWS research collaborations.

The eight research projects based in the departments of Engineering Science and Computer Science, funded by AWS are:

•             Long-Term Autonomy for Service Robots

•             Large-Scale Mixed-Initiative Autonomy for Logistics

•             Human-Robot Shared Autonomy             

•             Autonomy in Blue Light Emergency

•             Autonomous Intelligent Machines and Systems

•             Human-Plus-Robot in the Workplace

•             Responsible Technology Institute

•             Responsible Robotics International

There are also 30 testbeds funded and in development until 31 May 2022 covering areas such AI and robotics in space, sustainability, creativity and education. 

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, said: ‘Oxford’s success is underpinned by the broad, multidisciplinary ecosystem that is Oxford, including one of the world’s most vibrant research communities in artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics. Over 200 spin-out companies are testimony to an equally entrepreneurial spirit.

‘We value curiosity as a driver for learning; for constant improvement - and, ultimately, for innovation and impact - benefitting all of society - now, and for future generations.

‘In AWS we recognise a like-minded organisation, one which shares our far-reaching vision and ambition. For this reason, together with AWS, we have engaged in a broad and ambitious programme of collaboration. Over the past 24 months hundreds of Oxford students and researchers have engaged with AWS services and subsequently used it to conduct cutting edge research.’

The projects explore how humans and machines in all their myriad forms – from cloud computing to companion robots, and software robots to robot fleets - work together. And while AI and robotics are the tools, their applications address wide-ranging scientific, economic, social and environmental challenges.

Watch videos of Oxford researchers revealing their projects and discussing the ethics and challenges involved.

Sarolta Mohaine Palfi, Innovation and Business Partnerships Manager at the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division (MPLS), Oxford University, said: ‘It has been an incredible journey learning about the AWS machinery of ‘build, buy, ally’ processes. This technology giant moves and develops superfast, and starts exciting initiatives and product developments in an effortless way.

‘Matching the new AWS divisions, initiatives, pledges and their growing digital services stack with the world-leading Oxford academic wisdom and state-of-the-art laboratory capabilities has provided unprecedented co-creation and research impact.

‘The rapid pump-priming of new research projects, the creation of 30 testbed demonstrations while training a new generation of researchers seem to be the most rewarding experience in the Oxford – AWS research cloud collaboration. These are multidisciplinary collaborations to the core.’

Co-Director of the Oxford Robotics Institute, Professor Nick Hawes, said: ‘In the projects led by the Oxford Robotics Institute, we are addressing the need for autonomous robots to operate in both domestic and industrial environments, working for, or alongside, humans. Our projects are providing enabling technologies to support a range of robot applications, from customer service and stock management, through industrial inspection, to social care.’

Alongside specific applications, AWS tools have informed Oxford’s work in explorations of ethics and trust in autonomous systems and meta-cognition in human-robot collaborations.

And reflecting a broad spectrum of applications, a team from the Ashmolean Museum has used AWS to build and deploy a collection of machine learning models allowing it to catalogue 300,000 ancient Roman coins, saving an estimated three years of work over traditional means.

At Oxford’s Wytham Woods, a cross-disciplinary University team is using AWS to provide a live connection from 40 IoT sensors installed on grassland plots to drones and mobile robots which can survey the plots with multi-spectral and 3D imaging tools. The data gathered will help Oxford researchers explore the potential effects of climate change on biodiversity, building predictive models in the cloud and forming a digital twin of a real ecosystem in an ancient woodland.

The MPLS academic and innovation team spearheading the partnership with AWS is currently scoping interest for future collaboration into developing a broad range of applied, multidisciplinary solutions. 

More details will be revealed at the Human-Machine Collaboration Conference on 25th January 2022 in Oxford. Register interest to attend the Oxford conference in January

More about Oxford University's Human-Machine Collaboration Programme



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