Professor Mary-Anne Williams, Director of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Innovation and Research Laboratory (aka The Magic Lab, a centre for social robotics), is leading a team at UTS who are running novel human-robot interaction experiments in the real world to develop increasingly sophisticated social robot technologies.

Social robotics is an emerging field that studies the design and impact of robots interacting with people in public spaces, workplaces and our homes. Robots are a disruptive technology that can solve problems and undertake complex tasks; social robots are not just problem solvers, they have emotional and social intelligence that allows them to collaborate with people in safe, fluent and enjoyable ways.

Professor Williams and her team are applying the outcomes of their research, undertaken through an ARC Discovery Projects scheme grant, to a new partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA). They are working alongside CBA and its major customer, Stockland, in the CBA Innovation Lab. The CBA Innovation Lab is a testing environment for students and academics of Australia’s leading technology universities to conduct research and development using Chip, a humanoid robot owned by the bank and the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

The collaboration is creating unique opportunities for UTS students to explore social robotics in a wide range of innovative ‘real world’ applications, ranging from enhancing customer experience to providing assistance to humans in airports and hospitals.

This research is allowing CBA to assist its customers in every industry better understand how social robots will disrupt their business and uncover critical ethical, legal and societal issues that arise when people interact and collaborate with intelligent social robots.

This corporate-academic partnership is exploring the opportunities and limitations of human-robot interaction, and pursuing commercial applications of social robotics across a number of industries in Australia.

Image: Magic Lab PhD students working in the CBA Innovation Lab on Human-Robot Interaction Experiments with CBA Customers.
Image courtesy: University of Technology Sydney.